Rezdôra Osteria Emiliana
Phone: +1 (646) 692-9090
Email: reservations@rezdora.nyc
Addr: 27 East 20th Street, New York, NY 10003
URL: https://rezdora.nyc

On various recent visits  of New York, I went back to Peter Luger, the one in Brooklyn, for my fix of North American steak. PL’s porterhouse steak continues to be the steak against which I judge all other North American steaks. Whether PL is touristy or not, I could not care less. What matters to me is the dazzling steak they keep delivering, tourists or not in sight.  I returned to another place that seems to have attracted its hordes of tourists as it is a legendary eatery: Junior’s in Brooklyn. Junior’s remains one of my preferred eateries in New York, eventhough their celebrated cheesecake is not my cup of tea. Other restaurants that I tried:  LeñaSpanish Diner (among  the most exciting Spanish-style eateries of NYC right now…I know, not a revelation given how weak Spanish food is in NYC, but those are good by NYC Spanish food standards at this moment) of famous  Chefs Ferran Adria, Albert Adria and  José Andrés . I tried  Sorbillo NYC (easily one of the finest Neapolitan style pizze in NYC – My honest suggestion  to  the food journalists who seem to overlook  this gem of a Pizzaria: stop comparing  apples to grapes, stop! stop! I mean, most of the crap    you write  about pizze in NYC is seriously nau·se·at·ing. You know nothing about Neapolitan pizza..your comparisons of   pizze in Italy vs pizze in the US are worrying  signs of your total ignorance of basic things such as the importance  of the geographical environment   in your assessment of the pizza you are reviewing and btw….most of you are reviewing pasta dishes at a  pizzeria…c’mon!!??  ). New York ‘s restaurant  scene continues to be genuinely world class.

This time, I paid a visit to Rezdôra. A local reliable and knowledgeable foodie in NYC did  inform me about the opening of  this small Italian restaurant in Flatiron.  According to the media, the  Chef of Rezdora is Chef Stefano Secchi, a Chef who has honed his skills at some serious venues in Italy such as 1 star Michelin All’Enoteca (Canale), Hosteria Giusti as well as  3 star Michelin Osteria Francescana (the latter two establishments are located in Modena), and that he is  inspired  by the food of  the region of Emilia-Romagna , which food has been aggressively marketed as Italy’s best (for more, on that, click here).

 

 

 

Food in Emilia-Romagna does benefit from its local stellar ingredients, but there are some limitations to what you can do with that sort of food, oceans away from where it originates: to start, egg-based pasta (which local diners in Emilia-Romagna are accustomed to) is obviously more expensive to make than flour-based pastas. And  North American palates may not appreciate the difference.

When I went to eat at Il luogo di Aimo e Nadia and  Dal Pescatore, I took the time to broaden my knowledge of the traditional cuisines of Northern Italy (food from Emilia-Romagna, Mantuan food, etc) and I recall that one of the tests I did was to see how my palate would appreciate the difference between their local egg-based pasta vs the flour-based ones we are used to outside of Italy. I do, when time permits, make my own pasta at home and have tried both versions. But a trained palate will not fail to notice that flour in Italy, their water, the flavour of the dazzling eggs found there — all of that is different from what you will find in North America. My palate found their egg-based pasta to be more exciting, flavour-wise, but I can’t imagine one single restaurant trying to import the water and eggs from Italy. It will go bankrupt. This applies to the superb vegetables of Italy. Consequently, I went to Rezdora with the expectation that they do as great as it is possible to make food of Emilia-Romagna in North America.

 

1-Tagliolini al ragu. As expected, the tagliolini having the right thin shape and the right texture to soak up the ragu. The ragu made of pork shoulder, mortadella, ground pork and prosciutto simmered with parmesan sachets for 8hrs and finished with Italian olive oil. As one should better know, the environment (water, soil, etc) plays a massive role in the taste of both your pasta and your ragu. Therefore if you expect this dish to taste/feel/smell exactly as in Northern Italy, you have skipped those basics of the science of food. That said, this was freshly made tagliolini  (which doneness I would have preferred al dente – it was served a bit beyond that stage), the taste and texture of the ragu  having proper depth (the rich flavour of the meat is adequate, the sauce timely reduced –  and you do not feel any excess of fat in the sauce, which is what you should be looking for), with perhaps a tendency to put a bit more salt than I would have loved — salt enhances flavour, indeed, but in this instance, it went past that stage and was almost on the verge of starting to diminish the flavour of the overall dish — but that can be easily fixed. I generally prefer when the ragu is made of beef, pancetta and veal, but this was still good.  7/10

 

