You never know what gems can be found around the corner on any block in Manhattan. On a warm fall night walking from the subway, we turned onto Lexington Avenue, south of 32nd street, and found Marcony Ristorante – a delightful Italian eatery owned by Marco from Capri, Italy, now living in New York. Hence MarcoNY, we’re guessing.
Marcony is an immediately comfortable room with high ceilings and interesting decorative items reminiscent of the owner’s island home in the Mediterranean. Rather than one large room, Marcony has several smallish sitting nooks and two lofts, where you sit in relative privacy, looking down on the other diners below. These cozy eating spaces give the restaurant an intimacy that makes you feel like the gem you found is almost yours alone.
We were just getting comfortable at our table when Alex, the very gracious headwaiter, brought us a couple of glasses of Chianti along with a plate a of Fried Cheese Ravioli Puffs with a Sun-dried Tomato Tapanade, Virgin Olive Oil and Cold Grilled Zucchini.
Soon after we started nibbling our raviolis, Marco came over to introduce himself and make some recommendations for our dinner. Right then we realized we had to follow his suggestions. How could we go wrong? Psst – secret, if the owner suggests something in his restaurant, it’s probably a good idea to listen to him – he wants you to leave loving the food, and wanting to come back over and over!
For appetizers, we ordered the Baked Potato Stuffed with Risotto and Shrimp. The shrimp were sitting on top of the potato, which rested in a Garbanzo Bean Puree surrounded by Mussels. Who knew this unusual combination would work so well? It was a delicious taste surprise. That’s why you have to listen to Marco!
Our second appetizer was the Grilled Eggplant Rollatine Stuffed with Crab and Shrimp with Fontina Cheese. This tasty morsel produced smiles for its near perfect flavor and presentation.
Our salad course consisted of Wild Arugula with Grape Tomatoes. This simple salad was the essence of perfect taste and freshness, despite it not being entirely locavore. The tomatoes were imported from Denmark. Why Denmark? Because Marco, who loves the food he serves, wants the best tomatoes with the thinnest skin and sweetest taste. This week they came from Denmark. What we had learned so far about Marco is that he is not satisfied with just any produce or any ordinary ingredients in his restaurant. He always wants the best – wherever they are grown.
We split the pasta dish, can you guess why? It was a Homemade Paparadelle with Octopus, Crab, Tomatoes, Oil and Garlic. Another excellent pairing of ingredients that was tender and tasty. Also filling, that’s why we forced ourselves to share it.
Capri is an island in the Mediterranean off the coast of Italy, where you can always expect an exciting menu with great seafood options. Marco happened to recommend Dennis’s favorite fish from there, Branzino. Our waiter, Alex, filleted it at our table. This beautiful fish was served hot and moist, along with an incredible citrus sauce made from oranges, grapefruit and mandarin oranges. At first Dennis didn’t want to alter the natural taste of the delicious fish, but trying it, he realized that Marco’s delicate citrus sauce enhanced the Branzino’s subtle flavor.
After Marco described his Veal Chop as the Giorgio Armani of butchering, Marilyn couldn’t resist ordering it. When presented, it was one of the biggest hunks of meat we’d ever seen, not still on the animal! It was also the tenderest piece of meat she’s ever eaten. Covered in wild mushrooms, this super premium piece of veal surpassed almost anything we’ve ever tasted. We rarely take home meals when traveling, but it was so big, she only ate a small portion and we saved the balance for our midnight “snack.”
We saved a little room for dessert, of course, because Marco insisted. The Cheesecake, made from ricotta cheese instead of cream cheese, was heavenly. We also got the Blood Orange Sherbet, which tasted like the real blood oranges grown in Italy. This refreshing treat was the perfect conclusion to a truly excellent eating adventure.
Over coffee, it dawned on us that about ten years before, when we were walking in a dark, deserted neighborhood of Milan, Italy, on a gloomy Sunday night, we’d had a similar experience. Turning a corner, we found La Provincial, in the heart of the “Darsena,” a bustling section of the city along the Naviglio Grande, a canal that eventually leads to Venice.
Leaving Marcony, we smiled at each other with a look that said, “We’ve done it again,” and headed for the subway, thinking what an enjoyable eating experience Marcony turned out to be. Restaurant gems are everywhere; you just have to be lucky enough to find one. We did, and if you are in New York, now you can find Marcony, too.
184 Lexington Avenue(Between 31st and 32nd)
New York, NY 10016