I've always liked Marco Canora's food. I first had it at the Tuscany Inn, his mother's restaurant-inn on Martha's Vineyard, then at Craft and the first, most delicious incarnation of Craftbar (all hail the chicken meatball soup, the duck panini, and the doughnuts), and finally at Hearth in the East Village. But the East Village is a major schlep for me. I take the 2 or the 3 to 14th Street, walk that long corridor to the sixth avenue stop on the L train, and take that to First Ave. It sounds worse than it is, but the contemplation of said trip just made it far less likely that I would go there on a whim.
So when Marco and his partner Paul Grieco opened Insieme, in the Michelangelo Hotel, 51st and 7th Ave., his food literally became a lot more accessible to me. The room is a rectangle, the walls are bathed in white, gauzy material, and the tables are very well-spaced. I don't think Bruni is going to like the space (he's much more design-conscious than I am), but I found it to be a lovely venue to actually talk to the people I ate there with. There was no need to shout to be heard across the table. What a concept in this day and age in NYC.
The food is divided into two sides, Italian contemporary and traditional Italian. Sounds sort of silly and theoretical and pretentious, but in actuality it's not. I've had lots of stuff off both sides of the menu and almost all of it was delicious, approachable, and full-flavored.
His take on crudo worked wonders, the asparagus soup was a wonder, the pork loin was impossibly tender and very porky, the olive fetuccine with duck ragu was grandma food if your grandmother had done a bunch of stages at great restaurants in Italy and here. My single favorite dish is the potato ravioli filled with fava beans, mint, and fennel cheese. All sounds pretty yummy, doesn't it?
Other food folks have already discovered it. Ruth Reichl loved the lasagna.
To me, Marco Canora has come full circle, from cooking traditional Italian food with contemporary touches with his Mom at the Tuscany Inn to the fine, if little too Craft-derived-for -my-taste food at Hearth, to Insieme, where he has brought together the breadth of his cooking experiences to create a menu full of extraordinarily tasty things you just want to eat.
If I were the Times Critic, I would give it 3 stars, and just to beat my friend Ben Leventhal of Eater to the punch, that's what I think Bruni is going to give it. Even money on three stars.
A three course meal with a glass of wine will be anywhere from $60-75 dollars with tax and tip.
Insieme 777 Seventh Avenue (51st St.) New York, NY Ph: 212-582-1310