In true Midtown fashion, La Pecora Bianca’s new location subscribes to the theory that if you find something people like, you should be making more of it. The Italian eatery at Midtown East is nearly twice the size of its Nomad counterpart, with bar seats, a bigger private dining room in the back and upcoming outdoor seating that will run along Second Avenue.
“[The second location] feels a little shinier,” executive chef Cruz Goler says. “It feels a little more polished and open.”
Balthazar architect Richard Lewis and interior designer Chiara de Rege created the 3,000-square-foot space with white millwork, a midcentury Italian lighting scheme, and vintage Italian photos and books. The overall effect is a bright, airy interior that emits a golden glow, but lights dim in the evening for a romantic change in mood, allowing the restaurant to easily transition from fresh brunch spot to intimate dinner hangout.
Goler’s already-strong menu benefits from the size, as the larger kitchen provides him with more capacity for experimentation. Additional oven room allows for large-format meat dishes, such as whole fish or steak for two with truffle polenta and marinated broccoli rabe, which the Nomad sister can usually serve only on slower nights.
However, loyal fans of the restaurant will see all their preferred La Pecora Bianca classics still on the menu. Previously a chef de cuisine for powerhouse culinary creatives including Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Goler brings his own flair and experience to Italian-inspired food. For example, classic arancini gets a flavor makeover with butternut squash and a sweet drizzle of Calabrian honey. Hearty, generously seasoned entrees—including braised heritage pork shoulder with grilled cabbage, dried apricots and speck—provide a welcome change from typical dainty Midtown fare.
Another perk of a grander cooking area is an expansion of the pasta program, all housemade and containing beautifully rustic flavors. Gramigna with housemade sausage, broccolini and chili flakes is already a new favorite by guests, and the spicy garganelli wows with mussels, littleneck clams, rock shrimp, fennel and chili.
A wide selection of after-meal beverages finishes off the dinner menu, and guests can delight in amaro or grappa while sampling the cardamom panna cotta, or rich milk chocolate budino with cocoa nibs, crispy honeycomb and candied hazelnuts. But the real treat is a multilayered tiramisu spiked with amaro that an entire table can share.
“[The company] represents a style of food that’s in my wheelhouse,” Goler says. “It had a wide open template with room for things that I think are more whimsical. We hope to offer something for everyone.”
That offering keeps expanding, as the brand hopes to nab an outpost at the Urbanspace market and the Midtown location will soon feature a cafe with a street-facing to-go window, where customers can find gelato and pastries for mornings on the East Side. Goler also hints that a third location might come onto the scene eventually and make La Pecora Bianca a more impressive heavyweight than ever. “We can have this recognizable brand where people know they can have a good experience,” he says. “I think we’re starting to hit our stride.”
LA PECORA BIANCA
950 Second Ave.
Appetizers, $13-$18; entrees, $17-$36; desserts, $10-$25
Sun. 9am-10pm, Mon.-Thu. 8am-11pm, Fri. 8am to midnight, Sat. 9am-midnight, Sun. 9am-10pm
What to Drink
La Pecora Bianca has its own private-label Tuscan rosé, La Pecora Rosa, which is a must-order during the warm months.
Where to Sit
At night, grab a high-top table for tasting a Negroni or spritz while people-watching.
When to Eat
Come for the prix fixe lunch with three courses for $29 per guest. The meatballs with tomato sauce, parmigiano and country toast make for a perfect midday meal.