Monthly Archives: April 2015

Capizzi – Fughetaboutit!

CapizziI figured the best way to express myself this time around would be by sharing the latest clinical results from my team of doctors.  The monthly report is normally 38-50 pages long but here I will just share the “thoughts” pie chart on page 17.  The chart varies from month to month but the big players are more or less constant.  And since my Islanders were ousted last night, I expect Hockey to be replaced by sex, pasta or a combination of sorts very soon.  But as you can see, I do think about pizza often.  I recently had to impose a limit on my pizza intakes and now I’m down to just twice a month.  So when I have a bad one on occasion, I do get cranky a little.  I need to make it count.

meta-chartAnd so to make it count I either go to Don Antonio or Capizzi these days.  Sure a slice or three from Sacco, or Merilu, or a combination of the two (my current preferred method) does the trick.  While Don Antonio is one of the best in the Neapolitan business.  But there’s something magical going on at Capizzi, which is just about my favorite pizza in NYC at the moment.

The pizza at Capizzi is as solid as it gets.  It’s the Pat of the NY Pizza scene.  Sometimes it looks more Neapolitan, sometimes more NYC like.  Its somewhere in between really, and always delicious.  I would even say it gets better with age.  The ingredients are fresh, some ingredients like the sausages are made in house.  The dough is first rate, and the pie comes out of that wood burning oven (built by Joe the owner) with a thin crisp bottom, and the perfect char.  The ingredients on top speak for themselves.  In Italian!

Taste/Pain Ratio  is something I talk about sometimes.  The formula that measures the level of taste to the level of enjoyment or suffering one must endure for it.  Like women’s shoes.  Your sexy new heels will not look very sexy if you are in pain and cant walk straight.  You may think you are sexy, but you are not.  Grimaldi’s may dish out a decent pie, but it demands quite an effort to get there and stand on line, resulting in a low Taste/Pain ratio.  Tourists do the pilgrimage to the legendary Di Fara in Brooklyn, spending half a day door-to-bite, convincing themselves that its worth it, while not realizing that there’s around 20 places that would suit them just fine in Manhattan.

Capizzi may very well have the highest Taste/Pain Ratio in NYC.  There’s never any sort of wait.  Yo get a comfortable table and personal service each and every time (both aspects may be lacking sometimes in Don Antonio and the busier Tavola across the street.  Busier than Capizzi that is).  Capizzi is old school Brooklyn without the rich history of a Lombardi’s, and the sexiness of a Don antonio, hence not very touristy.  Joe Calcagno’s has been making those pies since he was a child in Brooklyn, helping papa.  Capizzi (a small town in Sicily where grandma came from) is one of several current Joe holdings including a popular restaurant/pizzeria in Staten Island.  Its where I go for my pizza fix

Capizzi
547 9th Ave

Capizzi Out Capizzi in

 

Categories: Midtown West, New York City | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Italia – Getting Organized

TuscanyI spent the last couple of days day dreaming categorizing all the Italian posts, filing them in the proper locations.  On the left side you can now see the five categories under Italy…

Florence

Rome

Tuscany

Emilia-Romagna

Piedmont

Venice, the lakes, and other parts are not there because I dont have enough blog posts on them (at the moment the count is about 0).  Here are all the tips you need on Venice:  The greatest museum in the world:  Rialto market.  The greatest bite post the greatest museum in the world:  Antiche Carampane.  That is it.  Once I come back, I will start writing on Venice and the rest of them.

