Marea holds a very special place in my heart because it opened right when I moved to the city and was the first restaurant I took my parents to when they came in town to visit right before they won the James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant in 2010. The seafood and pasta focused restaurant is decorated with brilliant art and colorful masterpieces similar to sister restaurant Costata. Located at the bottom of Central Park, it’s populated with many tourists, business lunches and dinners and those looking to get after that Octopus and Bone Marrow Fusilli pasta.
The grand service makes you feel like you are queens and kings and almost in another country. When each course is on it’s way all of a sudden, your table is crowded with one staff member per diner and the plates are placed down simultaneously in front of you. It feels like a game because I was just waiting for someone to be out of line or not in sync but this wolf pack sure sticks together.
Start with the Astice Antipasti which is Nova Scotia Lobster, Burrata, Eggplant and Basil. For an appetizer, this dish has an amazing amount of lobster- about seven thick pieces which for lunchtime is more than plenty for one. They also have a very nice crudo selection which is raw fish with options such as: Pacific Snapper, Mackerel, Tuna, Fluke, etc. For Secondo, listen to everything else you read about Marea which is the Fusilli wheat pasta made with red wine braided octopus and bone marrow. Again, the portion size of seafood in here is incredible and the tomato based sauce covering the handmade pasta is comforting, soothing, warm and hits the spot. I really couldn’t taste much of the bone marrow for those of you who are fearful of this buttery goodness. The Crab, Sea Urchin and Basil Pasta was well liked but don’t miss the fusilli as the pasta tastes a little denser and the sauce is addicting. For dinner, add the Dover Sole to your order which can feed 2-3 depending on what other dishes you are ordering. This seals the deal and concludes the magic of your tasting at Marea in the right way.
To be honest, I’d skip dessert. It’s nothing award-winning in comparison to the savory dishes and that means a lot coming from me. However, if you must choose one because let’s face it you probably will go for the gorgeous Semifreddo with salted caramel, chocolate, banana, raspberry and almond. It’s fluffy and close to an ice cream texture and the banana is really tasty. Pick this one over the Chocolate dessert- even though you are a chocoholic. Marea is one of those New York staples: it’s a treat to be invited here, it’s a delight to eat here and it’s a place you will always enjoy visiting. Go pre-theater, with parents or for adult-like celebrations.