Just got back from dinner at Nostrana. If you've been in the previous occupants (Sue Bee's, Kienow's), you won't recognize it: it's all chic and gorgeous and hard wooden surfaces and a giant wall rack of wine. It's beee-autiful. And the menu is full of all sorts of Italian words that weren't at all recognizeable.
One way to get great service, or better service: take pictures of the place before going in. They'll think you're a reporter (and they'll ask, too).
We had a selection of things from various parts of the menu: a charcuterie plate from Salumi, the Nostrana salad, a pizza with sausage and sweet peppers, a steak, and some semifreddo. The meat plate was delicious, but very spare, 4 different styles of meats from Mario Batali's dad, served with big slices of crusty Italian breads, and a cranberry jam. The Nostrana salad is a caesar made with radicchio, and the serving is large and impressive. We liked it: it has an impressive crunch and the dressing was oily rather than creamy. Radicchio, I'm told, is usually bitter, which I didn't know at the time, but I scarfed my portion of the salad.
The pizza was a 12" version, which comes to the table uncut. I have to agree with the foodies who complain that it should come cut. It just should. The pizza was fine—a crackery crust, a tiny layer of sauce and cheese, sausage and peppers, all in balance. Nice. It's not going to give Apizza Scholls a run for their money, but I wasn't expecting it would.
The steak was our big ticket item ($22). It was small and came with maybe six or seven little wedges of potato and several leaves of kale, dwarfed on a huge plate and it was dressed in a tomato-pancetta sauce. The sauce seemed unnecessary as the steak was tender and rich, perfectly cooked, with just a smidge of fat or gristle.
In the end, it was a nice experience but one that didn't seem worth $66 to me. I can't fault the food—it was good. I'm sure part of it is my inner cheapskate that wants to feel very full after $66. That cheapskate also doesn't want to rely on guessing or having to ask the meaning of non-English words, and wonders why a main entree is served as this spare, slight thing (what, how expensive are potatoes or kale these days?). Part of it certainly was the service, which was competent but not the level I'd expect for that sort of cash. It just wasn't the epiphany with angels singing that I expect for $66. (though I could occasionally hear opera above the dull roar of the diners)