October 29, 2009 § 2 Comments
In July 2009 New York Magazine published “The Burger Register: New York’s 82 Most Notable Burgers.” Which got me thinking. Only in New York could there be 82 restaurants/bistros/burger stands with notable burgers, thereby implying that there are hundreds of other spots with very decent burgers. The bottom line: even the short list is long.
Here are 5 of my favorites. Maybe they’ll help narrow the field when you have a craving for a big, juicy all-beef patty.
The Spotted Pig Serves a thick, chargrilled burger with roquefort cheese and roasted onion, and shoestring french fries. Cut it in half and savor every bite. $17
Shake Shack This is the city’s version of the “roadside” burger stand. My pick is the cheeseburger with krinkle fries. Although, their chocolate shake is hard to resist. $4.25 (single), $6.75 (double)
Rare Bar & Grill You won’t be disappointed by Rare’s 100% American “Grade A” chuck beef burgers, ground and freshly prepared daily. I tend to stick to their standard cheeseburger served with Murray’s cheese, preferably Swiss. P/A, burgers start at $15.
Pastis I happen to like most things at Pastis, and their burgers are no exception. I order mine with cheese and mushrooms. And, being a bistro, the fries are a must. $15 (burger), $16 (cheeseburger)
BLT Burger From the Bistro Laurent Tourondel restaurant empire comes a Greenwich Village burger joint. The setting is casual and the burgers, well, that’s their game. They serve 100% Certified Black Angus Beef. My choice is the Great Hills Blue, a 7-oz burger served with Great Hills blue cheese, balsamic caramelized onion and mushrooms, $12. Classic burger, 5-oz, $9, Turkey burger, $8.
** A New York Burger Update: Time Out New York just published its “Essential New York” lists, “The city’s must-haves, as determined by us and essential NYC celebs.” TONY went to a serious group of local foodies (Tom Colicchio, Frank Bruni, Pat LaFrieda, etc.) to come up with their votes for “The essential New York burger.” Check it out.
Oh, yes, and eat well.
October 25, 2009 § Leave a Comment
I was giving in to one of my guilty pleasures: reading the headlines and my horoscope, and then checking out the celebrity photos on the New York Post. I do it almost daily. Intellectual stimulation? No. But loads of fun…
Until today. Which is why this is a “Rant” and not a “Guilty Pleasure.” I write this rant with mixed emotions. Part of me wants to call out the New York Post for publishing a reprehensible photo spread and part of me is loathe to draw attention to it. The former has won out.
I came across the group of Featured Photos titled, “Ladies who don’t measure up to their leading men.” The caption read: “We have to hand it to these sizzling silver-screen studs. A minority in Hollywood, these leading men opted for inner-beauty when choosing their life partners.” Nine actors are pictured with their wives/partners. (I’ve not linked to it here.)
Wow … my initial reaction was where is the spread, “Men who don’t measure up to their leading women?” Then, common sense got the better of me. Have we not moved beyond this conversation? And who do the editors at the Post think they are to say who’s beautiful and who’s not? Really. Do these women, and their partners, not deserve more respect? I think so.
End of rant.
October 23, 2009 § Leave a Comment
Here is the roundup of the latest Broadway theater ticket discounts.
Hamlet starring Jude Law runs through December 6th. Discounts are available for Wednesday matinees and for Tuesday – Thursday evenings (limited availability). Use code HATX1027 at BroadwayOffers.com.
The Royal Family This revival of “Edna Ferber’s 1927 farce about theater people … offers a splendid spread of old-fashioned Broadway pleasures.” TONY Tickets are available for $48 (Mezzanine E-G), $58 (Mezz C-D), and $68 (Orchestra, Premier Circle, Mezz A-B) with $63 tickets for these seats for Wednesday matinees. Use code RFMTE85 at BroadwayOffers.com.
