Chef Michael White is the Head Chef and Owner of the Altamarea Group, which is composed of the restaurants Marea, Ai Fiori, Vaucluse, Osteria Morini, Nicoletta, Costata and The Butterfly in New York.
Ai Fiori, which translates to “Among the Flowers”, is my favorite among them. I got hooked when it first opened couple of years ago, and after a short time the critics followed. Over the past few years Ai Fiori has received three stars from the New York Times and earned a Michelin star.
Located on the second floor of the Langham Place Hotel (old Setai Hotel) on Fifth Ave, the restaurant has an Italian menu, composed of Chef White’s signature hand-made pastas and tradition regional dishes. Like in every restaurant, I have my list of favorite appetizers. The dishes to not miss are the Crudo di Passera, which is raw fluke, with American sturgeon caviar and Meyer lemon; the Insalata di Barbabieto, which is the roasted beet salad, with Greek yogurt, pine nuts and apples; the Trofie Nero, which is black toffee pasta with a Ligurian crustacean ragout; and the Spaghetti with blue crab, lemon, bottarga, and chilies.
What can I say? Every dish is an explosion of flavor. They all have the perfect balance of taste and playfulness.
I was lucky enough to meet Chef Michael White at Ai Fiori; he is one of the chefs who loves wandering into all his restaurants to make sure the kitchen sends the right food and that the clients are happy. I met him at the bar while waiting for my friends. I know he has the Bon-Vivant Girl attitude about his cooking, because I could see stars and love in his eyes while he was talking about his food.
I always say, cook with love it will taste better. Ai Fiori is a success because it has it all; amazing service with delicious food and beautiful people to watch.