Chef Michael White is a genius in many ways. When he’s not stirring up the boho foodie masses with uni and lardo (the biggest ingredient combo craze since yuzu and basil), he’s taking over the city one fresh pasta dish at a time. And we’re happy. We’re starry-eyed. We’re in love with the man who has the nerve to charge $33 for cork screw pasta dressed with bits of octopus and marrow. Jamie’s Italian grandmother is looking down from above and shaking her head but, you know, we just can’t help it. We’re infatuated with Chef White.

Marea is New York City fine dining at its coddle-you, sophisticated best- even when it’s just a bowl of dressed-up carbs. Maybe there’s not a foot stool for your purse like at Restaurant Daniel, but that smooth bar beneath your cocktail tumbler is made from Egyptian onyx. And the walls of the dining room are lacquered Indonesian Rosewood. Oh, and your orata enjoyed a first-class, overnight plane ride across the Atlantic so it could be your dinner. All of that counts for something—like Michelin stars— right?

But our favorite bits and bites at Marea aren’t the pretentious ones. We love Chef White’s food both when it’s uncomplicated and “clean”—at its best on the Crudi menu—as well as when it’s soulful and rich, like the aforementioned red-wine braised octopus and bone marrow fusilli. He might not like the comparison, but we love Chef White when he feeds us like an Italian grandmother living on the Adriatic might feed us. An order of his “Strozzapreti”— jumbo lump crab meat, sea urchin and basil—is unforgettable as is the “Gnochetti”—ruby red shrimp, chilis and rosemary tossed with nugget-sized gnocchi. The well-priced Sicilian white wine, selected by our female sommelier, paired well with everything and didn’t break the bank. Our fictitious, coastal-dwelling Italian grandmother probably would have poured us the same wine.

We spent this year’s fifth wedding anniversary at Marea and it both dazzled and comforted us, from the food, to the wine to the service. When we weren’t in awe of our Central Park South surroundings— and the prices—we were enjoying Chef White’s food and one of the best meals of our lives.