Ramerino brings refinement and alta cucina near the NY Public Library and Grand Central.
Sammy V. Gashi runs three Manhattan restaurants and Ramerino is his newest and poshest.
The spurious lament during the pandemic among certain food media was that no one in his right mind would dare re-open a shuttered restaurant, or attempt a new one, even after the fever broke. Yet. scores of restaurants continue to open monthly in every borough, and, clearly, Sammy V. Gashi was one of those who did not get the negative message. He already runs San Marino Soho and Antica Ristorante on Stone Street and, with his brother, another in Queens.
Even in the best of times, opening up a restaurant in midtown Manhattan, especially one as refined as Ramerino Italian Prime, would seem a high risk, yet, after 25 years,
Florentine-style steak is a feature at Ramerino and everything is in generous portions.
he has proved himself another of those Albanian immigrants for whom America was truly a land of opportunity.
By merely copying his other successes, Gashi might have cashed in on a proven concept, but Ramerino looks nothing like his other establishments, and,
Octopus is grilled and served with a chickpea puree.
while all serve traditional Italian fare, they also differ, with Ramerino (Tuscan for rosemary) putting more emphasis on its beef selections. Executive Chef Vilfredo Hodai, a Tuscan who worked in La Giostra in Florence, known for its bistecca, adds many of his own touches to a traditional menu.
Ramerino is a very handsome dining room, softly lighted but not at all dark, with striated pillars, polished wood walls, very comfortable plush velvet chairs, fine linens and candles on the table. The silverware has heft, the wineglasses, of varying sizes, thinness. The well-dressed service staff could not be more cordial, which is a hallmark of Albanian-owned restaurants in New York.
On the night we visited, there were unfortunate long lapses between courses—our meal took three hours—but I’m sure that, if you tell them you wish to be finished in two hours, they will happily accommodate you. The wine list is rich with good Italian bottlings at the usual mark-ups and most of the reds are deftly decanted.
Complimentary Parmigiano and Italian sausage is set on the table the moment you sit down.
The generous spirit begins with a complimentary plate of three breads, with chunks of 36-month aged Parmigiano and soppressata sausage. There are 15 antipasti and four salads ($15-$16).
I pretty much left it up to Gashi to choose our menu for a table of four,
Risotto is colored with saffron and melded with asparagus and zucchini.
and we began with some delicious, nicely seasoned artichoke hearts with creamy avocado ($18) and perfectly grilled octopus with a lovely chickpea puree, lemon and olive oil ($25). Best of all was a luscious dish of sliced eggplant layered with tomato, parmigiano and basil ($18). Unimpressive was cauliflower with a bland béchamel and parmigiano ($18). All these are easily shared.
Ten pastas are listed—all on warmed plates—including a well-textured risotto made with Canaroli rice, tender asparagus, zucchini and a touch of golden saffron ($26). In a town consumed with Roman cacio e pepe, Ramerino’s is a stand-out, starting with fat tonnarelli, strong pecorino Romano, black pepper and grated parmigiano ($26). Richest and boldest of all is the house-made pappardelle with porcini mushrooms, truffle oil and goat’s cheese ($29). Most unusual was linguine with bottarga ($29)—pasta dressed with the dried roe of mullet—not because you won’t find it elsewhere, but because it is usually not the principal ingredient. Here you get a good deal of bottarga, not too saline, not too intense but wonderfully briny.
Linguine is lavished with briny bottarga.
The plump, well-shaped and cooked potato gnocchi al pesto ($26) could have used a more intense summer’s basil flavor and color, but it was good of its kind.
I did not try the 36-ounce bistecca for two, which would have served three or four ($129), opting instead for a thick, flavorful filet mignon in a well reduced red wine sauce ($48), which itself served two. Veal scaloppine came with wild mushrooms and a demi-glace of ideal viscosity and richness ($36), while chicken was wrapped with goat’s cheese, with zucchini, Brussels sprouts and carrots ($32). I love Dover sole (MP) and Ramerino’s is one of the best, juiciest and firmest I’ve had in some time, expertly de-boned tableside.
Plump cannoli are more than enough for two.
hare at least one dessert [prices TK]: cannoli plump and freshly filled with pastry cream; a tiramisù; and a lemony cheesecake.
Ramerino is a stone’s throw from the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue, but 39th Street is quiet, and inside you will be treated with grace without any of the bustle of downtown trattorias. Ramerino is a true respite after six, and, if you’re opting for a ribeye or bistecca alla Fiorentina, here it will be a more comfortable experience than at the boisterous steakhouses nearby.
RAMERINO ITALIAN PRIME
16 East 39th Street
Open Mon.-Fri. for lunch; Mon.-Sat. for dinner.