IL Tesoro: Gustatory Treasures

I haven’t had a real reason to go to the East Side from the West Side more than occasionally for years. One surefire way to lure me somewhere I normally would not go (without a definite and good reason) is with the promise of amazing food- I am simple like that. The Upper West Side does not have Il Tesoro. Chef AJ Black is to be found at the third outpost of his restaurant on the Upper East Side of Manhattan isle, and with that definite and good reason, there I went.

Just think of it: treasure, promised in a name. From coat-check to table, I set myself to absorb the atmosphere: the deep red velvet, dark wood, beautiful paintings, and the energy of the waiters buzzing from table to table to kitchen and back with an impressive array of beautifully presented dishes. Upon receiving the menu, I exchanged a gluttonous glance with my friend- it was not pages long, but it was vast, somehow, and accompanied by an equally diverse wine menu. To clarify, on this menu are thirteen kinds of pasta, a dozen meat entrees (and mushroom risotto), and twenty appetizers and salads. A hard choice indeed, as every description made my stomach grumble “Yes, please. That too!”

We began with the mushroom ravioli in a creamy wine sauce and a salad of baby spinach topped with crispy pork belly and roasted artichoke hearts. Oh, to greet with hunger a table of extremes! The ravioli was smooth, rich, and balsamic. The salad – with its stunning blend of textures and flavors – was more on the piquant side, delightfully tangy.

Continuing along the path of flowing ambrosia, the quick-witted waiter brought over the entrees. In the case of the salmon dijonese, a generous portion of fresh meat was placed with care onto a bed of fresh, sauteed vegetables, to be eaten all but ravenously- for it is absolutely delectable- with more than a hint of pungent, warming dijon. In the case of my dish, the intriguing Involtini di Pollo, thin,tender slices of chicken breast were rolled with creamy ricotta, crispy pancetta, and sauteed spinach, topped with mushrooms and a delicious wine sauce.

A plate of perfectly velvety tiramisu later, the sensation of having tried every food group, prepared in a somewhat more inspired way than ever before hit me with whimsy. Full and delighted to have met the acquaintance of this Chef of Chefs, I headed back out West, into the night, thinking of when I might next return to my neighbor across the park. I suggest that you make IL Tesoro your prime reason to waltz on over to First Avenue.

IL Tesoro: First Avenue between 82 & 83 Streets // (212)-861-9620

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