Sea Baby Octopus in Neapolitan SauceAs I checked into Sports Club LA/UES (Upper East Side) on Foursquare, I was alerted by a tip that somewhere around the corner lay a hidden gem of the neighborhood, an Italian restaurant called Tiella. After my somewhat truncated session of swimming (the pool was too small to do any serious lap swimming; head instead to the pool at the Reebok SCLA in Upper West Side!), I was hungry enough to search for this place.

When I got there, I was surprised that at lunch time, there was only one other table occupied; but then again, the restaurant was out of the main thoroughfare, away from the rows of shops, cafes, and restaurants that lined the streets of the Upper East Side. Good for me, then, finding a table right by the window.

I was hoping to order the much talked about salmon carpaccio with arugula and lemon dressing (both the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times food writers mentioned it); but alas, ’twas not the season to be serving such dish. Instead, the maitre ‘d suggested other things, and I settled on Moscardini, sea baby-octopus, slowly released to a bath of hot olive oil, added with hand-crushed tomatoes, and combined with a prepared herbs and spices. The sauce was Napolitano-style (Chef Giuseppe Castellano hailed from Napoli/Naples).

The dish looked rich but was surprisingly very light. The octopus’ texture was great: Smooth to the touch and soft to the bite. I regret that that was the only dish I ate, as I was dining solo. I also had just gotten out of the gym, another reason for not wanting to put back a lot of the calories lost during working out. Next time I will bring friends so we can sample more dishes.

1109 First Avenue (@ 61st Street)
New York, NY 10065
Tel: (212) 588-0100
M-Sa: Noon – 15:00 (lunch) and 17:00 – 23:00
Sun: 17:00 – 23:00

Photos of the exterior and interior of the restaurant ©2010 Ramsay de Give for the Wall Street Journal


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