On a rainy evening, my aunt and I ducked into Luna Rossa on 85th and First. I lived across the street but had rarely considered stepping inside: It seemed like a restaurant I couldn’t afford, the sort of elegant place that serves veal-stuffed manicotti and grilled octopus to elderly Upper East Siders and the thirtysomething professionals lured to the neighborhood by the Second Avenue subway line. Looking into the windows from far away after a long day at work was part of my routine.
But that day, our stomachs grumbled and our bodies were exhausted. We’d been looking at apartments—soon, my evening view would change. Luna Rossa was the only open restaurant on the block, and I relished what could be my only chance to eat there.
We ordered the off-menu burrata per our waiter’s suggestion; we needed a break from decision-making. It’s served on a bed of arugula with prosciutto and artichokes, then drizzled with a balsamic glaze, and it took only one bite of this glorious mixture of curd and fresh cream to make me forget about the one I had tried a year before, where a roasted shallot purée overpowered the cheese. Here the casing is thick enough to prevent the cream-filled center from oozing out, and it’s decadent enough to be eaten on its own. All the ingredients pull together, and while alone its taste is slightly buttery, when layered on top of prosciutto and artichokes, it acquires a stronger, more acidic flavor and milkier consistency. This burrata won’t be upstaged.
The first time I tried it, I cut into it slowly (there’s something so exciting about cutting into a ball of burrata) and savored every bite as if it were my last. Later, I tasted the rich, delicious gnocchi with a fig sauce, but had second thoughts about not just ordering more cheese.
Each bite allowed me to focus my energy on what I was eating and not on the need to define my burgeoning independence or worldliness by simply dining somewhere. The restaurant was just like I imagined, but cozier. Cheese became the ultimate equalizer. Melted, shredded, at room temperature: We were all enjoying it together, joyfully.