Da Marcella Mediterranean Taverna
11 W. 51st Street
New York, NY 10019
Food & Service:
The short definition of taverna is a small Greek, Spanish, Italian or even Portuguese restaurant, but it originally derived from Greek. Da Marcella Tavernas owner Manuel Moreno’s definition is a “neighborhood restaurant that just wants to feed people in the same generous manner that my mother fed half of the neighborhood [I grew up in].” It’s with this outlook and with ties to his Spanish and Italian heritage that Manuel and executive chef Francesco Mueses set up the newest Da Marcella Mediterranean Taverna (named after Manuel Moreno’s mother) in midtown west near Rockefeller Center.
The décor of the midtown branch is relaxed with subdued yellow walls and orange hues, with wine shelved around pillars, pine tables (with hooks), brown leather booths, cotton napkins, in addition to a sleek oak bar that seats 12-14 people.
The menu reflects Italian influence with a Spanish flair focusing more on natural ingredients and shying away from overly refined ones. What caters to this ideology is the freshness of the meats, particularly the Scottish salmon in the Salmon and Avocado Tartare with Lampedusa Capers. There’s a tender peppery taste to the salmon and red onion patties sandwiching creamy avocados
served alongside lightly toasted bread. The Pulpo Marinado a la Catalana denotes Spanish ties to Catalonia in the rustic nature of a simple dish focusing on fresh items farmed from the land such as greens, olive oil, Spanish capers, and cherry tomatoes. The star of this appetizer is the grilled squid (pulpo) with a bouncy consistency and a salty and well-seasoned taste from being dry rubbed. Chef Francesco’s Meatballs “al Sugo di Pomodoro” are made with pork and ground veal to ensure juiciness, topped with a sprinkle of mozzarella and drenched in homemade sauce infused with basil and white onions…there’s no denying that these are momma’s meatballs. The sauce is rich and not overly acidic and the melt-in-your-mouth texture of the meatballs comforts you with every bite.
Bolognese, as per Marcella, is to be cooked “for at least eight hours” otherwise it is just a meat sauce. The Tagliatelle Artigianali “Setaro” el Ragu Bolognese Classico is exactly what one is looking for in any hearty and satisfying Italian dish. The Bolognese is the dish that brings to mind the bevy of flavors (18 ingredients to be exact) in a long-term cooked sauce utilizing fresh tomatoes, lean meats, and finally served over noodles cooked until just al dente.
The Paella “Da Marcella” is a hodgepodge of sultry flavors thanks to key ingredient azafrán (saffron). Chef Mueses adds in white wine, some citrus, additional spices, a variety of proteins such as clams, mussels, calamari, chicken,
red peppers, artichokes, lima beans, and bomba rice, all simmered and blended together for a bountiful dish. Every item in this entrée compliments with each other in every bite.
Manuel is also no stranger to desserts having run The Bakery of New York in Long Island City for almost 20 years. This is where Marcella’s fresh bread comes from daily. At Marcella Taverna there is a range of sweets from a denser dessert such as the Ricotta Cheese Cake, as rich as cheese cake could be, featuring a buttery golden cake crust, to the Panna Cotta, a great ending if you’re bordering on full and want something subtle and light. The added twist for the Panna Cotta is fresh vanilla which stands out considerably in a dish that is usually reliant on flavor additions. The drizzles of strawberry sauce allow the vanilla to take center stage in this fantastically smooth, satisfying dessert.
The wine list is substantial, with about two dozen varieties of wine that they rotate by offering full bottle and by the glass on the menu. Most of their wine is from Spain & Italy with some from Greece and France as well. It is easy to find an excellent wine on this menu tom pair with the delicious fare at Marcella’s Mediterranean Taverna,
Da Marcella Mediterranean Taverna accurately embodies the definition of a taverna. The menu not only reflects the restaurant’s origin but the tastes and care behind each dish allows anyone who savors to wholly appreciate how food can unite and comfort.
A native New Yorker, Jennifer Baker has been writing since she entered the academic institution and continues to do so every moment she gets. Jennifer has a particular love for desserts (both eating and baking them) and while partaking in some of the sugary treats NYC has to offer, she has interviewed local bakeries such as Ivy Bakery, First Prize Pies, Hot Blondies, and Zugar Haus. Jennifer regularly posts about writing, books, baking, and food events in addition to reviews and hosting giveaways on her website: jennifernbaker.com. You can also follow Jennifer on Twitter at @jbakernyc and check out her site at www.jennifernbaker.com