Pizza Eggplant

I was inspired to make this after seeing a droolworthy recipe on Serious Eats.

Of course, when I look at a recipe, I just generally look at the title and the picture of the final product, then kind of make up all of the in between steps on my own.

This is a GREAT pasta free lasagna type recipe. It’s rich but not greasy and filling but not uber heavy. It’s a great way to use up those late season eggplants and tomatoes.

And it’s especially tasty for a vegetarian crowd.

Pizza Eggplant

2011-07-25 tomatoes aspic and pasta saladIngredients:

3 eggplants, skinned and sliced into thin slices, lengthwise

1 lb or so fresh, low moisture mozzarella

2-3 cups your favorite tomato sauce

1/2 cup fresh parmesan cheese

1 cup olive oil

A ton of salt…no, really, a ton of salt.

IMG_13801. Lay your eggplant on a couple layers of paper towel on a sheet pan and salt the hell out of them. No reall…mountains of salt. This isn’t to season the eggplant (thought it does), it’s to both draw out the bitterness and the moisture, so the final dish isn’t too soggy. Do it anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours. When you are doing this, there may be droplet of moisture on the tops of the eggplant and the paper towel will become soaked. That’s all okay, full steam head.

IMG_13882. Then, rinse the eggplant WELL and dry it even better. You don’t want it to be a a salt lick and you DON’T want to get hit with water-meets-oil splatters in the next step.

IMG_13893. Preheat the oven to 350 F, then fry the eggplant over medium high heat in a pan with olive oil. You don’t want the eggplant to be brown, the point here is to make it lightly golden and flexible – a minute or 2 per side should do it, and you should do it in batches so they can fry in an even layer.

A word about flying eggplant: eggplant is a sponge. It soaks up moisture immediately. So, use just a little oil at a time – a  few teaspoons at first. If you need more go for it, but just use a little at a time, because you will have to re-oil for each batch.

IMG_14034. Drain the fried eggplant well on a few paper towels - it will be really greasy and you are gonna want to dry them off as well as possible. If they tear a little while you drain them, it’s okay. Now, the layering starts:

IMG_14095. Sauce…

IMG_1411eggplant…

IMG_1420cheese, and repeat until the eggplant is al used up. I threw some tomatoes in there because they were going bad - feel free to use the same. Now, bake it for about 30 minutes, or until the cheese is totally melted, the dish is bubbling, and you are drooling.

IMG_14216. Let rest for 15 minutes for the juices to redistribute and serve.

Oh, this is gooood. This is big bowl on the couch with comfy pajamas and trash tv good. This is cold for breakfast he next day good. This…is…good. It will seem quite watery when it is first finished, but I promise that the juices get soaked right back up. Though, truth be told, I spooned up those juices and ate them as an appetizer before they even got a chance to redistribute. This is so delicious.

IMG_1423The eggplant is silky but still firm enough to stand up to the tomato sauce, the salty Parmesan, and the stretchy mozzarella. It’s pizza without the dough and lasagna without the ricotta. It’s easy to make (Even though it’s time-consuming), and any meat eater will be shocked that they can feel so satisfied with nary a pork product in sight. Make this stat and thank me tomorrow.

Or don’t. Because you will be too busy stuffing your race with leftovers.

A Day in Heaven on Arthur Avenue

This weekend, I went to foodie Disneyland.

No, not Stew Leonard’s. Another, less suburban, grittier, and infinitely more charming Foodie-land.

I went to Arthur Avenue.

I religiously followed Serious Eats’ excellent suggestions. I tried all things yeasty, porky, and cheesy.

I came home and, with friends and family,  I cooked.

It was a foodie day for the ages.

In the middle of the Bronx is the real, live Little Italy. One small block, filled with shop after shop of salt packed anchovies, huge cans of olive oil, and sun dried tomatoes swimming with garlicky olives and vinegary peppers. Butchers selling everything but the moo, cluck, or oink. Old nonnas chatting up beefy young men making mozzarella right in front of you, huge men in neon track suits sipping espresso as children run around the pastry shop, and octopi the likes of which I haven’t seen since Greece. Come hungry, since every place you frequent will ply you with samples. Anything you see, you can try, and there is no pressure to buy – because everything is so tasty that the shop owners know that you will buy. And you want to patronize these stores. It’s totally different from shopping at a big box grocery store because you see where your business is going – it’s going to these men and women who make this food fresh every single day and carry on the tradition of their ancestors. It’s a privilege to see living history.

