Via Quadronno- Most Charming Cafe in New York
New York and Italy have always had a special relationship. Since the early 1900’s Italian immigrants steadily poured into New York, bringing their hopes and dreams for a better life along with Grandma’s recipes. As is the case with every international cuisine, Italian cuisine in America today is a shell of its real self, perhaps more appropriately called its own cuisine of Italian-American, like its counterparts of Chinese-American or Japanese-American.
While many of us would love to do nothing else but travel constantly, that’s hardly feasible for most. It is all the more comforting then to come upon a “hidden” gem, insofar that it is not overrun with tourists; one capable of evoking my strong memories of Italy through atmosphere, sound, smell and most vitally, taste.
Via Quadronno, with two locations in Manhattan, is the perfect place to sip a cappuccino on the way to work, on the way home, on the way to The Met. It’s equally perfect as a casual lunch or brunch spot or a charming, quaint dinner for two.
Famed for its outstanding paninis, Via Quadronno opened nearly two decades ago with inspiration from the streets of Milan where in the 1960’s a new and unique kind of paninis were being produced by a young baker named Guiseppe Tusi at Bar Quadronno. These paninis became so much a draw that even the wealthy clientele of nearby posh restaurants would stop in at Bar Quadronno. It is in this passion and old-style joy of life that Via Quadronno serves its Italian style coffees, paninis, pastas and seafood.
Unlike American sandwiches often adorned with half a dozen spreads and garnishes, traditional Italian paninis or more simple, focused on high quality ingredients, the perfect bread with a slight buttery crunch on the exterior and soft, dense fluffiness inside, and the perfect ratio of filling to bread. Spreads are typically nothing more than a drizzle of olive oil, a light slathering of butter or an olive jam.
Biting into Via Quadronno’s paninis, (my go to is almost always La Madunina – beautifully cut Prosciutto with fresh mozzarella, olive paté and fresh tomatoes), your teeth immediately recognize the artistry that went into assembling this perfect sandwich. Nothing falls apart, nothing is too much or too little. The lightly sweet baguette complements the salty prosciutto while the olive paté offers just a hint of extra savory to highlight the cool mozzarella and tomatoes. No side salad, no chips, nothing but the perfect sandwich. You miss nothing else.
Coffee at Via Quadronno is as good as it gets in America. Forget every other place you get your daily fix from. Trust me- I’ve been to international coffee chains, locally owned joints and everything in between all across America. It does not get more smooth and bold than the Italian coffee at this Italian bistro in New York.
As simply and perfectly executed as the paninis, other dishes such as Spaghetti Saltati Alla Carbonara (with bacon in a creamy sauce) are cooked Italian al dente (not American al dente), with sauce both decadent and incomplex all at once such that we can taste each ingredient in it.
If I didn’t know better, I might suspect there’s an Italian grandma at the helm of the kitchen here with her daughters and daughters-in-law as helpers.
Whether or not you’re a dessert aficionado, Via Quadronno’s Deconstructed Tiramisu is a can’t miss. I had this several times throughout parts of Italy where instead of the traditional cake-like Tiramisu famous across most of the world, the Deconstructed version comes with house-made lady fingers whole, a bowl of lightly sweetened espresso and a bowl of the mascarpone cream mix. This way is meant to give the diner the power to dip back and forth as much or as little as we see fit for our individual palates. It’s fun, especially on a date night or with close friends. The textural difference lends a totally different experience of this infamous Italian dessert, one that I personally prefer to the cake version.
Prices are very reasonable, especially for New York, with dinner dishes averaging around US $20, while paninis begin at a modest $7. Breakfast items including freshly baked croissants and traditional Italian coffee cakes begin at $4.
Via Quadronno is filled with locals so don’t go telling all your touristy friends; keep this charming gem to yourself and stop in for a sip of coffee the right way, or enjoy a leisurely meal on a quiet residential side street. You’ll find me there whenever I’m in New York.