A Michelin-starred lunch inspired by the Italian & French Riviera

By Hannah Howard

As you ascend the sweeping spiral staircases in the Langham Place Hotel on Fifth Avenue and enter Ai Fiori’s chic, spacious dining room, it’s clear a swanky experience awaits. Spoiler alert: it’s also going to be refined without being fussy, fancy without being stuffy, and absolutely delicious.

Ai Fiori, which means “among the flowers” in Italian, is Chef Michael White and the Altamarea Group’s culinary homage to the French and Italian Riviera. And if you know anything about Chef White, you know he is a pasta genius. One of the great things about the lunch prix fixe here, with options for two or three courses plus a five-course tasting, is that you can have that pasta as an appetizer, a mid-course, or a more robustly portioned main. You can do this with any dish you please, customizing the lunch that will make you happy.
And that’s the hard part. Yes, the pastas are transcendent, especially the delicate agnolotti parcels filled with braised veal and studded with crispy sunchokes, and squid ink–infused trofie perfectly sauced in a Ligurian seafood ragu and crunchy with breadcrumbs. But they are not any more stunning than a salad of Nova Scotia lobster and globes of cucumber atop a bright green herb puree. Or the pan-seared sea scallops with creamy white beans and meaty bites of guanciale.

Another dish that will actually take your breath away, brilliant in its simplicity, is a whole luscious mountain of caviar atop buttery fluke crudo drenched in peppery Sicilian olive oil and Meyer lemon. “OMG” doesn’t even start to do it justice. For dessert, panna cotta is light as clouds, and definitely not to be missed.


Dinner: Mon–Thu5:30 PM–10 PM; Fri–Sat 5 PM–10 PM; Sun 5:30 PM–9 PM
Breakfast: 7 AM–10:30 AM daily
Lunch: Mon–Fri noon–2:30 PM

price range

$49 (two-course lunch) to $85 (five-course tasting lunch)