What is Ai Fiori?

Ai Fiori is an upscale Italian restaurant located in New York City. It is owned by renowned chef Michael White and draws inspiration from the regional cuisines of Italy. Ai Fiori first opened in 2007 and quickly earned critical acclaim, receiving two stars from the Michelin Guide. The restaurant is known for its fresh pasta, stellar service, and elegant interior featuring Gothic arched windows. Ai Fiori’s extensive menu focuses on homemade pastas, seafood, and high-quality ingredients. The seasonal offerings change frequently based on the availability of fresh produce, cheeses, and meats.

Who is the Chef at Ai Fiori?

The chef at Ai Fiori is Michael White. White grew up in Wisconsin and developed a passion for cooking at a young age. After graduating from culinary school, he trained in Italy for several years to deepen his expertise in Italian cuisine. White eventually returned to the U.S. and rose to prominence working at several acclaimed restaurants in New York. He opened Ai Fiori in 2007 to critical praise, earning him the James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant the following year.

What Kind of Food is Served at Ai Fiori?

The food at Ai Fiori focuses on bold, seasonal Italian cuisine. The menu changes regularly based on ingredient availability but often features fresh homemade pastas, grilled fish and meats, and Italian classics with a creative twist. Popular dishes include gnocchi with short rib ragu, lobster ravioli, and roast duck breast with polenta. The restaurant also offers an extensive raw bar and cheese selections. Desserts are another highlight, with options like tiramisu, panna cotta, and Italian doughnuts. The wines lean towards small-production Italian labels.

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What is the Interior and Ambiance of Ai Fiori?

The interior of Ai Fiori is elegant and upscale with Gothic inspired architectural details. Vaulted ceilings, arched windows, and dramatic lighting create a refined yet welcoming vibe. The main dining room features cream and crimson colored leather banquettes contrasted by dark wood tables. A marble bar anchors one side of the space. Large floral arrangements in silvery vases add sophistication. Tables are well-spaced to allow for intimate conversations. Service is attentive and polished. The atmosphere manages to be luxurious but not stuffy.

What About the Location of Ai Fiori?

Ai Fiori is conveniently located in midtown Manhattan on 2nd Avenue between East 35th and 36th Streets. It’s situated on the ground floor of the boutique Setai Hotel. The restaurant is a short walk from landmarks like the Empire State Building and Chrysler Building. It’s also close to the 34th Street subway station, making it easily accessible for locals and visitors alike. Valet parking is available for those driving. The vibrant neighborhood offers plenty of after dinner entertainment options like jazz clubs, theaters, bars and late night dining.

How Can You Make a Reservation at Ai Fiori?

Ai Fiori takes reservations by phone at 212-413-4110 or through online booking sites like Resy or OpenTable. The restaurant serves dinner nightly starting at 5:30pm. A jacket is recommended but not required for men. Ai Fiori has a wide range of seating options from a chef’s counter that overlooks the open kitchen to cozy banquettes for larger groups. The earlier you book, the better, as prime-time seats fill up quickly, especially on weekends. If you can’t get a reservation, try walking in or sitting at the bar where you can order the full menu. You can also inquire about reserving the private dining room for special events.

What Payment Methods are Accepted?

Ai Fiori accepts all major credit cards including American Express, Visa, MasterCard and Discover. Debit cards are also accepted. Cash is not accepted. When booking online, your card will be charged ahead of time and you can add a tip then or add one at the restaurant. Gratuities are not automatically included but 20% is the standard for good service. Taxes are additional. Giift cards can be purchased on the website and used for payment.

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What are Some Special Features or Menus at Ai Fiori?

Ai Fiori offers several special tasting menus that allow you to sample a range of the chef’s signature dishes. The 5-course tasting menu is $125. The vegetable tasting menu focuses on seasonal produce for $115. For seafood lovers, there is a crudo tasting menu for $135. You can add wine pairings as well. On Mondays, they offer a $59 three course prix fixe menu. The restaurant also provides delicious picnic lunches to go for enjoying nearby in Madison Square Park when weather permits. For larger groups, custom family style menus can be created.

What Are the Best Dishes and Items to Order?

Some standout dishes to try at Ai Fiori include:

  • Burrata with heirloom tomatoes and basil pesto
  • Agnolotti dal plin – hand-pinched stuffed pasta with fontina fonduta
  • Spaghetti nero with lobster
  • Grilled octopus with fingerling potatoes, celery and olives
  • Crudo tasting of raw seafood and salmon tartare
  • Pappardelle with wild boar ragu
  • Whole roasted fish with seasonal sides
  • Dry aged ribeye with bone marrow butter
  • Selection of Italian cheeses and charcuterie
  • Pistachio creme brûlée
  • Bomboloni – Italian doughnuts

The seafood, pastas, and meat dishes are all stellar. Be sure to ask your server for additional recommendations based on seasonal offerings.

How Long Should You Allow for the Dining Experience?

Plan on allotting 2-3 hours for the complete Ai Fiori experience. Appetizers, pastas, entrees and dessert courses are all served in a leisurely fashion. Allow time before your meal for a cocktail at the bar. Savoring a slow meal with good conversation is part of the restaurant’s charm. Don’t feel rushed, you can linger over coffee or digestifs after dessert. For special occasions, let the staff know ahead of time so they can ensure you have an unhurried celebratory dinner. The top rate service never feels stuffy, just relaxed fine dining at its best.

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What are Appropriate Attire and Overall Dress Code?

Ai Fiori has an upscale yet approachable dress code – business casual is appropriate but jackets are recommended for men. For women, cocktail attire like dresses or pantsuits works well. Jeans, shorts, sneakers, and baseball caps are too casual for the restaurant’s refined ambiance. Footwear should be dressy – high heels, dress boots, or leather shoes. Suit jackets over collared shirts are recommended for men, with dress trousers and leather shoes. There is no need to wear formal attire like tuxedos or ballgowns. Focus on looking stylish in timeless classics.

What Dishes Can Accommodate Dietary Restrictions?

Ai Fiori is quite accommodating regarding dietary restrictions. Notify the staff ahead of time regarding allergies or preferences. For gluten free needs, they can adjust pastas, substitute bread, modify desserts and more. Vegetarian and vegan options are plentiful – try the vegetable tasting menu. Nut allergies, dairy restrictions and preferences like low carb can also be catered to with advance notice. Always mention any medical dietary issues to prevent cross contamination. Feel free to ask questions so the chef can tailor dishes to your requirements while maintaining optimal flavor.

What are the Best Tips for an Enjoyable Dining Experience?

Here are some tips for making the most of your Ai Fiori visit:

  • Book ahead for optimal times/seats
  • Communicate any special requests when reserving
  • Arrive on time and dress nicely as per the code
  • Allow plenty of time to savor the experience
  • Ask questions and request suggestions from your server
  • Sample seasonal offerings and dishes you can’t find elsewhere
  • Share plates family style so you can taste more items
  • Save room for the incredible homemade desserts
  • Complement wines but don’t feel obligated to get full bottles
  • Capture photos before dishes are served or after finishing
  • Relax and immerse yourself – this is fine dining to be savored

Following this advice will help ensure your meal at Ai Fiori is memorable for all the right reasons. Enjoy!