When 83 1/2 opened last fall in the heart of Glenwood's Upper East Side territory, I was excited. With well-known Chef Ryan Skeen manning the burners–he of Allen and Delancey, Resto, and 5 & Diamond fame/notoriety, among others–and a modest, local-favorite sort of feel, it seemed like just the sort of place the neighborhood needs.
But then before I could get over there, Skeen left 83 1/2, and the place rejiggered itself as an Italian spot with new Chef Will Foden offering up a "Sicilian-inspired" menu. Hmmmm. Definitely less hype-worthy, but still, good, friendly places to eat that don't cost a fortune are always welcome in this or any other community. So last week I finally sat down for dinner at 83 1/2, and got excited all over again, thoroughly enjoying everything Foden could throw at me.
The New Menu Under Chef Will Foden
The 83 1/2 menu has an appealing Stuzzicare section, with a special of any three snacks for only $13. Clearly this is the way to go, and I was rewarded with three-out-of-three winners: a fat, crispy pair of tomato risotto fritters, studded with oxtail and just the right hint of sweetness; a small pile of soft poached tuna drizzled in olive oil and paired with grilled ramps; and a mound of fluffy ricotta accompanied by a thick, pesto-ish sauce. Both of these last two came with oily toast which, when combined with the first-rate bread basket, red pepper spread and (more) olive oil, all makes for a snappy start to a meal.
Delicious Italian Food and Promotional Deals
After all the snacking, I figured that a single pasta dish would leave me plenty satisfied, and I figured correctly. All four or five "Primis" on the 83 1/2 menu sounded good, but I went with the Tagliatelle (cooked perfectly), tossed with tender cuttlefish, rich smoked tomatoes and some peperoncino to give it a jolt. This was terrific dish: thoughtful, nicely balanced, prepared with care and considerable skill. The only thing that concerns me about 83 1/2 was the lack of customers. True, I was eating early, but when I left around 7:00, on a Thursday night, only a couple of tables were taken, giving the restaurant a dangerously low energy level. Owner Vincenzo Mangiafridda is trying to liven things up, with promotions like a new happy hour, and there was a "pop-up" dinner in June with Chef Daniel Holzman, of the always-packed (with a young crowd) Meatball Shop, and they're even encouraging diners at 83 1/2 to Instagram their meals by offering a free affogato if you post and hashtag your food pics. I hope something works. We could really use more places like 83 1/2 in the neighborhood.
More Information: 83 1/2 Restaurant
83 1/2 is located on 83rd Street just west of First Avenue, and is open on Tuesday through Thursday from 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., on Sunday until 9:00, and on Friday and Saturday to 11:00. Closed Mondays. For more information and a look a sample 83 1/2 menu, visit 83 1/2 online!