Written by Hulda Lawrence
There are five Italian restaurants in Manhattan which Nino has opened and operates. His latest, only six months old, is Tuscany, 117 West 58th Street, between sixth and Seventh Avenues, nearer Sixth (212) 757-8630. Here the handsome murals of Tuscany put diners in the mood for delicious food, meticulously prepared and nicely presented. There is a quiet ambiance and diners can converse with plenty of room between tables allowing privacy.
On a recent day when we lunched at Nino's Tuscany we found that many diners were enjoying a prix fixe at $20. This consisted of three courses: a choice among appetizers Insalata di Caprino, goat cheese crostini, arugula, radicchio, sundried tomato and olives; Polpettine della Nonna, small meatballs of lamb in a lemon, rosemary sauce; Trippa alla Fiorentina, tripe stewed with white wine, rosemary and parmigiano or Ribollita, vegetable soup. And that is only to start - the main course is Penne Stracsicate, Tuscan meat sauce with parmigiano; Rigatoni alla Vodka: Scaloppine alla Salvia with white wine and fresh sage, prosciutto and melted fontina cheese; Salmone al Limone; and Polletto alla Griglia, grilled chicken. Then comes dessert of Tiramisu, cheesecake, sorbet and coffee or tea. At night the prix fixe dinner of the same choices plus Loin of Pork is $35.
We began our lunch by sharing a salad of avocado, carrots, beets and artichokes and a steaming dish of mussels in a garlic and tomato sauce. They were two of the chef's daily specialties. For our main courses, we had veal so tender no knife was needed. It was accompanied by mashed potatoes, broccoli and carrots. The veal was superb and was enhanced by a white wine sauce. Our second entrée was jumbo shrimp in a brandy sauce with cherry tomatoes, spinach and thyme. With our exceptional food we drank Abruzzo Valpoliella and Montepulciano d'Abruzzo. Our desserts, Tiramisu and a wonderful cheesecake with a taste of Pane Cotta left us feeling all's right with the world.
Other main dishes include spicy Cornish Hen marinated in white wine, rosemary and garlic, flattened and grilled; Arista alle Mele, loin of port roasted with apples; Sirloin Steak; Veal Chop in a white wine truffle sauce; Yellowfin Tuna; Whole Roasted Fish of the day as well as Rib Lamb Chops and Center Cut Port Chops. When available, wild boar, pheasant and rabbit are prepared. Entrée prices are $18 to $34 for Grilled Rib of Veal Chop.
In the evening, diners can appreciate the fine food along with the sparkling music of Irving Field who has been delighting New Yorkers with his artistry for many years.
Nino's Tuscany has accommodations for 10 to 160 in private rooms. Nino's four other restaurants are Positano at 890 Second Avenue; Nino's at 1354 First Avenue; Osso Buco at 88 University Place and Osso Buco at 1652 Third Avenue.
Hours: Monday to Friday Lunch and Dinner Noon to 11 p.m.
Ten months ago, Danny Chen opened Pacific Echo at 242 West 56th Street, between Broadway and Eighth Avenue, 212 265-8988. It is a family business and stresses the food and preparation from Southeast Asia, France and Japan with remarkable presentation. Seating in this small but interesting restaurant with its wall of pebbles us available on the ground level; above is a sushi bar.
The luncheon menu describes a number of sushi dishes and "lunch boxes" of chicken, shrimp, vegetable, and tempura with soup, salad, rice and a California roll for $9 to $11. Teriyaki chicken, steak or salmon with the same accompaniments are $11 and $12. Beef Negimaki is $12.
From the sushi bar there are lunches from five pieces and a California roll for $10. Chirachi, assorted sashimi on seasoned rice, is $14. Soup or salad is included. There are special rolls like Camelot, shrimp tempura, scallop, cucumber and caviar; Tropical Roll of Salmon and tuna roll topped with mango and avocado; and White Mountain of spicy tuna, avocado, wasabi tobiko in soy bean paper. These rolls are $12 and $13.
We began with a crisp, spicy Tuna Pizza with tomato salsa and black pepper aioli and our second appetizer was Grand Marnier Shrimp lightly crusted with Grand Marnier glaze. Each was exceptional. The pizza was wonderful and the shrimp indeed was barely crusted and delicious. Other lunch appetizers include Spring Rolls, Satay chicken or beef, Miso Soup, Thai Curry Soup, Green Papaya and Mango Salad with prices from $3 for Miso Soup to $11 for Rock Shrimp Tempura. Sushi and Sashimi are priced per piece as are hand rolls.
Another dish we enjoyed was Warm Salad of baby arugula, baby spinach, asparagus, mushrooms and pine nuts in soy truffle vinaigrette. Luncheon entrees include Mango Chicken; Beef Randang; Sesame Tofu; Spicy Udon with chicken, white asparagus, mushrooms and bacon in spicy tomato sauce; Mango Shrimp; and Crispy Pan Seared Salmon, $8 to $13.
We selected two entrees from the dinner menu, described as chef's specialties. The Pan Seared Duck Breast is fennel-crusted with curry polenta and red wine kumquat sauce. Whole kumquats are used and adds much to the dish. It was $26. Our second entrée was Chilean Sea Bass Saiko miso marinade with wilted baby spinach and white asparagus and wasabi sauce at $28. Both were very good.
Our desserts were Chocolate Parfait and a Black and White Delight.
The prices for this unusual food are very modest, with the highest dinner entrée a Seafood Combination of jumbo prawn, scallops, white tuna, salmon, eel and yellow fin tuna with lobster emulsion and sushi rice at $32. Sushi and Sashimi for two with eight pieces of sushi, 12 pieces of sashimi and spicy tuna roll and dragon rolls is $50. Smaller platters of sushi and sashimi are $18 to $24 at dinner.
Pacific Echo is open every day but Sunday and is easy to enter from the ground level.
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. weekdays
The dollar sign indicates the approximate cost of dining for two persons, excluding beverages, tax and gratuity.