There are an outstanding number of restaurants in the Upper West Side that it is difficult to select the best out of all the options. If you want a place that outshines them all – best in class for service, delicious food, and elegant decor – make your next reservation at The Leopard des Artistes.
The Leopard des Artistes is helmed by Chef Vito Gnazzo who created the Southern Italian menu. Chef Gnazzo is The Leopard’s partner Executive Chef, as well as the Executive Chef at Il Gattopardo and Mozzarella & Vino. The region he takes inspiration from is in the area once know as the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies in the mid 1800s, and he takes from the culinary traditions of Campania, Basilicata, Calabria, Apulia, Sardinia, and Sicily. Balancing the ingredients from land such as grains to make pasta and vegetables with seafood, Chef Gnazzo’s recipes are influenced by the local aristocracy with authentic and nutritionally healthy ingredients.
The opulence of the cuisine is also highlighted by the elegant decor of the restaurant. From every seat, all guests are able to view beautiful works of art hung on the walls. Paula Bolla-Sorrentino is in charge of all the visual and organizational aspects of the restaurant, which include the art direction, to make sure that guests are fully immersed in a cultural experience while dining.
Italian cuisine is not really complete without a glass of wine, so we perused the extensive wine list with wines from Italy’s best vineyards. With direction from our serve, we started with glass of sparking wine with our starters and moved on to bolder red wines to enhance our entrees.
For those who want to try a little bit of all the best, The Leopard offers a tasting menu that represent Chef Gnazzo’s favorite dishes. The menu represent signature dishes that are from three separate Italian regions, and each available with regional wine pairings. Be sure to ask about their tasting menu and try something new.
I decided to go a la carte and previewed the menu before arriving. Still unable to make a decision, we asked what are The Leopard’s top recommended dishes. It was already a good sign that my choices were aligned with what was recommended! For a light starter dish we opted for the Grilled Octopus Salad with heart of escarole, celery, Castelvetrano olives, pickled onions, extra virgin olive oil and lemon dressing. The salad and dressing was light which accompanied the tender octopus.
One of their signature appetizers is their “Gnudi” Buffalo ricotta gnocchi, in a creamy butter and Parmigiano Reggiano sauce with sage and wild mushroom ragout. You can’t go wrong with this giant soft ball of cheesy goodness. It is a filling dish so we definitely recommend sharing these.
The pasta was the highlight of the evening, with my only regret not ordering another pasta dish to try. We landed on the Busiate Trapanesi with shellfish ragout and cherry tomatoes. The sauce was light but flavorful, pairing excellently with the seafood embedded in the sauce. Another recommended pasta dish is the Il Gattopardo paccheri pasta with Genovese sauce, which we will have to come back for.
For the mains, we went with the recommended Pan-seared duck breast “porchetta” with fennel pollen, cipollini with aged balsamic vinegar, pickled raisins and vegetable caponata. The duck was thick yet tender and juicy, a great option for those who want something hearty.
We also tried the lightly breaded grilled swordfish with salmoriglio sauce and caponata ghiotta. Though seafood is usually light, this swordfish was presented like a cut of steak and was incredibly filling with bold flavors.
To end your meal, you can’t go wrong with the traditional torta di mascarpone tiramisu style, a decadently delicious dessert. If you’ve overstuffed yourself as I did, there is always room for some artisanal Italian gelati and sorbetti.
The Leopard des Artistes also offers brunch on the weekends with live jazz on Saturdays. They also offer special holiday menus, such as for Easter coming up soon, so be sure to continually come back to check out all their amazing dishes.