Broke-ology written by Nathan Louis Jackson is running at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater, Lincoln Center. Jackson’s play, a family drama with a good dose of humor, is the story of two brothers (one successful, the other broke) who return home and butt heads regarding how best to deal with their ailing father. “Jackson writes with so much verve and pathos that passages practically sing!” Variety Tickets are available for $42.50 using code: BOTW09 at BroadwayOffers.com.
Ragtime, The Musical starts previews tonight. This revival of the musical, originally staged in 1997, based on E.L. Doctorow’s novel, arrives on Broadway straight from a sold-out extended run at the Kennedy Center in Wasthington, DC. Tickets for performances 10/23 – 11/14 are $46. 50 (Mid-Mezzanine) and $64 (Orchestra, Boxes, Front Mezzanine). For 11/17 – 12/24, tickets run $61 (Mid-Mezzanine) and $89 (Orchestra, Boxes, Front Mezzanine). Rear Mezzanine seats are $46.50 for all performances. Use code NYT109 at Ticketmaster.com.
Finian’s Rainbow Set in the mythical southern state of Missitucky, this is the revival of the 1947 classic which pits a charming Irish dreamer and his headstrong daughter against the host of complications that await them in their newly adopted land: a bigoted southern Senator, a credit crisis, a pesky leprechaun and, of course, a complicated love affair that gives birth to some of the most witty, charming and heartfelt songs ever written for the stage. Tickets are $55 for all preview performances throught 10/28. Beginning 10/30 tickets run $59 for Tuesday, Thursday and Friday evenings, and Wednesday matinees, and $75 for Saturday and Sunday. Use code FRNYT106 at BroadwayOffers.com.
October 22, 2009 § Leave a Comment
This will be a short rant. I will let the article that is the cause speak for itself.
I read it today on The Daily Beast. The article, titled “Thugs Plague Women Entrepreneurs” was written by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, a journalist and researcher who has been reporting on the social and economic impact of women entrepreneurs starting businesses in post-conflict countries like Afghanistan.
It seems that Afghan women, after surviving the war and often the loss of their spouse and other male family members, in trying to provide for their families by starting small businesses, and becoming successful doing so, have subsequently become targets for kidnapping and extortion:
“Targeted by criminal gangs seeking to profit from their success—sometimes with the help of jealous neighbors—these entrepreneurs now find their safety at increasing risk in a poor and battered country. Afghanistan’s growth depends on the economic contributions of business owners like themselves.”
Disbelief, anger, and sadness. These are the words I came up with.
Then the question, how on earth do you go about changing it?
End of rant.
October 19, 2009 § 1 Comment
“Microfinance offers poor people access to basic financial services such as loans, savings, money transfer services and microinsurance. People living in poverty, like everyone else, need a diverse range of financial services to run their businesses, build assets, smooth consumption, and manage risks.” CGAP
A little over a year ago, I came across a number of articles regarding the success of sustainable microfinance programs in the developing world. Whether it was in Bangladesh (with one of the first and most extensive programs provided by the enterprising and innovative Grameen Bank) or any number of countries in Africa and Southeast Asia, these programs were working: entrepreneurs were being funded; loans were being repaid and then, often, taken out again to expand the new businesses; and they were having a measurable impact on the income and, hence, quality of life of the entrepreneurs, their families, and the communities in which they live. These individuals were given an opportunity to climb a rung on the economic ladder and they grabbed it.
Curious, especially because of the recession, I began to research the micro-lending offerings in the United States. I thought that if these types of programs were successful elsewhere, that there must be a robust microfinance movement here as well, and I had just not heard about it. But this was not the case.
While millions of dollars were flowing through vehicles like Kiva.org (“Kiva connects people through lending to alleviate poverty”) to extremely enterprising and well-deserving people in the aforementioned countries, I did not get the sense of a microfinance “movement” here. After some further digging, I found a few very successful micro-lending organizations, like Accion USA and Opportunity Fund, that were doing good work, but they did not appear to have the same level of broad economic impact. And, frankly, who had heard of them? Reading further, it seemed that U.S. financial regulation and the legal complexity of starting a business were largely to blame, as were the start up costs for new businesses in the States versus third world countries. I was left thinking, yeah, but … is there not a way around the bureaucracy? Even if the costs are higher, how does that negate the need? Doesn’t it make sense to try?