Let alone taste it.

20140816_135241Vincent’s Meat Shop, where every kind of animal you can imagine is sold. Everything from meatloaf mix to obscure cuts like breast of veal to elegant meats like quail and whole lobes of foie gras. The staff is helpful, efficient, and more than happy to tell you exactly how to cook your purchase.
20140816_135704 Freshly shucked Kumamoto and Peace Passage Oysters, on a stand outside of Consenza’s. The Kumamotos are especially memorable – creamy and slightly citrusy; accented by a spritz of lemon. These require no sauce, though ample accouterments are supplied should you need some for your sidewalk stand up snack. Ice cream truck ain’t got nuthin on the oyster cart. 20140816_140428 Fresh mozzarella from Casa della Mozzarella. The shop is tiny, sweltering, crowded, and intoxicating. Hunks of garlicky roast pork, wedges of calcium crystal-studded Parmigiano Reggiano, pots of piquant pickled mushrooms, jars of fiery Calabrian chili paste…this narrow store is a treasure trove of all things delicious. The mozzarella, which will be offered to all customers as samples, is unparalleled. As rich and soft as burrata, it should be enjoyed room temperature and well salted. Get the big globe…you won’t be able to stop eating it. And don’t forget to sample EVERYTHING…you will want to buy it all. 20140816_152755 Yes, we took home our cheese from Calandra’s in the carseat…we had to. It was that precious. Though the burrino was a bouncy, tasteless round of cheese surrounding an unattractive globule of cold butter, the truffle cheese was the most potent I have ever had. The taste reverberates on your tongue up to your nose and down to your toes. It goes on and on way after the cheese has melted away on your tongue. The Prima Donna cheese, an award-winning mix of Gouda and Parmesan, has the semi soft texture of gouda with a sharp, nutty, salty Parmesan taste. And the house made ricotta is…unreal. Soft and creamy, it’s more like a milkshake than a cheese. We ate it with honey and truffle oil on bread, and it would be perfect with roast peaches and basil as dessert. Or on brioche with some bitter marmalade as breakfast. Or on a spoon at midnight as a secret, perfect snack.

You know, whatevs floats your boat. 20140816_164752 The parade of cheeses, with soft sundried tomatoes in oil and fruity, salty, and juicy olives. 20140816_164801 Warm mozzarella and home-grown tomatoes(not my own…it helps to have friends in high places) and basil. Salting the mozzarella is key…it brings out the pure, milky flavor.20140816_164811 White bean salad with oregano, garlic and red pepper olive oil, and more of those sundried tomatoes.20140816_185658Rack of lamb for the cost of a single steak at most restaurants. Cooked by one of my culinary partners-in-crime with piquant chutney and a thick coating of herbed breadcrumbs. Notice the thick fat cap – hard to find that at the local grocery store, right?
20140816_185702Fresh basil and regular spaghetti with beef and lamb meatballs and homemade tomato sauce. The pasta was cut to order to our thickness specifications. I don’t even have words to describe my joy at eating this light, fragrant pasta with those juicy meatballs and bright, oregano forward sauce. This dish was also prepared by that culinary partner-in-crime. You see why we keep him around…he is handy with a haul from Arthur Avenue.

Viva Arthur Avenue!

Breakfast at Maialino

I have wanted to visit Danny Meyer’s Maialino since it opened. It’s supposed to have sensational rustic Italian food, with homemade pastas, fabulous antipasti, and of course its namesake crispy suckling pig face.

So, of course, I ended up there for breakfast when none of these items are offered. 

What I found was a meal that was way too expensive and yet…so delicious that I could totally see myself going again. 

Rent can be late this month, right?

20140806_082144 The restaurant itself is lovely – very large and spacious by NYC standards, with a casual bar upfront that serves fresh juices for breakfast. There is a large dining room that is covered with homey checkered tablecloths that feel like grandmas house and small dishes of excellent salt flakes that remind you that you are not.  The vibe is somewhere between business and foodie casual – it would be the perfect place to take a business lunch with a colleague who just happens to love great food.

