A Voce

by Susan on March 31, 2008

[Food:3.5/5]

A Voce received accolades when it opened a couple of years ago and it has since secured its place in the NYC dining scene. This week, A Voce is back in the headlines as rumors swirl that a second outpost will open in the Time Warner Center. Serving excellent Italian food in a modern, almost business-like décor, A Voce should translate perfectly to the Time Warner, as should its success.

The menu at A Voce, which means ‘Word of Mouth,’ is the creation of Chef Andrew Carmellini. Before opening these digs on lower Madison Avenue, Carmellini worked at Café Boulud. While the classic and rustic Italian fare at A Voce may be a departure from his previous restaurant experience, his menu is focused and his abilities are undeniable.

Earth tones and clean lines abound. Guests swivel about in caramel colored Eames chairs that look as though they were squandered from a Wall Street conference room. You forgive the oddity, however, due to their incredible comfort. Terrible acoustics provide for a very loud dining room. During peak hours, when the bar overflows with patrons waiting for their tables, carrying on a conversation can get difficult.

Our waiter, who disappeared for long stretches of time, seemed overwhelmed. He didn’t answer questions with great confidence and as the night progressed he became harder and harder to hear over the din.

A starter of Sheep’s Milk Ricotta, sprinkled with herbs, sea salt, and olive oil, arrived in a lovely terra cotta bowl. If only for a moment, as you slather the fresh and creamy cheese on slices of bread, you’re whisked away to the Italian countryside.

A small crock of Crostini alla Toscana, chicken liver foie gras with moscato d’asti, was served with crispy toast. Pairing a hint of sweet with savory foie gras is not a novel union, but it is always good. At A Voce, the chicken liver tasted deeper and richer than usual, making it even better.

Peperonata and lemon sauce gave kick to a tender, albeit small, portion of Grilled Octopus. Unfortunately for chefs across the world, I have yet to find anyone who does grilled octopus better than Batali.

As a special entrée, Venison was gussied up with nuts, foie gras, huckleberries and jus. All the flavors flourished and just when you thought Carmellini had outdone himself, you had a bite of the accompanying stuffed cabbage.

Parmesan shavings decorated pillows of pasta stuffed with sweet squash. The Tortelloni de Zucca, further adorned with a light cream sauce, was decadent without being too heavy.

The successes continued to mount, which made the Pappardelle with Lamb Bolognese that much more disappointing. There was such a small amount of bolognese mixed into such a heaping portion of pasta that it almost seemed unfair to judge the dry Bolognese on its own merit. Even the dollops of sheep’s milk ricotta couldn’t liven the dish.

Roasted bananas saddled a delicious Hazelnut Torta. The accompanying scoop of rum raisin gelato was the root of much conversation, but in the end, did not garner any fans. After a meal of delicious and unfussy food, the Red Wine Panna Cotta, served with milk chocolate salsa and orange poached pear, tried too hard to be something it wasn’t.

While A Voce doesn’t take any big risks and Carmellini doesn’t try any big tricks, the food is solid and the reputation well-deserved.

A Voce
www.avocerestaurant.com
41 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10010
212.545.8555

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