Leonti Closes Suddenly; Are High-End Restaurants Toast on the UWS?

Leonti, the successor to Dovetail on 77th Street near Columbus, lasted just over a year on the Upper West Side. The high-end restaurant closed on Jan. 1, according to Eater.

“Leonti was known for its high-quality service and unfussy Italian fare served in a slightly theatrical manner,”  Eater’s Tanay Warerkar wrote. “Other notable dishes included the milk-braised lamb served with beans and rosemary and the roasted veal chop with brussels sprouts and bagna cauda.”

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L' americano Texas antelope, Amarone gravy, butter crumbs, herbs

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A Leonti spokesperson did not respond to a request for more information on the closure, and no one answered the restaurant’s phone on Monday afternoon.

The restaurant was named for chef Adam Leonti, who had previously worked in Philadelphia. Several restaurants with higher price points have closed in recent years — from Telepan to Dovetail to Ouest.

So was the problem that Leonti didn’t serve the right food, or can luxury restaurants no longer make it on the Upper West Side?

FOOD, NEWS, OPEN/CLOSED | 70 comments | permalink
    1. Tony says:

      Come back to Philadelphia!

    2. Liifeoong UWS says:

      Luxury restaurants no longer make it on the upper west side?

      I don’t think luxury restaurants ever made it on the Upper West Side. I don’t think the UWS has ever been known for this.

    3. GeorgeCPW says:

      I never made it to Leonti’s, in part because reviews made me dubious, while a trip to the Upper East Side from CPW for a meal at a more proven restaurant made my choice not to go to Leonti’s easier. The aura about Leonti’s that I found negative was the preciousness of its offerings. There may be foodies who seek unusual things, but I think the high price point market on the UWS is more attracted to luxury and comfort than exotica. White tablecloths with space between tables, professional service and well-prepared, perhaps unexciting dishes, are the market when price is secondary. Still, I am sorry that I never got to Leonti’s. It deserved a better chance.

    4. Sean says:

      Yes. The customer does not exist on the UWS.

    5. John m says:

      You’re first mistake is putting 5 little pieces of meet on a turkey sized platter.
      Scale does matter in a luxury restaurant.

      • Deb says:

        John –

        Your first mistake was not reviewing what you wrote before you posted it.

      • Benoit (Shocked) says:

        Dear John m.,

        Food preferences and restaurant choices are very subjective matters. However, a more objective matter is that your short sentence has no less than four mistakes. Rather than looking for good restaurants, you may want to look for a decent (remedial) English school in the Upper West Side. What exactly do we need as a society — better schools or fancier restaurants?

        • Cato says:

          — “However, a more objective matter is that your short sentence has no less than four mistakes.”

          Actually, you mean “no *fewer* than four mistakes”.

    6. John m says:

      You’re first mistake is putting 5 little pieces of meat on a turkey sized platter.
      Scale does matter in a luxury restaurant.

    7. Sharon says:

      We went to Leonti. The food was ok. The prices were very high, and the portions were so tiny, and I mean tiny, that I needed to eat a bowl of cereal when I arrived home. High end does not mean that you have to go home hungry.

      • Cynthia says:

        Try one more time John m…if you don’t get it right this time we’ll make you eat antelope!

      • J.B. says:

        The noun doesn’t matter. Whether Leonti or anywhere else, your comment is spot on. High-end shouldn’t mean tiny portions and pretentiousness. Give me a meal I can appreciate in a nice, comfortable setting with caring service and responsible administration and I’ll gladly pay a profitable price for it. Same thing for drinks at the bar, where most restaurants have seemingly gone berserk in pricing a simple pour over the past few years. I am an UWS resident and truly appreciate fine food, but I never once noticed Leonti, let alone was enticed to dine there (although I had enjoyed Dovetail), so maybe some marketing visibility would have been helpful, too.

    8. Food Dude says:

      The challenge is that other great restaurants are so close. What’s a few blocks more to Jean Georges?

    9. LKLA says:

      Once again, death by pre-fix menu.