But I must say, out of the 290 posts published so far since I started this blog, the Italy posts are by far my favorite.  Sure its nice to write about my home town, my adapted home town, and even New Orleans once in a while which produced the most viewed post on EWZ (571 shares on Facebook alone).  But the Italy posts, while not much in the way of generating traffic for some reason, are the reason why it took me two days to do this.  A lot of staring and day dreaming.  Italy is the reason I have a hard time getting overly excited about our trip next month to Prague, Salzburg, Vienna.  It spoiled me forever

Gattavecchi

Gattavecchi crew in Montepulciano

Categories: Italy | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Why I Like to Take Groups to Da Andrea

Da Andrea TigelleWhat is your favorite Italian?  The most confusing, challenging subject since sex education in High School.  Not only I don’t really know, but I also don’t have a clue what is your definition of “Italian”.  Italian can mean 21 different things, for the 21 very different regions including the Italian region of Staten Island.  It could also be a steakhouse (Costata), a pizza joint (Marta, Don Antonio), or a fusiony place like Piora.  Many of the so called “Italian” dont really have much in common.  In fact whenever we talk to Italian chefs in Italy about what they do and where they eat in NYC, they often mention Italian restaurants.  Because to a chef from Piedmont, a Roman restaurant may be just as foreign as Korean.  Ok, maybe not.  But to them there’s no such thing as Italian restaurants.  They are just restaurants.

But if you would ask me which of our so called Italian restaurants I frequent the most, the answer is fairly simple. For lunch, Mercato.  For dinner, Da Andrea.  Ok, maybe not as simple as I thought, as you can see.  Da Andrea is not what I would call a foodie destination.  Its a fun, fairly popular family operated neighborhood joint specializing primarily in Emilia Romagna cooking (owners from Bologna).  We’ve been frequenting Da Andrea since they were located on Hudson street deeper in the Village.  Back then they were half their current size, with lines around the block sometimes.  They didnt take reservations then, and they dont do now, unless you are 4 or more.  When I have to pick a place for groups between 4 and 12, Da Andrea is the first place that pops to mind.  Why?Da Andrea Calamari

1)  As busy as they are on a nightly basis, it’s easy to reserve large tables with a phone call.  Otherwise, trying to reserve large tables in Manhattan is like having a three day root canal

2)  It’s cheap.  At least for NYC standards.

3)  The food is generally good and family/group friendly.  My idea of family style dining is not Carmines where the dishes are super-sized low quality.  Regular size dishes can be just as family style.  You just need to know what to order and how many of them.  At Da Andrea, we must get the Tigelle, Modenese style baked to order flat buns that come with Prosciutto di Parma.  The simple, always fresh grilled calamari here is fantastic.  The tower of veggies is normally a big hit.  And as far as pastas go, the Pappardelle with sausage ragu and truffle oil has to be one of the most popular pasta dishes in town.  Its my guilty red sauce pleasure.  Although, admittedly I didnt detect much truffle flavor or scent last time.

4)  The house wine is good (and cheap)

5)  You can linger.  Chances are your large table isnt booked for another party, so you can take your time.  In fact last time, our waitress advised us to order our mains later on, in order to have ample time between courses.  You can take your time here

6)  100% success rate.  If it aint broke, why fix it.  Generally, everyone enjoys this place (you can tell), and at the end of the day that is really what counts

Da Andrea SpaghettiDa Andrea CapreseDa Andrea Veggie tower Da Andrea Pappardelle Da Andrea Cavatelli

Courtesy of https://whyhaventwebeenherebefore.wordpress.com/

Categories: New York City, West Village | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Best Dishes in Hell’s Kitchen – Round 4

Blue Ribbon Sushi Oxtail Fried Rice

Rest of the rounds can be found here

Oxtail Fried Rice at Blue Ribbon Sushi – Responsible for roughly 27% of my wet dreams.  We are blessed with all sorts of crazy fried rice dishes all over town (Ivan Ramen, Gato, Pure Thai), but this one may top them all.  Adding to the richness are bits of bone marrow, and on top of all this craziness is an egg omelette.  Once you mix it all, you get something really special.  This Blue Ribbon is inside the 6 Columbus Hotel, and depending on who you ask it may not be exactly in Hell’s Kitchen.  Some sites like Yelp think it is, and if you ask me, deliciousness should know no borders (I just came up with this)

Danji Tofu

Tofu at Danji – I smell this dish as soon as I go in.  Along with the fiery Korean Wings (some of the best in the city), Bulgogi sliders, the tofu is a must order for me on every visit.  The fact that its a tofu dish alone, and its on this list speaks major volume.  Four rectangles are flash fried, and topped with ginger scallion dressing, and that wonderful soy vinaigrette I smell upon arrival.  The result is crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside, and incredibly delicious throughout.  You will want to eat every single detail of this dish.

