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I recently had a pleasant evening dining on the Upper East Side of Manhattan at Il Tesoro, 1578 First Avenue at 82nd street. The atmosphere in this Italian restaurant, which means “The Treasure,” is a romantic one. There are cozy, candlelit tables, with dark wood and brick exposure on one wall. The background music, which happened to be Andrea Bocelli the night of my visit, was romantic as well and at a good volume to have a conversation at the well-spaced tables in the dining room.
In addition to a creative, yet classic menu, they have an extensive wine list from which I picked a nice glass of Prosecco.
For an appetizer, my guest and I ordered a good frito misto with tender calamari, shrimp and scallops.
We also ordered a specialty menu item from owner and executive chef AJ Black: Aragosta Agrodolce, a Sicilian rosemary sweet and sour lobster tail that was served over a tomato salad.
For a first course, I chose the Rigatoni Melanzane - al dente pasta with fresh eggplant, cherry tomato sauce, basil and mozzarella - which we shared to leave room for the main course.
Upon taking the waiter’s recommendation when I was undecided between entrées, I ordered the lamb chops and was not disappointed. They were excellent - grilled and sautéed in a flavorful fig balsamic reduction over potatoes and cooked just as I had ordered them.
The wait staff was attentive without being invasive, filling up water, clearing dishes and checking in, while still giving us our privacy.
For dessert, I ordered the ricotta cheesecake. I finished it at an embarrassingly fast speed, since it was delicious with a creamy yet firm texture and consistency.
If you are looking for a nice restaurant to get a little dressed up and celebrate a special occasion, Il Tesoro may be just the touch of elegance you are looking for.