This past weekend, I took a little time machine and landed in a romantic comedy from the 80's, having dinner no less. Bice in midtown has that classic, fancy-New-York-restaurant vibe somehow (maybe because it's been around since 1926??), and if the service wasn't so damn friendly, I would have been intimidated for sure. It was like that first nice restaurant that you go to with your parents when you're old enough to behave, but still young enough that the chef will make you spaghetti and meatballs because everything else on the menu is beyond your comprehension.
Be forewarned, Bice is expensive (and honestly there are plenty of Italian restaurants in the city that do the same food for a lot cheaper), that said, I still enjoyed the food and overall dining experience anyway – I felt very Julia Roberts circa Pretty Woman. You know, minus the hooker bit.
We started out with a lovely fritto misto platter of fried calamari, fried zucchini, crab cakes, bruschetta, and prosciutto wrapped breadsticks. The spicy tomato sauce that was served for dipping was excellent; sweet and spicy, not too chunky and not too thin. I hate when I get watered down marinara sauce for dipping calamari and fried zucchini. For an appetizer we decided to split the beet salad. Warm beets, yellow peppers, string beans, spinach, candied pecans and goat cheese tossed together with a creamy vinaigrette - how can you go wrong? It was very good; the goat cheese seemed to be toasted which was delicious, and the candied pecans added that crunch and sweetness it needed.
Usually when I go to an Italian place, I like to get one pasta dish and one chicken or steak dish; I feel you can't truly judge an Italian restaurant unless you've had their pasta. So we got the special pasta of the night – ravioli stuffed with a veal, prosciutto and cheese mixture in a mushroom demi glace. What a portion this was! There were ten little pillows of pasta (count em below) stuffed to the brim, and to be honest, they were so filling I could only eat a few on top of the chicken paillard I ordered. The chicken was good, the little mountain of vegetables inside it was better. Carrots, zucchini, spinach, onions and peppers all sauteed with what I can only imagine was a big heap of butter…mmm. It was not very original ordering on my part, but the dishes at Bice are very traditional, so I played it safe. One thing I thought was odd about their menu: no shrimp dishes. I was expecting shrimp scampi or something of that nature, but they didn't have ANY shrimp on the menu. That would be the only disappointing thing of the night.
AND the one time we didn't order dessert! The desserts looked amazing, and I mean literally like works of art. We were both pretty full so we passed on dessert – dumb move. I saw a few ice cream and cake platters go by with sugar sculptures, wafer towers and the like. There were a few kids at the next table over that seemed to be in utter awe of the presentation. Bravo, Bice, you were able to keep them quiet for a few moments.
I really liked the ambiance of Bice; there was someone refilling my glass, folding my napkin and checking in at just the right moments. I hate being interrupted during a conversation or asked if I need anything while I'm chewing food. Bice could definitely benefit from updating their menu a bit (read: shrimp scampi), but the service was outstanding. You get that casual elegance that Manhattan was originally known for.