Now here is a better Italian restaurant on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. In fact, it is a favorite among many of my college friends since it is not too far from campus. As promised from our previous post, let me introduce to you: Celeste.
Located in a convenient location close to the 1 train station, Celeste is a cozy little restaurant on 84th and Amsterdam Avenue. The tables are on the small side and placed in close proximity of one another, giving the space a very intimate atmosphere. Not a good pick for large groups, but perfect for dates or smaller gatherings of three or four people. The menu is a simple but full of excellent pastas (I’ve tried four and loved them all!), pizza, and antipasti.
My most recent venture to Celeste was last weekend with my sister and our friend from high school. Even though I have been to there many times, I still spent a good amount of time deciding what to order as I munched on the complimentary bread and olive oil. In the end I decided on an old favorite, the Vermicelli Alle Vongole – thin spaghetti with baby clams, garlic and olive oil.
The spaghetti was cooked al-dente, which I loved, and encircled by a generous amount of baby clams. The beauty of this dish comes from its simplicity. The pasta was garnished with nothing but olive oil, garlic and parsley. The clams were flavorful and soft, pairing nicely with the firm spaghetti. The minimal ingredients allowed the subtle flavor of the olive oil to shine through.
My sister ordered the Tagliatelle Con Gamberi – flat egg noodles with shrimp, cabbage, and sheep’s cheese. This is another favorite, a bit heavier than the entree I ordered. It’s hard to see in the picture below, but there is quite a bit of cabbage in the dish. The cabbage is actually the best part, in my opinion, because it is cooked to such a soft, caramelized consistency. The noodles were very buttery, a little too greasy for my sister’s taste. The shrimp also tends to be on the dense and less-tender side, suiting some people’s palates but not others.
Our friend ordered the Ravioli Di Ricotta E Spinaci – ricotta and spinich ravioli with butter and sage. I’d never tried this dish before. I tried a couple bites and was pleasantly surprised.
First off, it is unlike any type of ravioli I ever had – the triangular pieces were large and flimsy, more like pasta crepes. Also, the filling was not overwhelming, which is the usual reason why I steer away from ravioli dishes. Too much ricotta often makes ravioli too creamy and bland, but the spinach-to-ricotta ratio was good in Celeste’s version. Again, simple and delicious.
Celeste is a must-go for Italian food lovers. The dishes are affordable, uncomplicated, and good portion sizes. The homey, rustic design of the restaurant interior makes you feel as if you were dining in a Sicilian cottage. Well, I actually have no idea since I have never been to Italy but that’s how I imagine it to be… In any case, I highly recommend this restaurant to anybody looking to eat some good pasta. The only downside is that Celeste is cash-only, but it is definitely worth a trip to the ATM, I promise you.