Straddling the line between hip and warmly traditional, Il Tesoro is the first New York City property from restaurateur and chef A.J. Black. Located on the Upper East Side at 82nd street and First Avenue, the restaurant offers an ambiance and menu that manages to be at once familiar but full of surprises—a style Black sums up as “new classic.”
Part of the familiarity comes from the space Il Tesoro inhabits. The restaurant has taken over the venue where the famous Primavera Ristorante previously stood, and that beloved spot forms the bones of the main restaurant—an elegant, open dining room with exposed-brick walls, wood panels, and antique chandeliers. Groups can also reserve the basement wine cellar for private parties, where bottles of red and white are encased in centuries-old iron grates. The restaurant offers a huge list of reserve bottles as well as some house favorites.
The menu offers some top-notch Italian offerings. The extensive appetizer menu could make a meal in itself, with highlights being the Scallops Antica (seared scallops finished in a dark blood orange balsamic sauce), and the Pere e Prosciutto (pears roasted in red wine with thinly cured prosciutto). The crispy soft-shell crab with lemon, white wine, and capers offers a combination of sweet and crispy textures and flavors.
Not to be missed is the Risotto con Porcini with mushrooms and truffle oil. Seafood fans can also try the Risotto alla Pescatora, with lobster and local seafood. A range of pasta selections run from light and fresh to rich and hearty. In the former group is the Farfalle Primavera with tomato cream sauce and fresh vegetables. For hearty, try the Rigatoni Bolognese with classic meat sauce, fresh tomato and ricotta.
The entrees are also across-the-board delicious, particularly the stuffed roasted duck breast with spinach and Scamorza cheese. The braised lamb shank, in a spicy eggplant sauce and served over risotto Milanese, is equally devastating.
A real standout at Il Tesoro are the “Whole Animal Tasting” sample menus. For example, the Baby Goat Tasting menu includes goat pate ravioli, a white kidney truffle including goat sausage, and the braised baby goat with garlic butternut squash. A Whole Fish Tasting is also available.
1578 First Ave
New York, NY 10028