This review was first published in 2005 and more than a decade later, the restaurant is still in business. In this day and age of ‘fads or trendz’, that is a remarkable achievement. It still stands as a highlight in my #Grazing experiences. Perhaps reading this will encourage a new crop of diners to discover “Our Little Area of Murray Hill” for themselves.
108 East 38th Street, Manhattan, NY (between Park and Lexington Avenues)
Rossini’s opened in 1978 and is still owned and run by the Bernaz family after 38 years. Mr. Romano Bernaz, his two sons Raymond and Gerry, and his nephew Josip Cernjul attribute continued success and longevity to “the family’s constant presence and their philosophy of serving true Italian Cuisine in an evolving and interesting fashion”.
Former President George HW Bush (#41) was a client.
Having failed to get in when I visited Manhattan over Labor Day weekend, I was determined to try out their “old-fashioned” menu and tuxedoed, “old-world” service later in the week. As it was mid-week, we were entertained by live pianoforte playing in the background. Apparently, you get opera and popular hits sung by a trio on weekends.
L – R: John, Raymond Bernaz, Tony and Wilson
Everybody loves Raymond
Gerry, Raymond and Josip continue in the established traditions seeking new and innovative approaches to their cuisine while remaining within the repertoire of the Northern Italian kitchen.
Amuse bouche: Bruschetta
Things did not start off well. I asked for prosecco but was ‘redirected’ to order something else because they did not serve by the glass. I had to order a cocktail but a glass of prosecco actually arrived. Alas, as it was from the last of a bottle; it was flat. The bruschetta was barely passable. Was this “The End”? As the Sicilians say: Nothing personal…its only ‘business’.
I persevered because the folks were friendly, and indeed, well tuxedoed!
I decided to choose a nice wine and leave the food selection to Tony. Here is when things started to look up.
Wine: Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 1997, Bertani, Veneto, Italy
1997 was a GREAT year in Italy with all regions and wines and the Amarone from that year was just ready to drink in 2005 although a few more years would have been better.
The characteristic bitter-sweet taste came through wonderfully. Uniquely, the grapes are shrivelled on mats for months after harvesting, and some may be affected by ‘the noble rot’ for concentrated juice.
Grape Varieties: 70% Corvina Veronese; 25% Rondinella; 5% Molinara
Colour: Deep port-like red
Bouquet: Fresh cherries, vanilla and maybe spice.
Taste: Bone Dry, full body and ample structure. Cherries and vanilla initially that tapers into nuts and tannin.
Starters: Warm Selection
Vongole al Forno
Clams baked with a zesty bread crumb topping, garlic and virgin olive oil
Eggplant slices stuffed with ricotta and mozzarella cheeses
Gamberi alla Rossini
Rossini’s special shrimp in a champagne sauce was commendable. The caramelised onion in a reduced sauce was like concentrated onion soup. This was my favourite of the selection and I made sure to mop up the sauce with my bread!
Secondi: Tagliatelli with mushroom and sun-dried tomato
The pasta was al dente, the tomatoes were sweet, the mushrooms were heady and the whole dish paired
well with the wine. Nothing more to say…
Carne: Vitello alla Rossini
Veal scallops sautéed with a wine and mushroom sauce, highlighted with prosciutto and onion
This went very nicely with the wine, as did the courses before. I was grateful that the roast potato, zucchini and polenta were just tiny taster sizes.
One of the most popular Italian desserts in the USA, cannoli are now seen on mainland Italy, as well as their native Sicily. Originally, rich Palermo families sent cannoli as gifts at carnival time. Ricotta filling is traditional but this example was filled with vanilla pastry cream. The pastry shell was traditionally fried. I just had a spoonful because all the previous courses were up-sized USA portions. I was “royally stuffed” !
In those halcyon days, we were not yet snobs about coffee. Today, you can sip tremulously on brews made from beans that have been through a civet cat’s gastrointestinal tract and pooped out the other end! #kopi lawak
I don’t know which purveyor the coffee was sourced from but I would have chosen ‘Lavazza Super Crema Espresso Whole Bean’ to keep things simple. Don’t mess with the best!
Grappa: Ceretto with nebbiolo grape from Barolo
45% alcohol packed a kick with a delicate floral aroma. You “had” to sip it, which allowed time to cogitate and digest, as the piano played on.
Rossini’s received an excellent ‘AlphaLuxe 2-Tongues’ award for old-fashioned menu and charm. The food and wine selection is modest in size but big on quality and delivery. I am glad to have let them choose my food courses. Quod Erat Demonstratum: Trust your waiter.
I have no qualms in recommending this stalwart eatery in Manhattan.
Photos & Text Copyright: Dr Melvyn Teillol-Foo
Bio: Melvyn Teillol-Foo (MTF)
Dr Melvyn Teillol-Foo is a contributor on AlphaLuxe web-zine.
He is also a moderator on PuristSPro.com horology discussion fora. He blends his scientific medical objectivity from the pharmaceutical industry with purist passion, in his musings about watches, travel, wine, food and other epicurean delights.
His travelog ‘Lazing’ and feasting ‘Grazing’ series of articles have now passed into “mythic legend” on the original ‘ThePuristS.com’ website. Those were the halcyon days when he was “rich and famous” that he remembers with bittersweet fondness.
Dr Teillol-Foo is a quoted enthusiast on the watch industry, appearing in feature articles and interviews by Wall Street Journal, International Herald Tribune, Sunday Times (London), Chronos (Japan), Citizen Hedonist (France) and other publications. He has authored articles for magazines like International Watch (iW): both U.S. & Chinese editions, ICON (Singapore), August Man (Singapore), Comfort (China) and The Watch (Hong Kong).