Updated April 29, 2021
Altro Paradiso specializes in Nice Things - both edible and otherwise. Don’t take that the wrong way. This is not a super fancy restaurant where gas has never been passed and red wine has never been spilled. Altro Paradiso’s version of Nice Things means straightforward, delicious Italian food made with about four ingredients per dish. You’ll be taken care of by attentive-yet-casual staff who wear cool blue cargo jackets, and witness the specific shimmer of a Hudson River sunset glowing on blonde wood and white marble.
The best way to wrap your head around this breezy lunch and dinner spot is to imagine it situated within the Hamptonian Barefoot Contessa universe, in between Ina Garten’s gigantic Cosmopolitan and Jeffrey’s nautical, Yale-blue sweater. You don’t have to play tennis or have a beach house to like Altro Paradiso - you’ll just embody that energy, and twirl tagliatelle and dig into a beautiful steak while you do it.
In true Nice Things fashion, Altro Paradiso’s seasonal Italian dishes rotate constantly. For instance, there will always be two pastas that are new to the short menu, and they’ll always be simply sauced and understated. On our last visit, we devoured a bowl of pillowy malfatti with pancetta whose saltiness cut perfectly against its butter-based sauce. Then, we audibly disparaged ourselves for eating too quickly after there was no more pesto tagliatelle with fresh crispy snap peas on our plate. One exception to Altro Paradiso’s fluctuating menu, though, is the crunchy-fresh fennel salad with Castelvetrano olives. It’s always in the mix, and ordering it is the one prescriptive rule to remember - more on that in the rundown below.
Altro Paradiso’s commitment to Nice Things isn’t necessarily surprising considering the track record of the team that operates the place. It’s run by the well-oiled restaurant group behind the essential downtown dining destination, Estela on Houston Street, and the now-closed (and very missed) Flora Bar on the Upper East Side. Like these other restaurants, we suggest coming to Altro Paradiso knowing there’s a likely chance of spending at least $75 per person on dinner - and a good deal more if you’re into wine.
Unfortunately, we didn’t do well in the dot com boom, nor do we have a strategic (but doomed) knack for marrying entertainment lawyers. So even though we would eat at Altro Paradiso once a week with sincere pleasure (partly to try all of the new seasonal dishes that hit the menu, and partly to get some more face time with a dirty martini made with the same Castelvetrano olives that are in the salad), it’s not going to happen. But if we could afford it, we’d be regulars here - even despite its relatively remote location, which is about as far west as you can go in Manhattan before entering a City Sanitation building next to the Hudson River.
So save a meal at Altro Paradiso for a situation that calls for Nice Things in the form of Italian dishes that have been exceptionally cared for, and you’ll feel taken care of, too.
A plate of prosciutto at a restaurant only goes one of two ways. You’re either in high-quality cured-meat heaven. Or it sits half-picked-at on the table until your entrees arrive. Altro Paradiso’s version falls into the former category. When we ordered this 24-month prosciutto, it came with a plate of buttery fried dough on the side. If this happens to you, drape the prosciutto over each dough bite and you’ll be fooled into thinking you’ve discovered the universe’s most perfect sandwich. We wish we could pack this up and take it to the beach.
We eat this fennel salad with the ferocity typically reserved for steak. When it arrives at your table, it’s going to look like a pile of curling fennel slices. You’ll think, “this is the salad?” But start mixing the dish and you’ll uncover briny Castelvetrano olives, provolone shavings, and sweet-sour citrus vinaigrette hiding beneath it. This is our kind of excavation.
Don’t hold back from ordering both pastas on the menu. They change fairly often, depending on whatever produce is in season. So while we can’t predict exactly which pasta you’ll get to try, we can assure you that Casper is likely trying to learn a thing or two from the mattress-like, square malfatti we ate recently here. The pillows started solid on the plate and then completely melted in our mouth.
Another section that changes a lot, expect a different meat and fish option every night. We had some perfectly medium-rare steak recently, but the pastas still stole the spotlight in our book.