IL Punto Ristorante

November 4, 2009 Updated: November 10, 2009

OLD WORLD CHARM: This cozy and warm classic eatery brings Italian warmth to Hell's Kitchen, New York. (Nadia Ghattas/Epoch Times)
OLD WORLD CHARM: This cozy and warm classic eatery brings Italian warmth to Hell's Kitchen, New York. (Nadia Ghattas/Epoch Times)
BAKED GOODNESS: This Timballo, a perennial favorite was wondrous, and is served with a light bechamel sauce. (Nadia Ghattas/Epoch Times)
BAKED GOODNESS: This Timballo, a perennial favorite was wondrous, and is served with a light bechamel sauce. (Nadia Ghattas/Epoch Times)
CODA DI ROSPO: Monkfish and caper berries in a white wine and lemon sauce (Nadia Ghattas/Epoch Times)
CODA DI ROSPO: Monkfish and caper berries in a white wine and lemon sauce (Nadia Ghattas/Epoch Times)
Il Punto offers diners traditional, hearty, and authentic food prepared with excellent ingredients. This noteworthy Italian eatery was formerly known as Osteria Gelsi. Peach-colored walls adorn the classic interior with sheer-tied, pulled-back curtains dividing the two dining rooms.

There is a bar by the entrance and against the walls, surrounded by wrought iron wine racks creating a rustic and comfortable atmosphere.

The service is friendly and efficient. Although it was the middle of the week, it was a full house and buzzing with clients. I was told that they have a wonderful lunch crowd as well. That came as no surprise, since it is located in the newly revitalized Hell’s Kitchen, a bustling neighborhood newly discovered by young professionals and small businesses.

Talented executive chef Michele Orsino heads the kitchen. He emphasizes flavors that pop off the palate. Orsino started cooking at age 15 and eventually studied in a culinary school in Naples, Italy. Orsino worked his way up to chef in a few hotels in Italy and France and on Italian cruise ships. Chef Orsino ended up in New York City 30 years ago where he now prepares and serves regional Italian dishes, focusing on the Southern Italian and Puglia regions, the "heel" of Italy. Il Punto's eclectic menu offers a wide array of intriguing and superb choices, featuring delicious homemade fresh pasta, roasted and grilled seafood, veal, poultry, and house-made desserts at reasonable prices.

Puglia is famous for its sea food, having us start with the Polipo Su Bruschetta ($13), grilled octopus, diced tomatoes, capers and the Carciofine Ripieni ($12), stuffed artichoke hearts in tomato sauce. The young octopus was perfectly cooked, very tender, and not chewy, with a light hint of char, drizzled with fresh lemon juice and wonderful olive oil from Puglia. What an unbelievable blend of flavors and colors to be savored!

Artichokes stuffed with sharp cheese against the zesty capers in the sauce were absolutely divine. I must mention the very flavorful, crispy bite-sized Crab Cakes ($14) that were arranged over frisse, corn, fried caper berries, and fennel. It was served with a spicy sauce that was unusually light, with a hint of heat gently moving around your palate.

Our appetizers made us curious about some of the dishes that are common to Southern Italy but had neither seen nor tasted. I have been to Rome many times but never came across this Roman-style pasta, the Paccheri Al Suggo Di Guanciale ($18): wide ribbons of pasta, imported from a specialty shop in Italy, served with beef cheeks and tomato sauce. This is a tricky dish to prepare. The cheeks have to be braised first and then added to tomato sauce.

The highlight of the pastas was the Timballo ($18). It was simply fantastic. Made with a marvelous and light béchamel sauce, baked, and topped with fabulous meat sauce. We devoured every bit of it. Another pasta to savor was the Strascinate Al Sugo ($16), earlobe-shaped pasta cooked al dente, served with a traditional Mediterranean ragout. The presentation shone on the plate. This pasta arrived with cauliflower, broccoli, and olives with shrimp and ricotta salata cheese shaved over the top. The cheese is a nice, semi-salty and smooth addition to the crunchy and sweet vegetables.

For the main course we shared a seafood-tasting menu that reminded me of the cooking of my best friend's Southern-Italian mother, an excellent cook. We also ordered Osso bucco Di Tacchino ($24), (yes, turkey Osso bucco). While I did not care that much for the turkey Osso bucco, my friends thoroughly enjoyed it. Next came the Sarago Oreganato ($24), oven roasted porgy, crunchy with an herb crust that was juicy inside and crispy outside. Known in Rome as poor man’s lobster, delicate-flavored Coda Di Rospo, or monkfish, is roasted with caper berries and gently sits on a bed of baby broccoli in a sauce of white wine and lemon ($21).

These dishes can all be enjoyed with a typical Piedmont wine, the elegant, full-bodied Pino Monferrato. My friends could not get enough of it.

Orsino makes the house-made desserts with great care. They provide a vibrant, delicious, and sweet rush to end your meal. Any of the desserts are listed at $8. We chose the chocolate mousse cake with mixed berries gratinee, the caramelized apple tart with mixed berried and vanilla ice cream, and a pick-me-up tiramisu. All were excellent and wonderful choices to end the meal. My friends all want to come back.

Il Punto Ristorante is open for lunch and dinner:
Monday to Thursday and Sunday 11:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.
Friday and Saturday 11:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.
There are also brunches and pre-theater dinner menus.

Address: 507-509 9th Avenue.
Telephone: 212-244-0088.
Web site: ilpuntony.com