New Year Dining: SD26

Stuck with winter’s frigid weather and one snowstorm after another, Super Chef is day-dreaming about warmer climes, where the food is full of summer’s flavors –- Italy, encapsulated by SD26.

SD26 is the brainchild of Tony May, who years ago introduced New Yorkers to authentic Italian fare.

With the help of his daughter, Marisa May, Tony May has opened SD26 on Madison Square and 26th street in New York.

Designed by architect Massimo Vignelli, SD26 is a large, spacious restaurant with an open kitchen, under a balcony for private parties.

On one side of the restaurant is the Salumeria counter. Prosciutto, very large mortadella from Bologna and sausages hang behind glass enclosed refrigerator. In front are large wheel of fresh parmesan and a dozen of Italian cheeses.

The tables are set apart so you can feel free to talk business or flirt with a friend. The service is very friendly; here you don’t have to look for a waiter, he is there watchful for all your needs.

A young handsome chef, Matteo Bergamini, who arrived in New York directly from Italy, rules the kitchen. Matteo was brought up among olive grove and the vineyards in Toscolano in Northern Italy. As a young man he worked first alongside his father’s butcher shop.

Knowing he wanted to work in a restaurant, Matteo attended a prestigious cooking school, the Caterina De Medici School where he learned about traditional Italian cuisine. Then he went to France and worked under chef Alain Detain of France’s best chefs. There he learned French technique and cuisine. To continue his education he did several stints in Egypt, South Africa, and then New York at San Domenico in New York with one of Italy’s best woman chefs Odette Fada.

When the new SD26 opened on Madison Square Matteo was ready to take over the kitchen and bring to the restaurant his own ideas and signature dishes.

The food served at SD26 is authentically Italian. Super Chef especially liked the appetizers on both the lunch and dinner menus, including unusual dishes you won’t find at other Italian restaurants outside of Italy. There is Baccala Carpaccio: dried cod served with shrimp drizzled with apple vanilla oil, red shrimp with orange segments, and tuna with tomato confit served with nori sea salt. Burrata is a mozzarella stuffed with butter. Or try the Salumeria dish: a serving of prosciutto, thinly sliced, pale pink and so tender that it melts in your mouth. Also try the mortadella that made Bologna famous. It is stuffed with pistachios and is simply delicious. The small ravioli stuffed with boiled egg and truffle butter will transport you to Italy directly. Share several of these while doting on the menu.

Among the pasta dishes, Super Chef‘s favorites are the freshly made linguini with clams and charred grapes, Tagliolini with sea urchin, or the traditional grilled octopus (with octopus so tender you will barely need a knife).

Among the roast dishes, there is an oven-roasted pig with tiny potatoes and baby artichokes: crackling skin and soft, tender meat – that will beam you to the center of Naples main square. There is also a superb roast squab and veal sweetbreads drizzled with an olive oil infuses with coffee.

If you have room for dessert, your best bet is a light scrumptious Baba with Rum.

If you have only a short time for lunch, SD26 has a café at the entrance of the restaurant where you can have a taste of some of their best dishes for only $15.

One of the best deals in the city.

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