Alzheimer’s Dinner at L’Allegria

Saturday night I was privileged to have dinner with a team of runners coming from the Alzheimer’s International organization in London. The team was gearing up to run in the NYC Marathon and were nice enough to invite our Junior Committee to attend their pre-race dinner at L’Allegria. The Junior Committee members who attended were Meghann Mckale (JC President), Kim Rossi (JC Community Service Chair), Jeff LeBlanc (JC Treasurer), and myself (Memory Walk Chair).

L’Allegria is an Italian restaurant located in the heart of the theater district and has been in business for over ten years. Although this quaint Italian bistro has been renamed Pastafina, its menu and decor have remained the same. L’Allegria offers two different prixe fixed dinners in addition to their regular menu. One option is a 3 course all you can eat pasta dinner for $21.95. The other is a 3 course meal for $25.95 offering a variety of fish, chicken, lamb, and pasta dishes. As an alternative, you can order a lobster dish under the prixe fixed menu for an additional $7. Both prixe fixed meals include coffee and tea. L’Allegria also offers a 20% discount to large groups and NYC Restaurant Cardholders.

Before visiting L’Allegria, I did a little bit of backround research to see what fellow diners had to say on Menupages, Yelp, and The Spotlight with Sean Taylor. Despite the sites’ consensus of mixed reviews, the menu looked delicious and I was looking forward to meeting the International Alzheimer’s members. Though the one thing everyone had recommended was the pizza.

Admittedly, the evening got off to a rocky start, due to a seating mishap. Unfortunately the private room we were promised was unavailable, so our group was split into three separate tables. Though after we had finally been seated, we quickly put the issue behind us. Our table was split between marathon runners and non-marathon runners which were mostly Junior Committee members. Out of the four JC members, Jeff was the only true runner, having run an amazing 38 marathons in various cities. Though he wasn’t running in the NYC marathon, he definitely qualifies as the most accomplished runner I’ve ever known.

The non-NYC Marathon runners at my table began their meal with a glass of wine. When our waitress placed a basket of bread on the table, we (the Junior Committee members) ironically went right for it, and joked about how the runners were likely to need the bread more for their upcoming run or trek, in my opinion. The bread, for an italian restaurant, had an interesting texture reminiscent of both a naan and flatbread. The bread was served with a mixture of olive oil blended with rosemary and a sweet balsamic vinegar that rested at the bottom of the bowl in which it was served. The combination of the oil and vinegar was unique and quite delicious.

Meghann, Kim, and I started our meals with salads, which were served in very generous portions. I had ordered the Gorgonzola Salad and substituted the mixed greens for arugula, a classic Jessica request. For those of you who don’t know me, I am constantly altering the dishes I order. I think I just like to put my own little spin on everything I eat. But most restaurants in New York City are used to these slight changes, though there is always the restaurant that refuses to change anything in order to preserve the artistic genius of the chef. And I can most definitely respect that.

But returning to the salad… I had specifically asked for the dressing on the side and was glad I did, since I found it to be quite bland. Though after drizzling the salad with some of the sweet balsamic vinegar, it was near perfect. The Gorgonzola wasn’t too sharp and blended nicely with the artichokes, sweet balsamic, and the bitterness of the arugula. Kim and Meghann had ordered the Caeser Salad which didn’t seem like anything out of the ordinary. Though I didn’t notice any Parmesan shavings, which happens to be my favorite part. And, I’d like to note that no fresh ground pepper was offered to us. But to be fair, I was warned of poor service in previous reviews of L’Allegria.

For my main course, I ordered the Pollo Di Castelli which both looked and tasted very good. The chicken, which was sauteed with mushrooms and artichokes, was served with a side of stringbeans, carrots, and potatoes which accompanied the dish quite nicely. One committee member ordered the Gnocchi Bolognese. The texture of the gnocchi was light and tasty, though I felt the meat sauce could have been richer to give more balance to the dish. Another committee member ordered the Salmone Alla Senape which looked delicious, though I did not try it myself. One of the runners ordered the Penne Pomodoro Basilico, which appeared to be cooked to a perfect al dente.

Due to the large portions, we did not order dessert, though it had been included in Kim’s meal. I believe the dessert she’d chosen was the Tortoni Italiano, though I’m not quite sure, as I wasn’t too interested in dessert at that point.

We ended the evening over coffee and conversation about the marathon. And despite the fact that all of us were unable to sit together, it was a very enjoyable dinner. I was able to have a good meal with some great people who also share my passion in fighting Alzheimer’s disease. I would certainly recommend L’Allegria for a pre-theater dinner. Though the next time I return, I’ll have to try the pizza.

L’Allegria

623 9th Ave (at 44th Street)


A Closer Look at Atlantic Grill

Atlantic Grill has been an Upper East side staple for quite some time. This BR Guest Restaurant is noted for its fantastic seafood, sushi, and raw bar. It was most recently voted one of the 50 most popular restaurants in New York in the 2008 Zagat. Given its rave reviews and status, I figured it would be the perfect place to celebrate my mom’s birthday.

Similar to its other BR Guest counterparts, Atlantic Grill’s decor though crowded and noisy was beautifully lit and very charming. I recall celebrating many joyous occasions at my favorite of the 12 restaurant chains, Blue Water Grill, though the feeling I had upon entering this restaurant was unlike one I’d ever had.

Our party of 5 was seated at a round table with a semi circle booth and two chairs. We commenced our dining experience with a toast of blue moon, chardonay, pinot grigio, and shiraz. Everyone seemed to enjoy what they were drinking. We started the night off with a few appetizers which included the Atlantic’s Chopped Salad, a Shrimp & Lobster Spring Roll, and a Maryland Crabcake which were all the highlight off the night.

For our main courses we tried the Horseradish Crusted Scottish Salmon, the Simply Grilled Tuna with sauteed Spinach, two Pan Seared Salmon Dishes (one with mixed Vegetables and another with butternut squash ravioli and brussel sprouts), and a Crab Crusted Golden Snapper. Before beginning my dish I was already filled with disappointed because I was informed that the special, a Pan Seared Salmon with sweet potato gnocchi and brussel sprouts in a cider reduction had already sold out! But in spite of that, I still was less than thrilled with my dish. The salmon was only gently seared and lacked that golden crispy crust one would expect of a seared fish. I had also requested the salmon to be cooked medium and it appeared to be well done. And though the accompanying sides were delicious, there were very few of them. I also happened to try a bit of my sister’s spinach and did not think even that was sufficient. The texture was quite leafy where as I am used to something a bit smoother and less dry.

But even with my sub-par meal, with the exception of the appetizers, the guest of honor was more than pleased with hers and that was most important. The night was fabulous despite it all and we ended of course with my mom’s favorite Crumb’s Carrot Cake Cupcakes!