Run, Don’t Walk, to Salumeria Rosi

How have I lived on the UWS and never been to Salumeria Rosi?

What a GEM! Let’s take a look:

20150408_115753 A veritable feast of gourmet and artisanal meats, cheeses, and prepared salads at the front of the store. A friendly and competent counter person offered to help me, but I told her that I was there to eat. 20150408_115800 The dining room is unexpectedly chic. Modern and sleek, with good lighting and some bar seating with comfortable chairs. It seems more like a Tribeca haunt than one on the UWS. 
20150408_123849 Large meat plate

 House made mortadella, soft prosciutto, super spicy cappaciole, and salami kissed with spicy peppercorns. This is a very good and ample meat platter. 

That’s what she said. 

For realsies, though – get this and let the chef go wild with what’s best – there’s no way to lose.

20150408_125657 Pancetta roasted Brussels sprouts. 

Simple and divine all at once. Tiny nuggets of sprouts, tender and almost creamy beneath a shattering, crispy skin. Juicy nuggets of pancetta. Salty, fatty, crunchy, cruciferous. These are a must order as long as they are on the menu.
20150408_125700Caprese salad

WONDERFUL mozzarella elevates this classic dish. Sweet tomatoes, tangy balsamic, and a tangle of sharp greens and basil, but the glory is to that mozzarella. Luscious, rich, creamy, and bursting with fresh, milky flavor. This is a must get.

Actually, everything here is a must get. The prices are shockingly reasonable (including a hanger steak for under $20), the surroundings are lovely enough for a date or special night, and the food is just delicious. Run, don’t walk, to this very special shop. I can’t wait to come back, shop at the front grocery section, and try more dishes.

Till then, I’ll be having mortadella dreams. 

Gradisca – Ideal for the Thin and Rich

I haven’t always been a food blogger, but I’ve always been a foodie. One of my favorite things is to go back to restaurants that I haven’t visited for many years to see if my fond memories are because I always had good taste or because the past is always seen through rose colored glasses. Let’s see how Gradisca fared:

20150207_191513The small Greenwich Village restaurant oozes charm. It’s all exposed brick and cozy tables with a small bar in the middle of the restaurant. It’s loud and buzzy, but can feel a little cramped. It’s really only good for 4 people or fewer – any more than that and you might start to feel a wee bit like sardines.
20150207_194158 Bread

Sadly, unremarkable. Okay at best – don’t waste stomach space here. 20150207_194900Caprese salad

Excellent! The mozz must be homemade or well sourced, because it has the thick, bouncy texture of mozzarella with the creamy, fatty richness of burrata. Truth be told, I prefer this mozzarella to some lesser, weaker burratas that I have eaten. The pesto is garlicky but sparingly applied so that it compliments the tart, juicy tomatoes. For the middle of winter, this is a damned good caprese salad and I wouldn’t hesitate to order it again.
20150207_194906 Meatballs

Surprisingly good. They are expensive and very small, but wow – the flavor is there. It’s flavor packed and bold in a really bright, herbaceous tomato sauce. Nothing about this is soft or muted. This dish is bold, in your face, and filled with flavor. I just think it’s a little too pricey for the serving size.

20150207_202737Spaghetti carbonara

My all time favorite pasta dish. I just love carbonara. It’s rich and bacony and peppery and everything wonderful. This is a fantastic version. The homemade pasta is chewy and the bacon is crispy and thick. The eggs are rich but not at all gooey or cloying, and the pepper is freshly ground. It cuts right thought the fat and the salt, making the dish sharp and vibrant. This is a craveable rendition of my favorite pasta – the portion is just so damned tiny.

20150207_210228Berry panna cotta

Not necessary. The jiggy, lightly vanilla scented panna cotta is served in a puddle of jammy blackberries and raspberries. It’s light and sweet but still indulgent. We mostly ordered it because we were still hungry.

I remembered Gradisca as charming and delicious, which it is. But did I used to be a lot richer and a lot thinner? I mean…how much more money could I have had that I didn’t see how expensive this was? How tiny could I have been that I didn’t think that the portion sizes were positively toddler sized? The vibe is neighborhood date night, but the prices and portion sizes are more model-appropriate fashion week. Though, to be fair, we did enjoy a few very nice drinks. Next time I would come for just a soda and that carbonara.

And maybe fit into my skinny jeans the next morning.

Parm UWS: We’ve Been Waiting for You

Parm  recently opened on the UWS, and let me tell you…we were READY for it! An affordable, delicious restaurant that has a great cocktail menu and is equally appropriate for rowdy birthday dessert and calmer family brunch?! Sign me UP!

20150103_182044Oh, and sign everyone else up, too. Don’t even THINK about coming here on a Saturday night without a reservation. Like…don’t do it. Don’t worry, even with the massive crowd, the hostess is excellent and will seat you within a minute or two of your reservation time.

