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Paola’s Carnegie Hill Restaurant NYC and a recipe for Pasta con Asparagi (Pasta with Asparagus)

Paola’s Restaurant 
1295 Madison Avenue at 92nd St. NYC
Tel: (212) 794-1890

Reservations and Information: www.paolasrestaurant.com

Paola’s Pici con Asparagi         

Not too long ago, I was early for a lecture in Carnegie Hill, a family-friendly East Side Manhattan neighborhood known to tourists by another name: Museum Mile.  The Guggenheim and the Jewish Museum are right there. And later this year, the long-awaited reopening of The Copper Hewitt National Design Museum will draw even more people to Carnegie Hill. Though New York’s # 1 tourist attraction, The Metropolitan Museum, is outside its boundaries, it too is within easy walking distance.  Carnegie Hill, I was about to discover, is also home to Paola’s, an ode to Italian cooking that’s the very definition of the perfect neighborhood restaurant.  But in this case, it’s a neighborhood place that’s worth a detour for anyone who wants to indulge in some great food.  It’s created by a truly original Chef who never stops inventing and re-inventing everything that makes her restaurant so popular.

The lady herself, Paola Bottero

         Paola Bottero is celebrating 30 years at the helm of Paola’s. Its location at 1295 Madison Avenue at 92nd St. is the second in Paola’s history.  The high ceilinged space is light and bright space takes up most of the ground floor of the iconic Hotel Wales.   But don’t think for one moment Paola is resting on her reputation.  She is constantly creating for new ways to present today’s favorites.  Take for example her Lollipop Kale Salad (Insalata di Cavoletti).  We may be on Kale overload but Paola has discovered two tiny leafed varieties that she pairs with pecorino cheese and Granny Smith Green Apples. Paola doesn’t confine herself to what’s available in New York.  She sources her ingredients on the basis of what’s best.  She found the Kale in California. It’s every bit as fresh as the local asparagus she uses with her Pici—wonderful hand rolled fresh pasta that’s right out of her kitchen.  She presents the classics her own way too—such as the warm house-made Mozzarella that’s accompanied by Roasted Red Peppers, Fresh Basil and Taggiasca Olives Vinaigrette.   There’s a deft hand in Paola’s kitchen whether its making specialties like Vitello Tonnato from her native Rome or a flawless lemon tart accompanied by a great dollop of Panna, an ambrosial whipped cream. 
Insalata di Cavoletti —
Note the size of the Kale leaves.

The story of Paola’s rise to culinary fame is a fascinating one:

Paola’s father, Alessandro, came to New York in the 60s to play violin with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra.  The family settled here and Paola married and had two sons.   Her youngest brother, at the ripe old age of 22, opened a wildly successful restaurant called 65 Irving Place.  Paola was intrigued and, at the age of 36, jumped into the restaurant business with both feet.  Her brother gave her an introduction to another well-known Roman restaurant family in New York on condition she would not reveal her relationship to him.  Paola triumphed there and the family took her under their wings, training her and eventually backing her when she opened the first Paola’s on E. 84th Street. That handsome man running between the front of the house and the kitchen?  That would be Stefano Marracino, Paola’s son and heir.
         If you are anywhere near Paola’s, do not miss an opportunity to go there.  As I sat through a splendid lunch, the people just kept on coming.  Paola’s serves virtually non-stop from the moment it opens its doors at 11:00 am and doesn’t let up until 11:00 pm.  It even delivers locally.  But if you absolutely cannot make it, put it on your bucket list for your next visit to New York.  And in the meanwhile, I’ve tried to recreate Paola’s sensational take on an asparagus sauce that tops her Pici but in my case, tops some Orechiette, with Paola’s blessing.

6 thoughts on “Paola’s Carnegie Hill Restaurant NYC and a recipe for Pasta con Asparagi (Pasta with Asparagus)”

  • Oh I loved this story! What a wonderful life, to have a family with such a passion for good food, and 30 years she is celebrating? That is the face of a woman who eats well, lives well and loves to share with others. And that's why it is so perfect that you do the same Monte, this is coming up after we are all so hungry after pool time. Thanks Monte! And thank you Paola!

  • Thanks Ana, a remarkable woman who does wonderful things with food and is constantly on the look out for fresh ways to present it, is worthy of high praise. My best to you and enjoy your pool time!

  • This pasta sounds wonderful, but I am intrigued by the mention of 'Panna' whipped cream. I can't find anything specific to whipped cream (which I love!), only recipes for Panna Cotta. Help?

  • Dear Sandi, 2:55 a.m.? I do hope you weren't up all nigth trying to sleuth out what panna is! Panna is, quite simply, cream and it generally refers to "English cream" –think clotted cream. Panna Cotta is cooked cream, the word Cotta meaning 'cooked'. Panna, at Paola's, is whipped cream. (Most recipes for Panna Cotta call for a little gelatin as well.)
    Hope this helps you not lose sleep at night…All best, Monte

  • Thanks Monte. The only thing that keeps me up at night is me! A night owl from birth. I will look for some good English cream then the next time we are in Portland or Seattle.

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