This old school red sauce Southern Italian trattoria has been an UWS neighborhood staple for years. The food is definitely good and very well priced for the area, but the real reason you're coming to Celeste is to spend some quality time with the owner. Welcome to the Carmine show.
You know his type. The mid-40's Italian with smooth moves, slicked back hair, a female-melting accent, and an aura of something in between confidence and arrogance. We were in awe watching this guy operate. Like Peyton Manning going no huddle out of the shotgun, Carmine was directing traffic all night long. He's the front of house, he's running the floor, he's in the kitchen, and he's chastising his South American waiters for not rolling their r's properly. And yet he always seems to be at your table, shomoozing it up and dropping commentary throughout your meal. We can see how some people might find Carmine a little abrasive - but we were highly entertained. And like him or not, you're going to have to deal with the guy. There's no wine list here, there's just Carmine. "You like-a red or a white?" Red. "You like-a medium or full body? You know me, I like 'em full." Medium. "You like it-a fruity? Yup. "You like-a raspberries or a-blackberries?" We'll go raspberries. "You like it-a little bit acidic or a lot?" A little. And just like that, a very reasonably priced Italian red shows up at our table. Well played, sir. We drank three bottles.
You should also know that Carmine only takes cash, so come prepared. Maybe that's a measure to keep costs down, or maybe there's some kind of mob style pizza ponzi scheme at play. Wait, on second thought, I take that back. Sorry Carmine, I just watched the Madoff 60 Minutes special. Please don't be mad at me.
Food RundownInvoltini Di Melanzane
These are really damn good. Eggplant rolls stuffed with prosciutto and pecorino, and then baked with tomato sauce. An excellent appetizer to share.Carciofi Fritti
One of their trademarks, the fried artichoke. People love 'em.Gnocchi Alla Sorrentina
Homemade potato dumplings with a basic tomato sauce and basil. The portion size is huge and you really can't go wrong with a big bowl of gnocchi for the table.Spaghetti Alle Vongole
A massive bowl of spaghetti with big tasty clams in white wine and parsley sauce. It's not special, but it gets the job done right.Margherita Pizza
Tomato, mozzarella and basil pie. Simple, delicious and pretty damn cheap at $11.Ippoglosso Al Limone
Halibut sautéed with lemon and capers. If you're looking for a fish entree, this is a good bet.Vitello Al Limone
We really enjoyed the veal medallion, which, like most of the dishes here, is sautéed with lemon and capers. I guess that's just how Carmine likes it.