December 4, 2007 | Insatiable Critic

 Shelly's Tradizionale Takes to the Sea

Shelly's alla scoglia is cooked in a skillet as they do in Tuscany. Photo:Steven Richter
Shelly's alla scoglia is cooked in a skillet as they do in Tuscany.        Photo: Steven Richter

        The grand scheme to turn Shelly’s Tradizionale into an Italian fish house celebrating the Tuscan seashore has been officially launched. Pastas I’ve never tasted before, like giant rigatoni called paccheri with clams and tuna bottarga, and an especially lush seafood risotto stand out. A stunning still life of lobster Catalana, wreathed in raw vegetables and fruit, is wowing even carnivores that once came here for huge caramelized steaks. (Some still on the new menu). Flounder atop caramelized apple with chopped hazelnuts in brown butter -- a dish from Camiore near the Thyrranian sea -- sounds overstaged but my doubts fade simply because it’s delicious. (The Firemans spend August in Camiore so maybe he invented it in his own kitchen.) Whole roasted fish, local and imported, arrive intact, skin on, but already boned, and served with baked or crusty roasted potatoes. At lunch there’s tuna burger puttanesca, more than a dozen salads and a $24.07 three course prix fixe.

A whole boned branzino rides in with olives and baked potato.       Photo: Steven Richter

        But even as I am introducing friends one night to the fragrant shellfish soup, smartly al dente linguine with a big haul of shellfish, and monkfish deliciously decked out with chick peas in lemony thyme, the mercurial Shelly Fireman insists he is still tweaking the menu.

        Part of the bar was sacrificed to create an ice throne for the day’s delivery and to show off the frutti di mare that gets piled on footed trays. The kitchen has been adding seafood pastas every day – tagliolini al branzino with arugula, paccheri in seafood ragu, spaghetti with tuna confit, capers, diced olive and tomato.  Knowing Fireman as I do – we met ten summers ago in Tuscany – the tweaking will never stop.

        Indeed, he gets such a proprietary thrill from seeing the schools of raw fish on ice, he’s decided to show off  more sea critters at the raw bar in his Red Eye Grill too.  “I want to out Milos,” he confides.

41 W. 47th St. bet. 5th & 6th Aves. 212 245 2422

Patina Restaurant Group