Thursday, September 5, 2013


If the tv food judges were to rate Chef Antonio Mermolia, he would have to receive the top number on presentation, creativity and taste.  This is more than apparent from its "fate fare allo chef" at a midtown Manhattan Italian restaurant, Il Punto.

Manager Giancarlo Ibba greeted me as I gazed upon an elegant but casual atmosphere not knowing what to expect. I did check the website's menu planning what I would order until I viewed the chef's tasting menu and certainly made the right choice.

Giancarlo suggested a white Italian wine after given my likes and dislikes.  Good choice.

 A basket of breads and bread sticks (made on the premises) were presented with a dispenser of evvo Italian olive oil and balsamic vinegar. 

I might as well have a bottle of water from Italy, too. 

I then met the chef who talked about his background and particular area of  Calabria, Italy that inspired a most creative cuisine.  His background is all about cooking as his parents owned a hotel and restaurant and learned to cook at the age of 16. 

The menu began with Gambro e pistacchio. Raw shrimp is specially prepared to eliminate the bacteria.  It is then pounded out.  A combination of pistachio nuts and cold water is mixed to a creamy consistency is rolled into the shrimp (like a cigar).  Orange juice is made into a more airy foam and placed atop the shrimp.  The dish is then finished off with combination of lemon, olive oil and salt.

It was followed by Branzino. Raw branzino, specially prepared, is marinated in olive oil, lemon and green peppers. Topped with a parmesan reggiano and very thin slices of scallion tops.  The plate is then dotted with parsley and lemon reduction.  Here is there a contrast of acidity to salty.

Salmone was the next sampling.  First marinated in lemon and olive oil, the salmon is smoked with rosemary (I'm not sure how Rosemary felt about this).  A creamy mayonnaise is created using parmesan cheese, eggs and oil along with black pepper.  Sitting atop this mayo it is topped with thinly fried skins of zucchini. 

I love a salad and this one was more than creative with Gelato insalata. Mermolia simmers red onions in sugar and water until the water evaporates. He then stirs in milk and cream. After being cooled, egg yolk is added to create the gelato.

The salad consists of mesclun greens, poached shrimp, shaved fennel, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and blackberries.  It is then garnishes with a bit of caramelized onion atop the gelato. Lemon scented olive oil and balsamic vinegar is drizzled. 

Pasta e Patate al profumo di costiera.  This particular dish is one that came from Chef Antonio's upbringing with his grandparents in the area of Naples and considered to be a "poor man's meal" using potatoes and flour as the main ingredients.  In this one, three fresh pasta are prepared.  Potatoes are boiled and made into a sauce with celery, onions, and a vegetable broth.  The pastas are "stuffed" with a creamy mixture of buffalo mozzarella, sundried tomato, and the zest of imported lemons from Sorrento (the same lemons used to make lemoncello) skillfully placed on top of the sauce.  Along side the pasta are clams and mussels.  Powdered sundried tomatos and micro greens are used for garnish. 

A second pasta dish Risotto con Porcini, Fontina e caffe is one that Chef  Gordon Ramsey would certainly not be yelling about.  Vialone Nano risotto is imported from Italy.  Cooked perfectly (did you get that, Gordon?),  a reduction of mushrooms, parsley and a crispy fontina cheese is the star along with porcini mushrooms and coffee to bring out the flavor of the mushrooms.

Where's the beef?  Filet mignon is marinated in milk to keep it juicy.  In the meantime, a potato is baked with salt for 3 hours and made into a "boat".  A carbonara sauce is placed in the boat and baked. It is then topped with crispy bacon.  The filet (excellent temperature) is topped with micro greens.

Time for dessert.  Rivisitazione di un tiramisu is a deconstructed tiramisu that begins with very light lady fingers, made on the premises, rests under a mascarpone gelato.  It is then topped with a coffee and gelatin whipped cream.  Cocoa powder is plated around it.

And for the finale Carota 100%. It's amazing as to what one can do with carrots that begins with a carrot "cake", made from carrots, egg and flour.  This is topped with a carrot gelato.  Then there is a sauce made basically of carrot juice and sugar.  It can you want more sauce, it is served with a small glass (rimmed with chopped carrots) of this deliciousness.

I couldn't help but notice a group of what sounded like some extremely satisfied customers who have apparently been to Il Punto prior to this evening.

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