      Not that there is a great need/demand for a restaurant where you can drop $$150 per person without drinks on the UWS. But there is certainly proof that there is NO demand for one that basically forces you to spend that money and does so by limiting your choices. That is why be it Lincoln or Boulud Sud, the few high-end restaurants on the UWS that continue to be in business have stuck to the a la carte menu.

      We went for dinner to Dovetail three or four times – the last one had dinner next to Paul Allen of Microsoft fame. Never went to Leonti, because of the pre-fix menu.

      What the UWS sides needs is more restaurants like Cafe Luxembourg, Tessa, Mermaid Inn, The Smith, Asset, Sushis Yasaka, Marlow Bistro, Awadh, Jin Ramen, … and less crappy places like Playa Betty’s and fewer tourist traps like The Ribbon.

    10. John M says:

      Some editing tools in your comment section would help.

    11. John says:

      We loved Telepan and Dovetail. The food at leonti seemed over worked and deconstructed too much. Not one morsel on the antipasto plate was memorable. Half as many items, even for the 30$ price would be less confusing to the palate and more pleasing. The artichoke lasagna was emperor’s clothes. High end, table cloth and fine service dining shouldn’t mean “weird”.

    12. Doug Garr says:

      It is difficult to next to impossible for a high-end destination restaurant to make it on the UWS. Even Ouest was an aberration — good food, fairly expensive, and it finally closed. Across the street the high-end Japanese place shut down after only a couple of years. This new one with Per Se-like prices I would bet against. The reason is this: the leasing per square foot is too expensive. You need a lunch business to make it. And there are no expense account offices up here where the clientele can support such a restaurant. End of argument. This is the worst neighborhood to try this kind of thing.

    13. Steven Tatti says:

      Went for my 69th birthday had great hopes loved Dovetail.
      It just didn’t work the food wasn’t on point for a Restaurant of the caliber my wife’s fish was so salted she couldn’t eat it but didn’t want to spoil the occasion. We both left and said no reason to-return to bad.

    14. liz says:

      I agree that the place was overpriced, but also the service was incredibly pretentious and, frankly, ungracious. We ate there only once as it wasn’t worth returning (and believe me, we have no qualms about spending on good food in restaurants all over the world!) This didn’t cut it….

      • notsofast says:

        I didn’t think anyone else would say this, but I’m glad you did. I agree completely.

      • EJ says:

        Agree with this assessment. Went once. Ordered a fantastic bottle of wine that was on the menu at a very reasonable price. Too reasonable, it turns out; they came back and said it was a mistake and they wouldn’t honor the price. Gave us a very mediocre bottle instead (at roughly the same price). I should have complained after; instead I just didn’t return.

    15. Betsy says:

      Agree 1000 percent with every point! Saw him in Hutton Brickyards in Kingston in 2017 and would have walked out if it weren’t for the friend who gave us the tickets. Yes, he was brilliant once. Now, he’s just wallowing in his own arrogance. I’d have given him a pass if he’d even acknowledged the audience once. But we may as well not have even been there.

    16. Tag Gross says:

      George Lang turned Cafe des Artistes into a high end very successful restaurant that had a very long run. Jean-Georges is successful also. So I would say the issue is more with the restaurant than our neighborhood.

    17. StevenCinNYC says:

      No. Bad luxury restaurants shouldn’t be here, but good ones should.

      Dovetail was amazingly good and only closed because the chef left and the owners wanted to do something different. Both that idea and their choice of a new place were bad. Leonti got consistently bad reviews so, even though I loved Dovetail, I never went.

      Telepan was OK when it opened, but the food and service declined (both becoming way too salty). Ouest was never a fine restaurant; it wasn’t just not to my liking, all the food was made in advance (not a la minute) so they had no flexibility on the menu–more of an upscale food mill than fine dining.

      We still have Jean Georges, Porter House, and Per Se. Perhaps we’ll get some new fine dining options north of Columbus Circle soon?