Pork Buns

Steamed Pork Buns at Kung Fu Little Steamed Buns Ramen – These are Xiao Long Bao, aka Soup Dumplings, not the pork buns we know and love (Momofuku, Ippudo).  In fact everything about the place is confusing.  The Ramen is not exactly Ramen, there’s no Kung Fu anywhere, and the pork buns are not pork buns.  But they are quite spectacular, once you develop the art of eating them properly.  You may want to hold a napkin in your right hand initially as you may splatter some juice on your neighbor.  But practice will make perfect , and after a few of these babies you will be eating them like a pro.  Just scoop it up unto the soup spoon (add some vinegar before or after), nibble once to make a hole, let the steam out for a few seconds… attack.  This is not a place to linger, nor for a fancy pre-theater meal, as you may share your table with common folk who may not be wearing Louboutin.

Pam Real Oxtail

Oxtail Soup at Pam Real Thai – This is a no-brainer since I included it in the Best Dishes of 2014.  Delicious lasting heat, complex broth, with two hefty meaty bones.  Fatty in all the right places, like slow dancing with your mother-in-law.  If my mother-in-law could cook like this, I would have an affair.  I believe it has miracle powers (cured all my flu like symptoms, and frontal balding).  It’s my favorite soup in the city of Ramen.  Disregard the lazy, minimalistic decor at this old timer (compared to the rest of the Thai in the area).  Though once you try Pam’s cooking, the decor will look like something out of a contemporary French country catalog

City Sandwich Egg Tarts

Pastel de Crema at City Sandwich – Yes, we are listing the city’s top sandwich stop and not having a sandwich.  Criminal in a way.  Until you try these things at this Portuguese inspired joint.  Yes, I suppose you can find them in your nearest Chinatown as well (They were introduced to China via Macau while under Portuguese rule).  This is the Portuguese national snack.  A creamy egg custard inside a flaky crust.  But if an egg tart is not to your liking, try their mini Panna Cotta

Categories: Midtown West, New York City | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Why Di Palo’s is my Favorite Food Store in NYC

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January 26, 2016 Update:

My absolute favorite thing to do while on vacation is, you guessed it, eat.  And my second favorite thing is to read about what I’m going to eat on my next vacation.  Instead of reading a book about Sicily, I opted to read Lou Di Palo’s wonderful Guide to the Essential Foods of Italy, hoping to get some useful tips on my next destination.  I got that and then some.  It was especially great reading about the history of the store, and the stories, moving stories, about Lou’s life and travels in Italy.

The book reaffirmed something I suspected all along.  There’s nothing like Di Palo’s in the city of NY, and maybe even in the entire USA.  After just finishing the book, I cant wait stop by the store.  This time I’ll be one of the ‘jerks’ that bypasses his turn in order to be served by Lou.  I need more Sicily tips Lou, like where’s the best pizza in the Trapani.

Di Palos

April 15, 2015 Post

Walk on Mulberry street between Broome and Hester on a sunny day, and you may notice a peculiar thing, or three.  People sitting, watching other people, and everyone is eating the same thing.  Penne with red or vodka sauce (I presume for the Russians), Frutti di Mare, and the occasional chicken parm parked right next to their guidebook.  I apologize to the people watchers who had to endure me through the years but I just love walking on that stretch simply because its such an interesting and unique attraction.  A street in the middle of Chinatown devoted entirely to tourists.  Dont get me wrong, I would not expect anyone to know that there are gems like Rubirosa, Osteria Morini, and Parm less than 5 minutes away, just like I would not know where to eat in their hometown.

