Dining Review: Rezdôra

August 2019

Rezdôra – NYC, New York

Rezdôra has been booked solidly for months since it opened in May – the reservation period opens for a month and are booked as quickly as they become available. On top of that, a week prior to our reservation NY Times posted a full write up with a glowing 3 out of 4 stars review. It was tough enough to get into this place, now it would be impossible!

Just another Italian restaurant in NYC right? But what makes this place extra special is the connection to one of our favorite places in the world, Modena! Rezdôra is a Italian restaurant focusing on traditional dishes, including all fresh homemade pastas of the Emilia Romagna region. Chef Stefano Secchi spent several years refining his culinary skills, including an apprenticeship under Massino Bottura at Osteria Francescana, before opening Rezdôra in May 2019.

We absolutely loved our short time in Modena and looking forward to the next journey to Emilia Romagna. Kevin’s colleague had also been to Modena so we were looking forward to a night sharing our experience and enjoying Modenese cuisine.

We arrived at fairly inconspicuous location early on a Friday evening, like entering a friend’s house. The front of the restaurant has several tables and a bar, then a split staircase that leads up to more tables and down to the kitchen. Our table was right where the stairs split in a nook lit by candles and soft lighting. It has to be one of the best places to sit: private but central to all the action! We also had a small peek into the kitchen – periodically, you can see Stefano manning the post as the dishes left the kitchen.

The couple we joined are what you might call super-regulars to the restaurant, so we followed their lead on what to eat. They ordered a few things from the menu to sample before diving into the signature pasta tasting. For once, we sat back and let the meal completely happen to us with no decisions. We were so excited to taste the meal ahead.

First up was the wine. Rezdôra has a great sommelier who remembered the wine from a previous meal the couple had (insanely impressive!) and with no objections, out popped a Rosso di Montalcino! This was the perfect wine to accompany our culinary journey through Modena.

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The first round of dishes to reach the table were from the “antipasti” / appetizer menu.

  • gnocco fritto – prosciutto di parma, mortadella & finocchiona
  • cacio e pepe in emilia – little lettuces with pecorino dressing & cracked pepper
  • burrata – tomato on tomato on tomato

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What a gorgeous table!

First up was the gnocco fritto and while I had no expectation of what this dish was going to look like, we saw the servers constantly bringing these out of the kitchen. These giant pillows arrived topped with three different Italian meats- prosciutto di parma, mortadella & finocchiona. Since we were sharing, I began to cut one open and was amazed at how light and airy the dough was – like a pocket of dough. Then, stuff the meat inside and it made the most delicious sandwich (or that is at least what we did!). The meats themselves were very fresh and perfectly salty. It was very clear why these are so popular. We were told that this is a “once its gone, its gone” dishes so they do run out – order early in the night!

The second dish was the cacio e pepe salad and I was skeptical about spending valuable stomach real estate on lettuce with all the pasta ahead. Cutting my mini lettuce head revealed an unexpected surprise – rich balsamic vinegar was injected in between the leaves of lettuce. This combined with the pecorino dressing was just incredible – honestly one of the best salads I have had and I want it all over again.

The final dish of our first food round was the burrata, surrounded by tomatoes three ways / three types including roasted tomatoes and tomato sauce. As expected, this was a well executed, exceptional burrata – insanely fresh and full of that wonderful flavor. I really enjoyed the pairing with the different tomato presentations as well.

Needless to say, there was nothing left on the dishes before our first round of plates was cleared.

The second round of dishes were from the “primi” / pasta menu. Yes, we did a pre-pasta course to the pasta tasting menu – this was my type of meal. But since these two not-be-missed dishes were not on the tasting menu, we had no choice but to proceed.

  • “grandma walking through forest in emilia” – cappelletti verdi with roasted leek, black mushroom puree and spring peas
  • uovo raviolo di nino bergese – ricotta stuffing, egg yolk & asparagus with black truffle

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Oh these two dishes were so unfair – they were both so so SO good. I will start with the green pasta. First, I love the name “grandma walking through forest in emilia” reflective of the green color forest and the mushroom puree – just like foraging in the forest. It seems so simple from the outside but the inside of each cappelletti in jam packed with a delicious black mushroom puree – earthly goodness. Only thing missing was some truffle to compliment.

Speaking of truffle, let’s talk about one of the stars of the night – the famous dish “uovo raviolo”. One huge ravioli stuffed with ricotta and the most pristine egg yolk (like the ones you see on TV that are the brightest color orange). Before the server left the table, he preformed a ceremonial cutting of the raviolo, exposing the gold egg yolk inside. Everything about this dish was perfection. The ricotta inside was super creamy, the egg yolk was thick serving as the sauce, and those black truffle savings, oh how I have missed you. Most of all you can easily tell how fresh every single ingredient. This was a dish that you left in your mouth, savoring every flavor not wanting to chew or swallow, making sure every taste bud gets a chance to enjoy it.

