Tag Archives: restaurant

Little Italy Isn’t Dead: Puglia

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.

Puglia

In 1919, Italian immigrant Gregorio Garofalo opened Puglia, named after the region in Italy where he was from. The restaurant used to serve Italian specialties like capozello (sheep’s head) and tripe, but now its menu includes more standard and popular Italian favorites. Puglia is known for its entertainment. It’s a good stop during the San Gennaro festival too.

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Skylight A Play for Foodies

Last night, Skylight won a Tony award for best revival of a play.  While I wrote a theater column for a local newspaper once, I didn’t expect to write a play review on my food blog.  That is, until I saw Skylight.  Skylight is about many things, mostly relationships, but it is also about food and the food industry.  The two main characters are a successful restaurateur, Tom, and his younger former employee, Kyra.  As we watch, we learn that they were once lovers, but when Tom’s wife found out about the affair, Kyra left.  The two lovers are reunited years later, when Tom visits Kyra after his wife dies.  Kyra now teaches underpriviliged kids and lives in a shanty apartment on the poor side of town.  During this reunion, they argue and discuss their lives and views of the world while she attempts to cook spaghetti–another thing they argue about. Tom wants to go to a restaurant for a real meal, and when Kyra asks him to grate the cheese, he scoffs at the tiny pebble of cheese she has.

Onstage, to make the sauce, she really chops onions and carrots with a knife.  As she was talking and chopping, her eyes kept leaving the cutting board, and I was afraid she’d cut her finger.  She put the vegetables in the pot and it sizzled.  At first, I thought it might be sound effects until I could smell the onions cooking (my seats were close to the stage).  She also added chopped meat.  During intermission, a stage hand came to fiddle with the pot.  I think he must’ve replaced the chopped meat sauce with a cooked version, as Kyra eats a bit of it later.

Both Nighy and Mulligan are excellent actors who played these parts well.  The age difference of the actors was a bit of a stretch for me for a passionate love story, but it is explained away by Kyra’s naivete when they initially met.  Perhaps she admired Tom for working his way to the top?  They have opposite life experiences–Tom was once poor but became wealthy and Kyra was wealthy but lives meagerly.  The person who started out poor (Tom) is pro-capitalism while the person who started out wealthy (Kyra) is anti-capitalism.  Both characters are very focused on social class.  While the play is about Tom and Kyra’s relationship and attraction, which is passionate, or explosive, the play also touches on what I suspect are the playwright’s views on social class, including education, housing, wealth and opportunity.  At times, these ideas seem less like Kyra’s and more like the playwright taking a political liberty (no matter how much I agreed with it).   With the back and forth arguing and contrived conversation, the play itself fell a bit flat for me.  Despite some of the play’s failings, one thing that intrigued me was the food symbolism.

While they never eat the spaghetti, Kyra makes a late night snack of a peanut butter sandwich.  It seems like she is always preparing food, but in the end, no one ever eats because they are busy arguing about their different world views.  When she finally eats, the food is prepared for her–when Tom’s son brings her breakfast from the Ritz.  He makes this gesture because he wants her to reunite with his father, and because she said breakfast was the one thing she missed.

Skylight runs only through June 21, so get your tickets now.

Where to eat near the show:

If the frying of onions gets you in the mood for spaghetti, Carmine’s Italian is around the block on 44th.  Also, John’s of Time Square pizza is too.  For a classic NY experience, Frankie & Johnnie’s steakhouse is across the street.  Junior’s diner is on the same block.  Reunion surf bar is an avenue over.  Shake Shack is a block south.  Carlo’s Cake Boss bakery is two blocks south.  Restaurant Row is one block north.

Dinner: Dirt Candy

It’s been two years since I dined at Dirt Candy, but I never wrote about it.  I found the old photos on my camera and decided I’d share them with you.  Many of the same dishes are still on the menu.  I love the name of this restaurant.  To a lawyer into trademarks, this is a perfect name!

I’m not vegetarian although I eat a lot of and appreciate vegetables.  I found that the dishes were creative but many fell flat on flavor.  In addition, although it was two years ago, I do remember being kept waiting a long time even though we had reservations.  The dining room is tiny, so if you don’t like cramped spaces, you may not be comfortable.

My friend and I got the snack–jalapeno hush puppies served with maple butter, and they were very good.