But lets think for a second what would happen when the guidebooks finally get the memo that there is no such thing as Little Italy anymore.  All the businesses will most likely close, except for one, Di Palo’s.  Ok, maybe La Mela as the last of the red sauce mohicans.  But Di Palo’s has been there for almost 100 years, and unless they get booted out they are not going anywhere anytime soon.  Instead of sitting at a place that bills itself as home to the “Best Canolli in the World” (of the pre-filled and frozen kind) and watch people that look like me (again, I’m sorry), you should be sitting in Di Palo’s breathing history.  This is the real Little Italy stuffed in this small enclave on Grand steet, with a story bigger than all the red sauce joints on Mulberry combined.IMG_1616

This is not the place for a quick purchase, unless you come early in the morning when they first open.  In here you linger.  This is the only store in NY where you feel good about getting a number and dont really mind waiting much, because you know you’ll be getting the same kind of treatment when its your turn.  Once your turn is up, you may get one of the Di Palo’s (Lou, Sal, Marie) or one of the trusted workers who are probably used to seeing people skipping turns just to get one from the family.  Either way, you will get a personal interaction that is almost unheard of in NYC.  With almost zero regard to the amount of people waiting, you will be able to taste just about everything the store has to offer, and have fun doing so.  Spending more than 30 minutes is not that far fetched, and if you get Lou, Sal, Marie, chances are you’ll want to be there for an hour.  Many top NYC chefs do the same thing, come in and take a number. Chef Daniel Boulud calls Lou Di Palo one of the seven wonders of New York.

What to try/get:  Their fresh Mozzarella is extremely popular.  Burrata, aged Pecorino, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Mortadella from Bologna, not NJ.. Soppressata, Prosciutto di Parma, Cacciatorini (hunter salami), peppered salami, Finocchiona, Felino from Felino, not Utah.  The one item I absolutely must get every time is Truffled Pecorino.  They have several, usually from Sardinia or Tuscany.  Eataly has none.  Also you can get Sullivan Street Bakery Focaccia (great for a picnic), fresh pasta, various sauces including Urbani truffle sauces and more.  If you havent been and enjoy good food, you owe it to yourself

Di Palo’s
200 Grand St

IMG_1620 IMG_1621 IMG_1618

Categories: Chinatown, New York City, SoHo, NoHo, Nolita | Tags: , , , , | 5 Comments

Bassanova – Some Ramen are Better than Others

Bumping this one up with a lame update, but hey the pictures are great

Eating With Ziggy

Bassanova YuzuApril 12th, 2015 Update:

I have mixed feelings about reblogging this one.  On one hand I have an important update on Bassanova (Important to me at least.  To roughly 89% of yous this is as important as the news that Bruce Jenner is now wearing a bra).  But on the other hand, after reading the original post below, I have no clue what the hell I’m talking about there.  I suppose I can just rewrite the entire thing, but that would not be keeping it real.  You are with me folks, with the good and the bad, and the terrible.  And the “He must be high on kasha or something”.

I’ll make this one quick and painless, without any Morrissey references.  Its painful enough for me to even spell Morisseey.  But I really do wish everyday was like this Sunday.  A nice day of eating with the misses where I introduced…

View original post 603 more words

Categories: New York City | Leave a comment

Take Your Daughters to Roberta’s Day

IMG_1598I, Ziggy U, because Google will not allow accounts without a last name a la Cher, hearts Roberta’s pizza.  I’ve been eating Roberta’s pizza for the past two years.  I’ve been stung by its Bee Sting, and started riots when they stopped offering it at Madison Square Eats.  I’ve been touting its pizza and recommended Roberta’s to total strangers asking for pizza and even non pizza stuff (Can you recommend a good shoe lace store in Bushwick that wont break the bank).  I’ve gone to the annual Roberta’s festival in its back yard once where they give away the pies for free.  I’ve done it all.  Except for one tiny little detail…  Eat at Roberta’s.  Up until yesterday I’ve never eaten inside Roberta’s.  I’ve gone close a few time.  Remember the Zizi Limona post last year?  I didn’t feel it was fair to Zizi to mention that we were actually on our way to Roberta’s that day, but the wait for a table was over an hour.

