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The scene reigns supreme at the glamorous SoHo outpost of the famed Cipriani restaurant empire, a sprawling, ground-level loft space with tables spilling out onto the neighborhoods main drag, West Broadway. Being the liveliest of the Cipriani clan of dining establishments and bars, this location can always be counted on for prime people-spotting and high-quality, if a bit expensive, Northern Italian cuisine. But the real reason to be here is the party-like atmosphere, which regularly draws boldface names like Denzel Washington, Gisele Bündchen, Nicole Richie, Leonardo DiCaprio and others. Fabulous Peter Beard photographs of Africa adorn the walls, while a glittering chandelier drips light on the attractive crowd sipping the house drink: the Bellini. Upstairs, the snug, Alpine-ski-lodge-style attic functions as an exclusive members-only club for the famous and the ultra-rich. On Sunday nights, it’s home to a supermodel karaoke party, where a who’s-who of A-list celebs and other glitterati types get together to guzzle champagne by the magnum and sing their favorite tunes.
The Menu: You will find most of the classic Venetian dishes familiar from the other Cipriani restaurants, but downtown offers a few nods to the slim waistlines of fashion-conscious SoHo. Note the special section of the menu dedicated to “gaining weight safely.” The lighter treats include burrata di bufala with soft polenta; fresh tomato salad; and tuna salad with cherry tomatoes and capers. If a bulging belly is of no concern, go for heartier fare, like calves liver alla Veneziana with grilled polenta; tagliolini with duck ragú; or veal medallions alla pizzaiola with rice pilaf. For dessert, crêpes alla crème are a sweet finish.
The Must-Have: Start with the carpaccio, which the restaurant claims was invented at the original and legendary Harry’s Bar in Venice, where the Cipriani restaurant empire was born in the 1940s. And of course, order a Bellini, a sparkling concoction of prosecco and peach purée invented by none other than Giuseppe Cipriani at Harry’s Bar as well. Named after a 15th-century Venetian painter, the sweet cocktail flowed freely during the heyday of Harry’s Bar, when the likes of Ernest Hemingway, Orson Welles, Charlie Chaplin and Peggy Guggenheim held court.
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