We’d never been to Lattanzi before. An Italian restaurant located in the Theater District on Restaurant Row (W. 46th St. between 8th & 9th Aves.), it’s noted for a section of their menu devoted to the cuisine of the Roman Jews. Every year they serve a special Passover menu (not kosher) during lunch and dinner throughout the holiday’s eight days. I’ve been wanting to try it, but we’ve never managed to do until now. Since were doing our “Seder Express” on the second night, the first Seder night provided a golden opportunity for Michael and me to finally have Lattanzi’s Passover dinner.
Arriving promptly for our 9 p.m. reservation, we received a pleasant welcome but were asked by the maître d’ to wait a few moments while they finished setting our table. The short wait was worth it because even though I spotted two vacant tables for two, they were much smaller than our more capacious table for four.
The front room where we were seated is fairly large with very attractive décor. The doorway to the side room was directly across from out table. I’m guessing that room is about the same size as the front. The maître d’ told us they also have private spaces, but I didn’t inquire where they’re located. Since Lattanzi is in a townhouse, perhaps upstairs?
The joint, as the song goes, was jumpin’! In the front room, every table save the two deuces I mentioned was occupied, and I had the distinct impression that the side room was just as busy. Not everyone was doing the Passover menu. It also became apparent that there was no requirement for the entire table to order it as I noticed that when waiters brought food to the table right behind ours only a few of the six diners were being served the Passover meal.
We were provided regular menus containing a Passover menu insert (See above.) plus a separate wine list. When we told the captain we were doing the special menu, he removed the menus but left the wine list. After perusing it, Michael ordered a glass of pinot noir to go with the main course lamb.
The first thing to arrive at the table – and, I might add, very promptly — was a basket of matzo. This matzo was like no other we’d ever had. Tissue paper thin, the pieces were coated with garlic-infused olive oil. Without a doubt, the. most. delicious. matzo ever!
The meal proper began with Minestra di Riso per Pesach – Passover Chicken Soup with Rice. For Ashkenazi/Eastern European Jews, rice and other grains are verboten during Passover; however, for Sephardic Jews, which would include those from Rome, they are not. Though the broth had nice flavor and the rice was fine, Michael and I agreed that something was missing. Matzo balls! I suggested that we crumple some of the matzo into the soup. Good, but not quite the same.
The second course was Spigola Arosto con Spinaci Saltati – Baked Striped Bass with Sautéed Spinach, Raisins, and Pine Nuts. The fish was perfectly cooked and had excellent flavor. The spinach accompaniment was delicious. I usually don’t like raisins but didn’t mind them at all here.
The main course was Agnello per Pesach con Carciofi alla Giudia – Baby Lamb for Passover with Jewish Style Artichokes. Since the type of lamb was not specified, we didn’t know what cut to expect. Thus, it was a delightful surprise to be served two nice-sized chops. As with the fish, the chops were perfectly cooked, juicy, and with great lamby flavor. The Jewish style artichokes are a signature of the restaurant, so I was very eager to have them. They are sautéed in olive oil and garlic which makes the outer leaves crispy while the interior remains tender.
For dessert, Ricciarelli di Siena – Almond Cookies Served with a Glass of Sweet Wine. The cookies were the meal’s only disappointment for me. I didn’t care for them though Michael thought they were o.k. However, I like sweet wine, and the Moscato was a big hit with me.
Service was very efficient. The kitchen was definitely up to the task of handling the crowd since food was pumped out without long delays between courses, and everything was at the correct temperature, i.e., hot food hot! Actually, the intervals were just right. Though we were in and out in a little over an hour, it didn’t feel rushed. By the time we left, the front room had pretty much emptied out.
We enjoyed this meal and may consider making it an annual event. But for now, our curiosity regarding Lattanzi’s regular menu has been peaked, so we intend to go there to check it out in the near future.
The photo set of this dinner on my Flickr is here.