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Robiolina with pickled onions and roe

Okay, this is the smallest dish for the price that I have ever seen. I can’t call it a value. It just isn’t. What it IS is really delicious. The toast is crunchy but thick enough to have some give under the toasted surface. It’s topped with a thin, creamy schmear of robiolina cheese – like a tangier cream cheese with a lighter, more airy texture. Its crowning touches are a few vinegary pickled onions, a drizzle of fruity olive oil, and some fresh, bursting with briny flavor trout roe. This is your bagel with novie gone high class and on a diet. It’s slim, it’s elegant, and it’s sophisticated. This is more of an amuse bouche than a whole meal, and it really is very pricey, but it’s delish.
20140806_084525 Scrapple ai Maialino

Now, THIS is fairly priced and something that I would order again and again. The hockey puck sized terrine looks dense, but beneath its thick, crackly crust is the loosely packed, sage scented, sweet and savory pork sausage of my DREAMS. It’s incredibly juicy and tender, with that pork flavor singing through, especially when lemon juice hits the patty, a la Wienerschnitzel. 20140806_084650This stuff is as rich as a Kardashian and more enjoyable  as all of them put together. You won’t be able to eat a whole one unless you have a nap on the schedule immediately after breakfast – plan to share this with someone as a fabulous side dish.

I loved Maialino as much as I thought that I would, though I did get some sticker shock. I would love to go back for dinner and see if the portions make the prices a little easier to swallow – the food is surely delicious enough to warrant a second go-round. 

The Surprisingly Delicious Il Mulino

I try never to listen to reviews. I don’t trust them because one man’s Dos Caminos is another man’s Taco Bell – and who is to say which one that man prefers.

Sometimes this gets me into trouble. Sometimes, it’s a draw. And sometimes, it lads me into a wonderful meal for which my expectations were really low.

Such was my delightful experience at the uptown Il Mulino.

Il Mulino is a veritable institution in the west village. It’s slightly easier to get a reservation there than its inspiration, Rao’s. It’s a club to which everyone belongs, as long as you come in with a reservation, which will likely be on the very early or somewhat late side.

Hey, I could be down with some prosecco at 6pm.

The vibe and atmosphere is old school elegance - break out your Birkin bags, and no ripped jeans, gents. The lighting is so low that even we, four young and healthy people, had to break out our iPhone flashlights. But you won’t read your menu for the first few minutes that you are there anyway.

First, you will order a bottle of wine from the rather small and overpriced list – how can you not? It’s such a celebratory feeling being ushered to your tiny, lamp lit table by a tuxedoed Italian man who spouts nothing but compliments, bella this and prego that….you need to drink to keep that buzz going!

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Then, you will receive a chunk of parmesan from a large wheel. It’s nutty, salty, and a little sweet.

Then, there is the spicy hard salami.

Then there is the zucchini, oily and addictive.

Don’t forget the mussels bruschetta, where the mussels are a little blah but the crostini is downright fabulous. Tart, juicy, sweet, and a little earthy. Just a hint of garlic. Sorry for the lack of photos – toldja that the restaurant was insanely dark!

I wish I got a photo of the overflowing bread baskets. Yes, multiple. Spicy, crispy foccacia, fresh doughy tomato foccacia, wheat country bread, and garlic bread so cheesy, savory, and delicious that it must be baked with pure crack cocaine.

Yeah, it’s that tasty.

Only then do you get to look at the impossible-to-decipher-in-this-darkness menu.

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Porcini ravioli

Keep your oysters and other aphrodisiacs. This is the sexiest dish that I ave ever eaten. It’s swimming in a creamy, truffle inflected sauce. It’s firm but pillowy and light on the inside, with cheesy, woodsy, meaty porcini mushrooms. The pasta is tender and the serving is gigantic – easily enough for 2 light eaters. It’s rich and heavy in the most wonderful way. It’s almost heady with all of those mushrooms and cream. It’s intoxicating. 

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Chicken alla Romana

The most shocking of the night, because it tastes so home cooked. If you told me that your nonna was back there cooking it, I would believe you in a heartbeat. The most tender chicken in a lemony, almost velvety sauce with capers, mushrooms and artichoke hearts. The chicken reaches that magical point of fall apart tender but not yet mushy. It’s so bright and comforting – it’s really tasty in every way. It doesn’t come with a side dish, but get some more of the garlic bread to sop up that wonderful sauce. Trust me, you will want it all.