      In the meantime, we still have plenty of good moderate places. Near me, Gyu-Kaku opened recently and is really good and constantly booked, Pizzeria Serinetta is very good, Buceo has very nice tapas, Amelie got a Michelin mention, and Kouzan is a very good neighborhood sushi place–and that’s just on Amsterdam 85-95th Street. Barney Greengrass and that butcher on 87th are also very good. There are additional options beyond that stretch, but those are the ones I like and frequent (though I haven’t tried the butcher yet–looks good though). La Mirabelle on 86th is really good traditional French food. Plus, on the more casual end, we enjoy Jacob’s Pickles, Maison Pickle, and 5 Napkin Burger (yes, I’ve strayed a block or so from Amsterdam).

      I’m sure others could come up with more restaurants outside my ten-block stretch.

      • barmellier says:

        “ Ouest was never a fine restaurant; it wasn’t just not to my liking, all the food was made in advance (not a la minute) so they had no flexibility on the menu–more of an upscale food mill than fine dining.”

        This is patently untrue.

        • StevenCinNYC says:

          Did you ask them to alter the composition of a dish?

          My experience was consistent, on several occasions, until I gave up. The mise en place included prepping every dish completely in advance, and they couldn’t alter them as a result.

          I am sensitive to garlic, and it was in every dish, and there was nothing they could do about it (except offer a plain grilled steak). They explained this to me. It wasn’t just a little in a reduction, but instead a substantial ingredient. They explained that all the ingredients were combined in advance, and they couldn’t alter anything.

          If they prepped the food a la minute, they would have been able to vary the composition of the dishes.

          Putting all of that aside, the food was also unremarkable, the space was noisy, and the crowd at the bar made getting to the host stand like pushing through the 2 train at rush hour.

          It’s fine if you liked the place and it met your definition of fine dining–those are subjective. But to say that it’s “untrue” that they prepped the food in advance–that’s objective; it’s hard to imagine what your basis for your claim might be.

    18. Terrible dining experience says:

      It closed because the service was comically terrible, the food was nothing special, and the prices were unwarranted. Nothing to see here

    19. Catherine says:

      Location Location Location!
      3 most important aspects for a restaurant
      No foot traffic and an unknown chef to NYC
      RECIPE for failure – sorry to say

    20. Table's Edge says:

      Really wanted to try Leonti, and don’t mind high prices for a great meal. But. I checked the menu periodically hoping I’d see something appealing for the price point. Like great fresh fish, seafood choices. Most dishes had weird spices and condiments that would mask even the flavor of quality meats or pasta. Just never felt compelled to go from the description of the offerings.

      Also. Reviews were tepid about the food, service and ambience. Didn’t entice a visit there as opposed to great restaurants all over the City for a high-end evening out. Probably not fair. But. That was the reason.

    21. Tostonesfix says:

      I do think high end restaurants face a challenge on the UWS. That said, Cesca has made it for a long time because they learned early on that they needed to be accessible to people just wanting to eat with friends and not fuss with making it exclusive and clubby. They have a nice big bar area where one can have a glass of wine and an appetizer and actually be satiated and not left to feel unwanted because one did not order a $45 entree.

    22. Table's Edge says:

      Can’t imagine calling some of the restaurants mentioned here high-end. Had some of the worst food ever at Cesca and La Mirabelle. Warmed-over long-frozen horrors. Telepan also not very good. Different level than what I thought Leonti was trying to attain.

      • Tostonesfix says:

        That was my point about Cesca. They are not trying to be “luxury”. What does luxury even mean? I think it just means expensive and pretentious. If you are both of those things, you are going to be challenged anywhere but especially on the UWS. It’s not an expense account zone. Few want to bring clients to the UWS to dine when there are better options in more interesting neighborhoods downtown or more convenient options in mid-town. When Cesca started it tried to be attract that crowd. They soon realized that their best customers were those that sat at the bar and split an entree but the downed multiple glasses of marked up wine. That would be my advice to someone opening a “high end” restaurant. Have a large bar where people can meet, eat, and drink.

    23. Trudy says:

      Not only high end restaurants. I heard a rumor that Hot & Crusty on the west side of Broadway between 87 and 88 streets is closing at the end of the week. Some of the employees don’t know yet. And then New Leaf, a charming restaurant in Fort Tryon Park, suddenly closed down without telling employees. What is going on?

