August 9, 201127 East 21st Street New York, NY (212) 477-0006
It was pure happenstance that we discovered Giorgio’s of Gramercy. It was a sticky summer afternoon and we were winding our way home after a failed attempt to see the Alexander McQueen exhibit on its final day. Though arriving before the Met opened, our excitement dwindled upon seeing the longest line the museum had gathered since Mona Lisa took temporary residence in 1963. Waiting for five hours is not particularly our Sunday style, so iced coffee and a Manhattan stroll took over. Meandering west on 21st Street, Giorgio’s narrow entrance called out with the familiar Zagat sticker as its beacon. After a quick glance at the menu and a few taps on the OpenTable iPhone App, our reservation for the ninth was secured.
Giorgio’s of Gramercy is, not surprisingly, located in the historic and fashionable Gramercy Park neighborhood, where architecture is reminiscent of London’s West End. The restaurant offers an “eclectic American menu” driven by executive chef, Alejandro Reyes. Although one of the few Zagat-rated restaurants in the area, it holds a mystique of being a well-kept secret. Giorgio’s survives because it is a neighborhood mainstay with friendly prices to match. It is a place you are likely to return to, and often.
Our initial fear of walking into an empty dining room late on a Tuesday night is dissolved as soon as we enter. The candlelit restaurant is pleasantly filled, and there are even a few suit-and-tie guests enjoying cocktails at the bar. The hostess politely greets us, and noting our reservation, provides us with the choice between two two-tops. Noting our indecision, he instead offers a four-top in the center of the dining room. We appreciate the gesture and are happy to have a 360-degree vantage point.
The $50/person, 3-course Prix Fixe menu is a no brainer, especially with the affordable wine pairing addition. With deep red walls, cool artwork and Miles Davis playing at just the right level, we discuss how perfectly ‘New York’ Giorgio’s feels. It is the kind of local spot that tourists hope to encounter so they can tell their friends about it.
The first glass of wine arrives followed shortly by our starters. Since the two of us have ordered separate dishes for each course, we decide to battle it out. Who will have the better meal? Starter 1: a chilled Prosecco to match fried oysters with an unexpected chipotle spice. Starter 2: a Chenin Blanc accompanied by a hearty portion of tuna tartare. The winner: the fried oysters. Main 1: Red Italian blend to go with the surf & turf (the surf being a giant prawn). Main 2: Light red Italian blend and a veal chop. The winner: veal chop. Dessert 1: Muscadet with three scoops of gelato. Dessert 2: Port with s’more bread pudding. The winner: the s’more bread pudding. Lilly wins by a dish.
The cuisine, overall, is good but not sensational. But that’s okay! If it were sensational, Giorgio’s would be a throng of tourists and the bill would jump to twice the price. That could never work in a place like this, which is exactly why Gramercy Park residents continue to come back. Nope – Giorgio’s is perfect just the way it is.