Posts Tagged With: food

The Pizza Map

Below is what I consider a map of some of the best pizza in NYC.  I will update the map from time to time without notice, and at the moment I dont have time to edit the individual listings with the proper explanations.  So its a good idea to read about the place before you go, or at the very least to make sure its still open.  While you can bet that something like Joe’s will be open a year from now, a place like Bruno pizza may not.  But I will try to update the map as I often as I can

Many of these like the Hell’s Kitchen plays will look familiar (Maybe other than Corner Slice which I had 3 hours ago perhaps for the 10th time).  But some of these like Brunetti and Tramonti are fairly recent discoveries.  Brunetti makes a gorgeous Neapolitan and one of the best clam pies I’ve had in NYC.  I already discussed Martina, and older faves like Pasquale Jones and Roberta’s.  In Chelsea I’m only including Gotham Pizza, a surprisingly delicious slice for a chain (they add bread crumbs to the crust for extra crunch), while places like Co. essentially priced themselves out

Needless to say to produce this map, I had a lot of pizza in the past few months.  But I also included two powerhouses (Lucali and Keste) that I’ve never actually tried as of this writing.  Since I’ve been frequenting Keste’s half sister Don Antonio, Keste is the just about the last thing I want to eat when I find myself stranded in West Village.  And Lucali’s legendary waits dont bode well with my legendary waits allergies, but you may get better luck.  Many consider Lucali the best pizza in NYC

Also in Brooklyn, you got the pie with the best view in Fiornino, and arguably one of the best slices in NYC in Best PizzaRoberta’s is tough to get to, which is why I added the “mini Roberta” in Urbanspace Vanderbuilt.   I didnt add any of the Brooklyn legends like Totonnos and Di Fara for various reasons.  The only long timer pie on the list is John’s on Bleeker which dishes out a truly excellent NY style.  There are also some Manhattan newcomers just about to open that I’m keeping my eyes on like Sorbillo and Joe and Pats of the famous Joe and Pats on Staten Island.  I will update the map as soon as they open and pass the Ziggy inspection

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

Martina is a Game Changer

IMG_6848Its a girl!  Marta, the NoMad Roman powerhouse, and a staple of the Z-List, gave birth to 10 inch, 2 lb, Martina.  Proud papa Nick Anderer resumes the quest for a full Roman invasion of NYC.  While he has plenty of Roman competition these days, Anderer is clearly the main man when it comes to the Roman stuff with his M&M’s (Maiailino, Marta, Martina).  All part of Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality group, and the person that gave us Shake Shack.

Sometimes I write about a place that makes me pause and ask myself if I really want to spread the word on this one.  Its called PTCS, Pure Thai Cookhouse Syndrome.  When I was working in Hell’s Kitchen, in order to eat at Pure, we had to sneak out at exactly 12.5 minutes before noon, in order to get a table.  Four times a year I would have unannounced drills, just to make sure everyone is on their game.  Sharing is Caring is something my parents never taught me really.  It was more like Sharing or I’m Coming Over with a Belt.  I’m sharing alright, but this is the one place I will frequent often by all looks and tastes, so I would like to be able to come whenever I feel like.

But Martina is far removed from the tourist zones of Times Square, High Line and Little Fake Italy.  Its all part of the joys of eating in East Village where 90% of the tourists are at Mcsorleys, 5% are trying to locate Mcsorleys, while the rest are lost trying to figure out under Guinness influence how to get back to Times Square from Mcsorleys.  Another advantage to Martina that you dont see much these days is that they open at 11 am.  Even if you add the 6 hours to accommodate for the time difference, similar pizzerie in Rome are still closed (Most open at 8)IMG_6698

So why is baby Marta a Game Changer?  Because we dont really have anything like it in the pizza capital.  Every week or so it seems we have a new $17 Neapolitan or NY or Detroit style opening but there’s really nothing out there like Martina.  The pies are just about the same size as a Neapolitan but they are flatter all around and much cheaper ($7-$12).  Anderer essentially created a new category.  The idea was to make a more affordable version of Marta in a fast-casual environment.  Yes, I said “fast-casual”, like the big boys

