I used to live up by the main Bloomingdale’s location which proved to be very dangerous. I wasn’t a big fan of the neighborhood (Sutton Place is far from happening – and no one seems to know what to do do with it. Is it Midtown East? Is it the Upper East Side? People seem confused and indifferent altogether to its existence).  And the only thing I really liked was Bloomingdale’s, which was not good for my bank account. When I lived there, I found few restaurants in the area that I really liked, even though I was constantly trying to find new ones. Somehow I missed Pane e Vino, until I needed to book a brunch/lunch spot for this weekend.

Dining room - open and looking out to Lexington Avenue

Dining room - open and looking out to Lexington Avenue

Before lunch, we went to the Met to the McQueen exhibit. Short commentary? Go to it. Stat. Now to lunch. You could choose from their full menu, which was quite extensive. Or they also had their brunch menu available until 3:30PM. For $19.50, you had your choice of a brunch cocktail, a starter of either the soup of the day or a mixed green salad, and your brunch main course. I was tempted by the Frittata Contadina, which was a frittata with onions, Italian sweet sausage, and fontina cheese, but ended up going with the Focaccia di Casa, served with cured salmon, grilled tomatoes, and fresh mozzarella in balsamic-extra virgin olive oil. Each main also came with hash brown potatoes.

My friend's beef carpaccio

My friend's beef carpaccio

As suspected, this was nothing compared to what would follow. Resist. You'll thank me later.

As suspected, this was nothing compared to what would follow. Resist. You'll thank me later.

Focaccia di Casa

Focaccia di Casa

Linguine Vongole e Vino Bianco - Linguine with baby Manila clams in a white wine sauce

Linguine Vongole e Vino Bianco - Linguine with baby Manila clams in a white wine sauce

When my main course arrived, I was pleasantly surprised. I was expecting maybe an open-faced sandwich – more bruchetta-style. Instead, it was a nicely assembled sandwich, with the bread not overpowering in the least. With focaccia that is a serious talent! The hash brown potatoes were more like thin, fresh fries. Nice surprise and not overly fried, which worked well with the light, summery feel of the sandwich. It was a perfect brunch option in my book. Not as heavy as when something like this is served on a bagel. Wish I could find this more often!

Biscotti

Biscotti

I knew since my friend Nikki was in town that dessert would be a must. We were greeted by a plate of biscotti (fresh and soft – nice change) along with her coffee as we contemplated the finale. I had the server name off all of the dessert options, which all sounded amazing. We’d seen a large sampler platter go by earlier to a table celebrating a birthday so we knew they would all come out quite nicely. They had your standards – tiramisu or a ricotta cheesecake. My ears perked up when he named off a grape pie. Grape pie? I’d bever heard of such a thing. Our server’s eyes lit up when we expressed interest. “Yes! Yes! Very good!” he exclaimed. And what I liked about the server was you could tell he knew their food well and that he was passionate about it. Perfect.

Grape Pie

Grape Pie

When it arrived, I was pleased to see unlike many blueberry pies, this didn’t have a lot of filler. It was straight fruit mixed with only a bit of vanilla cream. The crust was almost like a thin layer of shortbread. Usually I find crust a bit disappointing, but I could have eaten much more of this one. And then the plate was finished off with a scoop of fresh vanilla ice cream. It was a bit steep for a dessert – $10 – but was plenty for the three of us to share. If I came back here, it would be hard to skip this.

I think I’ve found my Bloomie’s meal companion. Done. It felt like we were tucked in an Italian side street. It seems that this place has yet to be discovered by those shoppers looking for a meal before or after. It wasn’t crowded, the service was attentive, and the food was phenomenal. Highly recommend.

Pane e Vino – 691 Lexington Avenue (at 60th Street) – 212.355.2277
Reservations Optional

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