Cacio e Pepe restaurant recently opened its doors near the corner of 78th Street and York Avenue in Manhattan’s Upper East Side. This is the sorella location of the restaurant in the lower east side — formerly Eastfield’s Kitchen. Co-Owners and chefs, Salvatore Corea and Guisto Priola have taken over the kitchen with an authentic menu, large spatula and watchful eye. Here is a peek into their culinary inspiration and hospitality.
Now open to full capacity, the dining room has a fresh coat of purple paint and the front windows open to let the warm, spring sunshine flood the room. Locals file in after a hard day’s work, many with their children, as the attentive wait staff is professional and eager to assist. Patrons are encouraged to bring their own bottle of wine or beer while the establishment waits for a liquor license.
A fresh loaf of rustic Italian bread appeared at our table accompanied by three dipping condiments: olive oil with olives, traditional olive oil, and a sun-dried tomato sauce to make a tasty bite similar to bruschetta. The bread conjures up a memory of Pane Casareccio or Pane di Genzano found all over the historic streets of Rome — soft on the inside and a crispy, wood oven crust.
The salads are fresh, flavorful and vibrant in color. The Insalata: 10, 20, 30 o forse più tra frutta, erbe, semi, foglie ed altro Salad: 10, 20, 30 or maybe more: fruit, herbs, greens, seeds, etc. depending on what the chef finds the freshest that day at the farmer’s market. If a beautiful pansy appears as a garnish on top of the greens… Yes, it is edible.
The history of Cacio e Pepe dates back to Roman times when Italian sheep would spend the months of spring and summer grazing their way through the rolling hills of the Apennine Mountains while their devoted shepherds would camp out alongside them. It was called ‘ransumanza.’ The shepherds would bring with them a dried homemade pasta known as tonnarelli, they would make cheese out of the flock’s milk. For each meal, they’d boil the tonnarelli then make that signature sauce by grating fresh cacio into some of the pasta cooking water. At this establishment, the Tonnarelli Cacio e Pepe is made with homemade pasta tossed in pecorino cheese and whole black peppercorns. The pasta is served al dente (think bite with teeth) and perhaps a little more firm than most are accustomed to. Inform your server how you like your pasta cooked.
Branzino is also known as European Bass. This mild, white, light and flaky fish is normally packed in coarse sea salt, roasted to perfection and served whole with a splash of lemon zest and/or lemon wedges, then presented at the table and deboned by the server. Here, the Branzino is a filet plated with carote e liquirizia (carrots and licorice).
Save room for the finale. Like most Italian restaurants in New York City, Cacio e Pepe offers NY-style cheesecake and Tiramisù. However, if your server mentions Gin & Tonic, do not mistake it for the cocktail. This refreshing dessert is a citrus twist on panna cotta — the frothy, creamy custard is smothered over tiny gelatin cubes made with gin and topped with a scoop of lime sorbet. There is alcohol in this dolce and garnished with fresh mint.
Note: The menu is subject to change depending on the season. Reservations are recommended.
Photo Credits: Rina Paulissian and P.K. Greenfield
Cacio e Pepe
1479 York Avenue at 78th Street
New York, NY