      • Liifeoong UWS says:

        No way. That place has been there forever, pretty much as long as i can remember. It preceded and outlasted that Panerie or whatever ot was called on 93rd and Broadway. I always see people there. I saw Marl Ruffalo there a few weeks ago. I will be genuinely sad to see it closed, though thwir food is meh.

    24. Kurt says:

      Well, Leonti really was not luxury. Perhaps wanna-be luxury but not real luxury. We ate there once and the food was mediocre at best and way overpriced. The hosts were obnoxious. They acted as they had won the Nobel Prize.

      We commented at the time that we thought it would be closed within a year. Almost like we had a crystal ball.

    25. Sherman says:

      The UWS is generally a residential area. There are no big companies around here (maybe the ABC/Disney studios is an exception).

      Expensive and upscale restaurants do well in commercial districts as business people have lunches and dinners in them. They don’t really care about the price as they just charge it to their company or expense account.

      Last month I was taken out for dinner in midtown in the East 50s. The bill easily exceeded a couple of hundred dollars a person and nobody cared.

      When you have to pay out of your own pocket things are a bit different than having your company pay. Since very few business lunches or dinners take place on the UWS upscale restaurants struggle.

    26. Ian Alterman says:

      Let’s see how long 8th Hill (which replaced Isabella’s and is the most outrageously overpriced restaurant on the UWS) lasts.

    27. Ian Alterman says:

      I should add that the Leopard, Boulud Sud, Bar Boulud, Milling Room, Nice Matin, Mermaid Inn and Maison Pickle have all been doing just fine.

    28. colleen mccourtney says:

      I’m so upset! It was a lovely restaurant with great food albeit a limited menu. The wine list was thoughtful and knew the difference between price and
      quality – just because its expensive doesn’t make it good and vice versa.
      I don’t understand the lack of attendance in really good restaurants on the UWS. There is an abundance of wonderful mediocre places.
      So sorry to see Leonti go.

    29. LongtimeNYer says:

      My favorite UWS restaurants–Pomodoro Rosso (Columbus @ 70th), Fred’s (Amsterdam @ 83rd), and Cafe Luxembourg.

      Used to be, you had some inexpensive and good restaurants 72nd Street or below. No longer, now you’ve got to go above 79th.

      And even among the more expensive restaurants (Pomodoro Rosso, Cafe Luxembourg), there are few that I like on the UWS.

    30. Jerry says:

      I don’t understand the negative remarks about Telepan. I ate there several times over the years and loved it. I thought it was terrific. I still miss it.

      • chris woo says:

        Agree loved the food at Telepan. Always felt I left there happy as did the people we ate with. And we have eaten at good places all over the world so for those who want to dump on his food, it’s really about them. Telepan also did very generous things for schools on his own time and without expecting anything in return. As for Leonti, nothing seemed that compelling on the menu which at that price point, would have to be.
        And the lukewarm reviews did not help.

    31. Elizabeth says:

      The food was just not good, period.

    32. rita gazarik says:

      so sorry these good restaurants are closing . Ouest was the worst blow
      can’t we support them?
      why aren’t there some controls on commercial rents? The avaricious landlords and co op boards are destroying what is left of our neighborhoods

      • Randi says:

        Agreed, Let’s put pressure on these landlords to occupy these empty storefronts.
        Let them pay extra taxes on vacant properties.
        I believe we would see some action then.

      • Leo Goldstein says:

        Control on Commercial rents? Can Politbureau save the day? I think not. Wall street and tourists can’t pay for everything this town gives away or wastes. Min.wage laws and real estate taxes etc. etc. have consequences and we are witnessing it in living color.

        • LongtimeNYer says:

          I agree that outrageous taxes and steep increases in the minimum wage have affected restaurants (and life in general) on the UWS.

      • Sherman says:

        There are plenty of restaurants that are thriving on the UWS.

        If a restaurant has a bad business mode – ie poor service, mediocre food, high prices – then it will likely go out of business.

        The city shouldn’t be propping up weak businesses and it is ignorant to automatically blame the landlord when a restaurant fails.

