Wow, if you are an appreciator of fine authentic Southern Italian fare from around both Puglia and Naples, Masseria Dei Vini on Ninth Avenue between 57th and 58th Street might just be your dream restaurant–but don’t go in without checking out Masseria Caffè immediately north or it first! They have the finest selection of homemade bombolini, cannoli, eclairs, ricotta cheesecake and more–and the assortment of Euro style coffees are amazing! Don’t forget to check out their amazing sandwiches and salads to go, either.
While picking out my amazing box of pastries which included the ultra special pistachio bombolini and cannoli, I could not help but peruse the wooden cases along the walls with other Italian kitchen cupboard necessities like EVOO, tortalli, fig preserve and more. For extra information on the fabulous items for purchase but behind the counter and on the walls, ask for incredibly helpful manager Oscar Signorile (this guy knows his Italian pastry)! I have to add right here that I fell in love with Masseria Caffè the minute I walked in because in the center of the glass case was a pile of pignoli cookies which are rather hard to come by these days outside of Little Italy in both Manhattan and The Bronx.
My dining partner Gail and I then headed over to Masseria Dei Vini with our boxes of pastries in hand for an early dinner to beat the crowds of regulars that take over at 6:30 or 7 PM every night. Start out with one of their fabulous signature cocktails like the super popular M.D.V.–this happens to be their unique take on a classic shaken vodka martini created with Beluga Vodka, St. Germain, lemon juice, fresh raspberries and simple syrup.
Your dinner will start out with fabulous homemade focaccia and breadsticks that will amaze you with their freshness but what’s super special is the unique pesto and lentil mix to dip your bread into. I have never had anything like this before! It is a slightly salty, very herbal and I could not stop dipping the focaccia in it. I must have eaten five pieces!
Masseria Dei Vini has been reaching legendary status with their authentic Neapolitan style pizzas made in a classic clay oven so be sure to start your dinner off with this taste of heaven! The super thin crust that is dark golden brown around the edges is unforgettable. This is pizza like it has been made for hundreds of years and is the great, great grandmother of New York pizza as we know it today–but as they say, the original is always the best.
The pasta here is as divine as the pizza and the portions are big enough to share. Pictured above on my plate are half portions of the Ravioli Di Angelina and Penne Alla Masseria. The pasta is freshly made and the sauce is classic tomato sauce with a touch of cream and plenty of fresh basil. You cannot believe how delicious these are until you try them. My friend Gail said she think that both dishes ranked among the best pasta that she has ever had and she ate both slowly to really enjoy every last morsel! Just for the record, the Ravioli Di Angelina is stuffed with Caciotti cheese, a very soft Mozzarella, and it works even better than the more traditional Ricotta. The Penna Alla Masseria is unique because mixed in with the light creamy tomato sauce is bacon, radicchio and smoked Mozzarella.
For our entrees, Gail and I split the Battuta Di Pollo Ala Griglia which is grilled thinly pounded chicken breast sided with a lovely string bean, potatoes and tomatoes salad tossed lightly with EVOO and balsamic vinegar. This is only a half portion that you see on my plate above so you can clearly see that the portions at Masseria Dei Vini are extremely generous. This is a very healthy entree and quite a crowd pleaser–it is a pleasant take on the more traditional Chicken Paillard.
Of course I could not go to a Southern Italian restaurant without having Broccoli Rabe sautéed in olive oil and garlic. Pictured above is a half portion and it was quite filling. The Broccoli Rabe is special at Masseria Dei Vini because of all the flowering pieces–those are always the most tender parts!
A fabulous way to end a dinner at Masseria Dei Vino is with the truly unique Delizia Al Limone which is lemon glazed custard filled sponge cake. The presentation is beautifully artistic as you can see and it is sweet and tart at the same time. The round lemon sponge cake rests in a beautiful zig zag of fresh sauce. You cannot go wrong with a dessert like this especially if you are ordering desserts for a table of out of town guests that you are looking to impress.
The ricotta cheesecake (aka Torta Di Ricotta Alla Vaniglia) is a bit unconventional here but totally fabulous. It has a bit of a custard like texture and is not overly sweet–a traditional ricotta cheesecake is usually on the dry side. This lusciously creamy dessert lies in a zig zag of chocolate sauce and has the lovely touch of a couple of lightly glazed strawberries nearby.
Masseria Dei Vini has a lovely light and airy atmosphere with modern black and white photos of different Italian sites in the walls. There are classic white linens and dark wooden chairs and the tables are well distanced so you feel far enough away from the other diners. The service is friendly and prompt and you will undoubtedly want to become a regular after your first visit! For more info, go to www.MasseriaDeiVini.com. There is a a second location on West 48th Street, by the way.