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The sourdough starter brigade rejoiced when Chef Adam Leonti published the cookbook Flour Lab: An At Home Guide to Baking with Freshly Milled Grains. So it’s perhaps no surprise that the Italian restaurant where he serves as Head Chef, New York City’s Cucina Alba, also has a need to knead—churning out fresh focaccia in a Roman oven and milling Pennsylvania-grown wheat right on the premises.
Even the space itself has the warm, comforting feel of a plump loaf of sourdough fresh from the oven, thanks to GRT Architects. Tucked along the High Line on 18th Street, Alba’s interior is sheathed in blonde woods, gauzy draperies, and sculptural banquettes. The menu is dotted with the types of dishes Americans naturally gravitate to when they’re living la dolce vita abroad, such as spaghettini vongole and scampi-style gnocchi studded with shrimp from the Gulf.
“My family is from Italy and has been cooking Italian food my whole life,” says New York-born Leonti, who helped open the place in partnership with Prince Street Hospitality. “We’re focusing on those things that we’re familiar with while putting our own twist to make sure it feels like you’re at home in New York at the same time.”
One particularly beloved offering is the agnolotti, which is filled with caramelized onion and cowled with slivers of black truffle. “It’s taken off right away,” Leonti says. Another signature, a crispy chicken served with Calabrian bomba sauce, “is almost like a saltimbocca with the sage just snuck underneath the skin,” he says…made all the more delicious with a negroni poured tableside to the tune of music by Gianni Morandi. “You’re really going to feel like you’re not in the city for a day—and maybe you’re on your vacation in Italy,” Leonti says. “We’re really trying to bring people to those places they’ve been, and those memories.” Consider us transported.
In the latest installment of Designing Delicious, we visit Cucina Alba.