Did you read Heat by Bill Buford? About how he finagled his way into working the kitchen at Mario Batali’s then-scorching-hot Babbo, then went to Italy to learn from the people who taught Batali? I really liked big chunks of that book, perhaps most especially Buford’s hugely entertaining portrait of Tuscany’s Dario Cecchini—who’s known as “the most famous butcher in the world”—still works out of the shop his family has run for 250 years in the hills of Chianti and, at least in Buford’s account, is an absolute madman.
So when I heard that a new spot with the butcher’s name attached to it had opened in the Brookfield Place mall in Battery Park City I was a bit surprised, and also knew that I needed to try it.
First, you should know that Dario is not here behind the counter taking your order, or back in the kitchen hacking up a pig for your Porchetta, though there are numerous photos and videos of the man around the sleek, fussily decorated place. Cicci Di Carne by Dario is owned and operated by a Beverly Hills-based outfit called Creating Culinary Communities (or C3) which, and I’ll just quote their website, “is focused on disrupting the food & beverage industry by capitalizing on rapidly evolving customer preferences such as food halls, ghost kitchens and mobile delivery.”
The company runs brands like Umami Burger and Krispy Rice, and Cecchini’s role in Cicci Di Carne by Dario seems to be one of “partnership” and “menu consultation” more than anything else. There’s also an outlet of the shop in Los Angeles, with plans for at least 20 more across the country, including one in the Hudson Yards area. This particular space in BPC is only a temporary, incubator home; if it’s a success, the operation will be moved to the Westfield mall in the Oculus.
So that’s all that, but it’s also important to note that the sandwiches here are, for the most part, really good. There’s a Panini Caldi (hot) section, a Panini Freddi (cold) section, and everything is piled within a seven-inch roll (soft on the inside, with a nice crust holding it all together). The Smoked Pastrami alla Dario could have used more fat, but the meat had plenty of flavor and was stacked with a generous hand. Pickles, mustard, and sharp fontina cheese provided some spark as well.
The Nonno Dario was delicious, filled with some lovely mortadella, a bunch of creamy burrata, bitter greens, and a zippy pistachio pesto. It’s a worthy addition to the burgeoning NYC mortadella sandwich canon. Cicci Di Carne’s best sandwich, however, may be the Tonno Melt, which arrives overflowing with a lively tuna salad (co-starring sweet relish and enough pepperoncini to get your attention) and topped with melted pepper jack, onions, tomato slices, and a caper vinaigrette. This really hits the spot.
Other sandwich choices involve Roast Beef, Finocchiona, Truffle Nduja Spread, Porchetta, and the vegetarian Caprese Classico, with burrata, tomato, and pesto. And definitely get an order or two of the Wedge Cut Polenta Fries to go with whatever else you’re eating. These are heavily-seasoned (shaved grana and black pepper do a lot of the work), perfectly cooked, and are surprisingly good dipped in the side of truffle ketchup. Beverage options include a full iced coffee program and some Italian sodas.
There’s no escaping the suburban vibe of this part of town, but it’s also quite pleasant to sit and eat by the water here. We went on one of those miserably hot and humid evenings last week, and still it was breezy and totally comfortable on the Battery Park City Esplanade overlooking the “yacht harbor.”
Cicci Di Carne by Dario is located at 250 Vesey Street–the entrance is on the water side, next to PJ Clark’s–and is currently open daily from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. (646-933-2920; ciccidicarne.com)