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We also got the mushroom appetizer–portobello mousse, truffled toast
pear and fennel compote. The portobello mousse lacked flavor, but the pear and fennel compote was good.  In all, I just didn’t think this dish worked.

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Not on the menu now, there was a study in carrot.  The carrot was flavorful and creative, using different colored carrots to make the buns.

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My friend’s entrée was the cucumber, which was an excellent example of Dirt Candy’s success.

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I got the corn entrée: stone ground grits, corn cream, pickled shiitakes, huitlacoche, tempura poached egg.  The grits seriously lacked flavor.  As my friend said, grits don’t have much flavor, so you really need to kick it up, and this dish just didn’t do that.

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Dinner: Sant Ambroeus

West Fourth Street in the West Village is one of my favorite streets, and it has a plethora of quaint and trendy restaurants.  On a few occasions, I’ve come to Milanese restaurant Sant Ambroeus looking for a table only to find it booked.  Forget about brunch there.  I was told I’d have to make reservations in advance two weeks for an outside table.  Whether or not that is true, I do not know, but this past Friday night, I was able to eat inside without a wait.  While the outdoor tables are cute because you get a great view of the Village, the interior of the restaurant is quite pleasant.  The space is intimate–perfect for a date.

While there were many appealing items on the menu, I went with the salmon special.  This salmon dish was wonderful.  You wouldn’t think much of the spinach topping, but it was so flavorful and went so well with salmon.

salmon

My friend ordered the strozzapreti and lobster special.  Well, my salmon was delicious, but I was jealous of his dinner because this dish was out of this world good.  (A side note on strozzapreti.  Translated, it means “priest strangler.”  My grandmother used to make these, and in her Neapolitan dialect, it was a different word.)

strozzapreti

For sides, we got sautéed Tuscan kale with tomatoes and pan roasted Brussels sprouts.  The kale was excellent.  The Brussels sprouts were blah, but we didn’t notice since the rest of the food was superb.

kale
Yes, Sant Ambroeus is known for its baked goods, and you would expect moi to get baked goods at a place known for such things. But I was full, and in New York fashion, I wanted to restaurant-hop and get dessert elsewhere. So I have an excuse to return to Sant Ambroeus.

Christine Quinn Supports Paid Sick Leave for Restaurant Employees

Christine Quinn supports paid sick leave for restaurant employees.  I see both sides of this issue, as I know how hard things can be for small business owners.  At the same time, I know how hard it is for restaurant employees.  I do think it will benefit the public if sick employees are not cooking food while they are potentially contagious.  With the rise of food-borne illnesses and parasites, public health is a major concern.

NYC Restaurant Week

NYC Restaurant Week Jan. 14-Feb. 8 is open for reservations and to check out menus.

Dinner Club: Barraca

Last night was the first meeting of my dinner club.  Greenwich Avenue was quiet and almost desolate on the cold midweek night.  In contrast, the crowd through the windows of Barraca appeared lively and warm in the soft glow of dim lights and glasses of sangria.

A fan of Chef Jesus Nunez and his cooking at Gastroarte, I had to head downtown to try his new venture, Barraca.  The specialty here is paella, and there are many to choose from.  There are also tapas and entrees.

Our group decided to get tapas.  Here they are, in no particular order:

roasted brussels sprouts with fava beans and ham

grilled cuttlefish with parsley ali-oli, preserved lemon and kale

fondue with hazelnuts, apricots

Spanish potato omelette, ali-oli and bread with tomato

mollete bread sandwich with pulled lamb, Manchego cheese, Guernica peppers and piquillo ali-oli

grilled octopus and baby potatoes, roasted peppers and pimenton de la vera

“broken eggs” served with crispy potatoes, pork belly, fried green peppers and Tetilla cheese

crispy potatoes with brava sauce and ali-oli

pork belly and collard greens

In addition to these, we also got bread with tomato, olive oil and salt and flatbread with oven-roasted vegetables and black olives. Some of these dishes were personal orders, so we all didn’t try everything that’s pictured. My favorite dishes were the brussels sprouts–roasted to perfection, the crispy potatoes and the fondue. The fondue added a sweetness to the savory dishes on the table.  Cuttlefish was new to most of us and we thought it a bit chewy.  Pork belly seemed to be a hit for the evening along with the omelette and breads.

The first dinner club meeting was a success.  If you’d like to attend a future event (one is planned for this Saturday), please let me know.