Ardo is an Italian restaurant from chef and owner Roberto Marotta (formerly at Nodo ). He hails from Milazzo, a port town on the northeast coast of Sicily. He draws inspiration from this Southern Italian region and well as from family recipes and serves up a bounty of fresh seafood.
Designed by family friend Travis Farncombe, the King East spot offers a few sun-soaked tables upfront while further back, ceramic busts overlook a blue bar.
Marotta and sous-chef Jesse Grey Bierman man the open kitchen open and chat with diners as they cook.
A tin of house-baked sourdough and imported Sicilian olive oil land on the table right after I get my cocktail.
The menu includes tempting options like burrata with preserved peaches ($19), savoury cannoli salati ($9) and white anchovies on crostini ($9).
I try the polpo ($13), a stunning plate of bright purple octopus tentacles tenderly braised then grilled to a crisp. It's paired with a bold vegetable caponata, a medley of tomatoes and smoky eggplant with briney olives and capers.
When the pizza arrives, a little déja vu kicks in. The Mylae ($18), featuring wisps of shaved speck and cantaloupe over a base of fior di latte and mascarpone is the same previously sampled at Nodo.
Unlike the previous pie, the Ciliegino ($19) is a new discovery for me. The crust is light, puffy and just a little chewy and toppings like semi-dried cherry tomatoes, artichokes, arugula and shaved ragusano cheese are generously applied over a fior di latte base.
Instead of pasta, I try the couscous ($21), which comes smothered in an aromatic fish and shellfish stew. Steamed semolina pearls absorb the rich tomato sauce and support all of the good stuff, including clams and prawns, morsels of whitefish and calamari.
To wash everything down I try the Cacciavite ($13) - a blend of vodka, Campari and fresh blood orange juice.
To end the meal on a sweet note, Marotta serves his family recipe for cannoli ($8). He fills the delicious, crispy shells with subtlety sweetened fresh ricotta and finishes the pastries with candied orange zest and roasted pistachio.
Ardo is open for lunch, dinner and Sicilian-style brunch on weekends.
Photos by Jesse Milns