Then, after getting caught up in other, more mundane matters for a few months, the subject of microfinance in the U.S. crept into my consciousness again this year: credit had grown tighter with both banks and the SBA lending significantly less money to small businesses than in previous years; these small businesses, which employ over half the country’s private-sector workforce, were being hamstrung in the process, cutting employee hours, and often, entire jobs as well; hundreds of thousands of jobs were disappearing each month at large corporations; and there were now 37 million people (12.6 per cent) in the United States living below the poverty line, 60 per cent of which were women.
Then, some “crocuses.” A Seattle Times article caught my attention in January of this year: “Can micorfinance work in the United States?” In the article, Kristi Heimes described a Seattle-based non-profit called Washington CASH which acts as a go-between for the Small Business Association (SBA) and low income borrowers, grouping them together to make loans and providing training to help them succeed. And I discovered that the Grameen Bank did operate in the United States: Grameen America, launched in Jackson Heights, Queens in January 2008 and later in Omaha, Nebraska, was having a marked impact in the local communities. “As of September 30, 2009, Grameen America has disbursed over $2.9 million in loans to over 1,350 borrowers. Grameen America currently maintains a repayment rate of over 99%.” This seemed promising.
Further, on June 10, 2009, Kiva announced that they were launching their online micro-lending platform in the United States. According to Premal Shah, President of Kiva:
“Kiva’s micro-loan model is extremely relevant to low-to-moderate income, U.S. based entrepreneurs, especially given the current economic conditions which makes access to credit a very real problem. The Internet could become a significant source of community driven, low-cost capital for the everyday small business owner in the U.S., and Kiva.org is excited to expand its platform to the U.S. at a time when the need for such capital is greatest.”
As detailed in their press release, the motivation to expand to the States was provided by California’s First Lady, Maria Shriver. During a visit to the Kiva office in San Francisco, she asked if the model that had been so successful in the developing world could work in America for low and moderate income earners. As a champion of women’s rights and opportunities, Ms. Shriver lauded the launch of the U.S. program, stating, “By pooling our resources, a loan as small as $25 can change a life.”
Kiva has partnered with Accion USA and Opportunity Fund to facilitate the initiative. Earlier this month, they sent out a newsletter celebrating four years of successfully connecting borrowers and lenders, at this point largely in the developing world. Some of the “Kiva Fast Facts” included in the email were:
$94,606,985 raised with a 98% repayment rate
235,482 entrepreneurs funded in 183 countries
576,502 lenders from 185 countries each lending, on average, $168.54
$402.57 was the average loan size (some were group loans)
82.73% of loans were made to women entrepreneurs
Enter Tory Burch. I found a brief mention of her foundation online last week and was curious about its focus. When I visited the Tory Burch Foundation web site I was impressed. The foundation’s mission statement is to provide “economic opportunities to women and their families in the United States.”
As Ms. Burch explains on the foundation’s site, she conducted extensive research into programs in other countries and realized the opportunity she had to contribute “by working to economically empower women and their families in the United States.” Then she settled on microfinance as the first area of focus.
On The Daily Beast’s “Giving Beast,” Ms. Burch wrote:
“The need for microfinance is enormous. Only 2 percent of people who could benefit have access to microfinance services in the U.S., vs. 17 percent in developing countries. The sad reality is that a low-income entrepreneur in a developing country may have a better shot at accessing a small business loan than a low-income entrepreneur in the U.S. It defies logic.”