    33. Access assessor says:

      Maybe they should be more welcoming to those with disabilities who could well enjoy their offerings and become regulars (can we suggest wheelchair ramps or lifts for those who cannot manage stairs?).

      I don’t believe luxury restaurants won’t make it onthe UWS…didn’t Ouest close over a dramatic rent increase?

    34. Leslie Rupert says:

      It’s not the neighborhood that’s a problem. Leonti simply wasn’t very good. The food did not justify the prices.
      We have quite a few high end restaurants here that have lasted for years.

    35. James Cassidy says:

      Was there 12/23. Thought it was pretty good.

    36. lilybelle says:

      Does anyone remember Mrs. J’s Sacred Cow on W. 72nd Street? It’s been closed for a couple of decades, but it was a great neighborhood place. It was known for serving prime rib and steaks. It was a different time, fewer plant based choices then. But the place itself was delightful. With servers who were mostly unemployed actors/singers. They had a piano player nightly who’d accompany the wait staff either together or separately. Entertainment, tables rooting for their server, good tips guaranteed and excellent food. With a fun vibe, a lively bar, lights bright enough to read the menu. Good people. The Upper West Side was known for the eateries up and down Columbus. Victor’s, The Red Barron, so many… it was Sunday brunch heaven. The prices are so high, a restaurant can’t even build a following before it closes down. And each is pricier then the next. The new Japanese restaurants look lovely, but the prices for everyday Japanese fare is crazy. My kid who’s been working in Japan for the past few years was just in for the holidays and we stopped the new Ramon shop on Amsterdam. He said the prices here are absurd. Ramon shops are where you go when you’re broke, or after a late night date or a few drinks. Cheap eats. Now so here.

    37. Peter says:

      3 quarter-sized lobster ravioli for $39 – and that’s the entree size? Obnoxious servers? Bring back Dovetail!

    38. Michael P Muscaro says:

      High End Restaurants on the UWS cannot sustain volume during weekdays. The overabundance of less expensive casual dining spots absorbs the weeknight business, combined with the high overhead makes higher end restaurants on the UWS a very risky proposition.

    39. Evan Bando says:

      Paying $18 for white bean soup is not a culinary choice. It is an exercise in extravagance for reasons only the diner can explain. Expense account might be one. A special occasion another. Feeling rich for an evening might be yet another. They are all legitimate enough. They just won’t sustain the restaurant owner. Not on the UWS at NYC rents anyway.

    40. J. L. Rivers says:

      What the UWS needs is casual/sophisticated establishments with good wine and a lively bar scene that stay open late.

    41. Gary says:

      I never understand why anyone would think a luxury restaurant could not be successful on the UWS. It makes it sound as if the UWS is a low-income neighborhood full of people who cannot afford to go to upscale restaurants, which of course is ridiculous. Jean Georges has been around for 20 years and, in my opinion, is one the best restaurants in the city. Lincoln is wonderful. Two of the most expensive restaurants in the world reside in the TWC: Per Se and Bar Massa. We need more restaurants at every price point on the UWS, especially on Broadway from the 80’s thru the 90’s.

      • Sean says:

        You reference Lincoln Center and Columbus Circle. These are tourist destinations and a completely different demographic.

    42. Anthony says:

      Ouest was the best restaurant for years on the UWS. Great food, bar, and atmosphere. It lasted 15 years, no small feat (though at the end it wasn’t as good). Nothing since has matched it IMO.

    43. Dominic says:

      The comments on this thread are quite uninformed. Portions at Leonti were not small. Nor was the menu limited to prix fix. There was always a la carte since day 1, so you people blathering on about being limited to prix fix menus don’t know what you’re talking about. Leonti’s food represented the more sophisticated, Michelin-star restaurants of Milano, not the red-sauce cliches of Mulberry Street. And Leonti translated that elegant style of cooking very well. Too well. It wasn’t dumbed down enough for the spaghetti-and-meatball expectations of the UWS. Really a shame and a culinary loss, as there are very few TRUE fine-dining, Italian restaurants in NYC. We had a brilliant gem that people were too philistine to appreciate. Shame on you, UWS. Shame on you.