Ex-Il Buco Alimentari chef Justin Smillie makes his return tonight with Upland, his Flatiron restaurant with Philly-based hit maker Stephen Starr. The concept is billed as Southern Californian (it's named for Smillie's hometown) but has a strong New York-local feel to it with some heavy Italian overtones. Design firm Roman and Williams, which designed The Breslin and Lafayette, has transformed the old Manzanilla space into a brasserie-style dining room not actually all that different from Lafayette. There are large, round, forest green banquettes, a copper-trimmed bar in the center, walls lined with bottles of wine and cured lemons, and gingham runners on the tables. The big open kitchen is at the back of the room, and stairs lead down to a private dining room, which should open some time in the coming months.
The menu includes bone marrow crostino with smoked salt and a mushroom salad with burnt shallot vinaigrette, along with several pizzas and pastas like a farro spaghetti with uni, scallions and sesame; and ricotta gnudi with broccoli and an Italian anchovy sauce. There's also a 500 bottle wine list, much of it under $50, curated by Chantelle Pabros, who worked at Chicago's L20.
Starr is better known for his box restaurants with lesser known and arguably less talented chefs than Smillie, but his success with Peter Serpico's eponymous restaurant in Philadelphia, coupled with Upland may signify a shift for the restaurateur, who is already at work on his next New York project on the Bowery. 345 Park Avenue South, Flatiron
Update: Upland's team shares the opening menu, which, as promised, includes pizza. To start there are three including one with 'nduja and stracciatella. The rest of the menu is divided up in sections called one, two, and three. Take a look.
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