Haute Dining: Destino Serves Up Some Mighty Fine Meatballs

While we’re all watching the “Jersey Shore,” a hankering for Italian food may be unavoidable. Now, one well-loved Italian eatery has re-opened its doors in Midtown after a six-month renovation. Destino is best known for its tennis-ball sized meatballs (now that’s a “Situation”) and its build-it-yourself pastas. The home-style food has the neighborhood and after work charmed.

The interior has all the elements of an Southern Italian mansion: brass embellishments and a 40-foot-long fresco on the ceiling of the dining room.

I enjoyed their chicken carbonara which was juicy and perfectly cooked with lots of cheese. If it’s pasta you are in search of, you can pick from nine different pasta shapes and mix-and-match with their house special sauces (from bolognese to siciliana).

Haute Living
sat down with owner Anthony Curko to chat about the restaurant.

HL: What’s different about the restaurant now that it’s re-opened?

AC: We extended the private mezzanine to accommodate up to 25 guests and also removed the rear banquets in the main dining room to partition off the rear of the dining room to accommodate 60 people for private dining.

HL: So you are preparing for the crowds I see!
AC: We hope!

HL: Describe your food philosophy for us.
AC: Our food philosophy is about refining grandma’s cooking. Its all about comfort food, the kind of food that brings us back to childhood memories. For us it’s all about great food great wine great friends.

HL: Speaking of comfort food, it sounds like the meatballs are the star of your menu. Tell me more about them?

AC: Meatballs are definitely our staple dish. It all started when my father, Mario, was cooking at Rao’s (which had already been known for their meatballs). Mario put his personal spin on the recipe to create Mario’s Meatballs and the taste was noticeably different and this became the foundation for Destino. Other staple dishes are the Vealchop Valdostana — it’s a double-cut vealchop butterflied open and stuffed with prosciutto fontina cheese and golden raisins sauteed in a brown brandy sauce.

Also our specialty fishes that are flown in daily. Branzino (Mediterranean seabass flown in from Greece) wrapped in foil and baked whole with extra virgin olive oil lemon garlic and white wine.

HL: Are you getting hungry? Tell me about your favorite dish on the menu.

AC: Always! My favorite dish is any of our homemade ravioli, which is lobster ravioli in a vodka sauce with shrimp and crab meat. Also the duck ravioli with chestnuts, sundried prunes and porcini mushrooms in a light marsala sauce.

HL: Any interesting tidbits or hidden fun facts about the restaurant?

AC: Destino’s space has a lot of history behind it. The space was once used in the Movie “The French Connection.” It was a famous French restaurant in the sixties called Le Copane. After that is was a famous barbecue rib restaurant called Wiley’s, which people still call to this day looking for the restaurant. One thing is for sure, it’s always been delicious food here.

Destino is located at 891 First Ave. in Manhattan, 212.751.0700, www.destinony.com.