Ristorante Al Boccone – Marzamemi

IMG_9669Sometimes the best laid plans are the ones you make that morning, after Modica coffee, or inside a stunning Baroque cathedral.  Not months prior while eating leftover General Tso’s Chicken.  To Noto or Not to Noto was the question I’ve been wrestling with the most during planning.  Decision was final, until Mrs Ziggy, suffering from a small case of ‘Fish called Wanda‘ syndrome, asked me time and again.. “why arent we going to Noto?  Italian men with Italian accents are telling me I should go to Noto”.  And so its back to To Noto.  And while in beautiful but Baroque Disney Landish Noto, escaping the heat inside that stunning Cathedral (picture below), another thought crossed my mind.  Instead of having lunch in Baroque Disney, we will have lunch at the old fishing village of Marzememi, 20 minutes away.  Its been 36 hours since our last seafood meal, and my left arm is starting to twitch ever so slightly.

IMG_9664The old village of Marzamemi, a sleeping beauty, where once tuna was trapped and tortured by the numbers.  One of the first and most important ‘Tonnaras’ on the island, though the practice is no more (Thanks Obama!).  Today, two shirtless men collect two euros to watch your car, restaurants are lined up along the shore, and the old center is now as  picturesque as fishing villages get.  Surprisingly fairly quiet during the day, even in the high summer.  Action picks up at night I was told by our host at Modica.  And nice sandy beaches (a luxury on this island) are minutes away in San Lorenzo

But the highlight of the day, as often is the case in Italy, was lunch at Al Boccone.  A huge deck overlooking the ocean, with an English speaking young waiter who really cared about our enjoyment.  We found this common all over Sicily – owners, workers were grateful and humble that YOU chose THEM, and they are on a mission for you not to regret.  An appetizer mix of local specialties including a fine smoked swordfish.  Another assortment of cheese and salami was forgettable.  Calamari Siciliano was a revelation of sorts, two huge squid stuffed with bread crumbs, more squid, pine nuts and more deliciousness, served in a stew like fashion with tomato and onions.  Excellent fresh grilled Amberjack was like a more succulent swordfish.  A Busiate-like Trofie (surprised to see Trofie pasta in the part) with tomatoes, basil, pistachio, big shrimp, little shrimp, medium shrimp (top picture) was well balanced and quite exceptional.  The one dish I didn’t care for much was spaghetti with bottarga, which tasted incredibly strong after sampling the other dishes (tho oldest didnt mind so much).  Fantastic lunch in a most picturesque village

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Noto

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Categories: Sicily | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ortigia Market – A Walk With a Chef

IMG_8961“I promised Marcello I won’t be taking too many seflies”, said chef Lele while we were gearing up for the second one.  My kids would argue that two in 90 minutes suggests that you are fairly close to a comma.  But different rules perhaps apply to the island of Ortigia in east Sicily, home to a spectacular Duomo, puppets, mussels, and a pretty nifty market

90 minutes prior we met Lele Torrisi next to the Temple of Apollo, the oldest doric remains in Sicily, 6th century BC, 27th century BI (Before Iphone).  The temple is adjacent to what later became our favorite market in Sicily.  I already knew chef Lele would sport his chef attire, and I briefly considered all four of us to show up in similar fashion.  But it was too hot, and I wasnt too certain about the chef’s sense of humor.  I was sporting my spanking brand new Fedora

Turns out I didnt need to worry about the sense of humor part, which made the walk that much more enjoyable.  And within minutes, I was an expert.  I knew which swordfish was frozen.  I knew where the pistachio really come from (hint: Not from here).  I knew what the vendors are shouting.  Mrs Ziggy knew what to do with the spice pack she’s been hiding in the cabinet for over a year.  And I knew how to inspect the fish for freshness.  I can already imagine the look on my fishmonger face on my next visit, when he sees me open up those gills with glovesIMG_8996

We also learned about the various seasons.  That July is a particular good time to cook in Sicily.  That mussels and peaches right now are at their best.  Another big lesson that set the tone for us the rest of the trip is not to judge a peach by its cover.  The uglier the better.  But the highlight came at the end, when we popped into the famed sandwich maker Borderi (if you wear “I love [your name]” t-shirt, you officially made it).  And out pops a board of deliciousness, including sensational smoked mozzarella.

