Harlem, known for its authentic culture and style can sometimes seem like a foreign land to downtown Manhattanites. The neighborhood is 4 (gasp) long miles from the less authentic Midtown Manhattan – but in reality, it’s just a few subway stops away. Last week, we discovered that not only does the stretch off the 116th street subway stop have grit…its got glam. Nestled in the heart of the Harlem Renaissance on the corner of Frederic Douglas Boulevard and 117th sits Lido – a quaint neighborhood spot with a blue and white exterior and Venetian café feel.
Serena Bass, the absolutely lovely and renowned executive chef who got her start catering a last minute dinner for Andy Warhol and his 60 guests in the 80’s, greeted us with the house seasonal spicy tequila cocktail and a decadent caramel custard treat topped with cracked pepper – we knew she was on our page when she served dessert before dinner!
With her contagiously energetic spirit, it is clear that Bass is extremely passionate about her work and explained to us that dining at Lido is like dining at her home. She takes no shortcuts in preparing her dishes, and the whole experience is meant to feel glamorous yet homey. Lido even has special soundproofing, so you can actually have a conversation without having to scream over one another, providing customers with a much more pleasant and intimate atmosphere.
The knowledgeable staff at Lido brought out dish after dish of culinary exquisiteness and gave a thoughtful explanation of each menu item. For the first course, we enjoyed arancini filled three ways – Romesco, Fontina, and Tapenade, on parmesan sage fonduta, the tiniest and most delicious crispy brussel sprouts with bacon and organic house-made ricotta and our favorite, the butternut squash soup with apple and pear – perfect for fall.
This is just the beginning. If you are not a gnocchi fan, we advise that you get to Lido ASAP, so your feelings about the soft dough dumplings can be forever changed. We were told that once, Lido briefly removed their truffle butter gnocchi from the menu, and it basically caused an uproar. We can understand why. For the meat lovers, we recommend the grilled lamb chops with spiced plum chutney, barley, black rice, butternut squash and kale pilaf with toasted hazelnuts.
We rounded out our evening of indulgence with (yes, more dessert) the red velvet cake, rolled with lemon cream, fresh raspberries, vanilla gelato and whipped cream and the warm victoria plum bread pudding, scented with orange zest and rosemary.