Impero Caffè by Scott Conant (Chelsea)

Since cutting his ties with Scarpetta, Scott Conant has not had a restaurant in NYC. But now, with the opening of Impero Caffè by Scott Conant, he’s back! If the name has a familiar ring, that’s because it’s a play on the name of Conant’s long closed but fondly remembered Tudor City spot, L’Impero. His new venture, located in Innside by Melia, a brand new hotel in Chelsea, on 27th Street, between 6th & 7th Avenues, opened in late March. We had lunch there a few days later.

When we walked into the lobby, Scott was sitting at a table in the bar area (which takes up one whole side of the lobby). I couldn’t resist saying hello to him. He was extremely gracious, thanked us for coming, and chatted with us for a few minutes.

The location of the dining room is not readily apparent, so when the hostess led us to the rear of the lobby, we were surprised to see that we were about to head down a long flight of stairs into a beautiful soaring space.

As soon as we were seated and our water preferences taken – sparkling for Mr. RBI and tap for me – we were brought a basket of bread and rolls along with two very tasty condiments, one tomato-based, the other olive oil with herbs and hints of Parmesan cheese.

Scott’s signature Pasta al Pomodoro is on the menu. No way could we pass it up, so we shared one order which the kitchen split for us. Still fabulous!

For the main course, we both chose the Flat Iron Steak with Smoked Eggplant, Concentrated Tomato, Cipollini Onion & Natural Jus. I don’t recall having had a flat iron steak before. It was fantastic! Cooked perfectly (rare for M. RBI); medium rare for me), flavorful, juicy, and extremely tender. The accompaniments were perfect as well.

There were only two desserts available that afternoon, so we ordered both of them and shared: Budino with Salted Caramel & Gianduja Crumble; and Meyer Lemon Catalana with Grapefruit, Candied Fennel & Angel Food Cake. Both were excellent though I slightly preferred the Catalana because I love citrus desserts.

Mr. RBI had 2 glasses of Barolo.

There was a substantial gap between our first and main courses. But since it they were still getting their footing, we cut them a lot of slack. And as soon as we took the first bite of the steak, the wait became a non-issue. During the time we were there, about half a dozen tables were occupied. Scott was in the dining room most of the time and stopped by our table to make sure we were satisfied.

Seriously delicious food served by a friendly staff in pleasant surroundings. What’s not to like?!

The total (including a large bottle of San Pellegrino and a double espresso for Mr. RBI) before tax and tip: $164.

Impero Caffè Photo set

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Thanks for the detailed report!

I heard they have the asparagus soup. Did you see other signature dishes on the menu?

The soup was parsnip when we were there, but it is currently asparagus. As for other signatures, the famous polenta with mushrooms is on the menu.

There’s now a dedicated <a href"“http://imperorestaurants.com/”>website though it’s still a work in progress.

We haven’t been back yet but plan to. If you go, please report back.

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