Everything about Lele Torrisi reads like the Ferran Adrià of Siracusa.  From his time spent in various Michelin powerhouses, including Osteria Francescana and Massimo Bottura, to the more humble times spent with his dad Alfio at Ristorante Dioniso, 10 minute walk from market.  The unexpected expected consequences that came out from all of this, is that we ate exceptionally well the rest of our Sircausa stay.  Within minutes we were tasting local craft beer (a luxury in Sicily) at one month old Pani_Co, an artsy local wine bar with a full menu.  The Alveria American style IPAs turned out to be the best brew we drank in Sicily.  And later that night we were dining with locals in the know at Macallè, where Lele serves as a consultant

Lele markets himself these days via Marcello Baglioni’s Agave Travel Creative.  Marcello specialty is experiences, “Slow Travel”, memories that stay with you far beyond the memory of seeing yet another church.  Instead of just staying at an Agriturismo, he will set you up with various activities, like harvesting (pistachios, olives, grapes).  He can arrange an archaeological dig (I’ve done it in Israel, fun), climb Mt Etna with a volcanologist, tour mafia facilities and even go on a “job” with some.  Ok, I made the last one up, but you get the idea.

Lele is Agave’s culinary arm, where you can schedule such market walks, cooking classes, and anything you want really (anything!).  We could have walked the Ortigia market by ourselves in less than 10 minutes, take selfies with the fish, and ate in other restaurants I planned on.  But what kind of memories would have derived from that.IMG_9043 IMG_9040 IMG_9015 IMG_9021 IMG_8998 IMG_8997 IMG_8995 IMG_8991 IMG_8989 IMG_8987 IMG_8985 IMG_8965 IMG_8962 IMG_8924 IMG_3409 IMG_9046 IMG_9059 IMG_0615

Categories: Sicily | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

This is Ciuci’s Manor

IMG_3500This is not a painting.  Just like every other visitor stepping into the second floor of this Agriturismo like no other, we thought we were staring at a painting.  Its a custom made window overlooking Ciuci Land, where once over 60 donkeys roamed free, producing milk for kids with special needs.  Only three, luckiest donkeys in the world, left in the property, but they have friends;  Ostriches, cows, rabbits, chickens, ducks, parakeet.  Ginevra’s dad promised one day, he will stop coming home with animals.  A week later.. “What is that you hiding under your arms”.  Its another duck.

As with any such trip, I choose to write first about experiences we speak most highly about.  The place that produced the most memories.  But pictures will do very little in this case, no matter how much digging I do (camera and 4 phones, 2 of which filled with only selfies).  You need to see it, listen to it, smell it, take the drive there, meet Ginevra and her mom, and maybe then you will get the idea.  The gate to Ciuci’s alone is reminiscent of a Gladiator movie set, when Maximus comes back to his family (In happier times).

“She is not real”, my oldest description of young Ginevra who manages this Agriturismo.  The only place I ordered eggs in the morning, with some guilt over the fact that our host is 8 months pregnant.  With everything so fresh tasting, and chickens a few meters away, I just coudnt resist.  And it was good.  Just like the rest of the morning lineup including rotating fresh fruit pies, and the legendary Pistachio cream.  To fully appreciate Ginevra’s pistachio cream you need to pop into any random store in Trapani and try theirs.  Feh!  Ciuci’s Manor is a pistachio paradise

And just when you think this can not possibly get any better… “We take all the guests in a 9 passenger van, and have dinner in a Palazzo we inherited in Favara.  Would you like that?” (speechless).  Just one question.  What should I wear?  My nicest shorts have three stains on them already but with proper lighting we can manage.  I live in NYC.  The closest thing to this experience is when friends invite us to a house in south Jersey where properties are a little bigger, and the Chinese food a little worse.  Dinner at Palazzo Fanara with our new friends from France was that proper magical finish, to a magical place.  Ginevra, Mama, and of course the wonderful Vagabonda – Thank you for the memories.

