The Leopard at des Artistes is more than a restaurant. It's an Upper West Side landmark, a Manhattan treasure and genuine New York classic. It was once Cafe des Artistes, a restaurant where luminaries from the worlds of art, politics and publishing dined in secluded elegance, surrounded by naked nymphs - each one painted in 1937 by Howard Chandler Christy in the glowing murals that line the dining room to this day.
A lot has changed in 97 years behind the doorway at One West 67th Street that now welcomes you into The Leopard. In 1917 the restaurant catered exclusively to artists who lived in the building above - Norman Rockwell, Rudolf Valentino and Isadora Ducan were among its original clientele. But after a renovation in 1975, Cafe des Artistes became a dining destination for the Who's Who of media - Barbara Walters, Diane Sawyer, Peter Jennings and more dined in the soft-lit, intimate restaurant on a regular basis. With the arrival in 2011 of new owners, Gianfranco and Paula Bolla-Sorrentino and Chef Vito Gnazzo, a new dining experience was introduced to One West 67th Street.
Celebrity is no longer a must for a table in this illustrious space (although you will see many here). What you discover on the other side of a door framed by velvet drapes is a classic, elegant setting where the center of attention is you and Southern Italian cuisine prepared with joy and genius. Bossa Nova and jazz set the mood. This is a restaurant that whispers, "Welcome to the real New York."
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Romance is on the Menu Here
The Leopard at des Artistes is located near Lincoln Center in the Hotel des Artistes - a residential building for artists built in 1918, it was once home to dancer Isadora Duncan, artist Norman Rockwell and playwright Noel Coward.
The original restaurant on the ground floor, Cafe des Artistes opened in 1975. Its most striking feature was Howard Chandler Christy's nine landmarked murals, “Fantasy Scenes with Naked Beauties". Completed in 1935, these stunning oil paintings feature young nymphs frolicking in nature.
The new Leopard at des Artistes opened after renovation in 2011. Chef Vito Gnazzo serves seasonal, modern Southern Italian cuisine. I could easily have ordered everything on the menu - homemade pastas, rustic salads, grilled fish, slow-braised meats and more.
And one of the best dishes I have EVER eaten was a dessert - zabaione with fresh berries. As the waiter said, it doesn't sound exciting, but trust me - this dish will transport you!
With beautiful murals, great service, and outstanding food, this is a wonderful restaurant for a special occasion - the Old New York setting and scrumptious food will make it a night to remember.