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It's not unusual to prefer your mother's home cooking to fancy restaurant fare. Except, maybe, when your mother is the wife of Sirio Maccioni, the restaurateur behind the landmark Midtown spot Le Cirque. "My brothers and I would always rather eat at home than at Le Cirque," Mauro Maccioni says on the website for Circo, the restaurant he runs with his brother Marco. "My mother is a wonderful cook." That's why, when the brothers opened Circo with their father in 1996, they decided to focus the menu on their mother's classic Italian cooking.
Award-winning executive chef Alfio Longo gives each homestyle recipe an upscale twist: his creations include pyramidal pumpkin agnolotti in a brown-butter and amaretto crumble, chestnut pappardelle entwined with muscovy-duck ragu, and a white pizza dotted with smoked salmon and capers. Filled Tuscan donuts and cannoli with blood-orange sorbet end meals on a note sweeter than a barbershop quartet’s rendition of “That’s Amore.” Diners savor their meals amid playful but understated circus-themed decor, including dancing clowns, trapeze-swinging monkeys, and a swath of red-and-white fabric that recalls the big top.