As you may have noticed, the vast majority of my posts are for Italian restaurants, and that trend continues today. My boyfriend and I just got back from a wonderful vacation in Mexico, and we wanted to celebrate the evening we got back — and the night before heading back to reality — with a nice, relaxing dinner. My new place in Murray Hill is home to quite a few hidden gem Italian restaurants, and Da Ciro is one of them. That’s where we decided to feast on our last night of freedom, and oh what a feast it was.
I would be remiss if I did not mention up-front that Da Ciro’s bread basket is superb. It comes out nice and warm-hot, and inside are a smattering of breads like focaccia and Italian. Then, there is the cheese and soppressata stuffed bread. I don’t even like soppressata, as a general matter, but theirs tastes crisp and very close to bacon. The cheese is also always slightly melted, and when eaten together with the crusty yet tender bread, the bacon-like soppressata and a glass of Sangiovese, it was almost all I needed to go to bed happy.
Almost, but not quite. Da Ciro boasts a wood burning oven, and it’s pizzas have been reviewed by several NY magazines, but it is the Focaccia Robiola that dreams are made of. This dish was featured on Bobby Flay’s FoodNation on Food Network, for good reason. The Focaccia is super-thin and sliced in half, then stuffed with Robiola cheese. Robiola is a mix of cow, sheep and goat’s milk, with an initial consistency similar to goat cheese. Robiola, however, melts perfectly, very unlike goat cheese. After the stuffing, the Focaccia is crisped in the wood buring oven and drizzled with truffle oil. I think the first time my boyfriend and I tried it we were silent for a solid twenty minutes while we were transported to heaven. The Focaccia stays perfectly crisp the entire time, and the Robiola oozes out of the crevices dotting the top of the bread. They also have a version stuffed with Robiola, prosciutto and arugula, but I am too in love with the original to cheat on it. Their veal meatballs, pictured above, are cooked in the oven, and come out with the tomato sauce slightly charred and the tops of the meatballs crisped as well. They’re also stuffed with a bit of cheese. I am picky on meatballs, and these are very, very good. The sauce is tangy and the perfect accompaniment to the veal, and went along with it slightly better than with the ravioli I discuss below.
I’ve tried a decent array of pastas on Da Ciro’s menu, one pizza and one entree. All were good, some better than others. Bad news first. The pizza, topped with crumbled sausage, homemade mozzarella and peppers had amazing flavor, and I can see why people would love it. However, as is so often the case with thin crust, Naples-stye pizzas, the middle was soggy and by the end we needed to use our knives to help fold the piece in half. I still want to try the margherita though, because everyone deserves a second chance. The veal scallopini was the other entree that was very good, but not great. The veal was topped with proscuitto, mozzarella and a tomato/white wine sauce. The meat itself was tender and enjoyable (but something I definitely think one could make at home), but the sides were another story. The mashed potatoes were sub-par, and tasted sadly reminiscent of instant mashed potatoes to me. The peas were shrivled and had a microwave-like wrinkled skin. If the veal had been accompanied by better sides, I would potentially order again, but not as it stands.
Now the pastas. Some of the Da Ciro macaroni is homemade, and I will always choose a homemade pasta over boxed. Their homemade penne bolognese is exactly what I look for. Meaty, with fresh herbs and cooked with a nice bit of red wine. It was also defitinely more meaty than saucy, which is what I think a good bolognese should be. The penne holds the gravy perfectly, from the inside to the ridges, and I’ve ordered it each time (either as an appetizer or entree) I have been to Da Ciro. My mother recently ordered their homemade ricotta/spinach ravioli (sorry for the poor photo) with a tomato sauce. The ravioli was thin, which I love because then you really taste the filling, and the stuffing itself was deeply rich and flavorful. I wish the marinara had had a bit more “umph” to it, maybe through the addition of herbs or white wine. But it was a solid dish I would order again. My boyfriend had their homemade penne (he substituted macaroni for it) with a homemade mozzarella, eggplant basil, fresh ricotta and tomatos. It was delicious. The ricotta blended with the tomatos to create a creamy sauce, and the eggplant flavor was infused throughout the dish. I enjoyed the freshness of the basil and the bits of mozzarella were a wonderful surprise every few bites. I’ve also had their homemade fettuccini with mushrooms. Again, a dish drizzled with truffle oil, and made with a variety of mushrooms (porcini, shiitake, etc.) and reduced veal stock. Another home-run. I also love that Da Ciro staff freshly grates the parmesan over your pasta, which is always a great thing because you can have them keep going and going and going…or at least I do.