20150103_185615 Osso Nice

My unexpected favorite of the round of cocktails that we ordered. This concoction, with rye, grapefruit, and Calabrian honey is a fabulous aperitif. In fact, it tastes like something you would  drink if you had a little cold and wanted to feel better. It’s fruity, bright, a little spicy, and has a gentle, pleasantly sweet  backnote of honey. I don’t love the taste of honey, but here it worked quite well. I recommend it heartily. 20150103_190107 Garlic bread and warm mozzarella

Destination worthy. yep, I totally mean it. At LEAST as tasty as Carbone and without the high prices or difficult reservation. The garlic bread is crunchy (but not so it cuts the roof of your mouth like lesser versions), salty, and loaded with chopped garlic and fresh parsley. The mozz is even better. Warm, milky, soft, fruity with olive oil. It’s creamy and crunchy, pungent and mild. It’s just delicious. Skip the garlic bread deluxe, just go for the mozz – it comes with the bread. 20150103_190400 Spicy broccoli

My fave of all of the veggies we ordered, though the Brussels sprouts were also excellent. The stalks could be slightly more charred, but it comes to the table chilled, tossed in a tangy yogurt vinaigrette, and interspersed with absolutely fiery slices of pickled chilis. It’s quite spicy, vegetal, and quite frankly, necessary with all of the heavy food.

20150103_191529 (1)Chicken Parmesan platter

I mean, it’s just very, very good. Not the most amazing I have ever had (don’t worry, Park Side, you still hold the key to my heart), but very, very good. A big portion (Easily enough to share) of tender chicken with crispy breading, a bright tomato sauce, and a blanket of that really awesome stretchy mozzarella cheese. The baked ziti alongside, topped with a cloud of ricotta, is just a crispy, chewy, and creamy as you could want. This is very, very tasty, and recommended. 
20150103_191540 Chicken Francese platter with Sunday salad

The standout entree. This chicken is the REAL DEAL. It’s as tender as veal,with the soft, “velvet” quality of Chinese proteins. It’s batter is extremely thin and not at all carbo-loaded or greasy. It’s served in a tangy lemony sauce with tons of fresh herbs and just enough butter to enrich the sauce. It’s served with a throwback iceberg salad dressed in Italian dressing that is a far cry from the bottled schlock in my mom’s fridge. It’s a must get. 20150103_194342Ice cream cake

Just get it. Especially if it’s the Almond Joy version (And even if they run out of the candy bar to top your cake, it’s still delicious). The ice cream is rich and creamy, the topping is whipped cream, and the cookie crumbles are…well, they are cookie crumbles! I love fancy main dishes and trashy desserts, so this is RIGHT up my aisle.

Parm is going to do really well up here. I wouldn’t call it destination worthy fare (except for the garlic bread), but the price point and service are excellent and the food is really quite good. I would totally come here for a loud drink at the bar and an order of mozzarella cheese.

Welcome to the neighborhood.

Another Carnivore Approved Meal at Le Verdure at Eataly

 It’s been awhile since I have visited Le Verdure at Eataly.

I’m trying to remember why I don’t go there more often…so far, I got nothin. 

The service is pretty good and the price tag is higher than your normal casual lunch, but the food is phenomenal. It’s the perfect place for a weekday lunch with a friend or by yourself at the counter where you can watch yourselves at work. I wouldn’t brave Eataly on a weekend for all the tea in China, but that’s just because I hate most other people.

Not you, obviously. The other people.

But, even on a horrible holiday-shopping crowded Saturday, Le Verdure would still have a lot to offer.

20141208_121232Fritto misto

Clams be gone, this may be the best fried appetizer I have ever had…ever. A puffy, crispy, but still ample beer batter-type crust around wonderful veggies. Sweet onions, crunchy Brussels sprouts, even an unexpectedbly buttery but still somewhat spicy watermelon radish. Squeeze  lemon over this for a hit of acid that rounds out the earthy, sweet veggies. They are salted enough to bring out the flavor of each vegetable but not overly salty or at all greasy. This is an unmissable appetizer, though the daily bruschetta is no slouch either.
20141208_122256 Fried butternut squash with pumpkin seeds and Parmesan

Like butternut squash latkes. Gently pan-fried squash, crisp on the outside and tender on the inside, scattered with crunchy pumpkin seeds and a bruleed topping of nutty Parmesan cheese. I’m not the hugest squash fan, since I often find  it too sweet and a little mushy, but on a cold wintry day, this is comfort food central. 20141208_122323Roasted winter vegetables

Why is this so much more elegant than my burnished pan of olive oil roasted Brussels sprouts? Tiny carrots with their greens still attached, gently roasted hen of the woods mushrooms, creamy sunchokes, and more are all atop a creamy yogurt. The yogurt isn’t at all tart or chalky – it’s silky and almost sweet against the simply roasted veggies. Pops pumpkins seeds and tart, juicy pomegranate seeds really give the dish a wholly rounded, faceted flavor. This is light but incredibly tasty – wonderful with some of the house baked bread and fruity olive oil.

20141208_122328Radicchio salad

Oh YES. This salad is bitter, well dressed, and acidic, just like the old lady I hope to one day become. If you like radicchio, this salad will be your dream. Soft, mild outer leaves, bitter and biting purple inner leaves, and the almost artichoke-like grilled green ones. There are charred tastes and raw ones, mixed in a fruity, pleasantly sour vinaigrette. The sour aspect is vital to cutting through that bitter raddichio taste that is amplified by being grilled. Many people don’t like the bitter taste, but if you do,t hen this might just be the greatest radicchio you ever eat.

La Verdure is one of the few places where you can eat as well and heartily as a vegan as you can as a carnivore. I have to go back again soon, before another 4 years passes by.

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.

20140806_084529

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!

20140405_180507

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.

20140405_184018

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. 

20140405_184033

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.

20140405_184041

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.

IMG_20131210_200105_773

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.

IMG_20131210_200357_565

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.