April 1, 2019 | BITE: My Journal
A Ferocious Good Time at Feroce
I must have a salad at Feroce. This one mixes red and white endive with poached pears, spicy walnuts and gorgonzola.
It seems as if the neighborhood discovered Feroce almost overnight. Yes, it’s in another Moxy Hotel and we already know we eat well at Moxy Times Square. But Francesco Panella of Antica Pesa (in Rome and Brooklyn) designed the menu here: Devotedly Italian with pastas graded DOP, made locally in Italy. That’s another reason we’re here.
The patio room was empty on my first visit. But now it can be lively with diners from the neighborhood.
We enter the Moxy Chelsea in the Flower District and no surprise -- there’s a shop selling flowers on the left as we head past the bar. Did I say it’s early? The restaurant is empty and our coven – four women -- choose a Ferrari leather booth next to the kitchen.
Three kinds of wood on the floor and pleated red lamp shades above are part of the Rockwell design.
A vintage aperitif poster on the front wall features a naked woman sipping mint liquer.
Feroce is another collaboration of the Tao Group and the Rockwell crew. The design fact sheet describes it as “Frances Hodgson Burnett’s ‘The Secret Garden’ meets Milan’s ‘Villa Necchi Campiglio.” There’s a glassed-in garden room next door, empty; pleated red lampshades on fixtures above, and a vintage aperitif poster of a naked woman holding a gun and sipping mint amaro on the wall. The gun is pointed the other way.
The main dining room is warm and smart with leather banquettes and stripes in our corner booth.
My pals insist on artichoke salad to start with its toss of arugula, Pecorino Romano and herbed breadcrumbs.
I choose a quartet of antipasti for us to share. The Feroce salad is a colorful toss of white and red endive with poached pears, spicy walnuts and gorgonzola in a deliciously odd rosemary and honey dressing. There’s an artichoke insalata too, with arugula, pecorino Romano and crisp herbed breadcrumbs. It quickly disappears.
Rounds of fried eggplant are served in a luscious tower with imported mozzarella, tomatoes and basil.
Fried dough in the traditional Emilia Romagna style is piled folds of pistachio mortadella.
Gnocco Fritto, traditional fried dough from Emilia Romagna, is capped with a fold of pistachio mortadella and a cloud of Parmesan grated at the table. Not everyone loves eggplant as much as I do. But I win. We’ll have it in a tower of fried rounds with imported Fior di latte mozzarella, tomatoes and quivers of basil. And, of course, the server with the focaccia keeps returning.
Homemade fettucine is tossed with lobster, Martini Bianco and tomatoes.
Butternut squash colors the carnaroli aged rice from Gazzani Farm in the risotto with taleggio cheese.
I suggest we select two pastas from the list ($22 to $34) and one secondi. Those who are not lost in conversation agree on fetttucine lush with lobster and tomato, and the risotto of aged canaroli rice. It’s golden from butternut squash and rich with taleggio.
Feroce is proud to serve its own olive oil in a bottle on the table.
The corn-fed, roasted galletto is served with chicken sauce and rosemary roasted potatoes.
We are so full, we talk about cancelling the chicken but, too late, it arrives– “corn-fed half chicken with chicken sauce and rosemary roasted potatoes,” according to the tell-all menu. I take the bird’s leg for myself, then pass the platter to my right. “Chicken, anyone?”
A trio of cannoli is stuffed with sweet cream and rubbed in crushed pistachios.
With just us to fuss over, manager Manuel Coccaro insists on doing a fancy number with limoncello.
We are debating dessert when our waiter interrupts: “I will make you something special.” He sets up a table and proceeds to whip lemon sorbet into an alcoholic confection with limoncello. I am reminded of my winters in Venice where every dinner ends with a shot glass of that sweet lemon liquor.
Every time there’s a lull in dinner, the bread server arrives and, of course, we’ll have another something.
Manuel, that is his name, Manuel Coccaro, the manager, is suddenly our best friend. He is our devoted servant. He is family. The limoncello granita is his gift. There is a 20 percent pre-opening discount on the bill. And the food is really good.
“Per La Tavola,” it says: A wooden crate of seafood and vegetable fritto is served with saffron mayonnaise.
Homemade pappardelle is served with hand-cut wild board shoulder and sausage ragu.
Returning two days later, I find Feroce has been discovered. Half a dozen men in dark suits stand in the rear of the room – taking turns welcoming, possibly prepping for the next Moxy to come. My companions tonight insist on the artichoke salad again.
A grappa cart roams the room dispensing digestives to be paired with pastries.
They’re eager to share the $32 fritto in a wooden crate – an abundance of seafood and vegetables, prawns, calamari, eggplant and zucchini fried with rice flour, served with a side of saffron mayonnaise. I choose two pastas: the pappardelle with wild boar shoulder and sausage ragu, and bucatini all’Amatriciana with crispy pig cheek, Pecorino Romano and a sprinkling of raw peppers chopped tableside.
We share a $10 side of Sicilian caponata with eggplant, tomato, celery and roasted pine nuts.
A side of cacio e pepe chips brings more chips that our trio wants to eat.
An $8 side of cacio e pepe chips sound like an adventure, but they really are just chips, and two or three are more than enough. I recommend the $10 Sicilian caponata with celery and roasted pine nuts. It could be a discreet starter. Manuel, who can’t stay away from us long, is all over the room tonight. He agrees we can order dessert since we’ve already experienced his limoncello performance.
Tonight's crostada is a pretty little berry tart with chocolate "twigs."
My friend Lyn who lives nearby and her guy have become regulars at Feroce now. She reports that the Russian sommelier, Aygul Graneri, “blows me away with her knowledge of food and wine combination.” She suggests checking out the sexy co-ed powder room.
“They use pasta straws for the spritzes, not plastic,” says Lynn. Even if you don’t eat your straw, it’s a positive move for the environment.
105 West 28th Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues. 212 888 1092. Dinner Monday through Wednesday and Suunday 5 pm to 11 pm, Thursday through Saturday 5 pm to midnight.
More BITES You Might Savor...
Gotham Bar and Grill Misi Avena
(Moved to West Village)