376 W Broadway, New York, NY 10012
Located between Spring & Broome St.
One of my favorite Billy Joel songs is "I've Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway." But at one particular posh lounge-eatery on West Broadway, mega-mega-watt bulbs beam like perpetual spotlights. Clearly, this place has nothing to hide, except maybe the secret to making the best peach cocktails on earth. But I, Nancy Drew of the Food & Wine World, managed to find out a few things...
Cipriani Downtown, home of the Bellini concocted by Giuseppe Cipriani in 1943 Italy, is one of Manhattan's foremost celebrity, supermodel and socialite hotspots. I just had to stop by Tuesday night to scope out the scene and 'do my thing.
Although I didn't see Victoria Beckham or Nicole Richie, who apparently frequent the place, I did sit near a 6-foot woman, about 90 pounds, who blabbed on her Blackberry in French and toyed with the gold fixtures on her brand new Louis Vuitton. Oh yes, and some blonde, wan-faced woman I know I'd seen on TV before sat at a table outside in her tawny fur coat sliding cucumber slices between her collagen-plumped lips.
I stood at the over-crowded bar in my glory munching on crispy, lightly-battered fried calamari and nibbling on tomatoes with fresh basil and mozzarella...with about four Bellinis lined up in front of me, stirred up and poured by bar master Charles Nemeth.
After chatting with Charles for a bit, I found out that he wanted to open up his own bar and thought his job at Cips would be temporary. Fourteen years later, he's still there on Mondays and Tuesdays, treating every customer like a celeb--even if they're not J-Lo or Marc Anthony. He is not your bottle-flipping mixologist who dreams up exotic drinks on the drop of a dime. Instead, he plays it old-school--simple and classy--by wearing the signature white jacket and tie, and by using only fresh, natural juices in his cocktails. He whips up each Bellini, for example, with prosecco (Italian sparkling wine) and frozen pureed peaches from France. That's it. And he pours his vodka from a frosty, scalloped glass pitcher--straight from the freezer. Chic and elegant.
Everyone else on the staff was great to be around, too, from the bald waiter who joked that the flaming crêpes à la crème had previously snuffed out his hair, to the blonde barmaid who kept pouring me Italian spring water and squeezing lemon on my calamari.
This place is all about hospitality. At $18 a Bellini (don't shriek), you get what you pay for.
But please, you've got to stop by at least once. Even if it's only for one drink. You never know, you just might catch a glimpse of George Clooney...
Above all, there's just something so special about the "original" Bellini. It's a bubbly, sweet, pink celebration in a glass. On a Tuesday night after a long, hard day at work, it's even sweeter.
Cheers to you!
Directions from Grand Central Station: