Lionelli Taberna – review

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Lionelli Taberna, at the Evelyn Hotel

Twelve days ago, former Lincoln Ristorante chef Jonathan Benno launched the first in a triptych of dining enterprises that will round out the newly renovated Evelyn Hotel in New York’s NoMad district. Lionelli Taberna is the Roman-inspired casual bistro that will be sandwiched between Leonelli Focacceria e Pasticceria, a bakery coffee shop which opens today, and Benno the formal Mediterranean scene stealer which will be making a grander entrance later this year.

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Lionelli Taberna

The taberna feels as much like a magnificent brass-and-glass treasure chest as an archeological discovery of original art-deco ornamentation. The L-shaped room wraps around a glass fishbowl kitchen, featuring gorgeous vertical lighting units and stained-glass accents, that complement the mix-n-match hardwood and semi-original remains of a terrazzo floor.

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Saffron & Soppressata Arancini, Lionelli Taberna

The ample menu spreads a lot further than Rome as its geo-flavor-epicenter, with seafood, veggies and cheeses that whiplash across much of Italy, plus a rather odd layover or two in Mexico (for a Salsa Verde and a classic Caesar Salad which we all know has nothing to do with Julius Caesar) but you can rest assured that the wondrous Arancini’s, Carciofi, Bistecca and Pastas are as nostalgically authentic as you’d hope for.

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Gnocchi alla Romana, Lionelli Taberna

While some dishes have yet to find some focus (the Lasagne Spinach with bolognaise ragú – which Benno lifted from his menu at Lincoln – doesn’t quite turn the lights on for me yet), the hallelujah hit has to be his Gnocchi alla Romana, which is a large, single shingle of fluffy gnoccho draped in the dreamiest stew of braised oxtail, that took everything I had not to squeal out loud.

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Lionelli Taberna

While we were watching the uniformly bearded and maroon baseball-cap toting chefs do their meticulous thing, wrangling rotisserie chickens or searing wild salmon, we didn’t realize that the maître d’hôtel was watching us (me) struggle to free a few precious morsels of mint-infused meat from the utterly delectable yet excessively fat-engulfed Elysian Fields Farm Lamb steak. Just as I was ready to cry “uncle” on the entire mission, she stepped in to apologize for my melee and promptly erased the item from the bill. Now, that’s how you spell “customer-satisfaction-with-built-in-loyalty-for-life” my friends.

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Torta di Limone, Lionelli Taberna

Armed with a knapsack of complimentary homemade Italian cookies – even after gorging on the delicious Torta di Limone with Strawberry Sorbet – we munched our way home planning, promising and predicting our very next visit.

https://www.leonellirestaurants.com/

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Focaccia with tomato, Lionelli Taberna

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