IMG_1602That’s the norm at Roberta’s.  Over one hour waits.  Regulars will be drooling over the pictures here, not so much for the all too familiar food, but the empty tables.  This is Wednesday at 3:30, nap time at hipsterland, and perfect timing before 4-5 where only pizza and Romaine salad are available.  Why are there long waits?  A)  Its extremely popular B)  The pizza is great C)  There’s nothing else whatsoever in the immediate area, but empty lots and graffiti filled structures.  Its also pretty freakin far.  We somehow, by pure Hanukkah miracle, survived the drive and ensuing meal without the unimaginable:  The youngest’s phone dying.

We started with a salad, which turned out to be $5 more expensive since in true a la carte fashion, the bread and butter is a menu item.  This is a New York trend that I hope reverses soon as I didn’t find much wrong with the concept of receiving the bread and butter for free.  Here, you expect to get something that resembles this, but instead you get something that you normally get for free elsewhere, albeit a nice warm baguette and butter that was a little oversalted.  The Romaine “I cant believe its not Caesar” Salad was as good and fresh as Romaine Salads can get, with candied walnuts, Pecorino and mint.

IMG_1592Ribs or Carbonara? Ribs or Carbonara?  “We are out of the Ribs”.  That settles it me thinks.   The Carbonara arrives looking nothing like traditional Carbonara, and more like some heated yellow mess, was surprisingly quite delicious.  The Guanciale was missing its snap, but the pasta was peppery, eggy and rich.  We attacked this thing with full force.  The pizzas were the same classic Neapolitans we’ve been enjoying for years.  Margherita was perfectly light and airy, and so was the busier secret menu item Bee Sting with the honey and Soppressata.  Try it at a food festival near you, or take the schlep over the bridge and then some

Roberta’s
261 Moore St, Brooklyn, NYIMG_1595IMG_1597 IMG_1600 IMG_1601 IMG_1603 IMG_1605

 

Categories: Brooklyn, New York City | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Momofuku Ko – Son of David

Momofuku Ko huckeberryOn this fine second Seder eve, the beginning of Nutella week (I only eat Nutella with Matzah), I’ll start with a question I’ve been asked many time.  How can Jesus be the son of David!  Jesus was born 1000 years after David, and yet he is repeatedly described in the new testament as the Son of David.  Was David the first ever sperm donor?  I didn’t think so.  Mmm, a moment of silence as I reflect on the fact that I haven’t and most likely never will produce sons.  I get this moment every now and then, bare with me.  But the answer to our questions is that its just a Messianic title, like “Son of god”.  Jesus, born in the city of David, Bethlehem, was the long awaited Messiah, deliverer, the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies.

Momofuku KoCoincidentally (or not) “Ko” means “Son of” in Japanese, and Momofuku Ko is the son of David Chang, the long awaited Messiah that came to free us from  French dominance, and who broke all the rules and then some, like an inspired blogger suddenly writing with run-on sentences.  Chang like Ko, is a trend setter that continues to reinvent himself.  In a recent editorial piece by Chang about the flux state of ramen in NYC, I couldnt help but notice the extensive profanities in the piece.  Some may say Vulgar.  I say fucking inspiring!Momofuku Ko Art

The best way I can describe Ko is like this.  A religious experience for non-religious food geeks.  A rather indescribable event that perhaps you should not read much about beforehand, like the back of the Netflix white sleeve envelope.  Even the cuisine itself is not something you can categorize.  The default “American (new)” is perhaps the closest but only because its the default, and not because its comparable to anything else in its category (with the possible exception of Atera and a few more).  Yelp lists it as “Korean, American (New)”.  Might as well say “Turkish, Uyghur, Fried Chicken”.

Ko DudeYou almost need to become religious when you try to make reservations.  You have to open an account with fuku, set a reminder exactly two weeks before the date you want at 9:55 am and start flexing the fingers.  At 10:00 am reservations open, and at 10:05 they pretty much close.  If you miss your big chance, they can put you on a calling list in case someone cancels on the same day.  For me it required a small village, with “fuku” texts from friends reminding me after many failed attempts.