Ms. Burch’s focus on women makes sense. As the Kiva statistics demonstrate, the majority of loans made to date in developing countries have been to women. In the United States, the need is equally as urgent:
“Poor women are most likely to be micro-entrepreneurs or self-employed. These entrepreneurs support their families and are the front line investors in their communities. They are more likely to be denied a loan by a traditional bank and face higher levels of financial discrimination.”
The Tory Burch Foundation has also partnered with Accion USA. As she explained, most U.S microlenders process 25 to 30 loans year, whereas, Accion processes 50 to 60 per month. Since its inception in 1991, Accion has loaned $117 million in 18,500 microloans ranging from $500 to $50,000. As on the Kiva.org site, you can meet Accion’s borrowers on their site, as well. Further Accion has partnered with Kiva so that individuals can lend directly to Accion borrowers in North America. I believe the one-to-one connection: watching the funding progress and seeing where your money is going – to whom and for what purpose – is a large part of Kiva’s success.
With the attention brought to this issue with the domestic launch of Kiva.org and the focus of the Tori Burch Foundation, and the commitment of micro-lenders like Accion USA, Opportunity Fund, and the Grameen Foundation, I am convinced that a larger number of individual lenders, like you and me, will fund borrowers “at home,” as well as abroad, and, equally as important, that more entrepreneurs will be made aware of the possibility of borrowing funds to start or expand their businesses, so they too can take advantage of the opportunity to climb a rung on the economic ladder.
I believe change coming. The microfinance movement may just be taking root in the United States of America. Isn’t it about time?
October 19, 2009 § Leave a Comment
I will admit it, I am a sucker for the a really good turnaround story, be it watching Tyler Perry or Jay-Z on “Oprah” (I knew nothing about either before their appearances), or seeing a new member join the Joy Fit Club (after losing more than 100 pounds) on a Monday morning airing of the “Today Show.” They inspire me. They remind me of the strength of the individual, and what she or he can accomplish when committed.
Sometimes, though, it takes other people to help us see who we are and what we are capable of. Witness the Friday Ambush Makeover segment during the fourth hour of the “Today Show” – the Kathie Lee and Hoda hour. Yes, I work from home, so I can tear myself away from what it is I am doing for the 5-7 minutes it takes to watch. But, even if I didn’t, and if you don’t, then we could watch the weekly segment online.
Each Friday morning, hairstylist Louis Licari and US Weekly contributor Jill Martin hit the Plaza at Rockefeller Center to choose two women to be their ambushees. The women present at 7:00 a.m. or earlier know this. They’ve made their signs, they’ve brought their family and friends, and each one has a story (for these are real women, with real lives). When the time comes for the “big reveal,” either at 10:15′ish or 10:30, we meet the women, hear their compelling stories, and see them before the two professionals have had a chance to “work their magic.” The family and/or friends are blindfolded, even the ambushee has not seen herself yet – the new hair cut and new hair color, the new makeup, the new clothes. Every week I sit waiting and then, to use a worn cliche, my jaw hits the floor. The transformations (and this truly is the right word) are amazing. The masks come off, the family and friends scream and say, “Oh my God”, then the ambushee is instructed to turn around and look at herself in the mirror. Some are simply thrilled (you would be too), others cannot believe that the image they see reflected back, and they fight off the tears. One woman even gasped, ‘Wow, I’m beautiful.” And I thought, “Good for you. Yes, you are!”
What a great gift to be able to give someone, actually two someones, each and every week.
Watch it. You’ll see for yourself.
Now, I’ve got to go get my sign ready and round up my friends. Maybe I too can catch the attention of Jill and Louis, and be ambushed. You never know.
October 18, 2009 § 3 Comments
Here is Part II of my Italian restaurant tour of Manhattan. As with Part I, I have linked the restaurant names to their respective web sites. And don’t forget OpenTable should you want to make a reservation.
