Acqua Pazza, Dec. 27, 2005

Acqua Pazza
36 West 52nd Street (bet. 5th and 6th Ave.)

Tonight was our annual Holiday dinner with the wife's friends from college. It was five of us, not the usual six, and prior to our requisite visit to The Tree, we ate at Acqua Pazza.

Disregard the lousy descriptions on OpenTable and on their website (neither discusses the food in any depth whatsoever) and be happy with a relatively reasonable value for their northern Italian cuisine.

We had a drink or two at the bar (avoid the mixed drinks. The wine is the better value) while waiting for some of the party. The room is very nice...who knew blue could work for an italian restaurant. I've never seen it pulled off before, but it really worked in here. Very stylish place. The bar stools were great (people at THOR, take note) but not as good as the quite possibly perfect ones at Maremma (best ever).

Once we are all together, we were brought to a nice five-top round toward the back of the room. I'd say the restaurant, at its peak of the evening, was 1/3 full.

So service was quite good and attentive but never intrusive.

We all started out with caesar salads. My wife and her friend Dawn split one...but you'd never know it. They were as big as mine. VERY crisp and clean lettuce. Dressing was subtle but pleasant. A good rendition, though the shaved cheese might have been slightly too thick.

Items ordered by others included the raviolis, and seafood risotto (special) with mussels, shrimp and clams. Both of these were gobbled up and enjoyed by those that got it.

I ordered the Osso Buco (special) and found it to be unbelievably tender and tasty. It came with three slices of sweet potato (nice) and a saffron risotto (excellent). Excellent dish. Thrilled to have ordered it. Even the marrow (I only had a little, watching the cholesterol) in the bone was good.

Most of us had the vanilla creme brulee for dessert, which was on par with what you'd expect. I got the Tiramisu, which paled in comparison to the version at Financier. Dessert, and the subsequent calories could have been skipped.

Total bill for food including 2 cocktails and 2 glasses of wine came to $258 after tax. Not bad at all.

I'd recommend this place for a midtown dinner and especially if you are planning on visiting the tree.

FYI, after reading an older NYTimes review, I am a bit bummed I didn't try their other special, a whole Branzino cooked "acqua pazza" or in "crazy water".

I'll try to go back for their signature seafood dishes.

According to the old review, which gave it one star (hmmm. Yeah, I guess, but its REALLY close to two), they used to not serve meat at all. That's obviously changed...and I'm happy for it.

Also, side note...we went to the "Top of the Rock" observation dinner afterwards and WOW what a view.

Please treat yourself to this on a clear night. There was NO line whatsoever, the sky was clear, the lights of the city were bright and the views were mesmerizing.

Take advantage of this!


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