My friend Mary and I recently had dinner at Circo
Circo on West 55th Street in Manhattan has been in business since 1996. I have dined there many times over the years, but a recent outing there was a disappointment. My friend Mary and I stopped by for an impromtu dinner and just wanted to split a cesar salad and small Margherita pizza. We're both on perpetual diets, and reasoned that splitting them is somehow not cheating. We have our own set of rules and logic that makes sense to us but not to normal people.
Thumbs up: the fried zucchini appetizer was delicious
Bruno, the heart and soul of the restaurant, knows Mary very well and sent over the fried zucchini appetizer. It was amazing - so good, in fact, that I tried to replicate it at home a few days later. I chopped the zucchini, dredged it in flour and put in a frying pan with hot extra virgin olive oil. It didn't come close: you have to use a deep fryer. What diet?
Our ceasar salad was served next. It was soggy. And the Margherita (their spelling) pizza was soggy as well. We weren't sure if we were Bruno's guest (we weren't) so we just made do and didn't send anything back. I was a waiter in NYC at many restaurants and never minded when people sent things back and I don't think most waiters do. We want you to have a good dining experience so you tip well and come back. It can also be fun to tell the chef his food is lousy.
A more successful dish at Circo
I think the problem was that Circo really excels at the classic, big Italian dishes - you don't go there for pizzas and salads. You go for a robust risotto or carbonara.
I think Circo could use a little update on their decor as well. Back in the day, the circus theme was new and different - Le Cirque did this theme as well. But Le Cirque moved out of the Palace and into the Bloomsberg buiding a few years back and they updated and don't hit you over the head with the circus motiff in their new space. Circo could take a page from Le Cirque's book.
The evening wasn't a total loss - they do make an excellent martini at Circo. And it was nice seeing Mary again. She and I worked together in the Intrepid and have been friends for years. She lives in Naples, Florida these days and I hardly get to see her. It was nice going to one of our old haunts - even for just a soggy ceasar and pizza.