October 17, 2005 | Ask Gael

Direct me to a seriously excessive pasta

       Ride the lift to Piano Due (Italian for second floor) and immerse yourself in these handmade pasta twists - torsione, the menu calls them - lushly studded with chunks of juicy veal shank and marrow, hints of orange zest, and mascarpone crowning all. I force myself to pass the dish along so I can taste rich-as-Croesus pappardelle alla cacciatora in Barolo-scented cream, and the mushroom agnolotti under a buttery pow of porcini foam. Even if you aren’t old enough to feel the ghosts of the departed Palio with its Hans Hoffman chic, you might find the redo rather stodgy - yes, even with the vaulted ceiling chef-owner Michael Cetrulo brought from his Scalini Fedeli in Bouley’s original mini-cathedral space in Tribeca. Forget fun and hip (bring your own). It’s all about food here, about quintessential excess: poached-egg raviolo with truffle essence. Seafood risotto, a riot of flavor with the nuttiness of fried rock shrimp. Braised lobster on a splendid ragout of porcini, squash, fennel, and baby mussels. Pancetta-crusted scallops melting on the inside on yet another surprising risotto. Flubs are few: bread sliced too far in advance, the overcooked branzino, and decent enough pork shank that pales in this high-kicking company. Expensive, but worth the splurge. 

151 W. 51st St. nr. Seventh Ave. 212 399 9400

Providing a continuous lifeline to homebound elderly New Yorkers