The goods: In a year that has seen its share of restaurants closing and scaling back on service and portion sizes it is heartening to see a place expand with the verve and gusto of Altamare. Yes, the old Alta Mar is now Altamare. Not only did the restaurant move to larger and newer digs a few doors down and add an “e” to its name (meaning “high seas” in Italian) but it also acquired a new executive chef – Simon Stojanovic – an Aussie whose background includes a stint at Michael’s Genuine Food and Drink. It’s easy to see why the restaurant has been a long time favorite of locals. Owner Claudio Giordano helms a team of veteran servers that are well-versed in the menu and have mastered the art of unobtrusive efficiency.
Ambiance: The new space is has seating for 120, a far cry from the cramped dining room of its former location. There’s a comfortable private dining room, a swanky pebble-covered bar and an open kitchen providing plenty of culinary entertainment for the diners sitting at dark wood tables. And there’s still plenty of sidewalk seating at the Western edge of Lincoln Road – a nice people-watching spot a bit removed from the tourist fray.
The grub: Seafood-focused Italian and American cuisine. Chef Stojanovic follows Michael Schwartz’s lead in sourcing local and sustainable fish and produce for his menu that changes daily. He’s also added a few hearty meat dishes to the mix, using grass-fed beef. The price point here is on par with the caliber of ingredients and the high service level – starters average about $14 and mains are $24-$37.
Start off with one of the refreshing raw fish dishes like the sheepshead fish crudo bathed in lemon and olive oil and topped with shaved hearts of palm and oranges. The Spanish mackerel is topped with bottarga (shaved fish eggs) for a salty kick. The mushroom ravioli is listed as a starter but the rich dish could easily serve as a main as it comes with half a dozen pasta pillows filled with minced mushrooms in a pool of truffle-flecked cream sauce. The fish selection changes daily based on what the chef can source, but includes yellow jack, cobia, tile fish, striped bass or wahoo. The yellow jack preparation includes a tomato broth flecked cippolini onions and braised carrots that imparts hearty flavor to the mild fish. Meat dishes include a Harris Ranch NY strip loin and a Fudge Farms pork chop wrapped in cured back fat. Sides include a silky parsnip puree and roasted cauliflower topped with a cilantro salsa verde, all of which compliment the fish dishes.
Desserts like the deconstructed tiramesu may surprise diners looking for the real thing – here the lady fingers and mascarpone cream are doused with a shot of espresso and Bailey’s tableside – but the chocolate semifreddo with salted caramel sauce is an inspired bit of decadence.
Verdict: The new Altamare brings the locally-sourced trend of Michael’s Genuine to the beach with a new handsome dining room and a daily-changing menu of inspired fish dishes.