Lincoln Center’s Crown Jewel

By Ruth J. Katz

The old saw that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence needs to be discarded when you consider that the grass on the other side of the fence here, is really up on the roof. And while truly lush, it is the amazing cuisine below this velvety carpet that is the precious emerald—the verdant gem in Lincoln Center’s crown: Lincoln Ristorante, located under the eco-friendly slanted gable of the renovated northern footprint of Lincoln Center.

Longtime West Siders remember when there was nary a starred restaurant in the nabe for a memorable, pre-theater meal. Then, the West Side hit pay dirt, with a few stellar boites. But…sadly, the 10023 zip code lost chef Terrance Brennan’s Picholine in 2015, after 22 years, and a year later New Yorkers witnessed chef Bill Telepan’s eponymous restaurant shutter after ten years.

However, the good news is that Lincoln Ristorante, opened in 2010 (and still as sought after as it was ten years ago), is a destination, whether you have tickets for a Lincoln Center event, or just want an extraordinary meal. The restaurant never ceases to reinvent its mouth-watering menu, under the whisks of Chef Shea Gallante and Pastry Chef Richard Capizzi.

Gallante has crafted a menu that can best be described as modern Italian fare, emphasizing seasonal ingredients, treated with precise technique. Dishes are modern, while respectful of classic Italian tradition. Expect a twist on the standards, though, whether antipasti, insalate, or dolci: For example, insalata di astice seduces with its abundant lobster, robiolina cheese, blood oranges, roasted beets, and Castelfranc; and there are no humdrum sorbetti or gelati here—but instead, flavors include candy cane, gingerbread, egg nog, cranberry, honeycrisp apple, and mulled wine. And in between that shellfish starter and those temptingly flavored desserts is a menu that tantalizes as readily as it sates.

A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, chef Gallante has held prestigious positons at legendary Gotham eateries, such as Felidia and Bouley restaurants, working with legendary toques Lidia Bastianich and David Bouley, among others. He’s also helmed his own restaurants—CRU (one Michelin star and three from The New York Times) and Ciano, which earned two stars from The Times. Pastry Chef Capizzi has an equally outstanding CV, having seasoned his pastry whisk under luminaries Thomas Keller and Jean Louis Palladin. He was named pastry sous-chef for the opening of the celebrated eatery Per Se and two years later assumed the role of pastry chef at both Per Se and Bouchon Bakery. Simply put: You could not have a more skilled and innovative team in the kitchen.

And the dishes reflect that care, creativity, and adventure. Even the brunch menu will astonish. Simple prosciutto and figs are elevated to ambrosia with top-flight Prosciutto di San Daniele, Grilled Figs, Cucumbers, Frisee, and a Seasonal Mostarda. For a main brunch course, try the Veal-Ricotta Meatballs, Anson Mills Polenta à la Marinara, Buffalo Mozzarella, and Parmigiano Reggiano.

Expect service to be solicitous without being meddlesome. Our waiter was about the only server we’ve had in recent memory who actually listened to my dining companion’s request that his second glass of wine be served with his main course; usually, it is brought immediately after the request, when the first glass is whisked away, or it’s never brought. Parenthetically, the wine list features over 400 labels, with classic and new Italian offerings.

The pleasant dining room is split into two main sections, with the bar in the middle. (Ask about the famous Negronis, speaking of the bar.) The eastern section is glass-enclosed and provides a view of the Plaza while the larger dining area, on the other side of the airy, open-plan kitchen, is further west, with a better view of the reflecting pool and the Thomas Moore sculpture. There is room for a half-dozen or so diners to sup at the bar, and in that area there are a few tables for service.

The building itself and the restaurant’s gracious interior were designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro; the result is precisely what you’d expect from such a fabled architectural and design firm. The restaurant is owned by the Patina Restaurant Group, proprietors of over 60 eateries in New York, Los Angeles, and Florida, among its geographic footprint. Principals Nick Valenti and Chef Joachim Splichal are well-known and highly regarded names in the field. A la carte menus are available, as are prix fixe offerings.

For more information on Lincoln Ristorante, visit

© 2020 Ruth J. Katz. All Rights Reserved

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