Vegetarian Highlights at UWS Staple ‘Cesca


The Veggielante is on a mission to spread the word about places to order good, meatless grub. Check out this week’s pick.

Destination: ‘Cesca (164 West 75th Street, 212-787-6300)

Neighborhood: Upper West Side

Cuisine: Italian


Overview: Chef Tom Valenti and restaurateur Godfrey Polistina opened ‘Cesca in 2003, and it quickly became an Upper West Side staple. Three years later, the pair parted ways, leaving Polistina in charge of ‘Cesca, and Valenti in charge of Ouest, the duo’s other venture. Since then, ‘Cesca has become home to a few chefs with big Italian chops; current chef Craig Wallen, alum of New York’s L’Impero, Convivio, and Spasso, has been in charge of ‘Cesca’s menu since November 2012. Wallen takes a very specific approach to his cuisine, avoiding trends and any ostentation, instead providing his patrons with a collection of dishes from across Italy.

Highlights: The mushroom-stuffed Swiss chard and mascarpone raviolini ($14 for a side portion/$22 for an entrée portion) is doused in a butter sauce and topped with even more mushrooms. The butter sauce is light and enhances both the creaminess of the stuffed raviolini and the crunchiness of the mushroom trimmings.

The cauliflower fritti ($9) is fried in corn starch and sparkling water, and served with a side of tarragon yogurt dipping sauce. The breading is light, which allows for the cauliflower to remain crispy inside. While the fritti doesn’t have any overwhelming flavor, the pungency of the tarragon sauce makes up for it. This appetizer is fairly large and is great for sharing.

Many of ‘Cesca’s other appetizers are vegetarian, as well, including the warm handpulled mozzarella ($16), which features two pieces of grilled bread, crispy artichokes, roasted bell peppers, taggiasca olives, and a huge serving of mozzarella, all topped with olive oil.