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10 Best Things We Ate in Piedmont

I’m leaving you yet again. This time a bit more extended I’m afraid. Follow me on Twitter @ziggy601 as I eat my way through Sicilia, or just check the tweets on the left column here. There will be seafood, and there will be couscous in my immediate future.
I’m reblogging a post about my favorite region, Piedmont

Eating With Ziggy

Italy 2014 203When you research food in Piedmont, its usually a matter of minutes until you see “Most Underrated” mentioned by some food writer.  Its almost cliché.  Many believe that the Langhe region, especially the 20 mile radius around Alba has some of the best concentration of great dining in the country.  And now that I finally got a good taste of what this region has to offer, me and my chocolates are jumping on the bandwagon to Serralunga.  Here are some of the best bites we had from a recent trip…

Fusilli with pork shoulder atAgriturismo il Cucchiaio di LegnoLake Orta’s lone Slow Food hidden gem produced a feast to remember.  While its nearly impossible to pick one dish from this 10 courser, the Fusilli is etched in my mind perhaps more than anything else.  The title explains the dish almost in its entirely.  Light on ingredients, but big on flavor.  Young master Luigi learned from the best.. Mother!

Italy 2014 147

White Truffles at La Bottega del…

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Pssss… I Have a New Favorite Ramen Spot

Mentoku

Mentoku

I hope I find you readers well, and I hope this stays just between us.  As much as I like my places to stay the same, my mama always taught me that “Sharing is Caring”.  I shared my only toy, a plastic green soldier with my friends, including the friend who introduced me to cigarettes at the coming of age 5 (I quit when I turned 6, and swore off cigarettes forever.  True story).  Up until three months ago or so my go-to Ramen spot has been the Totto branch on 51st/10th, right across the Falafel Nazi Azuri Cafe.  After over a dozen visits to Totto, with the occasional cheating with the great Ippudo Akamaru and Ivan, I’ve gone exploring yet again for that great Ramen bowl in the Kitchen of Hell.  Enter little Mentoku on 9th ave.

Mentoku is not your prototypical Hell’s Kitchen Ramen that is buzzy, with the occasional painful waits, less than comfortable seating, and quick eat.  You can actually spend more than 5 minutes here while enjoying soft Jazz.  There’s one cook, and there’s usually one or two waitresses running the “front”.  And more importantly, I have never seen the place too full to enjoy.  Whether by myself at the counter, or with co-workers, every visit has been comfortable and relaxing, a rarity in NYC Ramen world.  “Akanoren” is proudly displayed on the sign outside, and according to this blogger, its a Ramen chain in Japan.Mentoko Yuzu-Kosho

The specialty here is Hakata style Tokotsu Ramen, where the pork is slowly cooked at high temperatures.  This means the meat and the fat dissolves into the soup more, creating a rich, but smooth base.  Meaning its rich, but not one of those super rich, guilt-filled bowls that makes you want to start smoking again as you declare this day the beginning of the end of your life.  You coming out of there feeling good, which to me is what Ramen is all about.

I started my relationship with Mentoku with the mild and pleasant Tinkichi, but its the Yuzu-Kosho that does it for me now.  The hot Yuzu paste delivers an initial punch but settles down nicely into a very pleasant bowl.  The Nori surrounding the bowl adds a nice fishy element as you smell it with each morsel, and the thin cut chashu is the way to go as far the pork belly goes.  I feel that some of the other guys slice them a little too thick.  Another big hit at Mentoku is their simple but incredibly juicy and flavorful fried chicken.

Mentoku will be added to the Survival Guide, while we say goodbye to short-lived Mocu Mocu.  Oh how I hoped the sisters succeed, but was always afraid that Hell’s Kitchen, and in particular that corner of 10th Ave, is simply not ready for this kind of Japanese.

