Everybody wants a dependable, delicious Italian neighborhood joint (or at least you do if you’re like me). But not everyone’s as lucky to have one as amazing as mine. Celeste is the stuff neighborhood joints dream to be. It’s cheap, cozy, welcoming, and–most importantly–the food is always, always excellent.
When you walk in you’re greeted by the kooky, friendly owner–a requisite to joints. If it’s anytime near dinnertime, expect a wait, though not terribly long (the most I’ve waited at peak time on a Friday night was 30 minutes), which is pretty incredible considering how tiny the place is.
The menu is like a greatest hits album of Roman Italian food: pizzas, pastas, fried food (calamari, veggies, artichokes, etc.), and mains.
The first three times I went I couldn’t help but order the linguini & clams–it’s exactly what you want this ubiquitous, but often subpar, dish to be: briny, salty, and buttery with perfectly al dente noodles to slurp up. The key to this dish: ask for the hot oil. It doesn’t come already on it, but the owner is more than happy to sprinkle some on for you.
I’ve since branched out to other dishes, and I’ve never been disappointed. The fried apps are in a light & crispy tempura batter, their pastas are mostly homemade and perfectly composed (another favorite of mine is the homemade tagliatelle with shrimp, cabbage, and sheep’s milk cheese), and the pizza is cooked in their 700 degree wood-burning oven (helpful hint: get the margherita with prosciutto on top!)
Seriously, everything on the menu is fantastic, and if you’re not feeling anything on it (ha!), you can always try one of their irresistible specials. Ones I’ve had were frutti di mar (mixed seafood & pasta in a tomato saffron broth) and a burrata pizza with butternut squash, onions, and potato.
I’d pay a lot for this food, yet most entrees are around $10-12. Yep, you heard me. You can eat here every day of the week and not break the bank. I have to talk myself out of going there most nights.
So are you jealous this isn’t your neighborhood joint? Cause you should be.
Celeste, 502 Amsterdam Ave. (between 84th & 85th), New York, NY, 212-874-4559