Barbuto This is a spot I stumbled upon when I first moved to New York and was looking for space for a business. A bit further down Washington Street than the hub of shops, the restaurant is located on the corner of West 12th Street in what used to be a garage. The owners wisely kept the garage doors, which in warmer weather are kept open. Spare wood tables with leather and metal chairs, a long bar, and wood-burning pizza oven create an inviting atmosphere. The menu offers a well-edited list of dishes made from the freshest ingredients, and it changes daily. A few standbys and standouts: gnocchi, roasted jw chicken with salsa verde, and sauteed local spinach. Be like a local and head to Barbuto.
Scarpetta Means “little shoe” in Italian, and stands for the piece of crusty bread used to mop up the last bit of sauce on your plate. After many years uptown, Chef Scott Conant opened his downtown trattoria in mid-2008. The menu is farm-fresh and seasonal. Every item sounds so mouth-wateringly good, it’s hard to choose. Imagine Duck and Foie Gras Ravioli with a Marsala reduction, or Angolotti dal Plin filled with mixed meat & fonduta, mushrooms & parmigiano, knowing that all pastas are made in-house, or a Ribeye of Beef with roasted fall vegetables and truffled spinach puree. You’ll need that little shoe of bread, trust me. The main dining space is sky-lit and furnished with close-set tables and banquettes. There is a spacious bar in front, and outdoor dining in good weather. Reservations booked well-ahead are a must.
BiCE Ristorante The first location of this classic Northern Italian restaurant opened in Milan in 1926. In Manhattan, you’ll find BiCE in the heart of midtown, on 54th Street just east of the best shops on 5th Avenue. Drawing a rather “well-heeled” crowd, whether it’s lunch or dinner, BiCE is busy. The consistently excellent food and attentive service are the reasons why. For me, it’s all about the pastas, which are made fresh daily. Think, Spagetti Alle Vongole Veraci, Taglioni Con Aragosta, Pomodoro Fresco, Reduzione di Aragosta E Funghi Misti, and Papardelle al Telefono. Bring your Platinum AMEX though – prices are not for the faint-of-heart.
Bond 45 - This an Italian kitchen and steakhouse, serving homestyle cooking, in the center of the Theatre District. The mozarella and antipasti bars alone are worth the trip. The menu is extensive, to say the least, so you won’t want for choices. To help narrow things down, I would suggest the Red Beet and Asparagus Salad, and Lots of Shrimp Scampi. They also have a fantastic cocktail lounge.
Felidia If you’ve ever watched “Lidia’s Italy” on public television, then you have some idea what to expect. With her television show, DVDs, cookbooks, and six restaurants, Lidia Bastianich has come to define authentic Italian cuisine for a generation of food enthusiasts. Opened in 1981, Felidia is the Manhattan East Side flagship. Since 1995, chef Fortunato Nicotra has been preparing traditional fare with a delicious twist. Frequented by locals and visitors, alike, Felidia should be on your list.
Bocca di Bacco I was introduced to Bocca di Bacco by my dear theatre-going compatriots. Located on 9th Avenue between 54th and 55th Streets, it was a bit longer of a walk than I would have liked on a cold December night … but it was worth it and I have returned since, without the theatre as my excuse. Every aspect of the decor – from the ornate wooden doors, to the long stone bar, closely packed tables – creates warmth. The food is simple, reasonably priced, and delicious. The grilled octopus and Insalate di Brasaola e Pere are excellent, and the Fettucine Bolognese is up there with the city’s best.
Cara Mia Here is an inviting, creative Italian restaurant nestled on 9th Avenue at the edge of Theatre District. The Insalata di Pera and the Scampi al Limone are favorites of mine. A little removed from the traditional theatreland fare, you’ll be rewarded with inventive dishes and excellent service. I recommend it often to friends who are visiting the city and attending a Broadway show. Every one has loved it.
