Ci Siamo Is a Fiery Italian Newcomer from Hillary Sterling and Danny Meyer

A giant, wood-burning grill is the centerpiece of the new restaurant at Manhattan West.

Pork Milanese
Pork Milanese | Photo by Giada Paoloni
Pork Milanese | Photo by Giada Paoloni

Hillary Sterling is no stranger to playing with fire. The chef’s car is stocked with a tiny Weber grill and a cast-iron skillet, so she’s always ready for an impromptu fireside meal, and she’s also cooked for a crowd over a raging flame on multiple occasions as part of a bonfire cooking series.

Sterling says she’s gotten “a little obsessed” with this method of cooking over the last 10 years. And that’s evident in the fact that open-flame cooking was even a part of her wedding day last year, where guests feasted on chicken roasted over a fire pit.

Chef Hillary Sterling
Pastry chef Claudia Fleming (left) and executive chef Hillary Sterling (center) work in Ci Siamo's open-concept kitchen | Photo by Giada Paoloni

So now at Ci Siamo—the latest addition to Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group that opened this week—Sterling is taking that passion to a multi-level, wood-fired grill situated at the center of the restaurant as the spot’s executive chef. There, she will turn out comforting Italian fare that tastes like the type of food she would cook at home or on the road with her small grill set-up, just dialed up several notches.

“I'm getting to take one of my favorite Sunday activities and bring it to work with me,” Sterling says of the style of cooking she’s doing at Ci Siamo.

Nearly everything on the dinner menu is cooked over fire—from marinated peppers that kiss the open flame for a quick char, to desserts topped with almonds that spend all day sitting on the top rack immersed in smoky flavor.

Rigatoni alla Gricia
Rigatoni alla Gricia | Photo by Giada Paoloni

Wood-fired main dishes like a whole trout stuffed with pine nuts, raisins, and mustard greens are complemented by pasta that shows off Sterling’s expertise in the cuisine from years at Vic’s and A Voce. Handmade pasta dishes include a simple taglioni with tomatoes and buffalo butter; rigatoni alla gricia made with guanciale sourced from La Salumina in upstate New York; and potato topini, a dish resembling mini gnocchi served with mint pesto and almonds.

The Ci Siamo space offers a cozy atmosphere complete with warm-wood accents, views of the roaring flames, and cushy leather banquettes and bar stools. It’s the type of laid-back place where you can opt for a multi-course meal in the dining room or swing by for a true Italian aperitivo hour. Alongside cocktails, the bar offers a menu of snacks exclusively available in that area including mortadella con pistachio; gnocco fritto with goat gouda; and a small pizza bianca with anchovies, salsa verde, and aioli.

Photo by Giada Paoloni

“We love the concept of going out to come home,” says Sterling. “So that's what we are trying to create here. That kind of approachable and accessible, delicious, soulful food. We're really trying to create a full dining experience, whether you're just coming for a Negroni with some pistachios and mortadella or gnocco fritto or sitting down in the dining room for a full meal.”

The beverage program will be helmed by beverage director Robin Wright and bar manager Matt Chevez, who both cut their teeth at The Nomad Hotel’s bar as well as other high-caliber spots like Daniel and the beloved bar at Llama Inn, respectively. Wright’s wine list spans most of Italy with by-the-glass pours and bottle options, while cocktails lean toward traditional aperitivos, with Negronis and spritzes taking center stage.

Housemade gelato
Housemade gelato | Photo by Giada Paoloni

Dessert and bread service are in the hands of pastry chef Claudia Fleming, who is making her return to Union Square Hospitality Group after baking at Gramercy Tavern almost 20 years ago. In addition to a lemon tart, chocolate amaro bomboloni, and chocolate budino with espresso zabaglione, the restaurant will offer housemade gelato in flavors like espresso stracciatella, hazelnut, and goat’s milk lemon to top off a meal.

The restaurant, which is the first Danny Meyer has opened in NYC in more than two years, is situated inside the newly unveiled Manhattan West development in Hudson Yards. The area also plays host to another USHG concept, Daily Provisions, which opened its fourth outpost in the space last month, and Zou Zou’s, a highly anticipated Mediterranean restaurant from the team behind favorites like Don Angie and Smith & Wollensky, is slated to open later this fall.

Ci Siamo is now open Tuesday through Saturday from 5 to 10 pm. Reservations can be made via Resy.

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Liz Provencher is an associate editor at Thrillist. You can follow her on Twitter and see what she eats on Instagram.