Vitae

Vitae

By James Oliver Cury

Midtown has a ton of restaurants so why come here? Well, first there’s the truly central location, and then there’s the chef, Edwin Bellanco, who’s no celebrity (yet) but sure has worked with his share of them at Bouley, Gramercy Tavern, French Laundry, and most recently Morrell Wine Bar & Cafe. The clincher is the menu, which tinkers with French-Italian classics just enough to make things interesting, like the Niman Ranch ribeye with watercress, Béarnaise and frites (the pulled pork tacos appetizer just sounds like pandering to tourists). There is a lovely amuse-bouche and all the Parker House rolls (cooked in duck fat) you want. But nothing stands out so much as the dizzying chain-link motif, which decorates the floors and mirrored walls in this high-ceiling, bi-level space. Great fodder for conversation no matter who you bring.

There’s a rich balance of sweet and savory in most of the dishes, whether it’s the luscious chestnut in the agnolotti with veal cheek and spinach in a Parmesan broth, or the way the buttery lobster sauce bathes the herb risotto with rock shrimp, English peas, and saffron. Maple ice cream tames the acidity of apple tart Tatin in much the same way.

the crowd

As expected in a midtown location, you’ll see a lot of businesspeople and tourists, but also curious foodies and the requisite celebration dinners.

... on the side

eye for design
The back wall of the second floor displays 1,000 wine bottles; more than two dozen are available by the glass.

at your service
One server clearly enjoyed suggesting wines to pair with each course and gladly allowed multiple preview sips—and even played a blind taste test game to compare wines by the glass. He was also happy to suggest two half portions of pasta as a main course (a nice idea).

sweet seats
The corner banquettes are especially roomy; larger parties and voyeurs will want to sit upstairs and look down at the crowd.

decibels
Medium; management has the sense to keep the pop music at a pleasant level—low enough to talk over.

hours

Mon–Sat 11:30 AM–11 PM
Closed Sunday

price range

$24 (rock shrimp risotto with lobster sauce) to $55 (Niman Ranch ribeye)
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