Esca I’ve yet to eat at Esca, much to the dismay of one of my close NYC friends who keeps telling me, “You have to eat at Esca.” We both love good food. He’s a member of what I affectionately call “The Sunday Night Supper Club” which, on a fairly regular basis, tries out different restaurants in Manhattan and Brooklyn on Sunday nights. I’ve even been invited on occasion. Suffice it to say, I trust his judgment and so should you. From the Babbo & Lupa team, Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich, partnered with chef/fisherman Dave Pasternack, if you want sublimely cooked fish, this is your place. Lobster, clams, shrimp, mussels, anchovies, sea bass, stripe bass, butterfish, salmon … add some verdure and some pasta and you get the idea. Located at West 43rd Street and 9th Avenue, you can visit pre-/post-theatre if you’re looking for a reason … but really, if you’re a fish lover who needs one?
Il Gattopardo This too comes as a recommendation, this time from the best friend/very-particular-foodie with whom I dined at Il Tinello (see below). Located on West 54th Street, between 5th and 6th Avenues, in a narrow townhouse space with a back garden, this time the gastronomical focus is Southern Italy, especially Napoli. Like Il Tinello and Bice, it has a loyal, upscale New York clientele. You won’t go wrong with the Parmigiana of zucchini with smoked mozzarella, fresh tomato, and herbs, the Grilled and sliced Piedmontese strip loin with Italian arugula, or the Veal scaloppine with grilled eggplant and smoked mozzarella, served with braised escarole. Actually, you probably can’t go wrong with anything on the menu, but these suggestions might help you narrow it down. (Interesting tidbit: Il Gattopardo means “The Leopard”, as in the 1963 classic Italian film starring Burt Lancaster and Claudia Cardinale and directed by Luchino Visconti.)
Il Tinello Ristorante I will admit, the only reason I went to Il Tinello was because it’s one of Regis Philbin’s (of Regis and Kelly fame) favorite Italian restaurants, and my best friend considers Regis Philbin to be one of her favorite TV personalities. So it was on another cold December night, the night of the Rockefeller Center tree lighting no less, that I found myself, festive and hungry, waiting for my dear friend (who was very slowly making her way uptown in a taxi) in the cozy bar. When at last she arrived, we were graciously seated at a white linen-covered table and attended to by an accommodating and knowledgeable team of waiters. One of them rolled up the antipasti cart – the freshest mozzarella, funghi, tomatoes, zucchini, and so on – from which were were able to choose whatever combination we desired. Heavenly. The menu is vast and filled with savory-sounding dishes, but did I mention that said friend is a very particular eater. Spaghetti al olio, not on the menu, no problem. Veal marsala, not on the menu, no problem. Seriously. It was one of the best meals either of us has ever had … and we’ve had a lot.
As a side note, if you’re looking for Regis Philbin’s favorite downtown Italian restaurant, it’s Valbella Ristorante on West 13th Street in the Meatpacking District.
Insieme Offers haute Italian dining that combines the traditional and the contemporary. The space manages to be sleek and modern and warm and inviting. The same can be said for the food. For a lighter meal, I like the Octopus Carpaccio and one of their delicious pastas. Located at The Michelangelo Hotel on 7th Avenue at 51st Street, it works well as a pre-/post-theatre dinner spot, but is worth a visit regardless.
Il Buco Romantic and comfortable are the first words that come to mind when I think of Il Buco. The tables are tiny and packed impossibly close together, Italian pottery and wine racks line the walls, copper pots hang from the ceiling, and branch-like light fixtures illuminate the country-house-like space. Open for almost fifteen years, this Mediterranean restaurant draws New Yorkers of all types with its irresistible food. Ingredients are sourced from local farmers with specialty items, which they also sell, imported from Umbria. Located on Bond Street, which is north of Houston, between The Bowery and Lafayette Street, it is an off-the-beaten path gem worth seeking out.
October 10, 2009 § 2 Comments
Fall travel in Europe … fewer crowds, shorter lines, cheaper airfares, more attention, and better service. Temperatures are cooler to be sure, but for me the days are all the more inviting because of it. Long walks through historic cities were made for crisp, sunny days. Bring along a coat and scarf (and, yes, an umbrella for London), and you should be all set.
