TCI – Food Itinerary Update

IMG_7871Missed me?  Me too.  I was on another assignment in the Turks and Caicos trying to gain some well deserved poundage (7 to be exact).  Only registered one bad meal on this one, but that is a doozy of a story.  Will write a full report soon, but meanwhile put your second favorite Ziggy in the background and read the latest on how to eat like a local in Provo…

How to Gain 7 Pounds in 7 Days


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The Staten Island Survival Guide

Randiwa - Lamprais

Randiwa – Lamprais

No, you dont need new contacts.  You have reached Eating With Me, and yes, I’m writing about the foodie desert Island of Staten.  But how do I do it without offending 499,996 residents and the entire state of NJ.  Almost impossible for someone who spends much of his eating time in Brooklyn and Manhattan.  But I do need to eat in Staten Island on occasion, and some gems do exist.  This will not be one of those marathon posts because a) I dont really have much time today, and b) Its Staten Island!

The best way to examine the cuisine of Staten Island is to look at the map.  is almost entirely attached to New Jersey, and a long bridge away (#16 longest in the world) from the rest of New York.  It looks and feels like NJ in more ways than one.  In fact I’m pretty sure the term “bridge and tunnel people”, a term now used in other parts of the US started in Staten Island.  Staten Island is first and foremost a suburb with mostly suburb food.   The inspiration for the post is really one place that we’ve been enjoying lately.  A place that is painfully empty compared to the island “Power Houses”.  But more on that later.

When you ask 100 Staten Islanders what’s good on the island, you’ll hear 115 (including some opinionated extras who happened to be in the area) saying its pizza and “Eyetalian”.  Zagat, Eater and other online publications tend to agree when you Google Best of Staten Island.  Its essentially one giant Italian/pizza fest.  They are not exactly wrong, but not quite correct either.

Pizza – Yes, it is very good overall.  Joe & Pats is a local legend for good reason and one of our favorites.  So is Giove on New Dorp.  Capizzi on Hylan, is dishing out solid individual Neapolitan(ish) pies, but not quite to the level of its sister in Hell’s Kitchen.  Staten Islanders swear by Lee’s Tavern and its bar pizza.  In fact Lee’s Tavern created an entire category for pizza (bar pizza) but not a destination pizza by any meand unless you are opening a bar and wants to learn a few tricks.  Perhaps the most underrated pie in SI comes from Nonna’s in Great Kills.  Plenty of solid options all over the Island, but today not quite in line with the brilliance of Manhattan and Brooklyn.  These days you can even have a taste of SI in Manhattan through Rubirosa (Joe & Pats cousin), Denino’s in Greenwich Village, and the soon to come Joe & Pat’s of Staten Island in East Village.

Giove pizza


Italian – Pass.  Its essentially one giant “Little Italy”, red sauce orgy.  Nothing really wrong with that, as many of them are actually pretty good at what they do.  But its 2018 and SI still doesnt really have any sort of regional Italian-Italian cooking.  Capizzi and Enoteca Maria are probably the closest and the only ones I would consider on the island today.

MexicanTaqueria el gallo azteca in St George is not only the best on the island, but some of the best tacos I’ve had in NYC.  You can combine it with New Asha nearby for a mini best of SI food crawl.  The new half Peruvian Zabrosura is looking promising after my lone lunch.  And the same goes for Tamales Martita which is attracting plenty of locals Mexicans, some of whom from the days when the owner used to feed the ball troops with her Tamale cart.  Otherwise, some average to mediocre places throughout I wont mention.

Taqueria el gallo azteca

el gallo azteca


Sri Lankan – This is where things start to get interesting, and perhaps the only reason to stay more than 5 minutes when you take that ferry.  You got San Rasa, and Lakruwana (like a Sri Lankan museum) doing their thing in the far north, though my favorite ferry area joint these days is New Asha but its more of a quick lunch or take-out place.  My overall favorite restaurant in Staten Island these days is a newcomer on Richmond ave called Randiwa.  Chef/owner used to own San Rasa when it was at the old location.  We go for the Mulligatawny soup, Lamb Curry with Hoppers, Lamprais, Deviled dishes, Chicken Biryani, and Kottu.  Though New Asha probably boasts best Kottu on the island.

Asian – This is where SI is severely lacking.  There’s really no good Chinese, Thai, Japanese or anything really.  Just about 100% of them adhere to the western palate.  With that said if you absolutely must, East Pacific in the SI Mall is decent for Thai and Chinese, and Ocean Sushi is our go to for acceptable cheap Sushi.

