Like most students who went to a small liberal arts school, I spent a semester studying abroad my junior year. Â I had the most unforgettable time in Florence, Italy and wish almost every day I could just go back. Â While I’d give anything to eat at some of my favorite Firenze restaurants – La Giostra, Acqua al 2, or that place that will forever be referred to as Andrea’s because our waiter was so nice – I finally found a restaurant that reminded me of the place I called home for four months.
For my birthday dinner this week, my friends and I headed up to Cipolla Rossa on First ave between 91stÂ and 92nd. Â We picked the place for dinner because my friend Alex, who also studied in Firenze, mentioned that it reminded her of Tuscany and it is BYOB. Some of the Yelp reviews mentioned that there was a wine shop nearby (on first between 90th and 91st), but unfortunately it was closed before 8, so be sure to grab some bottles instead of waiting until the last minute. The restaurant is very small, probably sitting about 20 people. Â We made reservations ahead of time and were able to comfortably fit our party of 8. Â The ambiance is exactly what you’d get in Florence – no dim lighting, no romantic ambiance, just the vibe that it’s all about the food and wine. Â To head to the bathroom, you have to go through the kitchen. Â Don’t expect a coat check. Â Instead, expect a wonderful meal. Â
Unfortunately, our waiter informed us they were out of calamari, and I was disappointed because I hadÂ read that their grilled calamari was amazing. Â I went with my usual insalata caprese to start, and it was delicious and presented beautifully – most places just put it on a plate, but they stacked it really nicely. Â Ben ordered clams and mussels in a white wine sauce, so I was able to try that as well. Â While I’m not the biggest clams and mussels fan, I thought the sauce was really good. Â Throughout the evening, we also enjoyed delicious bread with olive oil and parmesan (or as Ben referred to it as “olive juice”).Â
On to the main course. Â Ben and I decided to split two entrees, and we went with black linguine and seafood, as well as pasta with wild boar sauce. Â Both entrees were great, but I was a bigger fan of the sauce only because it had more pasta to it. Â The black linguine felt more like just a lot of seafood with very few noodles. Â I also found myself dipping bread into the wild boar sauce – and I’m not usually a sauce person, so it has to be a good sauce for me to dip.
Our waiter, Samuelle, also deserves a shout out. Â He was extremely friendly and even mentioned that he was actually from Tuscany and arrived here five months ago, so it was great to share our favorite Italian places with him. Â
Since it was my birthday, we had to get dessert. Â There were four desserts on the menu, so we decided to try one of each and share them between the 8 of us. Â Unfortunately, there was not a clear dessert winner. Â I loved the ricotta cheese cheesecake, while others like the panna cotta and the tiramisu. Torta della Nonna however, clearly was the least favorite dessert out of the bunch, because it was dry.
Overall, we left Cipolla Rossa very happy, and for the first time in a while, I forgot I lived on 89th street and thought I was heading back home to my apartment on Borgo Allegri in Firenze. Â Dinner was just like it was in Firenze – great food, wine flowing, friendly waiter andÂ good company. Â Plus, it was not too expensive. Â Pastas ranged from $12-16, appetizers were $8 and meat entrees or the “secondi” were about $16. Â Desserts were $5 each. Â
One thing on the menu definitely caught our attention – Cipolla Rossa has a dozen or so different paninis, all for $7 a piece. Â I’m really looking forward to heading back and enjoying some prosciutto and mozzarella.The Basics Name: Cipolla Rossa Location: 1762 First Ave Who to take: Friends, Parents, Date Price: Typical NYC for entrees. $$. Overall: I’m planning on being a regular. Â 5 stars.