As part of their “Fall in Europe” travel special, The New York Times has published a list of 100 hotels in 14 European cities for under $150 a night. All of the popular tourist destinations are there, including London, Paris, Rome, Amsterdam, Prague, Dublin, and Barcelona.
Over the past three years, New York Times readers have been adding their travel tips and secrets to the Times Travel Web site destination guides. The copious number of posts provided an initial list from which the travel editors culled the 100 recommended hotels which they believe represent the best value.
“All prices listed are for a double room for a weekend in either October or November, and are based on rates found on the hotels’ Web sites or on travel sites like Expedia or Hotels.com. (The $150 limit was based on the conversion rates of roughly $1.60 to the pound and $1.50 to the euro.)”
I finished reading the article and immediately conjured up visions of sitting outside at the Cafe de Flore drinking a double espresso, of “The David” in mid-afternoon, of a stroll through Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park, and a matinee at the Donmar Warehouse followed by drinks and an early dinner at a lively gastropub, of the Charles Bridge and Prague Castle lit up just after dark, of …
Buon viaggio, Bon voyage, Buen viaje!
October 8, 2009 § Leave a Comment
There is a love affair between Manhattan and its Italian restaurants. They just go together, like proscuitto and parmigiano, or tomato and mozarella. There is an overwhelming selection – across price points, parts of town, and areas of Italy – you can find whatever it is you’re looking for. The list is long, so I’ve divided it into three postings. Each restaurant is linked to its web site.
Here are some of my favorites. Maybe one or two will become yours too!
Gemma – Located in the Bowery Hotel, this casual Italian trattoria serves fresh “rustic Italian cuisine” in a lively atmosphere. You’ll want to try the crostini (Olive Tapenade Goat Cheese, Chicken Liver Puree, or Tuna with White Beans). And I like their version of Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe and the Bistecca. If you’re there for lunch, the sandwiches are it. Gemma does not take reservations, so on busy nights (Wednesday – Saturday) show up early or grab a glass of wine and seat at the long bar while you wait. The scene is a good one though, and won’t be hard to take.
Hearth – This East Village restaurant has atmosphere galore and serves classic Italian food with “a contemporary spin.” Salad, pasta, meat or fish, it’s hard to choose. Every bite is packed with flavor. Using only fresh ingredients, the menu changes daily, with more dramatic shifts with the seasons. Hearth also offers their “Cucina Povera” menu – 3 courses featuring simple, hearty dishes for $35 with an optional $15 wine pairing. Bellissimo!
Supper – Northern Italian Osteria & Wine Bar is another NYC favorite. The third restaurant from Frank Prisinzano, it’s a charming, rustic East Village spot serving authentic fare from the north of Italy. Think, Grilled Polenta with Wild Mushrooms, Branzino Livornese (tomatoes, capers, garlic, and onion) and Ravioli Mantovano (swiss chard and parmigiano filling with brownbutter sage and swiss chard sauce). My mouth is watering just writing the words.
A Voce Madison – First things first … no matter what else you want to eat, order the Ricotta di bufula while you are making your decision. Trust me on this one. After that, A Voce, which “offers a contemporary take on Italy’s most beloved dishes,” will continue to please. The Pappardelle is an excellent choice, as is the Trota all griglia. The interior of the restaurant is a design experience: an art installation called “Falling Twig” adorns one of the main walls, and the rest of the space is warm and modern at the same time. This is a dining experience. Take it all in. Note: a second A Voce location recently opened on Columbus Avenue (Upper West Side)
Beppe – This is a Flatiron gem. An inviting Italian restaurant that looks like a Tuscan farmhouse … and tastes like one, as well. The Fagioli and the Tri Colore salads are excellent. Try the Pazzo or the Gnocchi, if you’re in the mood for pasta, or the Rosticciana or Agnello with a side of Verdure if you you are craving some meat. And if there is anything on the menu with lobster, order it.
