By Alex Brown
Among the new wave of mega restaurants seating hundreds of diners, Felidia feels more like entering someone’s home. A very elegant home, that is. The restaurant is located in a midtown east townhouse, elegantly appointed with dim lighting, comfortable seats and a cozy bar.
The whole atmosphere is that of a serious, old-school restaurant as befits the creation of one of the superstars of Italian cooking. The owner, Lidia Bastianich, cooks the food from her native Istria, a region once in northeastern Italy and now mostly in Croatia. It’s hearty food with a Mediterranean edge. Bastianich has rocketed to fame with her many cookbooks and television shows and foodies might gape to see her sitting at the bar or wandering out of the kitchen.
Service was unfailingly gracious and professional throughout the meal. Waiters refilled wine glasses and offered suggestions without ever intruding on conversation or rushing us along. If only more New York restaurants could live up to this standard more common at fine European restaurants.
The meal began with a selection of chickpea dips to spread on a basket of wonderful breads and Italian crackers. A standout among the appetizers was extraordinarily fresh tuna slices with a sea salt crust. Also a favorite at our table was the grilled octopus with olive oil that brought out the delicious meaty flavor. Plump gulf shrimp were enhanced by a creamy sauce with a lemon tang.
Handmade pastas are a signature dish at Felidia. The stringozzi with rabbit loin and porcini mushrooms was a dish perfectly suited to cold weather with its strong, earthy flavors balanced by the perfectly cooked pasta.
The menu also features an unusual wine list with many selections from one of Bastianich’s two vineyards. Servers offered knowledgeable advice on pairing wines with particular dishes.
Topping off the meal were superb desserts. A tiramisù was given an unusual peach twist and a delicate watermelon sorbet went surprisingly well with chocolate-almond cake.
243 East 58th St.
PRICE RANGE: Lunch appetizers and pasta, $12 to $21. Lunch entrees, $15 to $34. Dinner appetizers, $14 to $30. Pasta $20 to $30. Entrees, $25 to $36. Desserts, $10.
HOURS: Lunch from noon to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Dinner from 5 to 11 p.m. Monday through Friday, to 11:30 p.m. Saturday and 4 to 10 p.m. Sunday.
All major cards.
Not easily accessible.