We don't go to museums much, and when we do, it's usually because we want to eat something, and not because we want to learn something. Also, dinosaurs are scary. But we recently decided to check out Caffè Storico in the New York Historical Society because we love so many of owner Stephen Starr's restaurants in Philadelphia, and exactly none of his places in New York City (Buddakan, Morimoto). Maybe this one would be different.
Caffè Storico certainly looks like a museum restaurant. This is a good thing, especially when you consider that most Starr establishments lean heavily on colored lighting and strange looking chairs for decoration (think boutique hotel in Cleveland). We were half expecting to walk into an uptown version of Buddakan, with a huge door that takes three people to open and hostesses wearing headsets. Instead, the vibe is classy and sedated, and the restaurant is full of Upper West Side people who wear their grey hair well. It's a pleasant place to be, and it's certainly appropriate for the environment.
As for the food, the menu reminds us a lot of L'Artusi's, but only half as good. There are no real superstar dishes to come back for, and the prices are higher than they should be. Your best bet is to focus on the fresh pastas and the "Cicchetti" section of the menu. A combination of the two will serve you well, especially with a strong drink after all that learning and being quiet. Aside from that, this restaurant is little more than a good bet for dinner in the neighborhood or some pre-gaming before you hit the planetarium. Who wants to get drunk and see a laser show?
Why are these olives hot? Did someone accidentally put the bowl on top of the stove? Who would want to snack on hot olives? What is going on?
In case you aren't familiar, langoustines are like tiny lobsters, and they are apparently rare as a black rhino. That's the only way I can explain a $16 price tag for the two little fried tails in this dish. Here they come served with some grapefruit segments, and it's a tasty two bites. But that equals eight bucks per bite and we aren't going broke for that.
A decent plate of cured meats, but the lardo was tough to handle, and not worth the fat intake. The rest was decent enough, but don't expect meat magic.
All of the pasta is made fresh at Caffè Storico, and is therefore what you should be eating if you're here. This cavatelli comes with big pieces of lobster and black trumpet mushrooms, and it's pretty damn delicious.
Cauliflower, pine nuts, and bottarga. In pasta. That should do it. We loved this. You should order it.