2-« Grandmother walking through the forest in Emilia » is the name of a dish  that consists of cappelleti verdi (homemade spinach infused pasta) filled with roasted leeks, baby leeks on a bed of black mushroom puree. In the ‘poetic’ naming of that dish, you  can see the influence of one of their Chef’s mentor, namely Chef Massimo Bottura of 3 star Michelin Osteria Francescana in Modena – who loves giving poetic descriptions to some of his dishes. This showcased a fine deal of technical precision in shaping the texture of that pasta. Too bad green peas are not in season right now, as great quality peas would have paired so well with them and brighten that dish. 8/10

 

3-Pappardelle verde, spinach pasta with ragu di cinghiale (boar ragu) and porcini. The dense pasta is, as usual, always great for sauces, sticking properly to the boar ragu. The first two dishes are classics of the house. I purposely added this dish and the next one to my meal as they were fresh new additions to their menu. Some kitchen brigades are somehow more excited/motivated when cooking new food items. But in this instance, the motivation was the same whether the dish was one of their classics or a new addition. The same fine ragu as with the first dish was there, only it is made of boar this time. The pasta’s texture properly rendered. Good. 7/10

4-Dolce scherzetto, roasted squash raviolini, burro rosolato and amaretti crumbs. Freshly made pasta (the case of all their pasta), with fillings of roasted squash and mostarda (a condiment made of candied fruit and a mustard-flavoured syrup), coated in sage-flecked brown butter sauce. Dressed with amaretti crumbs. I had variations on this during my last foodie tour of Northern Italy. Was this a serious challenge to what I had in Northern Italy? Was this up there with what a nonna would do back in Emilia Romagna? If you ask yourself such questions then you did not understand the basics of the science of food: Not the same terroir, not the same soil, not the same water. So, forget that. Can’t compare. Even the amaretti crumbs, as fine as these stood, could not compare to the stellar amaretti crumbs you may stumble upon in some parts of Italy. And regarding any comparison to la nonna, well…last time the media checked, their Chef was a young gentleman. So, he can’t be and can’t beat la nonna, lol.  The taste was pleasant rather than dazzling, the expected sweetness (coming obviously from the squash, mostarda and the amaretti crumbs)  not overwhelming. 6/10

 

5.Torta Barozzi – Dense, flourless cake made of rich, dark chocolate. The original recipe from Vignola (outside of Modena) —you can still enjoy the original TB at Pasticceria Gollini — remains a secrete, but if you have tried it (I tried it during my last  visit in Northern Italy), it has hardly any sugar, which is one thing I loved with this one version they made at Rezdora (it tasted of dark chocolate, which it has to, rather than of added-sugar to dark chocolate). The pastry Chef made a rendition that is quite  close to some of the versions (there are  a few, though)  that you can find in Italy,  and served it the traditional way, which means  to serve this cake all on its own (without any adornment), and that is appreciated.  However, I would have preferred a consistency that is moist and tender inside the cake (it was a bit tough, at serving) as it is usually the case with most incarnations of this torta in Italy. 6/10

My hats off  to their marketing team as it is currently a hot ticket in NYC. Extremely popular, indeed.

 

The pasta dishes were fine, considering the reality  of pasta dishes made freshly oceans and continents away from Italy. The limitation being that the soil, the water, the produce cannot be the same as in Italy, therefore no miracle is possible.

To be accurate, there are not stellar produce everywhere in Italy. As an example, most of the food that you will eat in big cities like Milan or Rome will taste as generic as anywhere else across the globe. What is accurate is that the best produce of Italy is ages ahead of the best produce that you will find in North America.

The only thing I hope they do at Rezdora  is to lower a little bit the salt input on some of the pasta dishes, unless, of course, most of their patrons are happy with that. The food comes in small portions, and it is not cheap, therefore they won’t win any award for « best value », but few restaurants in NYC would win that one anyways. At least the food is of quality, the wine list is well thought, and the next paragraph shows that they do nice things that do escape many of their competitors.

Bottom line: I arrived 30 mins before the opening in order to snatch a seat (they allow some few walk-ins for the seating at the bar, but the wait can be long, therefore it is better to arrive 30 mins before the opening and line up) at their bar considering that it was hard to book a table. Since it was a bit cold, they came outside and served us some sparkling wine. And no, there was no poster-diner (food blogger or food journalist promoting the food industry) lining up outside. Therefore that was a genuine gesture which appeared even more special given their already established popularity  (there are eateries with a lot to prove and yet they would never do this). A rare occurrence in NYC’s dining scene. Then when the door opened at 5hPM, the staff lined up to welcome the guests. I sat at the bar and the perfect balance between being Pro and Cool continued to be the trending pattern. A fine restaurant and an attention to details that most would not bother covering. Overall ratings (Category: Italian in NYC)  7/10 Food; Service 9/10.

 

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