Like most of New York, I'm pretty much always on the look-out for a place to meet with a couple of chums where we can slug back some good wine and eat something delicious and not break the bank. Not an easy ticket to fill these days.
So when the charming Bunni suggested that Bakerina and I go with her to try the newly re-opened Panorama (an italianate resto that had moved from the corner of Second Avenue and East 85th St. to a few doors down, into the middle of the block on 85th between 1st and 2nd aves), I was game. I'm always game for a night out with the girls, despite the grumbles it inspires from G, who doesn't take kindly to having his comfort object (read: person who makes dinner) taken out of his immediate radius.
I vaguely remembered the old Panorama. It was fine, but as far as I could recall, there wasn't a lot to set it off from the rest of the pack of Upper East hangouts that run down Second Avenue from 86th St. down to the mid-Seventies, usually filled with preppyish types who are as scornful of me as I of them, I'm quite sure. It had whatever bevvies are required by that sort of joint, and a fairly standard menu of Italianish food.
But the new Panorama is something else altogether. This isn't a place where overgrown Upper East boys and their molls come to drink and force others to sigh over the noxious behavior of the overprivileged. This is a place with a great little wine list, delicious standard dishes and creative specials, and very considerate service -- all at excellent prices.
To start with, our wines were lovely. I chose a Viognier that was described as have lychee and apricot notes, and it did not disappoint, not at all. Scented and fruit-forward, but still crisp, it was the perfect wine for a spring evening. B and B were also fond of their reds (Bakerina's was a Pinot Noir; Bunni's was something I haven't heard of; both were quite good).
On reading the menu, I received the happy and unusual surprise of a pricing scale that seemed more than fair. This was certainly a place that, if the food didn't disappoint, would merit more visits. And no, it did not disappoint.
We shared good appetizers of shrimp in garlic sauce, crispy calamari and a refreshingly creative salad with beautiful greens, citrus, and almonds in a strawberry vinaigrette. Then we went on to pastas. Bunni and Bakerina each had one of the specials, Bunni's a good paglia y fieno (green and white homemade pasta in a creamy sauce with ham and peas) and Bakerina's a nice mound of spaghetti in a slow-cooked, meaty ragu. I made a special request -- I wanted the lobster ravioli from the menu of specials, but I wanted it in the light cardinale sauce described on another dish -- white wine, garlic, cherry tomatoes, asparagus and shrimp. The kitchen had no trouble accomodating this request, something else that's very nice and not always easy to find.
In a word -- delicious. All was perfectly cooked, and my entree in particular was light and lovely, just what I wanted. No room left for dessert, but that was fine too. So -- should you find yourself on the Upper East for one reason or another, say after a day of museuming on Museum Mile or parking yourself in the park, give a thought to Panorama.