The best “Italian” brunch you’ll never find in Italy

By David Farley

Don’t come to ‘Cesca’s Sunday brunch expecting an Italian affair: There are no meatballs in marinara sauce, and no well-clad Italian men snuggled up to the front room bar sipping espresso from tiny cups. After all, Italians don’t do brunch. For that matter, save for things like a cappuccino and a croissant, breakfast is the least eventful meal of the day for Italians. Not so at ‘Cesca.

The early-hour menus shed the southern Italian fare that’s made this elegant Upper West Side restaurant such a success since it first fired up its burners in 2003. Crispy fried chicken served in a metal bucket is both juicy and greaseless. The burger is good on its own, coming with a dose of culinary steroids—and by that, we mean bacon—on top, to go with the shallots and Fontina cheese. Other dishes give nods and winks to the Big Ragu. The savory French toast is wrapped in mortadella and topped with a fried egg. The eggs Benedict is laced with pancetta. And the baked eggs Purgatorio comes slathered in a spicy tomato sauce and sprinkled with Parmagiano-Reggiano. Even the Bloody Mary is dressed up to look like it has some Italian heritage, arriving at the table with a Calabrian chile floating in it. It wouldn’t go over in Rome or Rimini, but it works deliciously on the Upper West Side.


Dinner: Sun–Tue 5 PM–10 PM; Wed–Thu 5 PM–11 PM; Fri–Sat 5 PM–11:30 PM
Brunch: Sun 11:30 AM–3 PM

price range

$9 (fresh fruit, yogurt, and granola) to $24 (steak and eggs)