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Veal Milanese

A lighter option to veal Parmigiano. Thin, wonderfully tender veal that is so soft and sweet that my fiance announced that it must have been smuggled into the country, because he had never tasted veal like this. It has a crunchy, thin breading that isn’t at all soggy and is well seasoned with salt and dried oregano. It’s covered with fresh tomatoes that are so sweet and juicy that it reminds me that the crap I have been eating all winter is finally giving way to spring and summer fruit. I would order this again, but would also like to try the much more sinful Parmigiano version.

Il Mulino gets an unfair rap as overly pricey and subpar. It was absolutely fair for the amount and quality of food that we got. The servers asked us if we wanted appetizers or dessert but did NOT push us. We were not rushed, pressured to upgrade our wine selection. or made to feel in any way that we were less than because we only ordered entrees. We were even gifted some fig grappa at the end to entice us to return. The service was efficient, warm, and genuine. It was an excellent meal, and though not a cheap one, a fairly priced one.

So even though I don’t  follow reviews, you should follow mine. For that time when you don’t  have to pinch pennies, Il Mulino is too delish to miss!

Cafe Fiorello Does Not Impress

Ugh this is one of those posts I DREAD writing.

Like, I almost didn’t write it.

However, I realized that I owe it to you, my readers, to give you my honest opinions.

And, honestly…I don’t know how this restaurant has been around so long.

Cafe Fiorello has long stood across the street from Lincoln Center – prime real estate all year long, but especially good in the holiday season. Hordes of little girls and their grandparents flock to see “The Nutcracker” and afterwards, who wouldn’t like a little pasta? You would think the dining room would be at the top of its game to entice clients who otherwise might not come this way, to return in the warmer months.

If that’s the case…ai yai yai.

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The dining room si large and loud, but not unhappily so  just the generally happy buzz of contented diners. It’s on the fancier side of things, but it’s very kid friendly – really the perfect family setting.

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Bread basket

Tasty. The multigrain bread is dry and forgettable but the foccacia is lovely – vaguely garlicky and studded with fresh basil. Best of all, there is a pesto butter sandwiched in the slices, like delightful, creamy, salty surprises throughout the soft bread. Definitely enjoyable!

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Burrata

Okay, nothing more. Nowhere near Amali. Nowhere near a lot of places. A little dry. A little bland. A little…little. Where is the olive oil? The seasonings? The “more than 1 measly slice of tomato?”  All this is lacking and it’s still $18? It’s a miss.

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Meatballs

They serve their purpose, even though they did come to the table lukewarm. I love the nutty, crunchy pistachios on top and the soft texture of the meatballs. But they are quite one note. The sauce is too sweet and the balls are too bland.

That’s what she said.

Where is the fragrant oregano or the kick of Sicilian chiles? Where is the layer of sharp pecorino cheese or the sliver of melting garlic in the sauce? For the love of Pete, where is the SALT?

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Spaghetti carbonara with truffles.

Sure, I make the best carbonara. But this verrsion could at least TRY to measure up. Or, you know, it could be lazy and not offer any taste or texture other than “gloppy.” It could be lacking salt and have steamed the asparagus into oblivion. The egg yolk is wonderfully unctuous but..again..where is the salt? Or pepper? The pasta itself is the saving grace – it is obviously fresh and is al dente with a fresh, eggy flavor and ideal texture. Unfortunately, despite the ample shavings on top, it was like the flavor was purposefully sucked out of the truffles. Why? WHY?!

And the service…oh, the service. The night we went, the menu had changed that day. The place was busy. A bathrooms flooded. I get all that – I do. But when you wait an hour and a half for your meal, squinched into a booth that is crowded with patrons on either side, and the wrong meal is brought to you? You need more than just a small portion of the rather expensive meal comped.

You need an apology. A visit from the manager. A question about how they can improve. Some attention at all.

Our server was sweet but totally overwhelmed. Dining here was not a great experience.

And in a city with so many winners, why would you come here? For a better meal at half the price, go to The Smith.

Like I said, I hate writing less than stellar reviews…but more than that, I would hate if you wasted your time, money, and stomach space here.

