never been to Milan (or anywhere in Italy for that matter) but sitting
at a small table in Cittanuova in East Hampton, Nena and I got a
small taste of one of Italy’s most chic and modern cities — along with some
terrific, affordable fare.

First, let me just mention that
Cittanuova is an extremely versatile restaurant. Versatility isn’t a
trait that many restaurateurs shoot for, but it’s on full display here.
Looking for a bar with energy? Cittanuova has that. Want to eat
outside? Cittanuova has two outdoor dining areas. Want to stop
somewhere for coffee? Cittanuova is the perfect spot. Need an
affordable spot for a date? Cittanuova offers great bang for the buck.
Want to take your kids for gelato on a summer afternoon? You guessed
it, they have a gelateria as well.

With this versatility comes
a variety — and a lot of people — and while it’s not a great spot for a
quiet romantic dinner, it’s bustling, lively crowd and sleek, modern
interior offer a great dining experience if you’re okay with a little
noise. And on this night, we were.

we arrived, we were quickly seated at a table near the bar, but not
quite in the outside area. Still, we enjoyed the opportunity to people
watch — one of Nena’s favorite pastimes. We were also pleased to see
several children around enjoying the spot and the kid’s menu. This may
seem a negative to some, but as new parents, we always love finding
places where we can get good food, and bring the little guy with us.
Here, in the energetic space, the kids fit right in and weren’t a
distraction at all.

The menu is large and diverse, offering
many dishes you’d find on any Italian restaurant on Long Island but
also delivering touches of upscale elegance and uniqueness. After
considering our choices, we decided to skip the formaggi and salumi
plates (two weaknesses in our lives) and other delicious-sounding
antipasti and decided to share an insalata,the Insalata di Rucola.

onto two plates back in the kitchen — always a welcome touch — this
salad of prosciutto, white bean, olives and fresh buffalo mozzarella
with a lemon vinaigrette is a fine example of Italian cuisine. Simple
ingredients expertly combined. The saltiness of the cured pork and
olives played off of the sweetness of roasted red peppers. The richness
of the beans was balanced by the bright, citrusy dressing. To drink, we
enjoyed a quartino (a small carafe) of Gini 2006 Soave from the Veneto
region of Italy. Bright and crisp, it acted much the same way the
dressing did — enhancing and balancing the salad’s flavors.

cannot review an Italian restaurant without at least trying the pasta,
so we both ordered a pasta course — both half portions, which is a
great option. My wife ordered the Fettuccine al Triplo Burro, which is
a fancy way of saying fettuccine alfredo. This splurge in the calorie
department featured tender, well-cooked noodles dressed flavorfully.
Somehow it seemed lithe and light despite the butter and cream. The
only downside was that it was a bit under seasoned, which was easily
rectified with the on-table salt shaker.

PastasageOne to often choose
the most unique-sounding item on any menu, I ordered the pasta special
for the night — that same fettuccine sauced with pistachios, pecorino
cheese, butte,r and fried sage. It’s a combination I’d never tasted,
but it was wonderful, particularly with a quartino of Channing
Daughters Winery’s Rosati di Merlot (the restaurants only non-Italian
wine). The faint earthy-herbal notes in the rose went extremely well
with the sage in particular. I loved this dish enough that I plan to
replicate it at home sometime soon.

Having dined "out of the
box" with my pasta course, I stuck with a standard for my main entrée,
thoroughly enjoying my veal Milanese. It was cooked exactly the way it
should be — crunchy-crisp on the outside, tender, juicy and flavorful
on the inside — and was served with a fresh salad of white beans, red
onions, and arugula. A honey-balsamic vinegar dressing joined the salad
and the chicken together well. It’s a familiar, homey dish executed
quite well.

Nena, ever the seafood lover, selected the fish
special for the night, a pan roasted piece of sea bass with mussels,
fingerling potatoes, tarragon and shallots. Stated simply, she deemed
it a terrific, extremely well-cooked combination. The bass had a great
sear on it and the potatoes were tender but not soft. The mussels were
"creamy and unlike any I’ve had before." And while she doesn’t normally
like tarragon much, she thought it was a great "accent flavor here."
For wine, we shared a bottle of Franz Haas 2004 "Manna" a spicy,
complex blend of riesling, chardonnay, and gewürztraminer from the Alto
Adige region. It was the recommended foil for the bass entrée and it
was easy to see why. It was outstanding and is a wine we’ll seek out in
the future.

dessert is always a joy when I’m with my wife. She is a great lover of
dinner’s sweet ending and her palate is expertly tuned — and trained —
in the subject matter. To conclude this meal, she ordered the Torta di
Cioccolato a flourless chocolate cake with a hazelnut center, panna
gelato, and chocolate sauce. All you need to know about this dessert is
the reaction it received, a prolonged mmmm, a content sigh and a broad

I dove back into my "most unique thing on the menu"
persona and ordered the Pere Affogate e Gorgonzola Dolce, a combination
of poached pears with gorgonzola cheese, moscato gelee, and crisp
pizzelle. The cheese — and I’m a great lover of blue cheeses — was a
bit overpowering here but the fruit smoothed it out a little, as did
the cinnamon accents.

The pizzelle weren’t much like the authentic ones my Italian grandmother and great-grandmother made growing up, but they were still tasty.