41 Madison Ave. (at 26th St.)
I went to A Voce last night for a quick and easy dinner to test the place out.
First impression: Incredibly welcoming staff and beautiful room with obvious influences. The room looks to me like a Babbo (flower/dogwood arrangements), Nobu (birch tree props), Butter (use of wood arrangements) cornucopia. There were plenty of other influences as well that I know I saw but just can't recall.
The table tops are a greenish leather that unfortunately are already showing signs of wear via scuffs from utensils. I suppose this will age to a nice look but you have to assume its still a gamble.
I sat along the twig columns in the back looking out at the rest of the restaurant including a view of the back of the bar. The bench seats were comfortable but getting in and out of them was difficult. The use of mirrors is effective in creating the feel of a larger space and the interior as a whole is very welcoming, open (fair amount of space between tables) and world's apart from when it once was Rue 26...which I think had more seating space than this one.
Service was perfect. I can't believe how well this place is running after just a week or so of being open. The host/maitre d was a polished, well dressed man who couldn't be happier to have me, yes me, a solo diner, joining them for dinner. The waitstaff and bussers were equally pleasant and helpful, and the female bartender/hostess wasn't hard on the eyes either.
All of this and I am happy to report that the food was delicious as well. The warm bread (3 pieces for a solo diner) was served with a bowl of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, rosemary sprig and red chili pepper flake). Very good and reminded me a little bit of Il Buco.
I started with the winter salad that included fennel, green apple, watercress, pecorino, just a bit of breadcrumbs that weren't too dry and crumbled up to be something Wylie Dufresne might call "soil", and nicely spiced with fresh pepper and salt.
The dressing was subtle, allowing for the ingrediants to shine. A simple dish but well executed. ($8 - the least expensive app.)
The specials of the day, listed as Del Mercato on the menu, offered a sicilian salad (w/blood oranges, radicchio, olives, etc. for $11), a shrimp stuffed cuttlefish ($24) a quail saltimbucca with an app or entree sized portion ($14/$28) and Lamb Olivetto ($35).
I opted for a pasta dish -- the Lamb Shank Tortellini ($21) that had escarole, lemon, piave cheese and yellow/orangish cherry tomatoes.
This was very good. The warm tomatoes were incredible as they popped and melted in your mouth. The lamb was clearly evident and the escarole/piave combo brought it all together. A really great dish and probably the best of the pastas which range from $17-$21.
I did not have a secondi or main entree but they range from $19 for a country style Tuscan tripe to $30 for Roasted Sea Scallops in an almond sauce to La Bistecca ($55 per person), supposedly a real treat. This is a 40oz dry-aged beef rib chop for two (though my waiter mentioned that a gentleman had already ordered one for himself earlier in the week).
I asked my waiter when he was finished what the best 3 dishes were, after I had eaten mine. He suggested to go with Seafood Salad (cranberry beans, chili, $16), the Lamb Shank Tortellini and either the La Bistecca or the Grilled Tonno Bianco (rapini, parsnip, citrus).
The prices are pretty reasonable I think. For $51 I had a nice salad, pasta dish, a tall glass of Cava and perfect service in a beautiful room - tax, tip included. I'll certainly be back, and I think its safe to say that reservations will start to become a real challenge to get in the near future. This place will do great.
One more important note: I had the wonderful opportunity to meet fellow Chowhound RGR for the first time last night who was dining at A Voce with her husband and daughter. Not only is she as great a person in-person as her online identity would presume, her family is simply terrific. Her husband even offered me a duck meatball (four came to an order and there were three of them + me) which he said was incredible. I can't wait to go back to try it for myself.