Italian, Sports bar
Contemporary Italian cuisine rules the menu at this lively East Hampton restaurant. Pizzas, pastas, steak and fish are all prepared as you would get them in Italy today. A popular choice is the veal or chicken Milanese, pounded thin, breaded, lightly fried with arugula salad on top and balsamic vinegrette--while the orecchiette con salsiccia (served with sausage, broccoli rabe, garlic and red pepper) is also asked for with frequency. But don't be fooled by its illustrious Newtown Lane address, for while the food is upscale and pretty, the bar here stays open late and is often the place where locals catch the big game of the day in otherwise sports pub-starved tony East Hampton.
11:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 11:30 a.m.-11:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday; 11:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Sunday. (Bar stays open later.)
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Contemporary Italian cuisine rules the menu at this lively East Hampton restaurant. Pizzas, pastas, steak and fish are all cooked as you would get them in Italy today. A popular choice is the veal or chicken Milanese, pounded thin, breaded, lightly fried with arugula salad on top and balsamic vinegrette, for $17. A popular pasta is the orecchiette con salsiccia, served with sausage, broccoli rabe, garlic and red pepper. It costs $11 for a half order and $18 for a full order. The restaurant can seat 150 indoors, and the same number outdoors. Sitting streetside at Cittanuova, it's not hard to imagine that Newtown Lane is the Via Condotti. Or Sunset Boulevard.
Is that Larry David at the next table, twirling linguine on his fork, or just some peevish-looking bald guy? It hardly matters, because all the deeply tanned, ultra-toned people are laughing and chatting and eating with such gusto that, even if you don't spot a celebrity, you'll dine like one.
Perhaps "dine" is too formal a word for so casual a spot. I first stopped by on a Sunday afternoon, having spent hours bicycling around the East End. More thirsty than hungry, four of us put our helmets under an outdoor table and ordered soft drinks, a "flatbread" (pizza) and a panino to share. The thin, crisp- crusted pie came topped with wild mushrooms, Taleggio cheese and white truffle oil, a fragrant and heady mixture. The panino, filled with prosciutto, mozzarella, black olives and tomato, was precisely the salty, melty fix we craved. And our waiter was as gracious as if we had ordered a three-course lunch with wine.
We found the same nonattitudinal service at dinner, taken indoors on a muggy night. From a selection of mix-and-match antipasti, we enjoyed tender fried calamari with pieces of fried zucchini, lemon and parsley. A bowl of rather small but very fresh mussels was sauteed with garlic and herbs.
I liked the salad of asparagus, fig and prosciutto with aged balsamic vinegar, simple and satisfying. Provolone and prosciutto were stuffed into hot cherry peppers, setting off tiny mouth explosions. In flavor, the Margharite flatbread was equal to the wild mushroom version, but the tomato, basil and mozzarella topping weighed heavily on the delicate crust, making it a bit limp.
If you enjoy calf's liver, order it here, where it's expertly seared with pancetta and sage, the meat's richness cut by balsamic onions. My herb-roasted chicken was juicy, infused with the flavor of rosemary; it was well paired with creamy polenta. Veal Milanese was pounded thin, fried to a crisp, accompanied by a piquant lemon caper sauce and an arugula, red onion and white bean salad. Less impressive was bucatini all'Amatriciana, which got a boost from crushed chile pepper but suffered from overcooked pasta. Best was an enormous double pork chop, grilled to smoky sweetness with cherry mostarda, broccoli rabe on the side.
Finales are all made on premises. I was hoping the buttermilk panna cotta with lemon marmellata and mint-basil syrup would come close to a similar dessert savored recently in Montreal, but it fell short. Tiramisu was rather dry and, at $9, hardly worth the price.
While I liked the chocolate hazelnut cake, the menu gave no indication that it would be flourless and served hot. But, oh, that house-made gelato. We tried the gianduia flavor -- hazelnut studded with nuts and chocolate pieces. So rich, so authentically Italian.
Until I'm seated at a sidewalk cafe in Rome, Citta.nuova will suffice nicely.
Reviewed by Joan Reminick, 8/6/04.