Those of us who’ve been Upper West Siders for a long time remember Georgia’s Café & Bakery. It was destroyed by fire in 2011 and was replaced in 2013 by the northern Italian and Mediterranean-style café, Cibo e Vino, and it’s been busy ever since. It was an ideal restaurant for my friend and I to have lunch. I’d won a certificate to the restaurant from the West Side Community Garden Gala and my friend Gena had appointments nearby – it made perfect sense to converge at Cibo e Vino.
Devotees are reminded of the way the Upper West Side used to be – actors, writers, singers and fine artists – all eking out a living from their craft, while hanging on to rent stabilized or rent controlled apartments. And even though the UWS has been gentrified and lux-ivied, there are more arts-related men and women here than any other neighborhood. (The stats are available in the Center for an Urban Future report). Come during the day and you’ll catch a glimpse of how it is still, but don’t get run over by a baby carriage or two.
The current weekday lunch menu has been narrowed down somewhat, but offering fewer dishes hasn’t diminished the alternatives for a good drinks and menu selection. Gena started off with a glass of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Vicolo 2015, an elegant, food friendly red wine that has lots of personality. It tasted of black plums, leather and subtle spice and had soft undertones of tannin. The Kono New Zealand, 2015, Sauvignon Blanc, which I ordered is a wonderful wine with a nose of green apples, citrus, a slight mineral taste and a clean finish. This wine accompanies most anything.
Since we both like to eat and have similar tastes, we decided to share. Our first course, tartare di tonno — raw tuna. The chopped tuna had a subtle flavor of fennel, and the avocado was perfectly ripe. The course was served with diced cucumber and sprinkled with dill. Cibo’s chef added something I’d not had before, wild rice crispies, which is brown rice sautéed in olive oil until crisp. It added a slight crunch to the tuna tartare, and added a very prominent look and taste on our next dish, the cavetelli – pasta with an arrangement of mixed mushrooms, truffle Porcine and parmesan cheese.
Unphotogenic, the dish never looks like it tastes and the crispies on top looked like worms swimming in a brown sauce. The truffle porcine (mushroom) emulsion and the added mushrooms were overpowering. We agreed: the Cavatelli was good but not epic. The fresh lemon dressing on the Niçoise, however, was delicious and complimented the pan seared tuna. The Niçoise wasn’t served on a bed of lettuce, but to the side of the tuna were a hardboiled egg, small green olives and ripe cherry tomatoes. Haricot verts added an excellent robust taste to the dish.
Still, we couldn’t resist ordering a side of French fries. They were crispy and salty and we ate them with gusto.
For those who prefer brunch, Cibo e Vino has a selection of eggs, an omelette, served with a choice of three extra ingredients and Belgian waffles. Burgers and Panini are also featured on the menu.
Cibo e Vino is open Sunday through Friday at 10am, Saturdays at 9am. The location is 2418 Broadway (89th Street). Phone 212-362-0096. Seating is open.