Felice 83 is one of many similar restaurants all over New York—popular with a youngish crowd, dark, on the noisy side and staffed with folks who have little, if any training. And, like their cousins, Felice serves very mediocre food. A friend has often remarked on how easy it is to spend a fair amount of money in a very ordinary restaurant. Felice more than fills this bill.
The other night, our waiter apparently had another engagement because he had barely put down the menus before asking if we had decided. He did the same thing throughout the meal, asking what we wanted before we’d had a chance to consider. On the positive side, he gave us a taste of the evening’s wine special but we both felt it was overly sweet and opted for other choices. Why this place bills itself as a “wine bar and restaurant’ beats me because there are a mere six whites and seven reds by the glass plus a rose but more choices are available by the (overpriced) bottle. There are also the usual cocktail choices and a selection of beers, several Italian.
The requisite bread is boring and a little stale although the menu makes reference to “freshest baked dynamite bread” and boasts that bread is baked daily. The olive oil for dipping is a very standard, supermarket-type. Several starter items are “crostone” meaning sliced “Tuscan" bread with a topping that can be ricotta, zucchini and eggplant or shrimp. There are also meat and cheese appetizer portions priced depending on the number of items. Antipasti, ($14-17) include a thin-sliced artichoke salad with arugula; a beet salad that tosses potatoes, snow peas and other items into the mix; a frito misto that’s long on veggies and short on calamari and red quinoa dressed with tiger shrimp and frisee that sounds like it might be interesting but I’ve never had quite the right yen.
My pasta with what was billed as “shredded pork spare rib ragu” was aptly named Orecchiette Al Sugo and it was as sweet as if the meat had have been dipped in Karo Syrup. The orechette themselves, (one of my favorite pasta shapes), was gummy and stuck together. My companion had had linguini with clams and various vegetables and, while she didn’t complain, there were very few clams in a mound of mushy pasta.
A hamburger, veal chop and steaks are available. The costata is a thirty-five ounce, dry-aged, bone-in New York strip steak that comes with herb roasted potatoes. It’s $35 but at least this is a portion for two. Dessert gelato was oddly lacking in flavor; both the pistachio and the stracietella (vanilla with chocolate chips) had a slight soapy note.
Felice serves all manner of eggs at brunch as well as paninni: one with a version of pulled pork, a vegetarian sandwich with eggplant and zucchini served with buratta and a grilled chicken with avocado.
The interior darkness lit with candles makes this place a popular date spot. The service can tend towards amateurish with fake solicitousness or indifference once a drink order is in. If you want to have dinner conversation, think again. Even when the place is only moderately crowded, it’s loud. When jammed, the hard surfaces bounce sound off so it can be hard to hear across a table. Unless I absolutely can’t get into any other restaurant in the area, I won’t return.
Felice 83 Ristorante & Wine Bar offers a rustic and authentic Tuscan menu designed by executive chef Simone Parisotto. Owner Jacopo Giustiniani is a restaurateur and wine-buyer for the Sant Ambroeus and Casa Lever restaurants in addition to Felice. He curates the restaurantís Italian-driven wine list, which includes Felice and Quinis, the two labels produced on his family estate in Lucca, Fattoria Sardi Giustiniani.
- Felice 83