Sometimes, it is not the weight of a new opening that burdens a chef’s conscience, but rather the weight of a Ferrara pizza oven. At Covina (127 E. 27th Street; 212-204-0225), chef Tim Cushman’s freshly made pizzas aren’t the only thing on the menu, but they are integral to the chef’s goal of offering casual, shareable plates.
A Boston native whose love of music pushed him westward to California, Cushman tailors his menus to reflect his travels. Located in the Park South Hotel — the same building that houses the chef’s sushi hideaway, O Ya — guests are just as likely to find a Mediterranean-style hummus plate with seasonal crudité as they are to find gulf shrimp with smoked Oaxacan Pasilla chile sauce and cilantro. There’s even a station devoted to cranking out prosciutto for topping Cushman’s piping-hot pizzas. Paying homage to Murray Hill’s longtime Indian community, the restaurant will also offer a lamb shawarma sandwich during lunchtime.
“There’s a lot of iterations of American restaurants these days, but [Covina is] through a California set of eyes with Mediterranean influences,” says Cushman.
Co-owner Nancy Cushman explains how a West Coast sensibility has influenced Covina’s fare: “With this menu, we always use the word ‘crave-able.’ It’s kind of all dishes that we would want to eat for dinner — but all on one menu. I think California has a way of doing a mashup of different flavors and cuisines in a way that kind of makes sense, and that’s what we’re trying to do here.”
Those dishes include a wood-grilled, chopped-chicken salad, house-milled farro farfalle (all Covina’s pastas are handmade), and a selection of grilled meats including a 32-ounce, bone-in tomahawk ribeye served with dashi au jus.
So what differentiates Covina from other restaurants? “The way the menu is put together…and the different flavor combinations that you have access to,” chef Cushman explains, noting there are Israeli, Turkish, and Indian flavors found all over the menu. “Those flavor combinations work for me, so when I’m creating a menu, I make sure all those flavor combinations don’t clash.”
In addition to the main dining room — which provides guests with full view through the open kitchen — a café located just through the front door offers a selection of coffees and pastries. And should guests feel like they’re in a kind of hideaway — there’s good reason. The main dining room was converted from some of the hotel’s guest rooms — and the name Covina loosely translates to “cove.”
Get a first look at Covina, currently open for dinner service: