“Do you hear that silence?” executive chef Hillary Sterling says, welcoming me into Ci Siamo, the new Danny Meyer restaurant, where she’s in charge of the kitchen. “This is the moment I’m most excited about. That feeling of walking through a piazza in bustling New York City, and you turn a corner, step inside, and the door closes. And then you’re standing here—you’ve made it.”
Ci Siamo (pronounced “chee see-amo”) is Meyer’s first N.Y.C. restaurant opening in three years, and in early October it will welcome the first guests to its cozy dining room in Manhattan West, the slightly desolate eight-acre property-development complex situated just east of Hudson Yards, near the intersection of 31st Street and Ninth Avenue.
Ci Siamo, along with most of Manhattan West’s other restaurants, is easily accessed from the street. An Italian phrase that’s shorthand for “We’re here” or “We’re there,” it’s meant to evoke a sense of homecoming or, as Sterling puts it, “that feeling of getting somewhere, setting down your bags, and taking a deep breath.”
Architecturally, Ci Siamo’s scaled-down presence stands as a more self-aware rebuttal to the outsize, fanciful restaurants of Hudson Yards, just to the west. Most of those high-profile spots haven’t reopened their doors since the early days of the pandemic.
One could even say that Ci Siamo is a response to the too-big-to-fail hubris that became Hudson Yards’ fatal flaw. Ci siamo. Come in, have a spritz, maybe share some gnocco fritto and the anchovy-garlic toast. Do you want to stay for dinner?
With the exception of long-established places occupying upper floors of tony department stores—the beloved and now closed Freds at Barneys, for example—New Yorkers typically don’t enjoy eating in a shopping emporium, at least not on their home turf.
One could even say that Ci Siamo is a response to the too-big-to-fail hubris that became Hudson Yards’ fatal flaw.
Although Thomas Keller’s TAK Room, which closed in August 2020, had spectacular views from its fifth-floor nest atop Hudson Yards, the maddening journey to arrive there through the brightly lit retail corridors and an escalator ride was too arduous, even if it ended with theatrical tableside preparations of sole meunière and beef Wellington. It was all too fussy, too outdated, too overpriced, too too.
From the wood-fired ovens and open kitchen to the casually elegant dining room, the entire experience of Ci Siamo is welcoming. Guests encounter the scent of baking breads and charred focaccia mixing with caramelized onions, smoky vegetables, and roasting chicken.
The 160-seat restaurant’s décor reflects Meyer’s ethos for genteel, unchallenging hospitality. Muted sea-green walls, warmly toned wood furnishings, and organically designed architecture are stylish but familiar. The street views are a reminder that this is, in fact, New York—at certain hours, the Empire State Building is visible in the reflection of the Five Manhattan West building.
But, as it should be, the real star here is the chef. Sterling spent seven years at Vic’s and, prior to that, five years at A Voce, cultivating a crowd who will go anywhere for her pillowy, ricotta-filled borsa, charred-crust pizzas, and unexpected but unfussy preparations of seasonal vegetables. Her ascension to Ci Siamo’s sparkling, custom-built kitchen at Meyer’s first big-budget, post-lockdown venture is arguably a long overdue acknowledgment of her success.
Sterling’s crowd-pleasing dishes such as wood-fired whole trout ($34) and rapini ravioli with chili and garlic ($22) are complemented by the confections of talented pastry chef Claudia Fleming. At Meyer’s Gramercy Tavern, where she held the same position, she earned the James Beard Foundation Award for Outstanding Pastry Chef. To prepare for Ci Siamo’s opening, Fleming and Sterling spent the summer holed up in a basement kitchen at Marta, a popular pizzeria just north of Madison Square Park, perfecting Fleming’s custard-filled bomboloni, hazelnut gelato, and lemon-olive-oil tart.
According to Fleming, the atmosphere that Sterling has created at Ci Siamo is very different from the testosterone-fueled, high-intensity kitchens of yesteryear (and even the not so distant past). “She’s as easy as they come,” says Fleming, nodding at the crowd of new hires filling the dining area behind her. “Restaurants are hard enough, but everybody’s so happy to be here—just so energized and ready to get back to work.” Their guests are waiting.
Laura Neilson is a New York–based writer