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Nestled under the landmarked Rockefeller Townhouses, across the street from MoMA, is the charming Neapolitan restaurant Il Gattopardo, named after the acclaimed novel and film, The Leopard.
Opened in 2001 by Gianfranco Sorrentino and chef Vito Gnazzo, the restaurant is a spartan beige room where moneyed players in power suits and well-heeled older couples savor refined Southern Italian cuisine. On a Wednesday evening, a packed house enjoyed homemade pasta like the toothsome, al dente pappardelle with marjoram-flecked pork rib ragu, and chef Vito’s specialty, succulent beef and veal meatballs poached in a cabbage leaf. Start with dainty arancini—crispy rice balls stuffed with peas and cheese—and the zucchini Parmesan, enlivened by smoky provola affumicata. Segue to baby octopus in capers and black olives over charred polenta. A main course, the Colorado rack of lamb, features a paper-thin crust giving way to meat so tender and delectable, you’ll nibble right off the bone, good graces be damned. Cap off the meal with pastiera, a ricotta torta redolent of orange. The extensive Italian wine list runs from less-than-$50 bottles to some costing four figures.
Plenty of midtown Italian restaurants offer diners forgettable red sauce dinners to shovel down before dashing to a Broadway show. At Il Gattopardo, take time to savor.