Cafe Fiorello on Urbanspoon

Amali Makes Midtown East Dining…Interesting?!

When my girlfriend asked me to meet her for dinner near her office, I inwardly groaned. Midtown. Ugh. Midtown East. Double ugh. and Park Avenue. Like…who goes there to have a GOOD TIME?

The answer: me. Now, anyway.

IMG_20131209_184411_809Amali is a wine bar that looks more at home in the east village than on 60th and Park. it has a casual, warm, urban-farmhouse feel. It’s ideal for a girls night out and I can’t wait to return with some friends. It’s candlelit and not too noisy – gret for romance, not so great for food photography.

IMG_20131209_191853_018Burrata di campagna kritiko olive oil, maldon sea salt

Excellent, and it’s pricey because it’s great. It’s imported from the Italian countryside, and whatever they feed their cows is the right stuff. This burrata is far superior to the domestic stuff – it’s stretchy and smooth, surrounding such dense, creamy innards that they spread with a spoon on the toasted, well charred bread. It’s served doused in olive oil that is fruity and smooth. It’s also well seasoned  plenty of crunchy salt and spicy black pepper, which really elevates it. This is what makes this stand out seasoning is everything.

IMG_20131209_193722_991Eggplant with calabrian chili honey vinaigrette, cilantro, sesame, yogurt

A standout of the night! The eggplant must be fried at some point, or maybe baked in an insanely hot oven, because the skin is incredibly crunchy and the insides are melting and soft. It’s served with a very spicy chili sauce over tangy, creamy yogurt and the sweet vinaigrette. The cilantro gives this a decidedly middle eastern feel – don’t come here expecting the same ole, same ole. This is a standout dish!

IMG_20131209_193734_164Spanish octopus with castelveltrano olives, yukon potatoes, wild oregano

Excellent for those of you who love shellfish – this is fresh and mild, with no hint of the sea – much like a mild, well prepared clam. It’s tender and served with a salty, crushed olive relish that lends it a briny flavor. The potato puree is a fun take on the classic octopus-potato combination. It’s not too salty or overseasoned - the flavor of the octopus really shines.
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Ricotta honey doughnuts with honeyed ricotta

Oh. Yes. Ricotta makes these doughnuts moist and custardy on the inside. They are served piping hot and rolled in sugar, but aren’t too sweet. they are served on this creamy, vanilla scented whipped ricotta. It’s like zeppole gone up town.

It’s like me gone uptown – or at least midtown! This is a little overpriced, but it’s midtown east, so everything is a little overpriced. The service is great, the wine list is extensive (there’s a full bar, too), and the food is a great switch up from the normal Italian fare at wine bars. The menu is kinda ll over the mediterranean and middle east, which is what makes it interesting.

I just said midtown east was interesting. Whoa.

Park Side – Don’t Fuggedaboudit

I never watched “The Sopranos”. But I love Goodfellas. The G-dfather. Every documentary about the Gottis is currently on my DVR.

I buy into the hype. I love a good mob story! Family, loyalty, intrigue…and food. Every mob movie seems to feature mouth-watering sequences with garlic, tomatoes, and ground pork. 

And if there were a restaurant that the mob frequented in real life…not saying they DID, just saying IF…that restaurant would be Park Side in Corona, Queens.

It’s across the street from a boccee ball court, described in my Ice King of Corona post. It has a valet run by men in suits – in fact, every server in the restaurant wears a suit with a bow tie and I didn’t even see any female ones. Funny enough, this doesn’t’ strike me as sexist – this is probably because most of the head servers there are career servers. They seem to have been here since the 1960s, and maybe they have.

This is Italian-American food at its finest. This is manicotti, spaghetti bolognese, and chicken francese. Don’t be looking for any micro-farmed greens or organic wines. Look for the food that you thought was Italian. And don’t be ashamed…we all love it.

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You can sit downstairs in chairs marked with plaques that  bear the name of the regular customers who weekly sit there. You can sit upstairs, in the frosted glass, flourescent lit, fabulously 1980s Marilyn Monroe room.

You might need shoulder pads to feel truly at home here.

Feel free to come dressed in jeans or an evening gown – anything runs and the hospitality is always the same – as if you are the head of the family, gracing the restaurant with your presence.

