I Create a Cocktail & Dine at Lincoln Ristorante for NYC Summer Restaurant Week

Pat Tanner, Mixologist?

I am a good cook but a terrible cocktail maker. Even when I religiously follow cocktail-making instructions, something almost always goes awry. (Exceptions: I produce excellent Pimm’s cups and on one and only one occasion mint juleps, a fluke I’ve never been able to replicate.)

Pat's Arancino Cocktail

Pat’s Arancino Cocktail

So out of desperation on a recent hot, humid mid-summer day, I started improvising with disparate ingredients that happened to be at hand. I didn’t expect much, but the resulting Arancino cocktail proves that necessity really is the mother of invention.

The inspiration was Arancino Morelli, a sweet liqueur from Piemonte made from infused orange rind. A gift from my daughter Alice, who recently honeymooned in Italy, it’s a delectably thick, sticky-sweet digestif similar to its cousin, limoncello. But that just wouldn’t do on a blistering afternoon. So I poured some over ice and topped it off with Pellegrino. But the genius part, if I may say so, was adding several dashes of lavender bitters.

The bitters were also a gift, last Christmas, from the fiance (and soon to be husband) of my younger daughter, Elizabeth. For the beauty shot at the top of this post I gussied up the drink with orange twists and sprigs of fresh lavender, which I will repeat when I serve it to friends. Hopefully, it will wipe my past missteps from their collective memories.

NYC Restaurant Week Lunch @ Lincoln Ristorante

You know how sometimes when you dine out during Restaurant Week (assuming you’ve been able to snag a reservation – no easy task) you can feel like you’re not getting the full-on experience or the best of what a place has to offer? That is decidedly NOT the case at Lincoln, Jonathan Benno‘s modern Italian restaurant at Lincoln Center. The ravishing 3-course lunch (a mere $25) even includes as an amuse these hot, tender, two-bite cheese fritters:

Cheese fritters, Lincoln Ristorante

Cheese fritters, Lincoln Ristorante

(Actually, the amuse appears after the breads – focaccia and country Italian with sesame seeds, plus a saucer of olive oil and a whipped puree of white beans, lemon, and garlic.)

Diners choose among 2 first courses, 3 mains, and 2 desserts. Since there were two of us, we got to try almost everything – passing up only the rigatoni pasta with marinara, spicy pork sausage, and caciocavallo cheese (which only goes to show how appealing the choices are). First up: creamy, soft buffalo milk burrata with terrific heirloom tomatoes, arugula and – upping the interest factor exponentially – soft, pickled grape hyacinth bulbs (lampascioni).  This specialty of South Italy has a haunting bitterness that appeals to me. The plate is brushed with herb salsa verde.

Burrata & lampascioni, Lincoln Ristorante

Burrata & Lampascioni, Lincoln Ristorante

The salumi platter, the other starter, includes silky, top-quality prosciutto, spicy coppa cotta and a good-size slab of tender, flavorful, house-made head cheese (barely in frame at the top of the photo). The unexpected component here is molten cippolini in pilacca, a zippy Puglian sauce of fried red chili peppers, garlic, and olive oil.

Salumi Platter, Lincoln Ristorante

Salumi Platter, Lincoln Ristorante

For her main course, my lamb-loving friend chose lamb shoulder, spectacularly braised to unctuous softness along with Swiss chard and piquant green olives, then topped with a mix of breadcrumbs, pecorino, and lemon zest. Although not very photogenic, this was our favorite dish.

Braised lamb shoulder, Lincoln Ristorante

Braised Lamb Shoulder, Lincoln Ristorante

But running a close second was my zuppa alla Tarantina, the centerpiece of which is flaky flounder fillet in a sea of tomato-saffron broth dotted with chickpeas, mussels, and tiny clams. The saffron in the full-bodied broth is pronounced without going overboard. I had to fight the urge to bring the rimmed bowl to my mouth to lick the last drops.

Zuppa alla Tarantina, Lincoln Ristorante

Zuppa alla Tarantina, Lincoln Ristorante

Desserts are every bit as appealing. The pretty creme-fraiche crostata features summer berries inside and out. The blackberry compote is to die for, and the quenelle of buttermilk gelato ain’t shabby either.

Summer Berry Crostata, Lincoln Ristorante

Summer Berry Crostata, Lincoln Ristorante

The other Restaurant Week dessert is Chef Benno’s take on a custard-filled dessert from the town of Lecce in Puglia. His version has layers of sponge cake encasing lemon curd, topped with toasted almonds. Underpinnings of figs and fig marmalata are good enough to stand on their own.

Leccese Almond Cake, Lincoln Ristorante

Leccese Almond Cake, Lincoln Ristorante

Diminutive cinnamon biscotti that come with the bill are the final lagniappe. But the restaurant offers one other component that enhances its Restaurant Week lunch even more: 2 four-ounce pours for $12, a white to go with the first course and a red for the second. Both are lovely wines from the Marche region – Verdicchio de Matelica and Sangiovese Morelli.

I should also mention that service here hits that sweet spot between cordiality and professionalism and that the striking, comfortable space is modern yet exudes warmth.

It’s possible that Summer Restaurant Week reservations have all been taken at this point, but I recommend Lincoln Ristorante any time of the year, for any meal.
Lincoln Ristorante on Urbanspoon

And from the this-is-why-I-heart-NY file:

Hearst Plaza, Lincoln Center

Hearst Plaza, Lincoln Center

Serendipity! Happening in the courtyard just outside the restaurant was a rehearsal for a Lincoln Center Out of Doors concert – what would that evening be the world premiere of John Luther Adams’ Sila: The Breath of the World. About 80 contemporary musicians were scattered on three sides, and (as you might just be able to make out) singers in full concert dress black were stationed inside the pool!

 

 

 

 

7 responses to “I Create a Cocktail & Dine at Lincoln Ristorante for NYC Summer Restaurant Week

  1. Necessity alone didn’t have a hand in the creation of your Arancino cocktail. Amore, love, played a key role: The love of a honeymooning daughter for her mother, the love of a fiance’ for his future mother-in-law, and the love of a hostess looking forward to pleasing her guests. If you ever decide to hold a contest to give your lovely cocktail a name, I suggest the Amorino Arancino.

  2. Linda Buccellato

    Hi Pat,
    Love your Arancino cocktail recipe. Memories of Capri and years ago our visit there got me started on my favorite Limoncello !

  3. Linda Buccellato

    I like to mix my limoncello with tonic water, sometimes seltzer. Felix makes limoncello so I always have a supply in my freezer. Stop by for a cocktail ! Hope you and Bill are having a fun summer.

    • Oooh.homemade limoncello sounds wonderful! Btw: I’ve been marveling at how well those Rabbit winestoppers work and will be posting about them soon. Thanks!

  4. Pat, this is a beautiful tale, engendering delightful comments.

    I commend your restraint — I have not heard of lavender bitters. However, if I had it in my pantry, how would I refrain from drinking it all, to bring back my cherished Provence?

    As for homemade limoncello — Gennaro, at his restaurant on 206, for a large group of diners, gave a demonstration in how to make limoncello. It was almost a ballet to watch. As I recall, because he was a friend of my dining partner, we were even given samples of the finished elixir. You might set something up there yourself… Yes, his fame over the years lies in foods he enthusiastically crafts — but I was particularly impressed to hear of the work he does with foodless people in Trenton.

    Best always,

    Carolyn

    • Carolyn: This is very interesting info about Gennaro’s. How long ago did the limoncello demo take place? I’ve always considered that restaurant the best kept secret in Princeton – thanks for reminding me.

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