IL GRADINO RISTORANTE embodies the dream of an American restaurant owner

After more than two decades at Midtown East’s venerable Scalinatella as Chief Captain, Diego Argudo opened his first business, ll Gradino Ristorante, May 31 at 808 Lexington Avenue. Just around the corner from Argudo’s old professional haunt, where he started out as a waiter. The new 66-seat Il Gradino is a longtime dream come true for the Ecuadorian native, who began his restaurant career at 15 as a water boy when he arrived in New York to join his father chief.

For ll Gradino, Argudo presents a menu of age-old Italian classics for lunch and dinner, including “a piacere” options (prepared to your preference) for risotto, calamari, veal medallions, Dover sole, lobster and chicken. Diners are encouraged to request their favorite version of each to have the cuisine prepared to their specifications. In fact, Argudo’s hospitality policy for Il Gradino extends far beyond the six so-designated menu items. If a guest has a yen for an Italian dish that is not on the menu or among the multitude of daily specials, all they have to do is describe it and the chef will accommodate their request. Argudo explains that for him, it’s about pleasing the guests’ palates, not satisfying the chef’s ego.

That chef is Carlos Inga in his first role as executive chef, after spending eight years as sous chef, at San Pietro and Il Mulino; he is also a veteran of Caravaggio. For its inaugural Il Gradino menu, Inga curated a selection of antipasti, salads, pastas (homemade, except for the dry iterations), veal dishes, chicken platters and fish tenders. . Highlights include: Raviolini Il Gradino, homemade ravioli stuffed with burrata, eggplant, zucchini in cherry tomato sauce, basil; Vitello Milanese o alla Griglia, homemade veal cutlets prepared in classic breaded Milanese style or grilled paillard topped with cherry arugula; Petto Pollo Voldostana, chicken breast topped with prosciutto, Fontina and asparagus in brown sauce; Poussin Il Griglia, whole chick marinated in herbs, grilled; and Branzino al Sale, branzino encrusted with toasted sea salt.

The new Il Gradino embraces a modern, refined aesthetic with intriguingly textured wallpapers on which soft gray hues contrast with rich dark teal greens. A custom-painted Miro-reminiscent mural graces one wall, while white, black, and gray marble-grained mirror panels define another and an elegant oversized dark gray marble fireplace anchors a third. The setting exudes a polished, subtle sophistication in which casual comfort reigns.

Il Gradino is now open for lunch and dinner, from noon to 11 p.m., Monday to Saturday and for dinner on Sunday at 5 p.m. The restaurant is located at 808 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10065. Call 646-649-3289 and visit their website at www.ilgradino.com.

Photo credit: Courtesy of ll Gradino Ristorante

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