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Bread Basket

Like none I have ever experienced – it’s what Scarpetta’s bread basket was before it got all uptown and slick. Garlicky crostini, crunchy breadsticks, and the most fabulous salami and cheese filled bread. Its’s doughy and soft, layered with spicy pork and tangy provolone cheese.

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Don’t forget to treat yourself to the hunks of salty Parmesan and the juicy, garlicky, soft roasted tomatoes on garlic crostini.

This is the start to what is sure to be a gut busting meal.

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Every meal here comes with salad or pasta. Choose the salad, but only go for the Caesar dressing if you like an aggressive, heavy hit of anchovy. You will need something green tonight, after all.

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Chicken Parmesan

The finest in the world. On the planet. No apologies, no justifications. Just the best. The juiciest thicken cutlet, pounded thin so it stays tender. The crust is thick and very crunchy. The cheese is obviously whole milk mozzarella – nothing else could be this creamy and stretchy. It is broiled until it is bubbling and brown, with crispy bits amongst the soft, chewy bits of cheese. It avoids that horrible fate of most chicken Parmesan dishes - the dreaded sog factor. This is served with a generous swath of bright, oregano-heavy tomato sauce and still remains crunchy and juicy. It just can’t be beat. There is nowhere that makes chicken parm like Park Side. 

Oh, and I lied. Get that pasta with the chicken parm – it demands it.

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Chocolate cake

Of course, for a meal this nostalgic, only chocolate cake will do, and this one delivers. Fudgy, dense, moist…just like Grandma Mary made.

Or, in this case, Grandma Maria. 

This is the grand temple of Italian American cuisine. Without it, how could places like Carbone come to be? It’s not cheap but you get what you pay for – fabulous service, atmosphere that can’t be beat, and food that is just what you want when you order it. And in huge portions.

Maybe I better start watching “The Sopranos” after all…nothing like continuing with a theme.

Acqua at Peck Slip – Supporting the South Street Seaport

This was originally published about 3 years ago. Since that time, Hurricane Sandy ravished this part of Manhattan and many restaurants were badly hurt. So many closed and even more are struggling. I am republishing this in hopes to get people out of their ruts and into these restaurnts that want and deserve your business. 
If you think I spend a lot of time in the financial district…you are right.  I want to put the word in on a reliable, if slightly pricey, trattoria-esque option!
 Acqua Restaurant is located at peck slip downtown.  This is the oldest part of the city, and is covered in cobblestones and surrounded by buildings where Annie Oakley and Buffalo Bill Cody used to eat and drink when they performed at Madison Square Garden!
White pizza with potatoes, onions, prosciutto, and house made mozzarella
 Just what you expect in the best way possible.  This is reminiscent of one of my favorite CPK pizzas of all time, the late, great, rosemary chicken potato pizza.  Many a tears were shed when that pizza was retired.  But replacing the chicken with salty, silky, gently charred, fatty PROSCIUTTO?!?!  OK, this pizza raises the potato pizza BAR!  The crust is thin, crunchy at the edges, and tender within.   The potatoes must be par-boiled because they are meltingly soft as well as fried to a crunchy crisp at the top layer.  The onions are sweet and the mozzarella is the final taste layer of creamy goodness.  This pizza is a salty, creamy, sweet, crunchy, flavor bomb. 
Steamed snapper
 The fish is excellently, if simply, prepared, and the moist, sweet flesh sings with just a squeeze of lemon.  The spinach is perfectly cooked, tasting of all it’s minerally, vegetal goodness without too much overwhelming garlic.  The potatoes are also great-crispy, rosemary flecked, steaming hot and fluffy within,..this place is great with tubers!
Great food, nice atmosphere, good service…are there any downsides here? Ummm…yes.  This is pretty overpriced.  The pizza was $16 and the fish is $26.  In the east village, those prices would never fly, and even in hell’s kitchen you can do better than that.  But this is the FiDi.  And pickins are slimmer.  So…they can overcharge.  Is it fair?  No.  Is it the way of the world?  Yes.  Is it insanely expensive and overcharged? No.  Will I return?…Probably, yes.  For that pizza.  Because I love it.  And because in this neighborhood, it’s one of the only places to get this kind of meal…and because, once again, it’s carbs on carbs.  How can you really put a price on that?
Acqua at Peck Slip on Urbanspoon

How to Ruin Your Waistline the Vegetarian(ish) Way!

