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  Occasion: Cuisine: Area: Cost: Rating:
  Night Out Italian Midtown Moderate Great

“We’ve noticed a change in you,” they told her, speaking slowly and deliberately. “You eat with too much gusto.” This pronouncement, what she realized was an intervention of sorts, came from her mother and brother. It was offered quietly in the living room of her childhood home after dinner, at the end of a weeklong visit. Julie was telling us about this “intervention” last week while she, Kathy and I were having dinner at Convivio, the new incarnation of L’Impero, Chris Canon’s smart and elegant Tudor City restaurant where chef Michael White (Alto, Fiamma) is now turning out a fantastic array of soulful Italian fare.

 “They told me I am too passionate about food, that I always scrape my plate clean and that I need to slow down,” Julie continued, shocked and rather despondent over the intervention. “I couldn’t believe it. I was so relieved to come back home and eat with the two of you.”

Indeed, Julie will not be getting any sort of lecture from Kathy or me. On the gusto scale, we’re pretty much off the charts. And Convivio is a place where gusto is, quite frankly, involuntary. It is triggered at first just by reading the menu, a long wide chart of edibles that includes a fun selection of sfizi (little snacks) to get your gusto started, like charred sweet summer corn tossed with a tangle of grilled onions turned from raw and sharp to soft and sweet ($4), eggplant sliced into hunks and grilled, then served cold, marinated in chile flake and balsamico so the flesh is bright and spicy and tastes almost pickled ($4), pinky-sized icicle radishes with a creamy anchovy dipping sauce ($4), and terrific arancini ($5)—plump, golden blow-pop sized balls of rice and fresh peas anchored by a heart of gooey cheese in the center.

Our gusto continued after sfizi, and throughout the prix fixe menu of antipasti, pasta, secondi and dessert. (While ordering a la carte is also available, at $59 a person for four courses, it’s a great deal.) Chef White has a confidence with his cooking that comes across with startlingly vibrant seasoning (no lack of salt or acidity in this food), and has a beautiful way with pastas that were definitely the highlight of our very impressive meal in the space formerly known as L’Impero.

Speaking of L’Impero, a word about the design. The room has gotten a bit of an update ... [more, click below]

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Other restaurants in Midtown :
+ Lever House   + Aquavit   + RM   + Joseph's (formerly Citarella The Restaurant)   + Town   + Artisanal   + The Oyster Bar   + Geisha   + David Burke and Donatella Restaurant   + Riingo   + Amma   + Cafe Sabarsky   + The Stone Rose Lounge   + BLT Steak   + V, The Steakhouse-- Closed   + Bar Masa   + Cafe Gray   + The Bar Room at The Modern   + The Cafe at Aquavit   + The Cafe at Aquavit   + Bistro du Vent-- Closed   + Shaburi   + Xing   + The Modern   + Bar Americain   + Alto   + Park Blue   + Mainland-- Closed   + Nobu 57   + Quality Meats   + Dona-- CLOSED   + Daisy May's   + 7Square-- CLOSED   + Amalia   + Fireside   + Anthos   + Patroon   + BLT Market   + Toloache   + Mia Dona   + Park Avenue Summer   + Convivio   + The Oak Room by guest reviewer Julie Besonen   + At Vermilion by guest reviewer Elaine Weiner   + Lunching at Inakaya, by guest reviewer Kathleen Squires   + Marea, by Guest Reviewer Susan Kane Walkush   + Le Bernardin   + New York Central -- A Reason To Eat at the Grand Hyatt Again   + Pampano Botaneria by Dara Pollak   

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