A fairly large restaurant, A Voce offers an al fresco dining area, which we were sorely tempted by, as it was a balmy evening, and the air-conditioning inside the restaurant was quite powerful.
The lighting inside was quite bad, and staff kept dimming the lights further as the night wore on, making any chance of good photographs quite impossible.
Service was extremely proficient, with our waiter walking us through the entire menu, rattling it off almost completely by heart. Had the menu been any longer, this would have been extremely tedious, but it was short enough such that this exercise was impressive and informative.
Most of us had the house specialty; the duck meatballs. Served with a rich, meaty red wine sauce, these meatballs were delightfully succulent, plump and moist while still pink in the centre. I had had misgivings about having meatballs as a starter, but these were definitely worth it.
The main course, unfortunately, I did not enjoy quite so much. A lamb agnolotti served with capers and a hint of lemon, dressed with grated parmesan cheese. I've alawys felt that it's a bad idea to serve a pasta dish naked, with no sauce. Especially with stuffed pastas like ravioli or tortellini, they cry out for a chunky, full-bodied sauce to go along with them.
Apart from complementary taste, serving a sauce adds texture to the dish, preventing the pasta from becoming limp and sticking to one another. Without a slathering of sauce, the agnolotti also became cold quite quickly, which was quite a shame.
What I thought A Voce was let down by was its desserts. The dessert menu I saw didn't really have anything terribly interesting, so I decided to try the Bomboloni alla Toscana, or Tuscan doughnuts served with chocolate sauce. These were puffy balls that tasted like exactly doughnuts and were even dusted with sugar, but lacked a hole through the centre, which was instead filled with cream.
Somehow this didn't really do it for me; it felt like I was eating a slightly more upmarket Krispy Kreme. I suppose there are some things which just do not work well as formal restaurant food, no matter how many bells and whistles they have. I can't imagine a plate of chocolate chip cookies ever becoming the next trendy dessert, for instance.
Thankfully, however, A Voce changes its menus weekly, and already there are new items on its dinner menu, and panna cotta has found its way onto the roster of desserts. With good service, high turnover and generally good food, one could do a lot worse than A Voce.
41 Madison Avenue (at 26th St)
Tel: 212 545 8555