Since Martina opened a month ago, I’ve essentially become their Mashgiach (Kosher inspector).  I go every now and then to check the progress, while eating some of the best new pizza in town.  In the efficient gas oven at Martina the crust loses some of the Marta crispiness but its not such a bad thing.  The thin crust retains a pleasant chew that feels more balanced.  Anderer created a pizza lineup that include Roman classics like Quattro Formaggi with tomato sauce and arugula (most NY Quattro Formaggi are white), and a Capriocciosa (artichokes, ham, mushrooms, black olives, mozzarella & egg).  Both of which he learned from his extensive Roman training.  It also includes playful combinations like Brussels Sprouts Cacio e Pepe, and a Diavola with pickled hot peppers.  It might be the lightest, most perfectly sized individual pie in NYC today, especially once you factor in the price

And if you are a Marta fan, you’ll be glad to see Suppli and meatballs on the menu among other starters and salads.  And not to mention a proper finisher like the Fior di Latte ice cream with your choice of chocolate-amaro sauce, candied hazelnuts, olive oil, and sea salt. Ready, set, Go!

Martina
198 E 11th (3rd ave), East Village

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Best Pizza in Hell (Revisited)

Its the first and last pizza week here on EWZ, and that time of the month – W42nd st monthly launch.  And by pure coincidence or not, this month issue lists the best pizza in Hell’s Kitchen.  Long time readers will notice one major drop/add on the list.  Although the major drop (John’s) is still fairly popular with visitors, and the addition is pretty far out there.  So pick up a free copy of the W42st, to check out what this dysfunctional family is up to these days.

Pizza List

Prior lists

 

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Pizza and the City

Quick, what is the pizza capital of the world?  Hint:  Its NYC

So lets spend a few moments breaking it down.  Chicago does a good Deep Dish and then some.  Boston, San Diego, LA has are making all sorts of great pizzas, and so is New Haven which spoiled clam pies for me forever.  And then there’s Naples and Rome that are really the two powerhouses outside of the country that can compete with NYC pound for pound.  These are all fantastic pizza cities.  But none of them comes close to the size and depth of the NYC pizza scene.

Yelp lists 11,000 establishments selling pizza in NYC which granted is a little high.  And it only allows checking 999 results at a time, so I cant really see how many of these are actually pizza places.  And according to the Health Dep’t there are around 1600 establishments with the word pizza or pizzeria in the name.  So there you have it. We have exactly 1600 to 11,000 pizza places in NYC!  Ok, so we dont really know.  But the number is very high.  In many neighborhoods you can’t walk a block without a pizza, bagel, Chinese takeout, and therefore a Pharmacy.

And with the numbers comes the competition.  I’ve witnessed it increase dramatically during the last few years with the advance of Roman, Neapolitan, Detroit, and even NY style all over town.  Experienced Italian Pizzaioli continue to flock the city, while local talents like Nick Anderer and Emily Hyland increase the assault.  Our healthy pizza culture hasnt changed much, but we do have a lot more interesting options nowadays.

And these days those options go far beyond the institutions like Di Fara, which many consider the best pizza in city.  So as I wrote elsewhere…

Think of Difara as the High Sparrow.  The High Septon of The Faith of the 7 pizzas (Grimaldi’s, Lombardi’s, Totonno’s, Di Fara, L&B, Patsy’s, John’s of Bleecker).  But since it was crowned as the high Septon of The Faith, the 7 pizzas became 700, and many of them are now more powerful and better looking than the High Sparrow.  If you are a believer and part of The Faith, you already know who some of them are.  But if you are an outsider, you only know the High Sparrow and your mission in life is to meet him.  But to meet him you need to take what they call “The Subway” for a long ride and wait your turn among other non believers, which may take 1-3 hours sometimes.  And when you finally meet him, the entire experience may depend on one thing.  Whether the High Sparrow is having a good hair day.  Its essentially like a job interview.

