'Cesca, May 30, 2007

164 W. 75th St. (Amsterdam Ave.)

The Upper West Side, long an area I've avoided for no other reason than because I had no business being there, has seen some action from me lately.

I've been lucky enough, after 32 years of living, to have recently found my birth mother (thank you Google!) who just so happens to reside on the Upper West Side. Without going into details of my personal life (and hers, for that matter), I will say that we've become friends and are working on establishing a relationship of some kind.

Our first meet-up since the hospital room was at Cafe Mozart. The choice of destination had nothing to do with the place itself, but rather its equidistance from her apartment and my office. I also happen to really like Mozart, so I felt comfortable about that.

Our second meeting was at 'Cesca and for mostly the same reasons. I'd been to the bar at 'Cesca with my friend Mike Polombo years ago (it was "his" restaurant and was treated well there) and had some apps and drinks but never got to try a meal. So this is where my wife got to meet her birthmother-in-law. (Hallmark - are you gettin' this?).

I ordered some delicious marinated olives ($7) for the table. Danna ordered the spicy parmesan & prosciutto fritters ($9) which came to about 9 in an order. This was to be her appetizer but quickly became an addicting addition for the table.

For my appetizer, I ordered the linguini with tomato sauce and basil ($18). The portion size was very small but the flavor and texture of the linguini was excellent. I'd be hard pressed to order this again for the value, but it was tasty.

This happened to be the peak of Soft Shell Crab season, and considering I order them maybe once a year on average, this was perfect timing. The crabs were the Market Fish of the day and were served "alla Livonese" - with a spicy tomato sauce, capers, olives and oregano ($28). This was fantastic and as good a soft shell crab dish as I've ever had. Truly well done - and the crabs were big this year. Two were served and had plenty of meatiness to them. I'd certainly recommend this dish for those seeking a new interpretation of this crustacean (sorry, I had to).

All in all a great meal. The wines we chose were also very good, though I've since misplaced what we ordered. I need to get better with that.


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