We never thought the day would come when we would review a restaurant on the Upper West Side. But that day is now, with the opening of Felice Columbus. And it’s not because it stands out among mediocre UWS restaurants; this is a legit destination-worthy spot. Travel for the cacio e pepe. Stay for the pizza. It’s all Uber-worthy.
We’re dating ourselves, but this was the old Penang space. Like 20 years ago. Since then it’s rotated every few years, where the latest venture was Oxbow Tavern. Oxbow was also relatively short-lived, although lauded Chef Tom Valenti was attached to the project.
The issue with all the predecessors is it was more of the same old, same old, average Upper West Side food. Also the restaurants had an uphill battle, without the leverage of a larger restaurant group (Sant Ambroeus + Co) to back them. The point of this walk down memory lane is we think Felice Columbus is here to stay. We hope it stays a long time. Finally the Upper West Side has a great restaurant.
It’s the perfect neighborhood Italian but elevated. Dining room is spotlessly clean, menus are leather-bound, every table is packed nightly. There’s a nice bar to grab a drink or even a bite. Maybe it’s the good lighting and general ambience, but the people seem above average attractive for the UWS. In previous incarnations there was a downstairs lounge. Maybe this will become a spot in the future to socialize over drinks. They specialize in gin cocktails, so it will be interesting to see if that gets expended for the lounge in the future.
We’re lobbying for Felice Columbus to bring the Sant Ambroeus pastries, coffees and gelatos into the mix for daytime. Either way, the dining room and vibe of Felice is the best of all their locations on Columbus.
We’re not sure who is in the kitchen, but the execution of Felice Columbus is tops amongst the rest of the group. We would say that the food is even better than most of the Sant Ambroeus locations. We just did a piece on the best pizza in New York City. Their pizza at Felice Columbus is right up there. It’s on a crispy, paper-thin cracker crust, so doesn’t crush you on carbs. Recent pizza specials included a black truffle.
Even the bread basket is good, as is their spicy olive oil they pour to begin your meal. The point is, it’s worth it to splurge on all things white – bread, pasta, pizza and tiramisu. Standouts are the cacio e pepe which is the best in the city, and the ravioli is a close second. No matter what direction you go on pasta, all roads lead to happiness.
The branzino is one of the best items on the Felice Columbus menu. It’s cooked in parchment with olives, tomatoes and potatoes. They also do right by their Milanese heritage with a chicken version in balsamic reduction.
As we mentioned earlier, gin cocktails are the specialty. What they also have is the best wine list on the Upper West Side. It’s not only wines by the bottle either. They have both a Brunello and a Barolo on the wines by the glass list. The prices are neighborhood friendly, even for the higher-end wines. They hit the spot with their beverage offerings at Felice Columbus.
The maitre’d and hostesses are all friendly, and give off professional yet nice vibes when you arrive. On service, it’s both excellent (ask for Brian or sit outside) and a little questionable at the bar. Your friendliest, most talkative team should be at the bar. It is where you make your money. Quite honestly it’s like the bar was run by a different team than in the dining room. The dining room is attentive though and food comes out as it should.