Manzo: Simply excellent Italian
Entering Eataly, the perfume of freshly baked bread, cured meat and aged cheese hits hard. It draws you into the busy warmth of the Italian marketplace, where you could spend a few blissful months grazing. But inhale deeper and a heady blend of smoke and sizzling fat will lead you to Eataly’s jewel of a butcher’s restaurant: Manzo. That’s Italian for “beef,” the star on a menu that’s refreshingly unfussy.
“Being simple is just what Italian cooking is. … Simple, but paying a lot of attention,” executive chef Arnold Corpuz says. Paying attention starts with ingredients, and Manzo’s menu calls on partner farms that share an ethical, artisan approach. When the raw materials are this good, honoring them is a lot about proper cooking, and Corpuz’s team does most of it with a rustic, wood-burning grill.
Manzo’s Agnolotti del Plin was born at the original location inside Eataly in New York City’s Flatiron District, but Corpuz added beef and duck drippings to bone-marrow butter coating pork-and-veal purses topped with black winter truffle and Parmigiano-Reggiano. As Eataly executive chef Nicole Brisson affectionately says: “It sticks to your bones.”
Brisson and Corpuz have cooked together for years, coming up in Las Vegas’ fine-dining scene. She taught him to dry-age beef, and the process they developed for Manzo imparts steaks with a sweet, nutty, funky magic.
The ultimate way to experience it is the ribeye appesa, 42 ounces of outstanding beef raised by Kansas’ Creekstone Farms. Suspended over the grill, it’s slow-roasted and reverse-seared for an insane crust (another Corpuz flourish), then finished with a grassy Tuscan olive oil called Franci before being carved tableside.
Anatra, featuring Maple Leaf Farms White Pekin duck out of Indiana, shows Corpuz’s creativity and colorful flavor influences, from the Philippines and Hawaii to Italy and France. Fire-roasted breasts and confit legs in a reduction of citrus and Nebbiolo wine share a platter with brûléed Cara Cara orange and pickled Caulilini. Three days of work go into this dish, and you taste it.
Main proteins are deservedly hyped, but there is so much more to the menu. Among a handful of stellar sides, patate is an Italian take on kitchen-sink mashed potatoes, with crispy guanciale, pickled peppers, brown butter and a soft-poached egg begging to be split. Polpo alla piastra is a standout starter of grilled and raw octopus in a sauce of Roi olive oil, sherry vinegar, lemon and sharp herbs. And the ideal end to a hearty meal is millefoglie al limone, its tart fruit foundation layered with velvety mascarpone and delicate tuiles.
On the beverage side, Manzo offers the city’s largest selection of Italian wines, and the book is loaded with trivia about their regions, grapes and qualities. Cocktails are Italian interpretations of classics, whether made with Malfy gin or pepperoni dust. Add beer, spirits and aperitifs, and you’ll have a tough time deciding what to pair with Manzo’s fresh, modern take on Italian food.
The beauty is, there’s no wrong choice.
Park MGM, 5-11 p.m. daily. 702.730.7646