After watching a movie together on a recent Sunday and as we were headed on a Uber to Flatiron, my wife Jun said “If we have to wait again for bar seats again, let’s not go there until you can actually secure a reservation.” While Jun and I share enthusiasm for delicious food in our culinary journey, it’s also true that our patience with waiting has started to run thin (see here, for instance https://kenscale.com/2019/08/16/lucali/). On a Friday a couple of weeks ago, when we headed over to Rezdora around 5:30 p.m., we were quoted a two-hour wait time just to sit at the bar (all the online reservations on Resy were completely booked then) so we decided to head elsewhere for dinner. This time, we headed to the restaurant just before it opened at 5 p.m. and luckily we were the second couple to have arrived. So was Rezdora worth all that hype and a trip to the restaurant for a really early dinner? Absolutely! It was one of the best Italian restaurants in the city we’ve been to in a while, a place that reminded us of all the wonderful culinary experiences we’ve had in our Italy trip together three years ago.
The chef behind Rezdora, Stefano Secchi, formerly worked at the famed Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy, and, reflecting that background, the dishes at the restaurant have roots in the Emilia-Romagna region. During our Italy trip, Jun and I spent a night in Bologna and had wonderfully rustic Italian dishes there (https://kenscale.com/2016/10/25/allosteria-bottega/). Rezdora’s dishes displayed similar soulfulness with well-balanced flavor and consistent execution. The mozzarella di bufala with squash, roasted grapes and toasted seeds (which happened to be a brand new dish that the kitchen came up together on the day of our visit) was a great appetizer, especially when accompanied by the fett’unta toasted bread with extra virgin oil that our bartender (who happened to be a fellow Korean) kindly sent our way as a complementary dish.
Ever since getting used to Jun’s awesome pasta dishes, I typically don’t order pasta dishes at restaurants, but this time I felt compelled to order two and they were both fantastic. The ragu sauce-based tagliolini had the rustic feel to the flavor that made us reminisce of our Italy trip, and it helped that the noodle itself had perfect al dente texture. The other pasta dish, playfully called “grandma walking through forest in Emilia,” was also very delicious, with the green cappelletti stuffed with leeks that worked beautifully with the black mushroom puree underneath. If there is such thing as a pasta made from the forest, this dish would fit the bill perfectly. For the savory course, Jun exclaimed that the sirloin steak, called “cow grazing in Emilia Romagna,” was one of the best she had had in a while, with exquisite texture of the meat that was prepared medium rare to perfection. I wished the meat had slightly less salt sprinkled on top, but otherwise agreed with Jun that its texture was one of the most memorable I had experienced in a while. The side dish of roasted baby zucchini with extra-virgin olive oil was a very good complement to the steak. For dessert, we enjoyed the roasted fig tart that worked beautifully with the honey ricotta gelato to give excellent flavor that was not overly sweet but still very pleasant.
As noted above, getting a reservation at Rezdora could be quite a challenge if you are not up to standing at the door by 5 p.m. when the restaurant opens up or have a lot of time to kill before you are off the waitlist for the bar seats. There is full bar with excellent Italian-leaning cocktails and wines to complement your meal; I especially liked that the restaurant has a number of quart options for wines. The sleek, modern dining space makes the restaurant appropriate for date nights and other casual dinner occasions. It is not very often that Jun and I say an Italian restaurant in New York City is as good as advertised, but Rezdora is definitely one of the rare exceptions thanks to its focused, soulful cooking without many gimmicks. For traditionalists like Jun and I when it comes to Italian food where consistent execution with good ingredients is more important than the use of fancy truffles, it is an absolute winner in the already crowded Italian dining scene in New York. Our only hope is that the crazy gold rush for the coveted reservations would quiet down over time so we can actually visit the restaurant at a more reasonable time.
KenScale: 8.5/10 (Jun’s Score: 8.5/10)
- Creativity: 8.0/10
- Execution: 9.0/10
- Ingredients: 8.5/10
- Flavor: 8.5/10
- Texture: 9.0/10
- Value: 8.5/10
Address: 27 East 20th Street, New York, NY 10003
Telephone: (646) 692-9090