If you’ve ever watched Gossip Girl, or perhaps the early ’90s cult film ‘Metropolitan’ (if you have seen this Whit Stillman classic, I’m impressed), you probably have a faint idea of what the Upper East Side of Manhattan encompasses. Home to the finest prep schools, ladies who lunch, and Barney’s flagship store; on any given day, a sea of blondes with Birkin bags and Ralph Lauren riding boots may be seen strolling the streets. Speaking of Mr. Lauren, one might see him exiting his large fashion-house, the Polo Mansion on Madison Ave. This is the Upper East Side, and it’s a scene to be reckoned with.
It’s also home to many New York institutions, like the Met and Central Park, as well as some of the finest dining in the city. It’s a place of tradition, where classic overrides trendy, and nothing is trop vite. Yes, there’s money, but there is also a sense of decades past. An older, slower way of living. A bit of luxe, but also, a bit of Seinfeld-slash-Will-and-Grace New York, too.
Sant Ambroeus is one of those institutions. On any given day, one might be sipping a cappuccino next to UES blonde Tory Burch. All the waiters are Italian, and, of course, impeccably dressed. Not a hair out of place, nor a shirt un-tucked. Their voices flow seamlessly between Italian and English, and every ‘Thank You’ is replaced by a perfect ‘Grrrazie.’
For coffee, I like to sit in the front ‘cafe’ section, with long displays of colorful and delicious Italian pastries, tarts, and desserts to desire. They have an extensive coffee menu, and various Italian coffee drinks available. Is the coffee amazing? Well, not exactly. I ordered a cappuccino; the milk was steamed with care, but the espresso was bland and watery. It’s not the worst I’ve had, either, and — only sometimes — ambiance may pick up where coffee is lacking. I’d suggest sticking to espresso or an Americano, and to partake in vast amounts of people-watching while there.
The desserts, on the other hand, are quite spectacular. My friend and I ordered tiramisu. I also enjoy the fruit tart — the crust is mere perfection.