So for those readers or GOT fans that are still with us, yes, we are grateful for all those institutions that deliver quality pizza for all those decades.  But today we have a lot of other options, some of which a little bit more interesting.  Other than John’s, these guys are somewhat painful to get to, and there’s a very good chance there’s a better option near your hotel.  So for the next week or so, I’ll be working on a map of some of the best pizza in NYC, along with other articles, starting with an updates list of the best of Hell’s Kitchen.  A pizza week on EWZ if you will.  And if you are not into pizza, you are an enemy of America!

 

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Fiaschetteria Pistoia – Under the Alphabet Sun

sThere’s Off the Beaten Path, and then there’s Avenue C.  When I first heard of Fiaschetteria Pistoia about 6 months ago, I had to see it to believe it.  You hear about places open in Alphabet City, but rarely so far east.  Its a good news, bad news situation for residents and the many students who call East Village and Alphabet City their home.  It’s great to see businesses open and thrive, but at the same time we may be looking at a rent squeeze.  On the bright side, I’m now able to sit outside on Avenue C.  Something I wasnt able to do not too long ago during the more violent days of the Alphabet (I’m using Marvel lingo here.  As in “we need to defend our [Hell’s] kitchen)

You almost assume that any town just outside of Florence would be sleepy when compared to the tourist mecca nearby.  But Pistoia, just west of Florence on the road to Lucca (another gem) is filled with culture and nightlife.  And in the middle of that nightlife is Fiaschetteria La Pace, the big brother of Fiaschetteria Pistoia.  Fiaschetteria, in the more traditional sense means a small wine bar, more associated with Florence.  Back in the day, Tuscan wine was brought in from the vineyards in straw-bottomed bottles called Fiasche and sold in these tiny open wine bars, like street food.  A dying breed just like the Lower East Side Jewish delis that once roamed around the area where Pistoia calls home

Pistoia is as far removed from Italian/American as a place can be in NYC.  Much of the staff including the cooks, a family and friends affair, from you guessed it, Pistoia.  A human pasta machine in full display busy making the Picci, a rarity in NYC because its slightly more labor intensive.  Limited but adequate English throughout adds to the charm.  Even the wine “menu” may seem strange to some.  A basket with 8 house wines, dropped on a table or chair near you to explore and sniff.

There’s only one thing that sings Tuscany more than Picci.  Pappa can you hear me?? Pappa al Pomodoro a rustic dish not so easily found in NYC.  Mainly because tomato mush (“Pappa”) with stale saltless Tuscan bread doesn’t usually scream fine dining.  But this is indeed a good one.  Many may also bulk at the idea of Picci served Cacio e Pepe style.  But in south Tuscany this kind of Roman influence is common, and Picci got a bit more of a bite.  And yes, you even have a Cinghiale (wild boar) sighting here.  Here it is served with Maccheroni, a pasta that is a little more generic than I’m usually led to believe.  I was expecting tube shape, but got flat noodles that you can use to make little tacos with that meat Fiaschetteria Pistoia Pappa al Pomodoro

In Pistoia, Maccheroni Sull’Anatra (slowly cooked duck ragu) is usually served on an annual July festival.  In Alphabet city I can get it any day now.  This regular (I’m told) special became my favorite pasta here after three visits.  On the last visit, I also enjoyed Crostone Fagiolino, another Pistoia specialty of bread topped with cooked prosciutto, chicken liver and Mushrooms.  Eating this requires a little work, but it pays off overtime.  Standards like Prosciutto and Tiramisu are top notch here.  Tiramisu is so good in fact that I havent tried any other desserts here.

Fiaschetteria Pistoia
647 E 11th (Off C), East Village
Rating: Two Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: Any of the Prosciuttos, Pappa al Pomodoro, Crostone Fagiolino, Maccheroni Sull’Anatra, Picci Cacio e peppe, Tiramisu

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Ivan Firing on All Cylinders

Ivan Ramen Chicken PaitanI dont usually update a place this soon, but this is kinda important after yet another fine meal at Ivan Ramen LES.  Weather is getting chillier (or seemed to be a few weeks ago at least), and I cant think of a better way to start Ramen season.  The Chicken Paitan at Ivan is not the Ramen dish that made Ivan famous, but to me it’s right up there with NYC’s best at the moment.  As I described 6 months ago when it came out, “the richness and deliciousness of a Tonkotsu without the heaviness”.

