In its heyday, Café des Artistes was the gem of Lincoln Center; seldom was the night that a concert musician didn't come in for a post-performance pot-au-feu. The restaurant was beloved for its theatrical, enchanting ambience: the lush, floral displays, Parisian flair and, of course, Howard Chandler Christy's iconic murals.
Last Monday, following a mega-renovation, new owners Gianfranco and Paula Sorrentino (of Midtown's Il Gottopardo) re-opened the restaurant as The Leopard at des Artistes, saving part of the name--and all of the charm--of the former Upper West Side institution.
The menu has changed, but the café's old-world elegance remains intact--as do Christy's famous, nude nymphs (originally painted in the 1930s, art lovers feared they would be destroyed when Café des Artistes closed). Thankfully, customers will still dine among the artistic relics--they'll just be enjoying southern Italian food instead of French bistro fare.
Expect traditional Sicilian dishes like roasted-rabbit pappardelle, veal arancini, fried olives to snack on, and ricotta-filled cannolis for dessert.
This resurrected spot just may be a new Manhattan tradition in the making.
The Leopard at des Artistes 1 West 67th St. (at Central Park West); 212-787-8767 or theleopardnyc.com