Staten Island

Staten Island – Viva la Vida

Our goldfish Ziggy Jr. is not well.  He hasn’t eaten in 2 days, he is slow to react to disturbances and stimuli, and his poop has sort of a mahogany tone to it.  Our history with previous Ziggy jr’s indicate that he does not have much time left.

What Ziggy Jr. desperately needs is a meal at Vida (OMG I can just see Vida’s owner rolling her eyes at this transition :roll:).  Vida has all the ingredients for a fun meal with the family.  It got that nice neighborhoody vibe, quirky waiters, and home cooking that is better than mama’s.  Ok, cooking better than my mama is not exactly a stretch (thankfully my mom does not read this blog, nor does she know I have a blog, or knows what a blog is) but Silva Popaz, Vida’s chef/owner sure knows her stuff.  Vida is a chef’s restaurant.  When the chef de cuisine is out, the restaurant is closed.  So many more known establishments in the city don’t follow this rule.

Reading the menu at Vida is like visiting Disney’s Epcot.  It’s as eclectic as a menu can get.  Between the Asian style shrimp, Gumbo, Hummus,  chicken Francaise, and the rest of it, all major continents are well represented.

We started with the always reliable Vida bites — pulled pork, pico de galo and avocado sauce on bread.  Another regular for us is the mussels with cilantro, shallots, garlic, and white wine.  This decadent sauce normally screams for some serious  finger dipping, until they bring more bread.  I wasnt quick to wash my hands following the meal.


For main the wonderful special Butternut Squash Lasagna with marsala reduction well demonstrated Silva’s talent and originality.  The marsala, just like with Scarpetta’s foie gras ravioli added nice intensity to the dish.


My feeling of uncertainty after not getting my usual gumbo dish this time and ordering something I normally never do, did not last long.  The special chicken stuffed with sausage, spinach and mushrooms was outstanding.  Perfectly crisped skin with that savory filling made every morsel regret sharing the dish with Mrs Ziggy.

The kids were enjoying their linguine Fra Diavolo with shrimp, calamari, mussels, and Asian style hanger steak.  Sorry about the quality of the pictures which I blame on lack of lighting, and lack of skill

I normally get the bread pudding for dessert but this time I was convinced to try the Tiramisu cheesecake.  Wowser!  Perfect finish to one of the best meals we had in Staten Island.  Is wowser an acceptable food blog word I wonder?  I’m still new to this blogging thing and I dont want to embarrass  myself.

Silva gets much of her culinary influences from her trips around the world.  A recent trip to Morocco can almost assure a bigger arsenal of exotic spices and perhaps a nice Lamb Tagine in the near future.

Vida up until recently was the only restaurant in Staten Island included on the coveted Michelin Bib Gourmand list.  Its like a michelin star for affordable neighborhood joints.  The excellent Enoteca Maria has now joined the list for 2012.  If Vida is not Staten Island’s best, she is not far behind.

Recommended dishes:  Vida Bites, Mussels, Gumbo, Stuffed Chicken, Tiramisu cheesecake

Categories: New York City, Staten Island | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Staten Island – Nonnas Gone Wild at Enoteca Maria

Thats what you get when you combine Italian nonnas and Nirvana (as in smells like teen spirit Nirvana).  A party!  a slightly unconfirtable one but still.

This Enoteca (wine shop for those scoring at home) comes with an interesting concept.  Nonnas representing different Italian regions taking turn each day of the week cooking.  There’s a set menu on one side and today’s nonna menu on the other.  You can see the stories and more about the concept on their site.  What you also see on the site is something probably 98.3% of the folks dining there miss.  Below the concept, the cooks, the menu, the wine you got this…

The Music: Our music selection is an eclectic compilation from the past and the present: classical, rock, jazz, world, and everything in between. Sometimes…it gets loud!”

He’s not kidding!!  Much to the surprise of some older folks, families, singles, pretty much everybody.  Arguing is useless as I’ve witnessed on a few occassions.

But I’m here for the food.  Sampled quite a few after 2 visits and these were the highlights:  Burrata – Smooth, creamy    mozzarella goodness.  Meatballs – Very flavorful.  Rabbit stew – Tender, meaty deliciousness.  Didnt see the rabbit on the second visit so must have been a specialty of one of the nonnas.  I would time my next visit to coincide with the rabbit nonna.

On an island packed with all sorts of Italian establishments, Enoteca Maria is the only one that has that authentic menu I can only see in other boroughs.   Rock on Nonnas!!

Photo courtesy of Glen Dicrocco  (I’m guessing to the tunes of Iron Maiden in the backgound 👿 )

Categories: New York City, Staten Island | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

Staten Island – Beso – Manhattan Quality Spanish

Another proud member of Julian Gaxholi’s new Staten Island empire.  This guy is on a mission to transform Staten Island into…. Queens and already roughly .0003% there.   

Beso has to be one of the better options on the island.   Its fairly small and loud with many waiting for a table by the bar so not the best option for families although I’ve seen a few.   Expect to wait about an hour on a Saturday night.   They only take reservations for 5 or more.

You got your normal fare of delicious tapas (A fancy word for “We have a LOT of appetizers” – I’m surprised the local diners arent catching up).  None were disappointing on the one night we visited.  Perfectly grilled and nicely seasoned lamb chops, pleasantly citrucy fried goat cheese with honey.  Crab cakes got more of mixed reaction but I was firmly on the ‘like’ side.  On the main side of things, a very nicely done skirt steak and a juicy fall off the bone Pork osso buco were the standouts.

On an island packed with spanish restaurants, Beso may very well be the Best.  Well done Julian!!

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Staten Island’s best – Bayou

Great dining in Staten Island was pretty much an oxymoron until Julian Gaxholi showed up to the scene.  Opening the first New Orleans style creole eatery in SI may require some guts but by the look  of the packed dining room it just requires great execution.

On a recent visit we quickly witnessed the kids menu disappear after the kids gave the hostess the stare of death.  Mussels and  Alligator balls please.  Yes, they like Alligator.  Its not normal I know.   Much to the chagrin of my wallet the kid menu days had a short span.  Mussels are always good here and the Alligator balls are tasty but they become less so once you try their more attractive cousin,  the Jambalaya rice Balls.  Those balls packed with so much flavor, like a preview to what comes next (the jambalaya) Andouille sausage, spices and other goodies.  Heavenly!  We also sampled the chicken wings as well which were good but that Blue cheese sauce that came with it stole the show.  Like a standalone chunky blue cheese salad, Yum!

On a previous visit we enjoyed the Crayfish Ettouffee since I dont get to eat much Crayfish here in NYC but I much prefer the Jambalaya.  That seafood Jambalaya puts all the Paellas on the island to shame.   Scallops, shrimp, mussels, crawfish and Andouille sausage simmered in Creole Tomato sauce with rice = Mardi Gras in your mouth.  And then there’s the Seafood Gone Wild dish.  More like the casseroly, milder version of the Jambalaya.  Moist and flavorful seafood goodness. 

For dessert the banana bread pudding held its own.   The better the food looks, the more likely we forget to take pictures, sorry. 

Bayou is Staten Island’s best according to this blogger.

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