Its counter seating, with ample room between you and other guests.  The 2.5 hours meal costs $175 and features a set menu of 18 or so dishes.  Overall it felt like what a 2 Michelin star in NYC should feel.  Professional, efficient, yet not too stuffy at all, even though you cant drop a napkin without someone handing you a fresh one within seconds.  Part of the enjoyment is sitting there watching the cooks do their thing, including someone we dubbed Momofuku Eddik who looked like our friend Eddik.

Ko DudesDescribing the dishes at Ko can be as complicated as describing Japanese elder porn.  I dont usually take notes while I eat so I will try to do my best describing and will omit some that were not so memorable, like the millefeuille, the only photo not taken (probably around the time I spotted Mr Chang.  I’m glad he didnt recognize me because I was having way too much fun with Mrs Z and didnt feel like being bothered)

Lobster Paolise was the highlight of the early round of small bites, served in a cylinder shell like a shot glass.  Paloise is essentially minty Barnaisse.  A terrific Vegetable Roll followed by less memorable millefeuille and pomme soufflee.  Madai (Japanese Snapper looking Sea Bream) served raw with clear jellied consomme and shiso was a nice little transition to the lightweights.  Razor Clams swimming in basily pineapple dashi was perhaps the first wow moment, only to be followed by much bigger ones.  Sunchoke (Jerusalem artichoke) aided by dry aged beef fat was meaty yet delicate.  Then comes a sensational Venison tartare with fermented black bean puree and shredded fried brussels sprouts providing a nice crunch.  One of the best dishes of the nightMomofuku Ko Paloise Momofuku Ko veg roll Momofuku Ko Madai Momofuku Ko Razor clamsMomofuku Ko sunchoke Momofuku Ko Venison

The Mackarel Sawarazushi that we saw our new friend Jay torch time and time again during the meal, was well balanced, and not as strong as mackerel can get sometimes.  Surprisingly, in a way I preferred the dashi (soup) they made with the mackerel with shredded King Oyster Mushrooms and Asian Pears.  Like the sickest Miso soup you will ever eat.  Soft scrambled eggs with Osetra caviar and breadcrum-like fried potatoes was quite the dish.  Add the homemade bread and radish butter and you got a triumph.  Like breakfast at Putin’s.  Momofuku, change the name to Breakfast at Putin’s

Momofuku Ko mackerelMomofuku Ko Torching Jay Momofuku Ko dashi Momofuku Ko eggs Momofuku Ko bread

The Pilmeni/ravioli like Kaboocha squash dumplings were light and springy.  A nice transition to the heavyweights of the meal (perhaps its a good time to say, skip lunch).  The lobster dish was another winner.  A few pieces of lobster tail with sweet potatoes and some sort of lobster espuma which was like the greatest lobster bisque on the planet.  When you make the sweet potato almost match the lobster in taste, for this sweet potato hater, you are doing a lot of things right.  The best way I describe the pork piece is steroid injected, beefed up incredibly delicious Canadian bacon.  They brine that thing for 6 days.  Add some Kimchi and onions and you got yourself an Ooooboy!  If you didn’t have your religious experience by now, it will probably arrive with the frozen foie gras liberally shaved on top of Lychee, candies pine nuts and Riesling Jelly.

Momofuku Ko Kabocha Momofuku Ko lobster Momofuku Ko Pork Momofuku Ko Frozen goie gras

The desserts, while perfectly acceptable, did not carry the similar oomph you get with the rest of the menu.  A Huckleberry sorbet with bee pollen, minty chocolate tart, some mignardises in a form of tiny macaroons.  The best thing was the last warm dessert that’s not on the menu but reminded me of a sticky toffee pudding.

Needless to say, put this Momofuku high up there on your NYC bucket list.  The first slot sounds about right.

Momofuku Ko chocolate Momofuku Ko mignardises Momofuku Ko dessert

Categories: East Village, New York City | Tags: , , , , , | 8 Comments

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