What a way to start the meal! We all were so excited for the five course pasta tasting coming our way.

tortellini in brodo – traditional filling with “brodo di capone”

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Despite it being a hot, humid day in NYC, there was something so comforting about this dish. It reminded us all of a soup you would want when cold or sick that could drastically improve how you feel or even cure you. The broth was well seasoned, not over salted and the tiny tortellini were the size of a dime – we all wondered how on earth they made them that small. This traditional home cooking dish certainly warmed our souls.

maccheroni al pettine con pomodoro – with parmigiano fonduta and basil

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The simplicity of pasta and tomato. The sweetness of the tomato sauce, the bite of aldente pasta, and the melted parmigiano cheese – it does not get more basic than this for Italian cooking. However, the quality of the ingredients and the fresh pasta just elevate this to another level. Look, I get it – you can get these similar dishes in Italy that is not padded with city prices but we do not have access to local, authentic Italian cooking every day and I am sure shipping these ingredients across the ocean comes at a premium. Anyway, I really, really enjoyed this dish far more than I probably should have but it was just so well done.

tortellino di ricotta – “classic” with brown butter and sage

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Cue my favorite combination of a non-truffle dish on our trip to Alba – brown butter and sage. It was like this tasting menu was made for me. It was during this dish we had the opportunity to meet Stefano, sharing our love for Italian cooking, learning of his path to Rezdôra (just another reason to follow your f***ing dreams kiddos) – the nicest guy, insanely hardworking, and you couldn’t be happier for someone to have such success. Stefano shared that the restaurant in Modena he trained at makes this whenever he returns and how happy he is to share it with his guests. Cutting these in half to prolong the experience, it was another burst of deliciousness – another linger in your mouth moment.

tagliolini – with ragu from modena

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I knew we would be good for at least one ragu dish tonight and this one did not disappoint. This pasta was very thin and came out all knotted together among the ragu. I could not tell what the meat used was but I think it was a beef of sorts. What I liked most about this ragu was how light it was, not heavy like many ragus. I very much enjoy the base gravy that Stefano uses to build the dishes.

anolini from parma – “crema di parmigiano” and age  “aceto balsamico”

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Nothing more beautiful than fresh pasta swimming in parmigano cream goodness. Oh but wait, there’s more!

What could possibly make this night more special? Stefano comes back to the table with a small bottle of balsamic vinegar to add on top of the pasta. He presents it as multi-award winning and the best balsamic vinegar in Modena. And it was none other than freaking Acetaia Pedroni – the balsamic vinegar producer we visited in Modena thanks to Anthony Bourdain.

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Honestly, we were just meant to come here. I just closed my eyes and I felt transported back to Modena eating this pasta. This was another outstanding dish and a wonderful way to end the pasta tasting.

And of course we could not miss out of dessert. The top half of the dessert menu is all house made gelato flavors (get to choose two) and the bottom half are traditional desserts. We ended up going one of each – Kevin ordered gelato and I ordered a dessert.

torta barozzi – dark chocolate torte, balsamic, and hazelnut mousse

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I really enjoyed this dessert – the torte was thick, fudgey, and really focused on that dark chocolate profile. While it was dense it was not sweet and I probably could have used another scope of that hazelnut mousse to accompany each bite of the torte. I think I would have been a tad more excited about it if I did not get such intense gelato envy but it was a very good dessert.

gelati fatti in casa – pistachio with pistachio nougat and fior di latte with honeycomb

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Look at how beautiful this gelato presentation was! The gelato flavors were reminiscence of those we are accustomed to in Italy and I love the small accompaniments depending on the flavors (for this it was honeycomb and nougats). And while it isn’t advertised on the menu, it comes with a pizzelle cookie! Pizzelles has been in both our families for years and we make them every year at Christmas. We have never seen it fresh like this at a restaurant before so this really hit home. While I did not regret my choice, I felt like I missed out. Do yourself a favor and just get the gelato, end of story.

 

Wow, what a meal! First of all, after all this food we did not leave feeling over full or disgusting. This is a testament to two things – the portion sizes and the quality of ingredients. The pasta in tasting was all great portion sizes and based on the regular menu options we had, these portions were well managed for you to order two to three plates of food with no problem. The ingredients in every dish were fresh and this makes the biggest difference in how you feel after a big meal. Whenever we visit Italy, we are amazed at how pasta makes us feel there versus at home. Your body can digest the pasta so much easier when it is fresh and it shows every time. The pasta was all cooked at a perfect aldente which is not always easy for Italian restaurants to do.

The restaurant itself is not enormous and it can get very loud. We were lucky in this nook that added to our privacy and eliminate a bit of the residual noise. The service was amazing – from the sommelier to each server’s attention to detail before, during, and after each course, we were in good hands. Not to mention the opportunity to meet Stefano himself.

Please make sure you use the bathroom at least once – an unexpected detail that is both completely unnecessary but absolutely brilliant! There is a constant Italian lesson going on in there for vocabulary. One voice says the English word and the other says it in Italian. What a fun and productive addition to the bathroom! We all absolutely loved it and Stefano – please never change it.

Needless to say, we were so thrilled with our entire meal, not just from a gastronomic perspective but how much we personally connected with Rezdôra. Stefano has truly managed to bring the magic of Modena to NYC and we appreciated every single detail. We could not be more grateful not only to have experienced Rezdôra but to have a piece of Italy close to home.

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