Named after a fabled Venetian beach, Lido sailed into town in 2011, landing in a mainly West African neighborhood in Harlem. The restaurant falls into the modern-Italian camp, which means that chef Serena Bass—disclosure: Bass is a friend of Time Out founder Tony Elliott—incorporates influences ranging from North African to French into her cooking.
The best approach to Lido is to treat it like a tapas bar, snacking your way through dinner. The salt-cod fritters are particularly good, fluffy and furnished with a garlicky French aioli, while a pea-shoot salad is sent spinning in a Roman direction with mint leaves and burrata. Among the starters, the only bomb when we visited was the octopus, tossed with potatoes, olives and cubed Italian sausage in a sticky-sweet fruit glaze that undermines the savory flavors.
Pastas too tend to suffer from extraneous ingredients: plump, homemade ricotta ravioli with slivered almonds and orange rind is marred by eggplant that seems to have been soaked in Karo syrup. And the secondi simply lack the excitement of the smaller dishes. In the restaurant's early days, it offered a wonderful sautéed trout; now we have a bowl of seared scallops in a soupy lentil broth that robs the mollusks of all flavor, on an entrée list that’s half seafood and bottoms out with a dull, crumbly cheeseburger.
The brick-walled spot fills up most evenings with a convivial crowd. Stick with the fritters and maybe a salad or second app washed down with a glass of the lagrein-schiava blended red, and you’ll have a decent neighborhood meal. Venture into main-course territory, and you’re off the beach and into swampy waters.