Mentoku Chicken Mentoku Tonkichi

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Timna – Chutzpah Nation

Timna OctopusI will make this one nice and simple for you.  Pressing for time as of late, with only a week or so before I leave you yet again on another eating assignment (Sicily).  This one will be the biggest and baddest assignment ever, with a lot of interesting surprises in store.  Though I may be suffering from my first ever FRFS (food research fatigue syndrome).  I’m now seeing Busiate in my sleep and sometimes even when awake, like while watching the Euro 2016 (Football/Soccer).  As much as I’m enjoying the Euro’s, its best served as a rather harmless sleeping pill.  A much needed one since I’m not getting enough sleep as of late due to the mating season in my bedroom.  No, not what you think.  Birds! male birds, doing the entire Hava Nagila rendition at 4:30 in the morning in order to attract their female counterparts.

East Village in June, as I was showing to my Aussie friends, feels like mating season as well.  Its the east coast capital of pretty people.  Friends that live there give 2nd Ave nicknames I can not repeat here.  And on buzzy St Mark’s, in the middle of all that, you find little Timna, a modern Israeli joint with Nir Mesika (Zizi Limona, Milan, knows his hummus geography) at the helm.  When I visited young Mesika in the kitchen, I was announced by the manager Downton Abbey style.  The guy has all the talent and knowledge in the world, but has the look of someone in the early stages of a soccer career, rather than a world class chef.Timna Sashimi

Other than a slight discomfort at the rounded table at the back, with some A/C issues, this was a very enjoyable evening.  Started with the infamous freshly baked Kubaneh that comes with some yogurt, a tomatoee salsa and “Jalapeno Salsa” which is essentially green Yemeni S’chug.  If you have a Challah fetish, you will wet yourself over the taste and texture of this thing, and its a must get for groups especially (I wouldnt order it solo).  But as with most bread courses out there, its a bit overrated, and serves as a sharp reminder that the free bread course days are just about over.  Give me The Marshal french loaf with homemade butter any day of the week.  The obligatory Cauliflower that you will find in every Israeli corner, did not disappoint.  Here Mesika elevates it with curried yogurt, dried grapes among other deliciousness.  A veg-ful burrata is more proof that a sprinkle of Za’atar (oil in this case) makes everything better.

Mesika assembled a playful menu with influences from all over the world (Chinatown salad!) especially in regards to the raw stuff.  A Ceviche salad featuring mahi on this particular night was the weakest of the ones we tried.  A fine tzatziki tartar with minced lamb delighted Mrs Ziggy especially.  And the Mediterranean Sashimi featuring cured tuna, green Tabouli salad with quinoa, and crispy beat “leather” did the trick, including in the looks department  A somewhat deconstructed lasagna featuring slow cooked tender spareribs, and Jerusalem artichoke chips is another example of Mesika’s playful brilliance.Timna Shakshuka

But the most interesting dish of the night sounded the most boring, Bedouin Octopus.  Mesika tenderizes, sous vide style, the heck out of this thing (I’m guessing by the size, it was enjoying the coast of the Portugal a few days prior).  A bit softer than I like my octopuses.  Then he finished it on an open flame like the Bedouin 200 kilometers south of Mesika’s home in Israel.  This is by far the smokiest Octopus I’ve ever had, and one of the better, even while lacking the proper texture.  We skipped dessert.

Brunch in Timna is another delicious event.  And one of the better brunch values out there.   For $25 you get a selection of small salads (salatim) to share, any of the entrees, coffee (very good), and the obligatory Mimosa.  We sampled an average Hummus Masabacha which I’m not a big fan to begin with.  A nice Sabich Croissant, though I still prefer my Sabichs in a pita.  One of the better Shakshukas out there.  And a very solid burger with fried egg.

