L'Acqua Ristorante’s co-owners and chefs, Francesco Ippoliti and Mario Esposito, have been crafting their menu of authentic Italian eats together since August 2011. The culinary team expertly prepares tilapia contadina, as well as meat dishes such as veal L'Acqua—veal scaloppini with prosciutto and eggplant in a sherry sauce—that diners can pair with BYOB sips.
Inside the restaurant, artwork decorates colorful teal walls that match teal tablecloths and Teal, the eatery’s resident ghost dog. Candles illuminate light-brown chairs clustered together for intimate dinners or set up to accommodate private parties of up to 100 guests.
At Coal, chefs stoke fiery coals inside the kitchen's pizza oven, which bakes the eatery's signature thin-crust pizzas at temperatures of up to 800 degrees. Pizzas emerge from the oven with a lightly charred, crispy crust and crowned with toppings such as meatballs, prosciutto, truffle oil, and caramelized onions. Coal also bakes its sandwiches in the pizza oven, including the saltimbocca Giorgio, with prosciutto and mozzarella on housemade bread, and roasts its chicken wings over the same glowing embers.
Executive Chef Matt Higgins concocts elegant interpretations of rustic Italian dishes to fill a menu that has earned praise from the New York Times for its fresh ingredients and playful flavor combinations. Toast an anniversary, birthday, or a Little League World Series title with a decadent dinner, starting with a savory saffron risotto infused with sage, pancetta, and a sprinkling of parmigiano reggianno ($12). Filet mignon dons a dapper suit of peppercorns as it lounges in a shallow brandy-cream river alongside fingerling-potato gondolas and bobbing roasted figs ($34). Plunge tines into a shrimp-and-scallop feast, laden with olives and grape tomatoes atop a creamy risotto ($28), or catapult tongues through clouds of gnocchi suspended in an eggplant-and-mozzarella-strewn sunset ($22).
Delicate, black filigree forms a lacy aura around one of the dining-room doorways, resembling a wrought-iron gate. Across the room, a recessed archway frames a fireplace whose flame glows in harmony with the sconces on the green walls. This fusion of classical elegance with contemporary influences informs the menu, which comprises a mix of time-tested and innovative lunches and dinners.
Though contemporary Italian cuisine forms the menu's foundation, the restaurant also opens up its kitchen to Asian and American influences. Marbleized sauces join precarious sculptural arrangements to adorn plates with upscale panache. Valentino's specialties are long island duck, grouper marechiara, and a portobello appetizer, which can be enjoyed by themselves or as part of Valentino's three- or four-course dinner specials. Every single dessert, such as Anthony's bananas foster flambé, is made from scratch on the premises. In fact, all flambé desserts are seared right at the table, meaning guests can personally ensure their desserts' calories are burned. The restaurant features live music on Fridays.