Monthly Archives: February 2018

Italian Street Food in NYC

Mr. Panzerotto

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

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‚Äôs 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 ‚Äúballs‚ÄĚ 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‚Äôs 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‚Äôs now a Ravioli stand.¬† This place is getting very popular and I recommend people try it but I wish they‚Äôd find a way to make the dough a little crispier and more fresh tasting.
Non Solo Piada
Trapizzino at Trapizzino (Nolita) РA 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) РMade 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) РFat 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 ‚ÄúRed Sauce‚ÄĚ dish.¬† Another new hit for me is¬†a starter of Roasted Trumpet Mushrooms, rocket, balsamic, and Sicilian almonds (the best almonds on the‚Ķ

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East Village Street Art

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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.

Categories: Italy, Venice | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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.

Traif

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 Рcant 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!

Traif
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!

EWZ

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!

Cheers,

Ziggy

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