Hudson Yards-adjacent development Manhattan West — which opened in September 2021 — has several new restaurants and dining outlets, but there’s no doubt that Union Square Hospitality Group’s Ci Siamo is garnering the most interest.
Ci Siamo, set to open October 12, is the first new restaurant in NYC from restaurateur Danny Meyer’s hospitality group since sky-scraping upscale FiDi spot Manhatta (which remains temporarily closed) and casual taco spot Tacocina opened in 2018. Ci Siamo aims to be an accessible, welcoming Italian restaurant in a residential-type space, according to executive chef Hillary Sterling, formerly of Manhattan Italian spots Vic’s and A Voce.
Inside, Sterling is cooking proteins and vegetables over an open flame, making pasta, and working with pastry chef Claudia Fleming on desserts and breads. Sterling insists that although this is yet another Italian restaurant, it will bring a different menu to the table.
“I’m always going to be who I am — I am an Italian chef and I view myself as one. That is my heart and soul and my core,” says Sterling. “The food will still be Italian inspired, but I will be drawing a little bit more from New York and some other areas.”
Sterling has especially been looking forward to cooking over fire after spending a chunk of the pandemic toting around a Weber grill to various campsites and nature preserves. “Our car has a baby Weber in it at all times, and a large cast iron pan ready to go,” says Sterling, who adds that she has been experimenting with smoke points and wood types over the last few years. “This was a long time coming. I’m ready. I love to cook over [fire], I love to capture that flavor.”
At Ci Siamo, Sterling has a custom-built grill with movable shelves and space for wood fires to allow for different heat levels and flavors. The team will use it to cook dishes like a whole trout stuffed with raisins, pine nuts, bread crumbs, and mustard greens; clams with chili butter; delicata squash with walnuts, chili, and honey; chicken with a chicken fat vinaigrette; and a large bistecca Fiorentina.
Pasta dishes will include a simple taglioni with tomatoes and buffalo butter, a tagliatelle with rabbit sourced from upstate New York, and potato topini, a kind of mini gnocchi. “I’m making it into almost a shell of a pasta. I love gnocchi, but it’s really hard to execute over and over again,” says Sterling. “So we’re taking very thin pasta shells and filling it with all the things we love about gnocchi and serving it with this Sardinian style mint pesto, with a little bit of anchovy, [and] a touch of cinnamon and bread crumbs and almonds.”
Although Sterling’s pizzas were beloved at Vic’s, there’s just two small pizzas on the menu at Ci Siamo, both available only at the bar as apertivi: a taglio-style marinara pizzette with just tomato and no cheese, and a small round pizza bianca with anchovy, salsa verde, and aioli.
Apertivo hour at the bar will feature classic Italian cocktails like a negroni and a spritz, plus several more drinks using ingredients like cynar and amaretto. The wine list is 75 percent Italian.
Desserts and breads, including a cast iron focaccia with tomato conserva, come from Fleming, who is making her return to Union Square Hospitality Group after baking at Gramercy Tavern almost 20 years ago. In addition to a lemon tart, chocolate amaro bomboloni, and chocolate budini with espresso zabaglione, Fleming and Sterling are selling housemade gelato in flavors like espresso stracciatella, hazelnut, and goat’s milk lemon.
The restaurant’s interior, by designer Matt Goodrich, takes its cues from the idea of cooking with fire. That means many of the design elements come from materials that are forged with fire: glass, ceramics, terra cotta, glazed bricks. And the mosaic floor downstairs was custom-designed to look like little flames. The furniture is mid-century-era wood mixed with contemporary pieces, along with plush velvet and leather seating that lends a home-like feeling. An initial lounge area gives way to a long wooden bar with a large-scale geometric wood-fired tile backsplash design, and small curved Art Deco-style lamps dot the bar.
The narrow bar space opens up to a wider main dining room, which has a terra cotta-tiled upper border that was drawn on by artist Meredith Feniak with charcoal (fire-inspired, again), depicting some of the produce used in the food. A spacious, plant-filled terrace awaits outside. From almost any seat, diners can easily see the open kitchen and its roaring fire.
But whether Ci Siamo can overcome the curse of Hudson Yards, where multiple marquee stores and restaurants have closed in the short time since it opened, remains to be seen. Although Manhattan West is a separate development by Brookfield Properties rather than Related, the two both consist of somewhat soulless skyscrapers that don’t feel particularly inviting. One possible advantage of Manhattan West is that the restaurants do have street entrances that surround a courtyard, as opposed to being ensconced in a mall.
“Hudson Yards just isn’t a place, as a New Yorker, that I would go to,” says Sterling, who claims that she was unaware until recently that Manhattan West bordered Hudson Yards. “I want to bring that feeling of, when you walk into a restaurant and I’m standing there, I’m still gonna talk to you and we’re still gonna have these really comfortable family moments.”
Ci Siamo will be open from Tuesday to Saturday, 5 to 10 p.m. Reservations are available via Resy.
Bar snacks menu: