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Buon Compleanno @Impero_Caffe

It was yet another delicious and fun monthly dinner with my oldest friends. This one fell the day before our first May birthday girl, Kate’s, day. Normally we combine the May birthdays and the July birthdays. Our fifth, a December baby, gets the dinner all to her own. However, at this dinner Kate suggested we separate our monthly dinners from our birthday dinners moving forward. This way, if there is nothing else on each of our birthdays, we can look forward to coming together to celebrate each other. She’s ‘wicked smaht’!


Impero Caffé, in the new Innside Hotel in Chelsea. The space is open, clean and modern. Loved the lamp art! If you didn’t know you were in NYC, you might take it for Miami even.

While the ladies were embracing the wine selection, I got right down to a birthday cocktail. It would be the Mulo of Poseidon vodka, cucumber, grapefruit, ginger and lime. All of my faves together in one refreshing libation says birthday to me! Cin cin!

For our appetizers we started with hamachi crudo with citrus, pistachio, ginger and chili and olive oil poached octopus with tomatoes, capers and fingerling potatoes. Straight forward and who doesn’t love properly prepared octopus?

Impero Caffe-maitake mushrooms over polenta

However, my appetizer highlights were smoked maitake mushrooms in truffle sugo (sauce) gently spooned over the most unctuous buttery polenta…

Impero Caffe-fritto misto

…and my favorite Scott Conant dish, next to his simple but delicious pasta al pomodoro, fritto misto. That is delicately battered and fried calamari, rock shrimp and seasonal vegetables. At the now closed Scarpetta (RIP), his fritto misto and a glass of crisp white wine was all I needed.

Impero Caffe-scallop intermezzo

For our entrées, we all decided to go with one of the handmade pasta dishes. There was squid ink campanelle with baby squid, clams and mussels, paccheri with pork ragu and caiocavallo cheese, tagliatelle with swiss chard, maitake mushrooms and smoke goat cheese and I had the cavatelli with braised duck and black truffle sugo. Each had its own unique flavor profile captivating the palate with each bite.

Impero Caffe-side of rabe and sunchokes

And then there is “dessoit”! (why there is a Three Stooges reference in my head? I’ve no idea). The staff brought out three of their four desserts starting with the home of my singular candle (grazie), the basil chocolate mousse cake (which we all thought was lavender) with praline cream and peanut butter sorbet (amazing because the mouth feel was like a gelato). The assists went to pineapple upside-down cake with vanilla gelato and walnut streusel and our fave budino with salted caramel and gianduja crumble. Nom, baby! Straight nom!

Now if they only knew how I feel about panna cotta they would have brought out their crème fraîche version with orange gelee and rhubarb strawberry sorbet. We are still within the 30-day marker for my birthday, you know…

Impero Caffe-the crew minus two

Kate, me, Nnenna…Jessica in a cab home…

Thanks to my food crew – Kate, Jessica and Nnenna – for your friendship another delicious night out in NYC, and my first annual birthday celebration!

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