Cititour: The New York Guide to Events, Restaurants, Music, and Nightlife

Caffe Storico

Caffe Storico

Cuisine: Venetian, Italian

Chef: Jim Burke

Summary: The new generation of museum café dining has arrived in New York. Caffe Storico is just one of many upscale cafés to have opened in the Big Apple’s museums, making dining well while soaking up culture a possibility.

Stephen Starr is the mastermind restaurateur behind this café, located inside the New-York Historical Society on Central Park West. The café is designed with Venetian influence to its menu, while New York’s history appropriately provides the design. Yellow hues make up the majority of the room, which is lined with high white shelves with Victorian woodwork. 19th century China adds a nice touch to the décor. The classic chandeliers and reflective surfaces that make up the dining room create a certain sheen, especially when the sun is shining.

Chef Jim Burke is at the helm of the menu, which features small, heftily priced portions of classic Italian food. The mains are small but rich, making the appetizers even smaller: cicchetti – a term for “small bites” in Italian, similar to tapas – include lightly fried langoustines with grapefruit and ricotta (16), burrata with fried artichokes (13) and luxurious whipped baccala (10).

The pasta is homemade in-house and is excellent. Ricotta cavatelli is served with lobster and black chanterelle mushrooms (22). Pappardelle with duck ragu, chocolate and orange (19) is rich and savory.

The entrées, by comparison, are rather tame. Osso buco (28) is good but comparable to offerings at other restaurants. Desserts can be hit or miss; the tiramisu (9) veers too far from the classic according to many, but the homemade salted chocolate gelato (8) has received rave reviews. A selection of artisanal Italian cheeses (20) is offered as a dessert option, served with truffle honey.

The lunchtime menu offers a selection of the dinner menu options, as well as two Panini (12 and 14) and a frittata of the day (12). Brunch adds some more egg selections to the mix, and a late afternoon menu offers a few choices at non-traditional dining hours, ensuring that no matter when you visit the museum, you have something delicious to eat. Dinner menu choices that are offered during the day do not benefit from a price cut.

The wine list, as one can imagine, is all Italian in origin, including red, white, rosé and sparkling options, by the bottle and by the glass. Draft beers are Italian as well, save one Brooklyn IPA. Cocktails include the traditional Bellini one would expect from a Venetian restaurant, though this version veers from traditional peach to include other more seasonally appropriate nectars.

- Emily Monaco

Cititour Review:

It's a pleasure to be able to eat--lunch, dinner or in-between--in a museum where the restaurant is attractive and the food way above the norm. Caffe (as in "coffee") Storico, (which means "historic" in Italian) inside the New York Historical Society, has walls lined with plate racks to showcase sets of china from the museum's extensive collection. The room is bright with cheery yellow banquets and large chandeliers; as evening comes, the lights are dimmed to good effect.

The all-Italian wine list occupies almost the entire back side of the large menu giving you a good idea of the restaurant's style with many selections available by the glass as well as regular and specialty cocktails.

At lunch the chopped salad of apple, feta cheese, avocado and pancetta is a winner while the chicken salad with shaved zucchini is a good twist on a favorite.
Dinner offers house-made pasta including paparadelle with a duck ragu (my dining companion didn't notice the "shaved chocolate" accent); rigatoni with Italian sausage Bolognese  and a spicy linguini with crabmeat. Fish eaters go for the roasted branzino and diver scallops and there is a saltimbocca and ossabuco with roasted--what else--kale for the carnivore crowd. At lunch the place serves plenty of panini, these attentively made of high quality ingredients such as grilled chicken, fontina cheese and onion mostarda.

Depending on your mood and appetite, you could eat only a couple of appetizers such as the pork belly spiedini with plum glaze or yellowtail crudo.  I found the side dish of roasted baby Brussels sprouts with pancetta a little on the salty side; other contorni include roast hen-of-the-woods mushrooms and crispy polenta with truffle oil. There are plenty of sweet endings, an artisanal cheese plate, homemade gelato and sorbet and Italian cookies which go well with any of the many tea and coffee offerings. 

Service is pleasant and knowledgeable without being in your face and even when the place is full the buzz isn't killing. If you're fussy about a time, especially on weekends and holidays, make a reservation which can be done online.

Prices are on the high end but not crazily so for the Upper West Siders, museum goers and out-of-town folks who frequent the restaurant.

Caffe Storico serves brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from 11 to 3; lunch Tuesday through Friday from 11:30 to 3:30 and dinner running from 5 to 10 PM, well after the museum closes. The restaurant is shuttered Mondays.

Review By: Mari Gold

Neighborhood: West 70s

Caffe Storico
170 Central Park West (76th & 77th Sts)
New York, NY
(212) 485-9211

Hours: Brunch Sunday: 11am–3:30pm Lunch Monday–Saturday: 11am–3:30pm Late Afternoon Menu Sunday–Saturday: 3:30pm–5pm Dinner Sunday–Thursday: 5pm–10pm Friday and Saturday: 5pm–11pm
Payment: Amex Visa Mastercard Discover