Category Archives: Seafood

Little Italy Isn’t Dead: Umberto’s Clam House

Periodically, there’s an article about how Little Italy is dead or dying. Yes, it’s more of a tourist destination and less of a neighborhood where Italian people live. There are still some Italians there, and there are Italian-American-owned businesses there. A recent article in the New York Times made me want to write a series on Little Italy Isn’t Dead and feature some of the businesses there.

Umberto’s Clam House

Umberto Ianniello, who came to the United States from Naples in 1934, opened his clam house in 1972 and the restaurant is now run by his son, Robert. The restaurant started out selling only seafood, but now it has a full menu with pasta and meats as well.


Icelandic Mashed Fish, or Plokkfiskur

plokkfiskur, Icelandic

Icelandic mashed fish and potatoes, or plokkfiskur, was my favorite dish when I visited Iceland.  It’s like American mashed potatoes with added mashed fish.  It’s a very comforting dish for cold weather.  Since the weather is changing and getting cooler, I thought it would be good.  I adapted this recipe from Cool Dishes by Nanna Rognvaldardottir.

Mashed fish, or plokkfiskur

3 codfish steaks, cooked

3 medium potatoes, washed and peeled

1 onion, chopped

1/2 stick butter

3 tablespoons flour

1 1/2 cups milk

salt to taste

pepper to taste

pinch chives

Boil the potatoes as you would for mashed potatoes, until they are soft enough for mashing.  Cook the codfish (I boiled it).  Mash them both together in a mixing bowl with a potato masher.  Saute the onion in the butter until soft.  Add flour and stir.  Add milk, salt and pepper.  Bring to a low boil, then lower to a simmer until thickened, stirring often.  Add milk mixture to mashed potatoes and fish and mix.  Top with chives.

Blue Water Grill

I always think of seafood in the summer time, and if you can’t get to the beach, how about bringing the beach to you?  That is, dining al fresco at Blue Water Grill in Union Square and ordering the most delicious lobster roll ever–the Maine lobster and shrimp roll with herbed mayonnaise, bacon, celery and waffle fries.

Blue Water Grill lobster roll

Sammy’s Fish Box in City Island

Now that summer is here, how about a trip to City Island?  This beach oasis in the Bronx makes for a great Manhattan day trip.

A nice seafood dinner at Sammy’s Fish Box.

Sammy's Fish Box
For starters, bread and assorted veggies.

Sammy's appetizers

I got a scungilli and calamari salad.

Sammy's calamari salad

My friend got the Italian feast with lobster, mussels, shrimp, clams, scallops and crab legs with pasta.

Sammy's Italian feast

I got the clam bake with lobster, clams and corn.

Sammy's clam bake

And of course, I can’t live without dessert–a slice of red velvet cake.

Sammy's red velvet cake


Dinner: Keens Steakhouse

Things are great at Keens Steakhouse.  It won a James Beard “America’s Classics” award this year, and since then, business has really been booming.  Not that the 128-year-old steakhouse needed an award–it’s obviously doing something right.  And that’s steak…atmosphere…service…and dessert.


Speaking of atmosphere, the first thing(s) you notice when you step down the steps, besides the dark wood, is/are the thousands of pipes, yes, pipes, hanging all over the ceiling.


The history is that travelers would check their pipe in at their favorite inn because the pipes were too fragile to be carried.  They are hard clay churchwarden pipes, and famous names like Babe Ruth, Teddy Roosevelt and Albert Einstein had pipes at Keens.  Right by the door, there’s a case, including an autographed pipe from Michael Jackson and other present-day celebrities.


I didn’t know about this history before eating at Keens, so it was an interesting, fun history to learn.

My dinner at Keens was a belated birthday dinner with a friend.  I was instantly pleased that along with a bread basket and butter, we got veggies and spinach dip for a somewhat clean-eating snack.  (Hey, we needed some celery before this meal.)


For appetizers, we got littleneck clams on the half shell.


Tomatoes and onion salad with blue stilton cheese.  I like that there was just a sprinkling of cheese on the tomatoes and onion.  Just the right amount of flavor.


Thick-cut smoked bacon.  My friend ordered this.  I’m not a bacon fan, but I decided to take a taste.  Oh wow, this was so smoky and flavorful.  This is definitely not your average bacon of bacon and eggs….


Keens is known for its mutton chop, but I wanted steak.  I know I’m not a big steak eater, but lately, I’ve been enjoying it.  So I got the steamed Maine lobster and filet mignon.  The lobster was perfect and delicious.  The filet mignon was cooked to my liking.  It was very good–not as tender as the one I recently had at the Old Homestead, but still excellent.


My friend got the prime rib of beef, king’s cut.


For sides, we got mashed Yukon gold potatoes and creamed spinach.  I like mashed potatoes without garlic, so I was very happy with these.  I also liked the creamed spinach best of all I’ve had recently.


We were pretty full after this meal, but our waiter talked us into a dessert.  Yes, the butterscotch sundae, with housemade butterscotch sauce made with real scotch.  They brought it with a birthday candle for me.


OK, I usually find steakhouse desserts boring, like the standard cheesecake, chocolate cake, key lime pie…but this sundae takes the cake…er, ice cream.

This butterscotch sauce was sooooo good, we both want to come back and get our own.  I wanted to get a close-up so you could see it better.


Yes, there is a reason Keens has been in business for more than a century, and that is because it serves classic food that is delicious.

