402 West 43rd Street,

New York, NY 10036

I can’t think of too many places in New York I would rather eat than Esca. Three recent lunches were exceptional. One of the reasons the food is so consistently outstanding is that proprietor and chef Dave Pasternack is virtually always in the kitchen. In today’s world of globe-trotting celebrity chefs, Pasternack is one of the few who actually spends some time behind the burners…and it comes through in the pristine quality of his cooking. The superb food, well-chosen wine list, attractive sunny, room and an outdoor terrace perfect for enjoying Bellinis during the summer months make Esca a great destination spot. Lastly, Esca is one of only a handful of New York’s top-flight restaurants that is open for lunch on Saturday.

The selection of raw oysters and crudo changes daily, but I have never been disappointed with the brilliance of the fish. The salad of raw spring vegetables with lemon vinaigrette was crisp, refreshing and just as beautiful to look at as it was to eat. Both preparations of octopus were superb, but the grilled baby octopus with bitter greens and cipolline was a dish I could have eaten all day. It was sublime.

Pasternack excels with whole grilled fish. Esca is one of the few places in New York where readers can enjoy a whole roasted or grilled fish, Mediterranean-style. Our pink snapper with salsa verde was flawless. On another visit, I enjoyed a branzino (sea bass) cooked in a salt crust that was moist, delicate and flat-out great. The grilled vegetables and sautéed spinach were perfect; clean, simple and full of flavor. The pastas are equally delicious, but I haven’t had them as often recently, perhaps owing to the warm weather. The spaghetti with chilis, mint and lobster and the maccheroni with sea urchin and crabmeat are two of the most satisfying pastas readers will find in New York .

Colli di Lapio’s 2008 Fiano di Avellino paired nicely with a number of the courses. Like so many wines, it was enjoyed too young, but that is the nature of restaurant wine lists. I also loved the 2007 Vermentino Albithia from Feudi della Medusa, an emerging property in Sardinia. It was a fairly rich, weighty style of Vermentino, but it worked wonders with just about everything, including the oysters and crudo.

I am not a huge dessert person, but readers with a sweet tooth who don’t order the affogato (vanilla ice cream topped with espresso and brittle) are missing out on one of the culinary treats our great city has to offer. 


Raw oysters


Salad of raw spring vegetables with lemon vinaigrette

Grilled octopus with giant corona beans and preserved sorrento lemon

Grilled baby octopus with bitter greens and cipolline

Whole grilled Portuguese pink snapper with salsa verde

Sea Bass baked in a salt crust, sautéed spinach

Grilled vegetables 


2008   Colli di Lapio Fiano di Avellino        90

2007   Feudi della Medusa Vermentino Albithia   91

[Photo and credit: Esca, New York]

--Antonio Galloni