It came as no surprise when the highly popular 1917 institution Café Des Artistes shuttered its doors in 2009. Made famous by artists, musicians and celebrities from a bygone era it had been falling into a state of disrepair for several years. Although the murals of naked nymphs drawn by Howard Chandler Christy remained the focal center piece of the restaurant for decades, the traditional French menu and décor hadn’t.
In 2009 restaurateur Gianfranco Sorrentino took over the space on the ground floor of the landmark co-op, Hotel Des Artistes, and began a series of major renovations to return the space to its former glory. Reopening in 2011 as the Leopard at Des Artistes the new menu reflects traditional southern Italian dishes with a regional emphasis on Campania, Basilicata, Calabria, Apulia, and Sardinia.
Chef Vito Gnazzo who was Sorrentino’s Executive Chef over at Il Gottopardo succeeds at giving diners an authentic experience by providing the freshest quality Italian ingredients with sublime execution. This is demonstrated by such alluring dishes as the grilled octopus with fingerling potatoes, daily specials consisting of fresh Dover sole ravioli with zucchini and shrimp, Meatloaf “Il Gattopardo” served with mashed potatoes and sautéed spinach as well as daily risotto specials as the radicchio with smoked mozzarella and Parmesan. With over a hundred regional Italian wines to choose from Gianfranco Sorrentino meticulously selects wines using the finest Sangiovese grapes and works closely with smaller Italian vineyards. The chefs amuse bouche of risotto croquettes with pancetta accompanied by a glass of the Trebbiano D’abruzzo 2008 “Altare” is absolutely delightful and the Aglianico “Donnaluna” 2009 De Conciliis is a perfect pairing with the Bucatini with sardines and wild fennel.
With its proximity to Columbus Circle the Leopard at Des Artistes is just as perfect for lunch or dinner as it is for sipping a glass of wine or enjoying a cocktail before or after a show at Lincoln Center or a stroll through Central Park. The Leopard at Des Artistes has done a wonderful job in preserving the history of the former Café Des Artistes space by giving it a new lease on life where late night revelers can enjoy each others company or share a moment of intimacy. All the while Mr. Sorrentino remains vigilant to every guests needs and greets everybody at the front of the dining room with an embracing smile.
THE LEOPARD AT DES ARTISTES
1 West 67th Street
New York, NY 10023