“But doesn’t it feel like you’re in the middle of Grand Central Station?”
Well, yes. And no.
Perched on the west balcony of Grand Central Terminal is Cipriani Dolci, a tiny jewel in the crown of the famed string of eateries and drinkeries harking back to Giuseppe Cipriani’s original Harry’s Bar in Venice. (When you think about it, the dynasty’s fate might have been entirely different had they called it Giuseppe’s Bar. Harry was the guy who helped finance the original watering hole in Venice and fortuitously claimed the naming rights.)
We failed to pay homage to Harry in Venice, although we did raise a glass to him in Rome, where we snickered at the high menu prices that are synonymous with the Cipriani name – and paid them anyway. Hey, we were tourists!
If you’ve ever paid a king’s ransom for an undistinguished hamburger with soggy French fries at Harry Cipriani’s in the Sherry-Netherland Hotel (like I once did), you might have vowed to steer clear of all things Cipriani in the future.
But then again, don’t we all occasionally find ourselves at Grand Central Terminal feeling a little peckish right around noon? Cipriani Dolci, with its sweet location overlooking the Grand Concourse and a reasonably priced (for NYC) mid-day repast beckons the weary traveler. At $38 for three courses Monday through Friday, the Ciprianis atone for many sins on their upcharged uptown 5th Avenue menu with this 42nd Street prix fixe lunch.
We are fussy about noisy restaurants, so what are we doing here? Amazingly, while you can hear the din below, you can also conduct a conversation, or, as many patrons do, a business deal, while you nosh on the breadsticks that are my personal Cipriani favorite. If you sit along the rail, you might catch a glimpse of one of the many couples who choose to get married at Grand Central:
If you don’t have to conduct business, or a wedding, you can order a glass of wine, which somehow tastes better served in the restaurant’s tiny signature caraffa.
Soup or salad to begin – nothing revelatory but always fresh and satisfying – and then the pasta course. When we visited earlier this month they were serving an outstanding homemade veal ravioli in brown butter. And plenty of it:
Service is prompt but unhurried. Incredibly, one of the waiters (remember, there are 750,000 people tromping through Grand Central on an average day!) recognized us from our last visit back in March.
And then, there is dessert. The many-splendored, many-layered meringue cake of my dreams. And since it just arrives as part of the prix fixe lunch, you didn’t really order it and are therefore not responsible for any caloric consequences. Right?
After cake, there is a double espresso and then the mile and a half walk home (uphill!) to assuage the guilt. But you could also take the subway, since, of course, you’re in Grand Central Station!
Location: With an address that is simply “Grand Central Terminal” it’s easy to get confused, especially if you see the “Cipriani” sign posted outside 110 42nd Street across from the Terminal. That one happens to be a private event space. Best access to the restaurant is to use the Vanderbilt Avenue entrance.
High points: Are you kidding? That meringue cake! Oh, and the breadsticks.
If I’m being fussy: There is no restroom! They point you to a stairwell (there is also an elevator nearby) and somewhere above on a neglected floor is a washroom, but good luck finding it.
Dress Code: Business casual rules here.
Reservations: Available via OpenTable or by calling (212) 973-0999. You don’t always need a reservation, but it is a relatively small space, and if, like me, you like to be seated along the rail to gawk at the humanity below, you’ll want to call ahead.
The last word: I’m not just wild about Harry’s, but this prix fixe is a good bet and a Midtown oasis- there aren’t a ton of dining options for lunch around GCT.
Next up: Let’s head uptown…