Some things in New York City are never going to change. Your ex won’t switch attachment styles just because they moved to an apartment with in-unit laundry. Mayors will always get heat about their bagel orders (or faux vegan practices). And not even a great restaurant from a great restaurant group can turn Midtown into a desirable place to spend an afternoon. But that doesn’t mean Lodi—the Midtown restaurant in question—isn’t dreamy.
Lodi serves the most impressive Italian food within a few miles of Liz Lemon’s office. It just so happens to be located directly outside of Liz Lemon’s office.
This Rockefeller Center spot is the third restaurant from the team behind Estela and Altro Paradiso, but the menu here feels unique. For one thing, Lodi doesn’t spend energy pleasing the Tribeca/Soho masses with malfatti or burgers (both of which Altro Paradiso is known for). Lodi almost exclusively spotlights Italian ingredients and techniques, and a meal here pretty much always makes us angry that we're not OOO in Tuscany. (Estela, on the other hand, borrows ideas from places like Spain, Japan, France, and just about everywhere else).
It's clear how much thought goes into all of the food, and yet nothing at Lodi tastes complicated. There’s crumbly housemade ricotta made from upstate NY milk, an incredible seafood salad with smoky marinated mussels, and a plate of anchovies caught when they’re plumpest, swimming from the Nordic region to Spain. Build your meal around these unreasonably delicious antipasti dishes, all of which are accompanied by (endless refills of) focaccia and sourdough baked with freshly-milled grains. And if you somehow save room for dessert, there’s a genuinely shocking portion of gelato large enough to feed four people. Each dairy mountain is handspun to order, using the same base as the mozzarella and ricotta, so it tastes a little like sweet cheese.
Seafood and sourdough aside, you don’t need to change your plans ASAP to eat at Lodi. The inside of the restaurant mimics an Au Bon Pain for the 1%, with as many gold-and-marble Art Deco details as there are devices with Wifi. You'll see sets of friends drinking spritzes next to a mom from Westchester who has finally given into her children's requests for a $25 mound of gelato. Meanwhile, people with Big Jobs will be retrieving market salads in compostable containers as tourists dart in to buy carbonated spring water just so they can use the bathroom in the back.
Despite the grab-and-go set-up, the best of Lodi's food necessitates a sit-down experience with a napkin splayed across your lap. That’s why we recommend you hang out on the full-service patio—a space that Lodi euphemistically refers to as their "terrazza." Out there, you'll have enough real estate to enjoy all the plates of beans, meat, and fish you’re going to want to order, with some extra room for your table neighbor's shopping bag accumulated after a trip to the Harry Potter flagship store.
We wouldn't count on the terrazza for a meal with someone fussy about their surroundings, though. This is, after all, outdoor dining at Rockefeller Center. No matter how enthusiastically you and your dinner partner discuss cured prosciutto and blood orange spritzes, you still won’t be able to drown out the echoes of a bar mitzvah-esque playlist booming from the skating rink across the street. Likewise, no amount of seafood salad-induced “holy sh*ts” will supersede the audio of the broadcast recording of The Today Show 25 feet away.
So don’t go to 49th Street to be convinced of something you didn’t already know about Midtown. Come for doctors appointments, meetings with your boss who you only sort of like, or your semi-annual trip to MoMa. The good news for Lodi is that New Yorkers can’t avoid Midtown forever. And the good news for us is that Lodi is just around the corner.
All of Lodi’s antipasti dishes come with a basket of the restaurant’s signature sourdough bread and focaccia. The bread is freshly-milled and baked in a glass-windowed room inside, which is sort of like Lodi’s very own Bread Zoo. No matter the circumstances of your meal, you do in fact need this bread for dipping purposes, sandwich building pursuits, and general noshing. We always have a hard time saying no to free refills of these spongy-soft pieces.
Lodi makes their ricotta using raw milk from upstate. (You’ll find the same dairy base in the mozzarella and gelato, too.) We assume these chic upstate dairy cows enjoy more wide open space than we currently do, probably with fewer dudes wearing Kenneth Cole bothering them. Each unsalted little crumby mound gets topped with high-quality olive oil, making the whole thing taste super rich.
If you come before 5pm, you’ll be able to order a few daytime paninis that aren’t available at dinner. This porchetta sandwich is our favorite of the bunch. Every bite tastes like fennel pollen and fatty pork. What else is there to say?
Crostini Di Fegato
These crunchy, Tuscan-inspired crostinis are topped with chicken liver pâté that has the consistency of cake frosting and the unmistakably savory iron content you expect from liver, without any trace of unpleasant funk. Order them, please.
Acciughe E Burro
This snack plate is an ideal way to start a meal here, especially if you’re having lunch with a person who you usually see over work Zoom calls. Plump anchovies sit next to preserved Italian long hot peppers and a piped dollop of unsalted butter. Even if you don’t love the typical intensity of anchovies, you’ll be into this. They’re fishier than they are salty.
Insalata Di Mare
We’re fish freaks. So it’s no surprise that this seafood salad is one of the dishes we genuinely can’t stop thinking about. Lodi mixes together shrimp cut the long way, octopus, squid, and marinated mussels with olive oil and lemon. Plus, there's some heat from dots of chili flakes, and the fennel tops and celery make the end of each bite feel clean.
Northern Italian cooking doesn’t usually cause a mass frenzy in NYC. And this salsiccia dish shows why we should all be seeking it out. (A version of this dish is also available at Altro Paradiso, FYI.) Here, fennel-laced pork sausage arrives so perfectly plump it could be a cartoon. The side chicks are important, too: mostarda made with candied citrus that’s bright without being overly sweet or tart and snappy turnips lifting the whole thing up. Imagine a family BBQ where the grill supervisor incidentally knows a lot about Northern Italian food and loves to flex.
These Sardinian pasta pearls sit in a seafood broth that’s heavy on garlic and white wine and full of manila clams and pieces of hake. Your fork can take a break while you eat this. This is a spoon dish. Actually, this is a “tip the bowl to finish it” dish, not the sort of thing you forget about on the table in search of other food. Get some bread and dunk, dunk, dunk.
On Fridays and Saturdays, Lodi serves a porchetta special that has a crackling crust ring over fatty porky pieces, all made even better by a scoop of borlotti beans with shells just firm enough to stay intact on your fork. The suckling pigs for this dish are raised on a farm in North Carolina specifically for Lodi’s use, and the meat is cured and hung out to dry for a day before it ends up on your stupid little plate. We’re not really worthy of any of this food as a human race, but it sure is nice to eat.
Remember Cold Stone's "Gotta Have It" size? Well, Lodi's gelato only comes in that size—and it doesn't so much taste like vanilla as it does pure cream. A tip: If you come after 6-ish with your heart set on eating Lodi's hand-spun gelato, make sure to put in your dessert request with your dinner order. Sometimes the team starts to break down the kitchen, and the gelato-eating window closes.