MiscBayou, Beso, Vida are fairly reliable palate pleasers.  They are like watching Family Guy.  I dont get particularly excited about going, but when I go, I enjoy myself more often than not.  Vida and Enoteca Maria are consistently mentioned in the Michelin guide, but I doubt inspectors cross that bridge much.  Inca’s Grill serves decent Peruvian but keeps moving around like nomads.  Taste of India II is just about the only Indian on the island.  Indian in general in Staten Island come from the school of “If I add a 2 in the name, it will sound more convincing”.  There is no 1’s

That’s all I got.  Many others I’ve been are not worth mentioning.  And its entirely possible I’m missing some gems here, so let me know if I do

String Hopper Kottu San Rasa

San Rasa Kottu

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Italian Street Food in NYC

Mr. Panzerotto

******* PLEASE DONT POST THIS ON TRIP ADVISOR 😉 ***************

You just came back from your first trip to Italy.  You are antsy and eager to talk about all the wonderful stuff you did and ate with your colleagues and friends.  You are taking more than your usual water cooler breaks in order to bump into as many people as you can.  No one does any real work on their first day after vacation anyway.  You talk about your trip, like people talk about their babies.  You receive pleasure even when you realize they are not listening.  Your wife and kids want to eat those rice ball thingies they had on a walking tour in Rome and you now find yourself on a mission again.  Here’s a quick guide to help you out

Panzerotto at Mr. Panzerotto (West Village).  This is the Calzone’s younger cousin from Puglia.  It’s a small fried pocket usually filled with cheese, tomato and other ingredients.  The dough is light and airy.  While not quite like the one I had in Padua in December, this was surprisingly good and filling for a $5 snack.  Blink and you’ll miss it (look up) on Mcdougal.Panzerotto

Suppli at Martina (East VIllage).  The Roman answer to Arancini.  Rice “balls” but closer to small fat mozzarella sticks.  They are filled with rice, cheese and tomato, then dipped in egg and bread crumbs and fried.  You go to Martina for the Roman pizzas but you can also have all sorts of interesting snacks like the great meatballs, beans and these Suppli.  This is possibly the most satisfying snack of the bunch

Martina Suppli

Piada at Non Solo Piada (Hell’s Kitchen) – This is a flatbread folded like a taco.  Dough is usually made with lard (rendered pig fat) or olive oil. A specialty of Emilia Romagna coastal area (Rimini, Ravenna…  Owner from Rimini).  Eataly Downtown made them when they opened but it’s now a Ravioli stand.  This place is getting very popular and I recommend people try it but I wish they’d find a way to make the dough a little crispier and more fresh tasting.
Non Solo Piada
Trapizzino at Trapizzino (Nolita) – A relatively new Roman invention, a triangle pizza pita pocket stuffed with various combinations and ragus like oxtail and chicken.  It made a brief cameo appearance at Madison Square Eats 7 years ago from something appropriately called Broken English.  They also sell Suppli and Italian Sodas like Chinotto (*like*).  Spacious and inviting space in the increasingly touristy NoLita
Trapizzino Oxtail
Panelle at Ferdinando’s Focacceria (Brooklyn) –  These are flat chickpea Fritters you can have as is or in a sandwich.  You can find them in the famous street markets of Palermo, or Ferdinando’s Focacceria in Brooklyn.  They can be a little greasy but still delicious when done right.  Ferdinando’s making them since 1904 is like a mob movie movie set.  This is as old school as it gets
Cecina at Santina (West Village) – Made from Chickpea flour Like Panelle but bigger like a pancake or pizza in some cases.  A Tuscan coast specialty, but can be found all over the Liguarian coast.  Also called Farinata.  In Lucca they cook them in wood burning pizza ovens like pizza.  At Santina its round, soft and spongy like the Ethiopian Injera, allowing you to make wraps with the items you order with it (Tuna, shrimp, Mushrooms, etc) or eat it anyway you want.  Can be a nice (albeit expensive) snack after your High Line stroll.Santina Cecina
Calzone at Tramonti (East Village) – I dont eat Calzones very often these days but this was a standout and possibly the best I ever had in NYC.  Dough is light and delicious with top notch imported ingredients inside including the spicy Soppressata.  Tramonti is one of many underrated pizza gems in East Village.  Owners from the village of Tramonti in Naples, the place that invented pizza.  At least thats what they’ll have you believe if you stay long enough and have a few drinks.  Just nod and smile
Calzone at Tramonti
Arancini at Piccola Cucina Osteria Siciliana (Soho) – These are the famous Sicilian rice balls normally stuffed with ragu, cheese and peas.  A more common way to find them is from the Arancini Bro’s in ballparks and festivals.  But I recommend Piccola, probably the most Sicilian focused menu in the city.  We are talking about the real Sicily here.  Not Brooklyn.Arancini at Piccola Cucina Osteria Siciliana
Tramezzini at Tramezzini (Lower East Side) – Fat crustless sandwiches you can find in the north like Venice and Cremona.  I never had Tramezzini here or any Tramezzini in NYC for that matter.  But still listing it here for that water cooler dude from the top paragraph who just wont shut up about his trip to Venice
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Lilia – Cacio e Perfect!

