Becca and I very rarely venture to the Upper East Side on a weekend unless a museum is involved, especially since she recently moved to the Financial District. A ‘not-above-14th-Street’ rule is enforced by Becca and her beau most weekends, and it’s really hard to drag them north.
So when Caffè dei Fiori invited us to try their recently launched Italian brunch menu, she swallowed her weekend pride and we both make the long hike up the island. Besides, quality brunch spots are few and far between in this upper part of Manhattan, but Caffè dei Fiori looked like the real Italian deal.
Located down the block from Hunter College, the split-level restaurant is fairly roomy for Manhattan standards and has a certain quaint Italian charm to it. Large floor-to-ceiling windows in the back of the lower level fill the room with natural light, and overlook a small patio, which I’m sure is beautiful in the summer months.
The cocktail list was sparse for brunch hours, and we surprisingly had to order off-menu to get a Bloody Mary—but our server was amenable to mix anything we wanted. It did, however, take upwards of 15 minutes to get this classic cocktail after we ordered, so we were nervous about its quality.
We were pleasantly surprised. The Bloodys were fresh, made with fresh tomato juice and plenty of spice, and went down easy. But weary of waiting another 15 or 20 minutes for a second round, we decided to switch to Prosecco once our glasses were empty.
The authentic Italian menu was not large, but covered all bases. And our lovely Italian server crooned at us about the dishes. Opting to split an app, we went for the prosciutto de parma with fresh burrata cheese. You can’t go wrong with fresh Italian meats and cheeses.
Our server delivered an absolutely massive plate of prosciutto with a decently-sized hunk of burrata cheese in the middle of the plate. The only thing that was missing was bread and olive oil. “Do we just eat the prosciutto and burrata as-is, with our forks?” I asked Becca.
We dug into the thinly sliced meat and creamy, fresh cheese. Minutes later, our server brought over a bread basket, and doled out a few slices piece by piece. While the dish was fine on its own, the added texture of the Italian bread was a welcome addition.
I’d been on a breakfast pasta kick lately, so I knew what I was ordering for my main dish as soon as I saw the menu—the Spaghetti alla Chitarra alla Carbonara.
Black pepper spaghetti, made in-house, was served carbonara style in a heaping portion. It looked absolutely divine. While it was a tad on the dry side, it was still delicious and I basically licked my plate clean of this cheesy, peppery goodness. This is probably the only dish we’d consider coming back for.
Becca was in the mood for eggs and opted for the asparagus and pecorino cheese frittata. We were expecting your typical frittata–somewhat thick, almost like a quiche, and served in a slice form, like a pie.
Served with a side salad, this frittata was served in a different style that looked more like a very thin, round omelet. The additional ingredients were sparse, plus the dish really lacked in flavor and was pretty underseasoned. Becca and I were both disappointed and ended up not finishing the dish.
While we couldn’t see the upper level, the level we were seated on was fairly empty towards the beginning of our meal but surprisingly filled up between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. But even when the room wasn’t full, the service was rather slow and left more to be desired.
The Bitches say: C. While Caffè dei Fiori is a charming Italian spot, they still have a few kinks that need to be worked out when it comes to brunch.
Caffè dei Fiori
973 Lexington Ave.
(Upper East Side)
New York, NY 10021
Brunch is served Saturdays and Sundays.