Across from St. John the Divine, Tartina is on a mission to not only introduce authentic Italian food to the Morningside Heights community, but to create a space where restaurant-goers can come together to celebrate life and food.
Owners Maria Teresa Valestra and Federico Terminiello opened Tartina on the corner of Amsterdam and 111th Street at the end of October after closing their first location in Midtown.
The goal of Terminello and Valestra—who are the restaurant’s executive chef and restaurant runner, respectively—was to reintroduce authentic Italian food to New York City.
“We both grew up in Sorrento, Italy, and we grew up with these dishes. I’ve been here for 17 years. I’ve always noticed that everyone was always using the made-in-Italy, Italian, inappropriately,” Valestra said.“It became a mission for us to reintroduce what authentic Italian cuisine is.”
Terminello and Valestra are committed to using authentic and flavorful ingredients at Tartina.
“Our concept is homemade and fresh—we make everything, we even make different stocks. So, when most people come in, we have to inform them that you’re not going to have a sweet tomato sauce, you’re going to taste the tomato because it’s a fresh tomato,” Valestra said.
Through experimentation and adding flavors together, the menu was created piece by piece. Each dish on the menu was created by Valestra and Terminello with care. “Spaghetti alla nerano,” Valestra’s favorite dish, made with sauteed zucchini squash and butter parmigiano sauce, brings back childhood memories from summers on the coast in Nerano, Italy.
Tartina thrives on creativity, and is working on a new drinks menu for spring to serve at their full bar. For March, the restaurant created four drinks inspired by International Women’s Day.
“We make everything from scratch. It’s our passion. We want people to know what it’s like to taste authentic Italian cuisine and forget everything you learned from the other restaurants with chicken parmigiana. Be adventurous,” Valestra said.
Tartina’s welcoming family atmosphere is not just limited to the kitchen, though.
“That place that people can come in and know the staff and me and my husband. A place where everybody remembers again how to celebrate life,” Valestra said. “We’re in a place right now where everybody is so stressed out and the energy is tense, and people forget to celebrate, people forget to enjoy life. We want to become that place.”