Eating With Ziggy

Lilia Agnolotti

February 23rd, 2018 Update:

Forgive me readers, for I have sinned.  Its been 643 days since my last meal at Lilia.  Its just that it continues to be one of the toughest tables in Brooklyn.  You either need to have friends in high places, or low places.  Or just call at 10 am when they open 30 days out.  Thats the biggest tip I can give you on this update.  10 am!  Not 10:01, not 9:58.  10!  Its imperative that you try the simple brilliance of Missy Robbins, and do it soon.

Add the Fettuccine to the list of classics.  Robbins uses a thin but potent Tomato Passato with spicy lamb sausage and Fennel seeds.  After the initial palate shock, it settles down into one heck of a “Red Sauce” dish.  Another new hit for me is a starter of Roasted Trumpet Mushrooms, rocket, balsamic, and Sicilian almonds (the best almonds on the…

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East Village Street Art


In my next life I want to live in the East Village.  Preferably between the ages of 17-24, before I move back to my wealthy family home in Croatia, and eventually settling down in the outskirts of Hell’s Kitchen or Upper West Side as a commercial pilot that flies to Italy every other time.  Its in the contract!  I will retire early again, giving food tours in Puglia, and on occasion visit my three daughters, all living in the East Village.  One of them is called Tamar (inside joke)

But until then, I will enjoy the area as a frequent visitor.  The food drew me at first, way before I started exploring it as a registered tour guide.  But I quickly realized there’s a lot more to it than food.  There’s a level of quirkiness not seen anywhere.  There’s a store on St Marks entirely devoted to Marshmallows!  So last October it took me and my big boy camera three visits to take pictures of all the art I could find.  These are just some of the results…


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Top 10 Things We Ate in Venice

Tiramisu at L'Osteria di Santa Marina

Razor Clams at Osteria alle Testiere

If I knew I will not see them again in the next 7 days, I would have ordered 5 more of these if they let me.  Simple yet so addictive in one of the premier seafood destinations in Venice.  And I could have easily subbed this mention with the phenomenal Gnocchetti with shrimp

Osteria alle Testiere - Razor Clams


Octopus at Osteria Alla Frasca

Its a lesson in texture, and complimentary liquid.  Its served with two purees – potato, and cherry tomato for you to play with.  The outrageous Pasta Alla Frasca should be mentioned as well, in a place that not only redefines “Hidden gem”, but feels like Uncle Leo’s house

Osteria Alla Frasca - Octopus

Bosega at Osteria Enoteca Ai Artisti

Its always fun bumping into fish I never heard of.  This Adriatic beauty is firm, delicate, and as expected here perfectly cooked.  Served with Jerusalem artichokes chips, and an oniony vinaigrette that even onion haters can enjoy.  Ai Artisti is one of our favorite new discoveries on this trip.

Bosega at Osteria Enoteca Ai Artisti

Seafood Carpaccio at Antiche Carampane

A standout among standouts in a seafood mecca.  There was buttery tuna, seabass, Sicilian red shrimp, Adriatic Langoustine and more local canal residents.  The seafood pastas here delivered big again too.  Repeat #1 for us on this trip.

Seafood carpaccio at Antiche Carampane

Octopus and Potato Salad at Trattoria Alla Fontana

When you stay for more than 96 hours this time, you discover Venetian specialties you didnt know exist.  Like the Octopus and Potato salad which quickly won us over (until we had a stinky one).  At this quiet, canal side Cannaregio joint, this was the freshest and most balanced of them all.  And a not too shabby risotto.

Octopus and potato salad at Trattoria Alla Fontana

Spaghetti with shrimp and Wild Mushrooms at Trattoria Da Jonny

Ok, I admit, I’m fishing here a little.  But this was a very solid pasta, at least on par with many such pastas throughout this trip, with the delicate mushrooms setting it apart.  But the goal is to mention the one place where we were the only tourists.  Try the Tiramisu too

Spaghetti with shrimp and wild mushrooms at Trattoria Da Jonny

Mixed Seafood at Trattoria alla Maddalena in Mazzorbo (Burano)

This brilliant combination of flavors and textures probably led the trip in Wows.  Various kinds of large shrimp, small shrimp with grilled white polenta.  There was an amazing Bacalau-like spread made from a local fish called Dentice.  A fresher than fresh octopus salad.  And something they made from eggs of Sepia that tasted like crab that I couldnt get enough of.  Fantastic value to boot, and another big reason to visit Burano.

