When Da Silvano served its final meal in December of 2016, it was not just the last act for a beloved NYC dining institution – it veritably closed out a chapter of old media schmoozing. Beyond the celebrities, it was a “print media” restaurant, in an increasingly digital world.
A little more than two years on, the West Village space at last has a new occupant – and we couldn’t be more thrilled.
Firstly, the new Avena Downtown (sister to the namesake that opened on E. 57th St. in 2017) is decidedly European – though the vibe doesn’t specifically evoke Rome or Naples or wherever. The brick-walled space actually feels a bit Parisian – like you might stumble across it somewhere in the posh 7th arrondissement. But the understatedly mod furnishings, chicly distressed mirrors, and an artful, rustic-industrial sliding door – which can close off the bar from the main dining room – appear straight out of a fashionable eatery in Milano.
The bar area itself, infused with a bit of Italian Riviera cool, is a destination unto itself – and we expect to be propping it up on a regular basis in the coming months. In fact, the fab Euro-disco soundtrack was a welcome relief from all that twee indie rock clouding the atmosphere at so many of-the-moment hipster restos. It was like a bit of nighttime Capri in NYC.
But the food is, well…nothing short of a revelation. Chef Roberto Deiaco (who runs Avena Downtown with his charming wife Giselle) has fittingly manned the kitchens at some of New York’s most notable bastions of Italophile glamour: Cipriani, Armani Ristorante, and, back in the day, Palio. And while the food at Da Silvano pretty much ran neck and neck with the scene, here the culinary allure will undoubtedly eclipse any celebrity star power you might find filling the seat next to you.
We started with the flan di zuchinelle, a zucchini/flower flan over parmigiano fonduta with Perigord truffles (a bit of French influence); and we can honestly say it was one of the most sublimely flavorful dishes that has ever graced our taste buds – an absolutely perfect balance of flavors and texture.
How to top that? A simple but delicious plate of scialatelli pasta with Mediterranean seafood (frutti di mare is a house specialty) with a floral glass of Vermentino, as well as a veal osso buco that literally fell off the bone, over a bed of risotto alla Milanese – paired with a wonderfully chalky Nebbiolo. Other Avena specialties include capesante scotttate (seared sea scallops), polpo alla brace (pan roasted Portuguese octopus), and grilled branzino over broccoli rabe.
A rich chocolate fondant again nodded to France; but the cannoli duo – one with citrus, another with caramel – was a veritable dessert nirvana. We’ve actually been seeing it in our dreams.
For NYC Europhiles, Avena Downtown is the only place you need to be in the first months of 2019. For everyone else, when you’re tired of all those trendy beetroot salads and bok choy whatevers – this will be your culinary salvation.