A $29 lunch of champions

I've never been one to watch Lidia Bastianich's cooking programmes - Lidia's Family Table or Lidia's Italy. Not because I have no interest, it's just that I never get around to sitting infront of the tv for any length of time. My love of Italian food started during my apprentiship where I learnt a moderate amount about the cuisine but, somehow, as time progressed my love veered towards Asian flavours and cooking methods. Going out for Italian meals is a bit of a rarity for me yet I cook quite a bit of it at home. It's wholesome food. It's easy and it's honest.

Located a few steps from Colicchio & Sons where we had a great value lunch, Del Posto is a grand dining room that's out to impress with its high ceilings, sweeping staircases, candelabras and floor staff donned in white tunics. It's like stepping into a 1930's hotel lobby. No riff raff here, gents, so leave your sandals and t-shirts at home and get your collared shirt on. Ladies, you even get a stool to keep your handbag on.

A trifecta of talent is behind Del Posto. Lidia Bastianich, son Joe Bastianich and Mario Batali. Together they've created a menu that encompasses the traditional and the slightly modern, served up silver service-style with gleaming plates and incredibly reflective eating implements that almost require the use of sunglasses.

The thing that drew us to Del Posto was the weekday $29 prix fixe lunch with a choice of Antipasto, Primo or Secondo, and Dolce. How could you not? Our chosen bottle of wine came with its own ceremony where the sommelier popped the cork, poured a small amount of the wine into one glass, swirled it around to season the glass then poured into the second to repeat the process. Nice touch, but to be honest this particular boozer isn't into theatrics all that much. My only requirement is no lipstick residue from the lady that used the same glass before I did, after it was washed.

A basket of focaccia, olive bread and mini baguettes set the lunch in motion with sides of butter and whipped lardo. Yes, lardo. Something I didn't hesitate in smearing all over my crusty roll. I'm sure that if my arteries had hands they would have back handed me for doing so. I couldn't help but feel a little special when a trio of amuse bouches are presented.  There's a dainty little sandwich of lobster salad with American caviar, shavings of rolled speck with sauerkraut and pappa pomodoro, a bread and tomato soup. Three kinds of delicious.

The Antipasti dishes come much larger than I was expecting for a $29 fixed lunch. The warm cotechino is a good chunk of Italian pork sausage sitting on a lentil vinaigrette and topped with dried fruit mostarda. Delicate flavours, slight acidity and a little sweetness. My veal and tuna cubetti was thoroughly enjoyed and the fact that it looked stunning made it even better. The small cubes of raw veal and tuna sat surrounded by veal jus and the rubble of grated egg white and yolk, onion and celery stalk brunoise not only added freshness and colour but also a variety of flavours and textures. Just gorgeous.

Chosen from the Seconde menu options the grilled pork arrived pink and juicy, glistening in smoked ricotta whey, some ricotta, white asparagus, edamame and pickled cherries. Was it delicious? It was fantastic. Especially with the Californian white we were sipping from our seasoned glasses.

I had a tough time choosing my next course as I really wanted to try everything. Handmade orecchiette made the final decision. The simple dish of firm-yet-soft pasta discs were tossed with chunks of lamb shoulder sausage meat, a bit of olive oil, splodged with minted soy beans and a final flourish of crispy chanterelles. Nice choice on my behalf. Very nice choice.

Now, it was dolce time. The tartufo al caffè may have sounded simple on paper - dark chocolate, Sant’Eustachio coffee and candied lemon - but it was a little more than that. The truffle sits dishevelled in the centre of the plate, its mousse-like chocolate and coffee filling is a burst of richness encased in a thin chocolate crust, dusted in cocoa. Shattering cinnamon croutons waft around the sides and strips of candied lemon balance precariously on the truffle. Can you just imagine the flavours? Can I remind you this lunch is costing just $29?

Much has been said about the sfera di caprino so it was a given that I order it. Three blonde nuggets of crumbed goat cheese mousse support a scoop of celery sorbet draped with shaved sweetened celery. Off to the side is some fig agrodolce, sweet from fig and sour from being reduced in balsamic. All together it's a flavour explosion that rounds off my lunch perfectly.

Not that it was over yet. We may have had three amuse bouches at the start but now we were presented with a wooden cheese grating box containing petit fours. Small Italian donuts w orange pastry cream and crumbed olive oil ice cream on sticks. Inside the box there's more. A couple of very dark chocolate truffles and caramels in edible wrappers. We're done, dusted and satisfied beyond belief.

Did I mention all of this was just $29?

Del Posto
85 10th Avenue
Chelsea NY 10011
(212) 497 8090
Mon-Fri 11.30am-2pm lunch; 5.30pm-11pm dinner
Sat 4.30pm-11pm
Sun 4.30pm-10pm
website Del Posto on Urbanspoon