Trattoria alla Maddalena - mixed seafood

Baked Scallops with breading and carrots at Salvmeria

Notice a trend here?  This post is not for the seafood haters, many of whom probably stopped reading by now after seeing all this raw footage.  “Best meat dishes in Venice”, is a blog post I may have to reserve for another life.  Salvmeria (yes with a V) is a newish bar attracting mostly locals due to the location.  A location (Via Garibaldi) worth checking out.

Baked scallops with breading and carrots at Salvmeria


Meatballs at Vedova

Ok, I’ll throw a bone for the meat lovers still reading.  Although just about everyone, including accountants may find these delightful.  Its a dense filling of mostly bread, but so satisfyingly salty.  This is what this widow (Vedova) is known for.

Meatballs at Vedova

Tiramisu at L’Osteria di Santa Marina (top). 

The older I get, the more I appreciate a proper Tiramisu at the end of the meal.  I have never had so many great looking and tasting Tiramisus in one week, but this last one topped them all.  Here its deconstructed with waffles and slightly frozen cream resulting in different mesmerizing morsels.  A surprising hit out of many from this old timer.

Bonus: daPrette in Padua. 

The only thing we ate in Padua was a targeted snack.  Small Calzone or Panzerotto, which is dough stuffed with different combinations like ham cheese, tomato.  Talking about a fresh, super satisfying snack.  It’s not stuffed like a NY calzone but the dough is so delicious.  Great stop for a quick bite.

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Traif – Hold the Gefilte

Traif - Foie GrasIn order to understand the name, one first needs to understand the location.  One block over to the south is Hasidic Williamsburg, the most ultra-Jewish neighborhood in a borough loaded with Jewish neighborhoods (around 5).  Once inside Hasidic Williamsburg you are not mistaken where you are.  This is the one place in Brooklyn I’m not comfortable touring with visitors and I declined such requests in the past.  Traif simply means “non-kosher”, a term not really used much even with Jews.  Practically next door is sister restaurant Xixa, the Mexican version of small plate Traif.  Xixa is pronounced Shiksa which means gentile girl, especially one that attracted a Jewish boy.

The Jewish husband cooks in Traif, while the Shiksa in Xixa.  This type of Chuzpah would normally attract a visit from the local Rabi.  Perhaps the logo of the pig with a heart in the middle on the Traif door legally prevents it from happening.  And the Shiksa in the other place complicates things further.  A third venture called Kish Mein Touchess would essentially entice a riot but thats just a rumor (which I’m starting here).  Traif is a pork-centric establishment after-all.  But you get the sense that even if you remove all the porkiness like the bacon around my drink rim Rude Little Pig (meh), this will still be a very good restaurant.


This is the type of place that expires on me over time.  Its 8 years old, generating nothing but praise and a steady young local crowd.  But at some point, due to the location you move on and forget all about it.  Its easy to get lost in the shuffle in this town that produces at least 20 new good ones every month it seems.  The menu reads Spanish tapas-like, but once you take a closer look, its tapas meets New American.  And while there’s always a risk attached to a tasting menu as such, the $55 chefs tasting at Traif is build to impress.

We started with a glorious welcome, a cup of creamy chickpea soup.   Then came perfectly seared scallops on a bed of mushroom risotto.  The intense mushroom perfume especially elevated those scallops nicely.  Its an odd one to start a tasting menu, but the heck with rules.  Simpler but tasty combinations followed like King Salmon with avocado, and Squash with cheese toasts.  Spicy tuna tartare over eggplant tempura was one of the more memorable early on.  If you are not a fan of Sweetbread, the riff on General Tso’s here may convert you.  Another hit was a gorgeously seared duck sporting a nice outer crisp.Traif - Scallops

Perhaps the most impressive dish of the night however was a seared foie gras with yukon potatoes, bacon, and sunny side up egg.  A tangy sauce and proper spices tying everything together and its Siman Tov ve Mazel Tov in your mouth.  Would love to come back to this.. alone.  On the other hand, the worst dish was the orange ribs.  Its tender!  Thats the only thing I can say about it.  Gnocchi with mushrooms and shaved black truffles – cant go wrong with that.  Finishing, in your face style, with bacon donuts with coffee ice cream beating the weak Panna Cotta.  All in all this is another GO folks!

