In this city, restaurants come and go faster than you can say "sustainable locavore burger." And even though there are great new additions to the culinary landscape popping up every week, you've gotta give kudos to anyone who can stick it out for over a year. With that in mind, we bring you Still Got It, our tribute to establishments that continue to serve mouthwatering meals and drinks long after the buzz has faded—or if the lingering hype is still justified.
It can take a lifetime to get into Celeste, a sweet and tiny Italian spot that's cemented itself as an Upper West Side favorite over the years. But the wait—and the cash only policy—is far outweighed by the delectable pizza and pasta dishes served up in this restaurant's rustic, brick-walled space and, hey, there's a reason there's a line spilling onto Amsterdam Ave in the first place, right?
Celeste is perhaps best known for its brick-oven pizzas, and for good reason. Sumptuous pies like the $15 four-quadrant quattro stagioni, the thin-crusted Napolitana and even the plain $13 margherita come rife with steaming cheese, fresh sauce and baked-to-perfection crust, just like what you'd expect to be served at a non-touristy Roman ristorante.
The pasta dishes, though, are where Celeste really earns its stars. The Spaghetti alla Vongole ($15) is al dente, delicately drizzled with an olive oil sauce and stuffed with fresh clams. The Penne Mo Mo ($11) was always a favorite of mine, simply made with red sauce and thick, fresh globs of cool mozzarella cheese. And then there's the ricotta-and-spinach ravioli ($13), a rich plate of pasta doused with a sinful, indulgent butter-and-sage sauce.
Do note that Celeste is tiny, and it's not uncommon for a dinner there to feel a bit cramped. And as noted previously, the restaurant is cash-only, so be sure to head to a bank before dining. Once you survive the wait, though, have a glass of red wine, drown yourself in red sauce fare and drown out your neighboring tables' conversations, just like you would in Boot Country.
Celeste is located at 502 Amsterdam Ave between 84th and 85th Streets on the Upper West Side (212-874-4559, celestenewyork.com).