Timna
109 St Marks Pl (1st/A)
$$$
Recommended Dishes: Kubaneh, Cauliflower, Mediterranean Sashimi, Octopus, Shakshuka (brunch), Burger (brunch)

Timna Salatim Timna Masabacha Timna Burger Timna

Categories: East Village, New York City | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

Nishi – La Cucina Fukina

Nishi Update…

Eating With Ziggy

Gabriele Stabile Gabriele Stabile

June 19. 2016 Update:

Happy “Great, another brown wallet” Father’s Day to all the foodie dads out there!!

Nishi is quickly becoming my favorite Momofuku in the city.  Wait a minute… this just in… it just did.  See how quick it was?  I will most likely replace Ma Peche with Nishi on the next Z-List update.  Other than the Habanero, I’m simply running out of reasons to schlep there.  Every thing that I like are taken out of the menu, starting with the rice cakes w/pork, and ending with chef’s Paul’s sensational jerk wings.

There’s somewhat of an identity crisis I feel with Nishi.  Nothing outrageous, but more like “am I an Ox or a cow?” type of an identity.  They started with a No Tipping policy which got axed recently (New Yorkers may not be ready for it quite yet).  The much buzzed Ceci e Pepe is…

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Werkstatt – Ich Habe Gut Geschlafen

Werkstatt PretzelI slept well that night.  Like a baby caressed by his mother’s bosoms while sucking on a Jack Daniels soaked pacifier.  It was that kind of night after that kind of evening at Werkstatt.  A gamble of sorts, bringing my entire family to a place I’ve never been before for a family celebration.  A high percentage gamble considering the Austrian fare, though in reality all that was required was a Schnitzel, and a fan.  Comfort food on Coney Island Ave is not so new to us (see Nargis Cafe), but comfort Austrian cuisine, boasting a former 4 NYT stars chef is like having a Michelin Star restaurant in the Staten Island mall.

Werkstatt BeerSo why did it take 9 months for me to get to Werkstatt?  Because its the lone Google Star in an area that I rarely visit.  Ditmas Park is like Family Guy.  I never seek it, but when I bump into it, I stick around and delight in its offerings.  Though something tells me I will be back sooner than later.  Not so much for the other places in Ditmas Park, but this particular one.  Where the German beer just keeps flowing, and the pretzels keep coming.  Well, one pretzel really, which comes with its own Lipitor.

Or is it “Liptauer”, a buttery, cheesy, peppery, paprika infused mixture that requires a German born pretzel the size of half a pretzel cart to enjoy.  Forget the mustard, dip this beast in the Lipitor.  That pretzel was pretzel perfection, and it was making me thirsty!  A silky smooth, light Belgian Witbier (white beer), a perfect match to the humid day.  The smoky pan fried Brussels Sprouts with lemon habanero aioli was more like a side dish but a required order nonetheless considering how satisfying.  But the winner early on was a sauteed Calamari and Kielbasa blend, a gorgeous combination I’ve never seen before.

Werkstatt CalamariEveryone was more than satisfied with their Chicken and Wiener (pork) Schnitzels including my buds from the one bite.  A fine, juicy, homemade Bratwurst came with sauerkraut and potatoes.  And an exceptionally tender slices of goulash-like beef shoulder with bread dumplings that took me straight to Salzburg.  This was a special, which in Werkstatt require paying attention, or you may miss the world famous Viennese Sacher Torte.

As much as I love my sweets, chocolate cakes rarely excite, and the one here (Sacher) wasnt an exception (nor in Vienna).  But if there’s anything the Austrians are good at, is desserts, and boy oh boy there were good at Werkstatt.  The crepes, the nutty Linzer, the creamy hazelnut torte, they just kept coming, and wowing.

This was also an especially fun evening for Thomas Ferlesch and family (wife and daughter).  Not only visited by a world famous blogger, but also by Mimi Sheraton, a former influential NYT ciritic who handed the then young Ferlesch 4 stars back in 1981 when he worked for Vienna ’79 (UES).  A happy, sentimental Ferlesch was running around all over the homey multi room place like a 24 year old again.  Or perhaps he’s always like that, who knows.  The best compliment I can give any such place is that if I would have had this meal in the cuisine country of origin, it would still be considered a good meal.  Something I can not say with the vast majority of the places we go to.  Go!