229 S 4th (Williamsburg, Brooklyn)
Rating: 2.5 Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: Tasting Menu

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The 100!


Thank You!

Its been a fun ride to 100.  I met so many cool people from all over the world.  From the Maori family from New Zealand who decided to buy a Durian and eat it in a parking lot in Brooklyn’s Chinatown.  To the Italian barber from England who keeps sending me clients.  Needless to say first full year has been a story filled blast.  Thanks to everyone who took the time to review me on Tripadvisor, and to the extensive Tripadvisor forum community.  Your support means a lot and keeps me from losing weight going.  Special thanks to the nation of Australia!  Good luck in the next Eurovision thing

The Brooklyn, East Village, and Hell’s Kitchen tours took a life of their own.  They are like my children and therefore very difficult for me to choose.  There’s not a day that goes by without me thinking on how to improve them.  And sometimes, on occasion I even do something about it ;).  Like adding Green-Wood Cemetery to the Brooklyn tour, or the city’s best Almond Croissants to the East Village tour.  Thanks to all the awesome vendors that make this possible.

Here’s to the next 900!



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This is Burano

And a little glimpse of Murano and Torcello




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The Curious Case of Gino Sorbillo, Pizza Legend

Sorbillo MargheritaAnticipating a famous Pizzaiolo grand opening in NYC is like anticipating flu season.  You hear about it in the media long before it arrives.  You wonder if you should do something about it this time, because you kinda like this life thing.  Then you end up forgetting all about it and doing nothing.  I dont recall ever standing in line for pizza, and I dont recall ever taking a flu shot.  Perhaps you can get the flu while standing in line in this brutal cold?  Not really sure, and not about to take any chances in what seems like the worst flu season in recent memory.  My family needs me.  I think.

If I could fit a longer title it would have said something like this, “Gino Sorbillo – love at first bite, hate at last”.  Ok, that sounded much longer in my head.  But it was really a tale of two visits for me at this highly anticipating pizza opening.  I should really do a third visit, but my wallet has other ideas in mind these days (Uncle Boons Sister, Madame Vo, Martina, etc etc).  More about the wallet thing later.  But we are talking about a pizza legend from Napoli opening his third location after Napoli and Milan.  NYC is certainly the right place to flaunt this kind of skill.  But we are talking about New York Pizza city after all.

If you read this blog longer than a few months or took my East Village tour, you know that New Yorkers live and breath pizza.  We have Neapolitan, Roman, NY style pie and slice joints, Detroit, Chicago, Staten Island, State Island bar, grandma, grandpa, and baby pizza at our finger tips.  Ok, I made the last one up but you get the idea.  New Yorkers are surrounded by pizza, and many of them are really really good.  That includes Neapolitans like Keste, Don Antonio, Eataly, and even some obscure places like Brunetti and Pasquale Jones dishing out well crafted awesomeness.  Opening a pizza place in NYC, and especially East Village requires some major chaloopas, but we New Yorkers welcome any such thing with open mouths.  Perhaps if the place was a little more unique like offer free flu shots with the pizza, New Yorkers would pay more attention

On both visits the place was almost empty.  Granted it was on my after touring hour of 3pm, but I still expected bigger crowds considering the hype.  The first thing I noticed is how large the pizzas are.  At around 13-14 inch they seem to be an inch or two larger than your average city Neapolitan.  That makes it even more of a challenge to fold these babies as the Neapolitans are naturally soggy in the middle.  We should be lucky that these imports are even cutting them for us.  Curious if they cut it for mayor De Blasio who visited both NY and Naples locations.

The first pizza I tried, Margherita with Buffalo mozzarella was outstanding.  Ingredients really popping, with a soft, airy crust that was folded almost like a calzone due to the size of the slices.  Even though the slices didnt hold their own, the flavors were there.  By my second visit I was ready for the Nduja which is becoming one of the more popular pies here.  The first few bites were promising but I got bored fairly quickly with this one.  The spicy salami spread (Nduja) was alright, but couldnt save the rest of the pie that includes uneven crust with Roman-like crunchiness at times.  This time each slice was totally falling apart when you lifted them to the point of (chills) fork and knife consideration.  And at almost $30 after tip/tax the cost/flavor ratio really took off for my liking.  A few blocks out at Martina, that ratio comes back to earth with individual pies costing a third of this, while still filling.

So while not a strong recommendation, I do encourage you to try this pizza legend and form your own opinion.  At the very least, you may get a Ratatouille moment reminiscing about your time in Napoli where you wanted to try the famous Sorbillo pizza, but just couldnt cross the street!

Sorbillo Nduja

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