Coppola’s East – After opening Coppola’s Trattoria on the Upper West Side in 1986, Salvatore Coppola waited 12 years to launch Coppola’s East on 3rd Avenue near Gramercy Park, where he serves consistently flavorful “Northern Italian Comfort Food.” This is where I go when I am craving a hearty dish (usually half goes home with me) of pasta: Garganelli della Casa, Linguine Pescatore, or Fettucine di Enzo. And, I am a fan of the Carpaccio di Manzza and the Insalata Tricolore to start. Delicious.
Novita – Tucked into a below-street-level space on a tree-lined street, this Gramercy Park ristorante serving Piedmont fare is a great find. For over 15 years, Novita has delivered consistently excellent food and attentive service. How to choose between Funghi Misti, Insalata di Caprino, di Carciofini, di Fava, di Calamari … you get the idea, and that’s just to start. The offering of pastas, fish and meat is equally compelling. This is a romantic neighborhood spot worth seeking out.
Babbo Ristorante – Probably the best Italian restaurant in the city. Accordingly, reservations are nearly impossible to get. Do try though, it’s worth the effort. Babbo accepts reservations up to one month in advance to the numerical date for parties of up to 6 people. If you can handle an early time, you might be in luck. Should luck elude you, you can always try the Babbo Wine Bar which opens daily at 5 P.M. (4:30 on Sunday) and takes walk-ins. Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich have delivered here for over 10 years.
Il Cantinori – Tuscan cuisine in Greenwich Village since 1983. In a city where restaurants come and go, New Yorkers have frequented Il Cantinori for over 25 years because the food and service are simply excellent. I may have had the best Insalata Caprese that I’ve ever eaten (and I have had my share of Insalata Caprese), and you can’t go wrong with the Tagliata Cantinori (rib eye steak with herbs). And, the interior oozes atmosphere (read: it’s romantic!).
Il Mulino - A classic in its own league. Picture waiters in tails carving slices of Parmigiano Reggiano from huge chunks that surely arrived from Italy off the boat (or plane). Fernando and Gino Masci opened Il Mulino over twenty years ago and have been serving Abruzzese cuisine to New Yorkers and visitors alike, ever since. Dishes are simple, hearty, rustic … delicious! The Langostino and Risotto are to die for. And, if Dover Sole is in season, order it, no matter the price.
Lupa Osteria Romana “Roman trattoria fare of the highest quality at a moderate price.” Reservations can be a challenge here as well, but once you’ve secured a table the dilemma becomes what to order … everything sounds good, looks good, smells good. There is a fantastic selection of Anipasti e Salumi to start. I tried, and fell in love with, one of their Insalate – Escarole, Walnuts, Red Onion, and Pecorino. For a main, I like the Bucatini All’ Amatriciana and the Bavette Cacio e Pepe. On my second visit, I managed to save room for dessert. The Lupa Tartufo was a good ending. If you are making a reservation, there are two “rooms” in the trattoria: the front, where the bar is, tends to be a bit louder and more lively than the back which is quieter and more intimate. You can try to request your preference.
Otto Enoteca Pizzeria – The casual, convivial outpost of the Batali/Bastianich team. Modeled after a train station, Otto is located at One Fifth Avenue, a fabulous Art Deco building that opened in January 1928 as a hotel, and 8th Street. Start with some Antipasti. I love the olives and Funghi Misti (mixed mushrooms). Then order a plate of meat (proscuitto, salumi, coppa), and three cheeses (possibly Parmigiano Reggiano, Pecorino, and Taleggio). After that, it’s pasta or pizza (my vote is the pizza, thin crispy crust from a wood-burning oven. Too many to choose from, but Quattro Stagioni gives you a little bit of everything). Add a nice bottle of Italian wine from their extensive list and you just might think you’re in a stazione in Italia.
October 2, 2009 § Leave a Comment