During a December 2004 visit to Manhattan, my most memorable meal was undoubtedly at Per Se, but my second most distinctive experience was at davidburke and donatella. High-flying chef David Burke and lawyer-turned restaurateur Donatella Arpaia filled the restaurant with dishes like Crisp and Angry Lobster and the cheesecake lollipop tree. Since then, it’s been interesting to see how Arpaia’s career has progressed. She’s partnered with friend/chef Michael Psikalis on revered restaurants like Anthos. Still, in the “new austerity,” a low-priced dining option is always welcome. Toward that end, Arpaia and Psikalis opened Mia Dona in Midtown East in February 2008. I was impressed with the $35 prix fixe, a real bargain given such high quality ingredients.
We sat in the front room of the long and lean space, watched closely by the cracked and distorted faces on the surreal wall plates.
It isn’t normally worth posting bread photos, but Mia Dona’s bread basket was especially impressive, highlighted by soft tomato-brushed slices focaccia and an entire roasted garlic bulb that was a big step up from butter.
Hearty Mia Meatballs were bathed in a hearty tomato sauce that was loaded with onion, Parmesan and chewy slices of speck, a salt-cured and cold-smoked Italian ham.
Slices of Grilled Hanger Steak featured a nice char and paired well with the slightly-bitter broccoli rabe, herb-whipped ricotta and tangy-spicy pepperoncini.
Maple Panna Cotta was the meal’s only letdown, a mix of components that never meshed. Honeycrisp apple compote was overly sweet and didn’t meld with the bland dome of faintly maple custard. The anise pizzelle looked pretty and contributed textural contrast, but proved to be extraneous.
Mia Dona didn’t have any of the culinary fireworks Arpaia helped to deliver at davidburke & donatella, but in some ways, the first two courses were more satisfying. The dessert was disappointing, but Mia Dona’s meatballs and hanger steak more than justified the $35 price tag.
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