This weekend was an exercies in proving that just because you aren’t layering hunks of bacon on yur plate doesn’t mean that your food isn’t unhealthy.

I mean that, of course, as a compliment:

Exhibit A:

IMG_20131003_204211_903Duck fat Brussels sprouts at Little Prince

There aren’t any huge, hulking pieces of crispy duck fat here. No breaded, deep fried cheese, either. And, yet. this is the most indulgent vegetable dish that I have had in ages. The sprouts are roasted slowly in enough duck fat to make them incredibly crispy on the outside and almost soft within. The duck fat infuses into the sprouts, taking away any bitter flavor and leaving behind a savory, meaty richness that makes this hearty enough to have as a small main dish. Can’t wait to get my hands on some duck fat and make this at home! Just keep in mind that this tiny restaurant gets extremely noisy, so bring the fun friends here and lead romantic dates elsewhere. IMG_20131011_122310_242Carrot Soup at Eli Zabar’s

Cream. That is what I remember when I look at the (admittedly shoddy) photo of this soup. Rich, soothing, decadent cream. Oh, and carrots. Sweet, earthy carrots, punctuated by the slight zip of onions and garlic. And how could I forget the sharp black pepper that generously pervaded the soup, cutting through the heavy ingredients and bringing them into focus. This soup is insanely rich and wonderfully tasty. It isn’t a diet dish, bu tit is a dish to die for. 

IMG_20131013_120002_013Eggs in purgatory at Rosemary’s

Oh YES! This is for people who love zesty, not to say insanely spicy, dishes. Two expertly poached eggs served in a chunky, vibrant tomato sauce that is equal parts acidic tomato, sharp garlic, and woo-hoo lip tingling chiles. Luckily, the rich yolk enriches the sauce and cuts down on the chiles heat, allowing you to taste each component without being overwhelmed. It’s finished with garden fresh herbs (From their own garden!), thin shavings of Parmesan, and two hearty slices of country bread. You wouldn’t believe that after this I needed a food coma nap, but oh…I did. It may have been due to the lard and cheese foccacia I had as an appetizer. This is the kind of food that you make yourself when you have the time, but if you are too rushed or hung over, then you will be happy to pay the rather premium price that Rosemary’s charges.

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Luce’s Italian Fare Delivers

I wrote about Luce awhile ago, but thought that it deserved its own full write up.

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You already know that the restaurant is large and casual, nice enough for dinner but relaxed enough for a family brunch – just a great neighborhood spot. And I told you about the addictive sundried spread. How about the rest of the food?

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Casear salad

Serviceable. No more, no less. Fresh veggies, a big serving, and some really soft, wonderfully salty but not bitter anchovies.

However, the dressing is bland. Like – really, truly, crazily bland. It doesn’t even taste overly gloppy or mayonnaise-y. It just tastes…like water.

I was craving some lettuce. And I got it.

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Endive, fennel, mushrooms, artichokes and hearts of palm salad with shaved Parmesan

If I loved this salad any more, I would actually have to marry it.

It’s so simple and at the same time, interesting. Bitter endive, meaty hearts of palm, creamy artichokes, crunchy fennel, and delicate, woodsy mushrooms in a light, acidic dressing. The Parmesan is thickly shaved and adds a necessary hit of salt to the dish. If you are a salad lover, you are totally going to love this. You get something different in each bite and the ingredients all work together instead of competing withe one another.

IMG_20130929_150509_785Mussels

Perfect. Each mussel arrives open and sweet, juicy, and soft. I have rarely had a bowl of mussels where literally every single one is open. This is a spicy, garlicky, overtly tomatoey sauce – just the kind I like. It’s filling but not greasy or overly salty. It’s just super satisfying with a slice of the accompanying bread. It’s listed as an appetizer but it’s really an ideal main dish. IMG_20130929_150519_251Parmesan chicken with lemon, peas, and artichokes

This disappeared so quickly that I didn’t’ even get a taste. Guess it was good, then?

Luce is a really great neighborhood spot. It’s reasonably priced, never too crowded, and the staff is prompt. Best of all, the food is really tasty.

Tasty enough to deserve a post of its own.