In a symbolic moment in “The Godfather,” Capo Clemenza teaches Michael how to make pasta sauce. “You start with a little oil,” he says. “So you’re frying some garlic.”
For many cooks and diners alike, garlic is the main ingredient of Italian cuisine, critical to flavors like tomatoes and Parmesan cheese. But more and more, the city’s most marvelous Italian places are diminishing aromatic allium – or eliminating it altogether – to please a strict clientele worried about their breath, and let other ingredients shine.
“People have always complained that it stinks and gases,” Thomas MacAs, owner of the Upper East Side Nello celebs’ pillar, told the post. “Finally, I made the decision to get rid of everything together, and my clients thanked me.”
Macaccos said it banned stench of an ingredient in the summer of 2020 in response to diners’ requests. He blamed the corona defenses: “Imagine eating a meal with garlic and putting on a mask,” he said. “You breathe in your own bad smell.” (However, some regulars miss garlic, and the kitchen produces special accommodations for them).
So there is the shiny new place in northern Italy Fasano in Midtown. Executive chef Nicolas Pedley said he rarely relies on the spicy seasoning in his refined kitchen, and that cooking with piles of ground garlic is actually not that Italian.
“Garlic in Italy, in reference to fine food, is used for perfume and not to emphasize or disguise flavors,” he told the Post. “Instead of chopping garlic, whole teeth are used and removed later before serving.”
Chopping garlic makes the taste take over, according to Pedley. “It is being used excessively that strays from the purpose of the dish and has left many unhappy about its presence in the process,” he said. If you manage to grab a table at Passano – the amount of orders was small – delicious dishes that will not leave you breathless include lobster fettuccine, not-to-be-missed seafood risotto and even garlic-heavy garlic convolingui.
The downtown Twin Twin Restaurant, which opened last summer, and Austria 57, are also on board with minimal garlic access. Ricardo Orpino, partner and chief chef of both, from Padua, Italy, says he uses it sparingly. “It’s Italian-American, not Italian,” he confirms. Orfino’s choice of garlic in Austria 57 includes burata pasta and salmon with artichokes and citrus sauce. Almost none of Alice’s pastas contain the stinking grass, not even the spaghetti pomodor.
For New York dating blogger Alexis Wolf, 33, Alice’s light touch with the “sexy, scenic” aliens makes her the perfect place for a romantic meal. “Garlic can be heavy, and no one wants to smell it at night, especially if it’s a date,” she said.
Sceney Cipriani’s Italian pillar has long been a nail-biter.
“No one has ever been a part of Cipriani’s kitchen,” owner Arigo Cipriani told The Post of his New York institution. “Nothing should be overpowering, and real flavors should not be covered in a strong flavor that is hard to digest.”
John Villa, a senior chef at the new Cucina 8 בע in the high design of Midtown, has a similar perspective. It uses garlic, but sparingly, and dishes like spaghetti with lemon pizza with telegio cheese, caramelized onions and truffles omit it completely.
“I want the flavors of the food to shine.”
The trend is not limited to Italian food – the Greek restaurant Avra, which has two places in Manhattan, and the new modern American place Lindens in SoHo, both are deliberately avoided because of some dishes on their menu.
But not everyone is so excited to give it up.
Jeff Zeleznik, co-founder of Major Food Group, which owns more than 10 Italian restaurants, including several places of sought-after Carbone, told The Post that his company is “all about garlic”.
“It’s one of the most important ingredients in our cooking,” he said. “We love it.”