Feeling frustrated at your lack of ability to cross space and time borders? Head to Upland: it’s like visiting California and Italy at the same time.
This newly opened Flatiron restaurant from Justin Smillie is a beacon of bright citrus, California cool and Italian warmth. Smillie, who previously worked at perennial favorite, Il Buco Alimentari & Vineria, has taken his Italian training and crossed it with his California roots. “I was born in Upland, California, and the region’s straightforward approach to cooking, as well as its produce, continues to inspire me today,” says Smillie.
Interesting vegetable preparations abound. There is the hunk of maitake mushrooms crisped in olive oil and resting on a bed of tangy farmstead cheese ($16), beets with white chocolate ($11) and slow-roasted celery root with black truffle butter ($15).
We loved that every main dish we tried highlighted vegetables and none of them were overcooked or hidden under heavy sauces. Take the porcelet ($35): this crackling piece of pork is ringed with slender, sweet heirloom Jimmy Nardello peppers from Norwich Meadows Farm, charred onions and pieces of persimmon.
Upland can’t change the weather outside, but it can give you the warm fuzzies with its food, technique and welcoming atmosphere (no question about food or ingredients is unwelcome here). The word has already gotten out, so make a reservation in advance, show up early to snag a seat at the handsome bar or try your luck at lunch.