Feasting in Festivity

‘Tis the season for dining to get decorative, especially at these top restaurants

Colicchio and Sons

Ask many a top chef about the most important part of dining, and they’ll be apt to include the ambiance in their answer. Come the holidays, these four restaurants pull out the pine and deck their halls to be as seasonally beautiful as the food on their plates.

Housed in a former bank on the west side of Union Square, Blue Water Grill’s recessed ceilings, French windows, and candlelit white-tablecloth tables lend themselves well to the holiday season, when it decks itself out for the holidays. Classic decorations are as tasteful as the food itself, whose quality is top-notch, and nothing is over-done. If you like your flavors simple, there’s a raw bar and entrée list of fishes prepared as you wish with sides to pair; for more creative cuisine, go for the sushi rolls like lobster with water chestnuts, avocados, and chili bean and large plates, like blackened swordfish with red curry, lump crab, and sweet potato hash. Live jazz performs nightly, so expect some seasonal tunes as the soundtrack. (Union Square West at 16th St.)

Tom Colicchio is about as celebrity as a chef can get, with his empire of Craft restaurants, five James Beard awards, and TV personality as head judge on Bravo’s Top Chef. But it’s perhaps at his namesake Colicchio & Sons restaurant that he showcases his passion for food the most. In the front Tap Room, gourmands will find classic dishes like baked Malpeque oysters and duck confit, while in the main dining room, the menu constantly changes depending on the season and his imagination, with dishes like foie gras torchon with gooseberries, hazelnuts and brioche. A seven-course chef’s menu gets only more lavish, as is the setting, with a wine tower, open oven and bookshelves artfully stocking the wood to feed it, and—in the wintertime—a massive Christmas tree reaching nearly to the top of the high ceilings, filling the restaurant with the scent of pine. (Tenth Ave. at 15th St.)

Down in Little Italy where restaurants can sometimes feel more like tourist traps than authentic eateries from the boot, Pellegrino’s is beloved for being one of the latter. Although opened in the 90s, decades after many of its neighbors, it serves some of the best executed classic recipes in the neighborhood, such as chicken scarpariello with sausage and peppers in a fragrant rosemary and white wine sauce and a generous seafood risotto. Already homey with tile floors and simple table settings, vintage posters as art, and a dessert stand beckoning at the back, Pellegrino’s cozies up during the holidays, decking its walls with wreaths and hanging garlands from its ceiling. (Mulberry St. nr. Hester St.)

With a Michelin star, top reviews from the New York Times and Forbes, and James Beard chef Alfred Portale at its helm, Gotham Bar and Grill is a consistently safe bet as one of the best meals in the city. During the holidays, the scent of pine fills its bright dining room, white with dark wood accents, when boughs of holly are beautifully draped around. Seasonal menus here are exquisite with dishes like duck with seared foie gras, persimmon, quinoa, and port sauce; look to the Gotham Select menu for their recommendations of the best offerings at any given time. Similarly, the sommelier will guide you through their extensive wine selection, though perhaps ‘tis the season to sip a festive, spiced cocktail instead. (12th St. nr. Fifth Ave.)

(Photo Credit: Colicchio & Sons / Mark Jordan)