Neighborhood Watch: Arthur Avenue in the Bronx


Arthur Avenue, the Little Italy of the Bronx, is the only real Italian neighborhood left in NYC.  If you’re looking for an authentic Italian American experience, this is the place to be.  However, it’s not so easy to get to.  It’s a long, hilly walk from the subway.  Or if you take a cab, the cab driver will not know where it is.  I know cab drivers are supposed to know where to go in the boroughs, but they don’t, especially in the Bronx and Queens and sometimes, Brooklyn.  I suggest you have directions or your phone GPS on hand to assist the driver.


The main strip is Arthur Avenue from East 184th Street to East 187th Street.  On East 187th Street, there’s Artuso’s Pastry, the home of the famous Pope cookies.  In case you are looking for them, the Pope cookies were made for Pope Benedict’s visit to New York and his recent resignation, but they do not have Pope cookies now.

Visit Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church.


Walk west to Egidio Pastry and admire the case full of beautiful pastries.


The history of the building is evident with its tin ceiling.

Here, we tried a mini cannoli and a mini sfogliatelle. They were both very good, but the sfogliatelle was particularly well crafted with flaky layers.

DeLillo Pastry has outdoor seating and a mighty fine cannoli with creamy ricotta filling.

There are a lot of bakeries on this small strip, so if you are doing a tasting, be prepared to eat a lot or to take some home. I brought my rolling backpack so that I could easily bring things home with me.

In addition to bakeries, there are ravioli/pasta shops, seafood markets, meat markets, cheese shops, pizzerias, Italian restaurants and kitchen stores. At Marie’s, you can get dinnerware and housewares, as well as coffee, from Italy.
OK, vegetarians in the crowd will not want to look at the next photo–the body of a sheep hanging in the window of a meat market.


Teitel Brothers is an Italian grocery store owned by a Jewish family that has been in the neighborhood since 1915.


Now this is something you don’t see anymore–a bread bakery.  Zito’s and Vesuvio’s in the city closed awhile ago.  Thank goodness Addeo’s is still here in the Bronx.


Look at that bread.


At Biancardi’s meat market, you can still get capuzelle, or sheep’s head.


Madonia Bakery has beautiful bread and also fills cannoli to order.


I got some yummy cookies for the road.


In the middle of the block, there’s an indoor market, the Arthur Avenue Retail Market, with a butcher, fish and produce market as well as products from Italy and Arthur Avenue T-shirts and souvenirs.


The butcher here had beef feet.  I’ve never seen these before and am not sure how Italians use them.


If you’re into offal, this is the place to be.  Here’s cotenne, the pig skin I’ve written about, in the rear of this photo.


Brains, anyone?


OK, I definitely share the sentiment with these T-shirts.


Check out Cerini Coffee, a fun store with housewares from Italy.


At Morrone Pastry Shop & Café, I got a rainbow cookie cake slice and a tortoni.  Both were delicious.  (I also bought a rainbow cookie cake for my aunt’s birthday.  I froze it the day I bought it and thawed it a week later.  It was fresh, moist and delicious.)


In case you thought I just had sweets, I did stop for a slice of pizza at Catania’s.


What to Eat:  pastries and bread from Artuso’s, Egidio’s, DeLillo’s, Madonia’s, Addeo’s or Morrone’s; pizza from Catania’s.

Where to Shop:  Marie’s and Cerini’s for kitchen wares; the Arthur Avenue Retail Market for souvenirs, produce and Italian goods; Borgatti’s for ravioli; Randazzo’s for seafood.

What to See:  Columbus statue at East 183rd Street and Arthur Avenue, Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church on East 187th Street.

Day Trip: Cold Spring, New York

Cold Spring sign

Cold Spring, New York is a short ride (a little over an hour) on Metro North from Grand Central Station, but a world away from New York City.  Step down from the train platform and be transported.  This is a perfect place to go for the carless New Yorker.  The town is right off the train stop, and everything is within walking distance.  On weekends, this is a popular destination.

Welcome to idyllic small town America, complete with flag-draped gazebo.

gazebo 2
Known for its antique shops, Cold Spring’s main drag is the appropriately named Main Street, lined with cute storefronts selling antiques, flea market goods, gifts and more and many restaurants to choose from.  I liked The Country Goose, a charming shop with gourmet food products, soaps, children’s items, tea, products from the British Isles and more.  The owner is a charming woman who also makes gift baskets.

Cold Spring street

Not far from the train station is a the trolley stop where you can board and head to Boscobel House. There’s a little park here where a band plays big band music while people eat ice cream cones outside on park benches. The Village Scoop serves up ice cream in fun flavors like cannoli (made with mascarpone) and cherry pie.

cannoli ice cream
If you walk west toward the Hudson River, you’ll see the gazebo and the historic Hudson House, built in 1832 and one of only two accommodations in town.


The accompanying restaurant has scenic patio dining.  The bread is of note–a popover with strawberry butter.

popover strawberry

I got the lobster and avocado roll.  I enjoyed the unique addition of avocado.

lobster avocado roll
Next door is the popular Moo Moo Creamery with creamy vanilla ice cream. The long lines are worth the wait.

Moo Moo vanilla
The nearby park has lovely views of the Hudson River and mountains.

Cold Spring mountain

Cold Spring mountain 2

What to Eat:  ice cream from Moo Moo and the Village Scoop, popovers and classic American fare from Hudson House, artisan ice pops from Go-Go Pops.

Where to Shop:  The Country Goose for gourmet food and gift baskets, The Gift Hut for unique toys for kids, Back in Ireland for goods made in Ireland.

What to See & Do:  The 1928 gazebo, the Hudson River view, Hudson House historic inn, Boscobel House and Gardens, Putnam History Museum, kayaking.