There are some restaurants in Manhattan, where entering with someone who knows the owner, is essential. Packed to the gullet on a Wednesday night (during a recession!), Acapella is one. We shuffled in- to be abruptly accosted by the hostess, "Reservation?!" My coy partner offered, "Sergio Acapella." Bewildered, she paused: this man is claiming to be her father. Suddenly, we were whisped by a barrage of waiters grabbing our faces for passionate kisses. The hostess seated us in a warm corner table. Plates of thinly sliced crispy garlic zucchini , bread, bruschetta and cured meats were placed before us.
As we sipped our wine and nibbled, Sergio approached our table, "Menu or you trust me?"
"We trust you."
He turned to a few gentlemen behind us in his Marlin Brando Godfather voice, "Seafood platters, the Branzino for her. Veal for you? No the halibut. Sides? Brocolli Rabe, the potatoes with the garlic...a chair for me."
Sergio settled into our nook. A young man brought him a Maker's on the rocks. He secured my affection and respect. As I indulged in the massive dining area with vaulted ceilings, two gorgeous plates were set before us.
The path of pleasures began with Oyster alla Rock: Malpaks on a the half shell baked 'in the fire' with white wine, a touch of fresh spinach and undercooked Fontina on top. Adjacent these beauties: Shrimp Sardina with fresh crab meat wrapped in a homemade pasta sheet and prepared in a light Dijon mustard. Gorgeous, though a bit rich after the oysters. The third delight: plump and firm jumbo prawns in tomatoes, crab meat, white wine and extra virgin olive oil. A bit lighter than the first two tastes, I felt it was a lovely punctuation the the secondi.
More wine and our entrees:
Branzino: a fresh Italian Seabass steamed in foil with light wine, garlic, green and Kalamata olives. The taste revealed a buttery, albeit light, flavor. This dish is well-loved and gingerly prepared by the chef.
My partner dipped into his Halibut. The fish came dressed in artichoke, cherry tomato, lemon and white wine. The fish exhibited the classic flaky firm characteristics of the fish.
The sides carried the consistently excellent experience with their details. The broccoli rabe came expertly prepared and supremely garlicly. Sergio dipped his fingers in. Is there any other way to be sensual, as to eat with your fingers? While some may raise a brow, I believe a passion for taste lends the practice. The potatoes! Thinly sliced and prepared with "roasted red pepper, garlic and ingredients you don't need to know about." Quite stellar.
Drunk on food and Prosecco, I was certain I couldn't fit anything else into my stomach. Sergio disagreed, sending out a dessert production. An impressive assortment of what I would consider 'out of season' berries were sliced before us and dropped in a saute pan. Flames. Wine. Sugar. Served over creme fraiche in a martini glass, I am glad I didn't turn the dish away.