Casa Lever is a swank Italian restaurant in midtown that was formerly the more upscale and uptight Lever House, which succumbed to economic headwinds in 2009. Its successor is warmer and more casual, but still decidedly mod and sophisticated and certainly not cheap. But the food is very good, and if you want to take the place for a spin without selling off your firstborn, you might try weekend brunch, which features a Cuban-influenced jazz band and a $35 prix-fixe that gets you a cocktail, entree, and dessert.
Again, not cheap, but this is Park Avenue in Manhattan, not Brooklyn. Earlier this month we checked out Chef Alessandro Caporale's new fall brunch menu; entree options on the prix fixe include a rich Chilled Lobster Sandwich with cherry tomatoes, avocado, red onion, mustard dressing, served on a hearty rustic bread; and Steak & Eggs, starring a grilled sirloin steak, parmesan truffle fries, and smoked paprika aioli. A house-infused spicy Bloody Mary is potent, fresh, and will round off any rough edges.
Dessert at brunch may seem like an afterthought, here we come to our favorite thing on the menu. The word transcendent gets thrown around a lot these days, but Casa Lever's Gianduia (a sweet chocolate containing about 30% hazelnut paste) cake is worthy. Made with milk chocolate and hazelnut crunch, gianduia mousse, and hazelnut cream, the dessert is elegantly and creamy, but with a crunchy edge that makes the silkiness more pronounced. Of course, it's made fresh daily, and it's worth a visit to Casa Lever for the Gianduia alone. It will take you to another place. Pastry Chef Chris Hereghty tells us it takes about five hours to concoct it from start to finish; you can taste the effort.
390 Park Avenue // (212) 888-2700