Chef Medina Opens New UES Place, His 1st Italian Restaurant

Amarena, which opened last month in an E. 82nd townhouse, is a hot new Italian dining establishment headed by a noted chef already famous for Mexican restaurants.

| 04 Mar 2024 | 12:20

Medina Goes Italian–Mention chef Julian Medina and thoughts of his myriad Mexican restaurants come to mind. Now he’s ventured into Italian restaurants. Well, a restaurant, Amarena, for now. Why Italian, I ask the chef. “I have a place in my heart to cook Italian,” he answers wistfully, reminiscing about family and friends and the parties he’s presided over. And why the Upper East Side? “I’ve lived on the UES for over 20 years. I know what it needs: a downtown vibe. Young professionals with kids, no kids.” And, of course, East Siders who dine out regularly and want more than fast casual. Having opened in early February, Amarena was packed on a Wednesday night at the end of the month. When I was seated for my 7 o’clock reservation, all tables were filled. So was the bar. And so it was until we left. When I sat down and saw the beautiful and colorful Ginori dishes, I knew all was well. Chef Medina had his ristorante bona fides.

The townhouse on 82nd Street is the perfect setting for Amarena, named after the classic Italian sour cherry and is homage to Roman cooking. Dining is served on the garden level and the second floor of the townhouse. I didn’t make it upstairs. While the downstairs has a contemporary, light NY feel, upstairs, according to Florence Fabricant’s Off the Menu in the NY Times, is more opulent and done in ruby colors. Upstairs/downstairs menu will be the same. Breakfast and lunch menus are on the horizon. Right now, the dinner menu features starters and includes Zucchini blossoms filled with gorgonzola dolce, Calabrian chili honey. Arancini, fried rice balls. Polipo, bucatini,octopus, bone marrow, Calabrian chili, Grana Padano. The Pizze (aka pizza) are served individually but are easily shared for two. Have the Margherita, tomato-mozzarella, basil or the Mortadella, whipped burrata-pistachio crema, gorgonzola, dolce, arugula. I usually pass on the arugula, but did ask for some Calabrian chili to slather. From the pasta menu, the bucatini, duck guanciale, duck egg, pecorino was perfection. And my foodie friend loved the night’s special halibut with artichokes. For dessert and cocktail, I went with an Amarena cocktail and an Amarena dessert. I still have visions of the coconut meringue-topped Amarena cherry-latered cake. Foodie friend went chocolate with an espresso cocktail and a luscious chocolate cake. The room is especially well run. Servers are alert and paying attention without being intrusive.

Thumbs up to chef Julian Medina and Amarena, 151 East 82nd St. (212) 837-1841,

Inductions redux–January 1st is the official swearing-in date for judges elected in November. It’s when they file their oath of office and officially begin their judicial duties. Traditionally in January or February, many judges have ceremonial inductions where family and friends come to kvell and colleagues and the public join in the proceeding. This year newly elected judges Dana Catanzaro and Andrea Krugman held their ceremonial inductions in the Civil Court House at 111 Centre Street. Both reside on the Upper East Side as do Acting Supreme Court Justice Suzanne Adams, who conducted the swearing in for Judge Catanzaro, and Surrogate Hilary Gingold who conducted the swearing in for Judge Krugman. The Lower East Side was represented by Justice Adam Silvera, the Administrative Judge of the Civil Term of NY County, who emceed Judge Krugman’s induction.

It takes a woman–Reading Joseph Goldstein’s NY Times article about the billion dollar gift by Ruth Gottesman to Albert Einstein College of Medicine for free tuition brought tears and a smile. The gift came with provision for its use and no requirement that her or her husband’s name be attached to it. In a later NY Times article, Ginia Bellafante reported on “Why a $1 Billion Gift to a Medical School [Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx] Moved So Many People.” The staggering gift “giving the school $1 billion to ensure free tuition pretty much forever,” came from Ruth Gottesman, whose husband David [Sandy] Gottesman was an American businessman, billionaire, philanthropist. The Gottesmans were married for 72 years. In Bellafonte’s article, she noted that the ginormous gift was “remarkable not only for its size but also for the absence of any apparent vanity surrounding it.” In initial reporting on the gift, The NY Times’s Joseph Goldstein told of the Gottesmans association with the Albert Einstein School of Medicine and Ruth Gottesman’s professional relationship with Dr. Philip Ozuah, who oversees the medical college and their affiliated hospital, Montefiore Medical Center, and how it brought about the gift by Ruth Gottesman upon her husband’s death at 96, in 2022. She said, “He left me, unbeknownst to me, a whole portfolio of Berkshire Hathaway stock.” His instructions, “Do whatever you think is right.”

According to the Goldstein article, Dr. Ruth Gottesman was a professor at Einstein. She became close friends with Dr. Philip Ozuah, the pediatrician who oversees the medical college and Montefiore Medical Center, its affiliated hospital. During the pandemic, Dr. Ozuah was attentive to the Gottesmans, and when she “contemplated what do with the money her husband had left her,” and after conferring with Dr. Ozuah, knew “what it would mean for Einstein medical students” to have the benefit of free tuition.”

In making her decision, Dr. Gottesman, remembering Dr. Ozuah’s attentiveness to her and her husband along with his asking her “to head the medical school’s board of trustees,” despite her age, was surprising to her. “The gesture,” she told Dr. Ozuah, “reminded her of the fable about the lion and the mouse” - when the lion spares the mouse’s life, and the mouse says that someday he might return the favor. With no name strings attached. She noted, “We’ve got the gosh darn name–we’ve got Albert Einstein.”