Werkstatt
509 Coney Island Ave
$$$
Recommended Dishes: Pretzel, calamari, Brussels Sprouts, Beef shoulder (special), Goulash, Sausage Dessert

Werkstatt Brussels SproutsWerkstatt beef shoulder Werkstatt Spatzle Werkstatt Schnitzel Werkstatt Sausage Werkstatt Dessert Werkstatt Werkstatt Out

Categories: Brooklyn, New York City | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Yet another Seven Stars Update

I’ve got a bunch of suggestions, corrections, hate mail, marriage proposals, etc etc since the last update which was only a few weeks ago.  So I had to update it yet again.  Keep in mind that things are constantly changing on the island, but this is the last update for the time being

The Seven Stars Survival Guide

Categories: Turks and Caicos | 2 Comments

The Grand Banks – Shaken, Not Stirred

Grand Banks ViewA rare post about a meal that frankly wasn’t great.  I dont normally write those, and I’m not necessarily starting now.  On the contrary in fact, this is a recommendation.  On occasion, even foodies have to swallow their pride, and eat overpriced potato chips with a hint of sea sickness, and a view that turns those potato chips into very good potato chips.  Just dont be me and forget your big boy camera at home.  Even take a photography lesson if needed for this one.  To have any sort of view in the city, you either need to be up somewhere, or swim somewhere else.  This is the latter.

Someone asked me recently to recommend something for a couple in their 30’s on a first date.  30 minutes and 20 questions later, I recommended The NoMad Bar, Santina, and The Grand Banks, a schooner (boat) docked on the tip of pier 25 in Tribeca between May and October.  Albeit, this was before my recent meal there, though my confidence in the place wasnt exactly shattered.  The Grand Banks is the kind of place you want to take everyone.  Friends, neighbors, co-workers, work neighbors.  In My office floor, there are two companies, and you can easily distinguish the two when you visit the man’s bathroom (maybe the female too, who knows).  While we go in and out and do our business as quickly and clean quiet as possible while playing Doodle Jump, the other office members like to chat to each other, and wheel and deal while sitting in their stalls.  Yes, those guys especially would enjoy the Grand Banks.  But I cant picture them enjoying the stalls there nearly as much

There’s a good chance upon sitting down, that your first urge will be to get up and leave (wonder how many do).  The boat will shake.  Its just a matter of how much shaking you are willing to take.  But unless you easily get seasick, you should be golden.  It’s sort of a hot spot at peak times, so plan accordingly.  They take reservations on OpenTable which I find a little bizarre, yet convenient.Grand Banks Ceviche

Something tells me the food is better than this.  I’ve been to the Grand Banks before for the coveted lobster roll, but this time we came back with another couple for lunch.  The menu consists of seafood driven small plates ranging between $15 – $28.  The more expensive items like the pictured three piece Tilefish is still considered a small plate by all measures.  The fish was cooked well, but did not offer any distinct flavor.  The Ceviche this day (it changes based on market availability) featured slices of scallops that lacked any sort of oomph, and were rather limp.  The asparagus was perhaps the surprising highlight after the roll.

The lobster roll was still as good as before based on my three bites (I shared it this time with my significant other).  And as with pretty much any lobster roll in town, it will not win any value awards.  But for this price ($26?), I wish they’d pull a Cull & Pistol and offer it with their terrific fries instead of potato chips.  The roll is served Maine style cold, with cucumbers that would probably make roll traditionalists vomit at the sight.  But I dont mind it as it helps keep the bread texture intact, and never gets soggy (I’m looking at you Red Hook Pound) without interfering with the meat flavor.

So whether you are a young couple looking for something different to do, an older gentlemen who likes young couples, someone who likes to chat in the bathroom, or sing in the shower, check out this little love boat.Grand Banks Asparagus Grand Banks Lobster Roll Grand Banks TileFish The Grand Banks Grand Banks

Categories: New York City, TriBeCa | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

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