A corn on a cob dish always gets my attention, and this one proved to be a wowzer.   Its Miso roasted with bonito flakes and some sort of Japanese magic dust sprinkled.  The fried chicken, brined perhaps, is another exceptional one.  The Coney Island Tofu with that miso mushroom chili has made it’s triumphant return to the menu.  Magnifique as always.  As is the Triple pork, triple garlic Mazemen (brothless ramen) which has been on the menu since day 1 but somehow eluded me all this time.  Being featured on Netflix’s Chef’s Table hasnt made it easy, but reservations are doable.  Go!

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Chelsea Lately Mini Update

Cull and Pistol CounterThe burning question.  In the midst of all that madness, what exactly should I look for in this Zombie infested former Nabisco factory.  I added a couple of names for 2017 without feeling the need to change anything else.  This is just mostly a fresh reminder since I’m constantly being asked by people.  What should I target in Chelsea Market…

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Five Hellish Quickies

IvanThis month on Hell’s Kitchen’s unofficial official magazine W42st, the theme is… ok, I dont really remember.  I’m pretty sure the theme is not quickies, but sounds like it should be one of these days.  I try, but sometimes I just cant match the Eatlists with the theme.  If for example the theme is The Kardashians (it could happen), I would have a hard time coming up with related recommendations, other than maybe Casellula, home of the pig’s ass sandwich.

The list this time is snacks.  And the good news this month is that I dont have to copy and paste the Eatlist anymore.  You can just read them here.  Or pick up a copy at your favorite Hell’s Kitchen barber, restaurant, and tarot card dealer.

And you can see the rest of the Eatlists here.  Just ignore the pussy…

https://www.w42st.com/search?q=ziggy&term=ziggy

Categories: Midtown West, New York City | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Llama Inn – The Odd Couple

Llama Inn TiraditoThe first thing I have to tell you about Llama Inn in Williamsbutg is how gorgeous it is.  Out of all the Peruvian I’ve been to in NYC, this is possibly the best looking.  Albeit oddly situated in a not so attractive location by the highway.  In fact I’m pretty sure the last time I came here this building was a gas station surrounded by other gas stations.  The space is stylish even for the hotel filled chic Williamsburg standards.  Designed by Joseph Foglia Designs, one can see how much time and effort went into this project.

The second thing I have to tell you is that we hardly saw any of this.  As soon as I saw the space I regretted not bringing my big boy camera as there was plenty of light outside.  But by the time the food start arriving I was content with my little boy phone.  It was dark!  It may sound cliche but we do like to use all of our senses while eating.  A well crafted dish doesnt need to be pretty but it needs to be seen.  Its like you get a prize for best tattooed arm in the country fair, and you decide to cover it up in the evenings.   We essentially turned into my father in law.

The third thing I have to tell you is that midway through the meal we realized something we rarely experience in NYC.  At mid 40’s we were the oldest couple in the room.  This is a place that got significant buzz and praise when it first opened, and this was totally unexpected.  We were that odd couple in need of hearing aid and glasses.  Both kinds of glasses I should add.  The staff was professional alright, even when we politely asked for ‘regular’ wine glasses to replace the stemless.

And what is it with the stemless glasses lately.  Are they trying to be cool and trendy forgetting that we are creatures of habit.  I’m all for moving forward and design that make things simpler.  But getting white wine in what looks like a regular water glass feels like a regression in dining elegance.  What will the restaurants do once wine scientists discover that plastic cups is the best way to serve your Gewurztraminer.

The food was a mixed bag.  The best sounding items on the menu were large dishes that seemed a lot more expensive ($60’s) than they should be.  A whole Branzino at $60 better be the baddest Branzino in town.  Same for the Tenderloin sit fry ($68)

Anticucho – These little skewers feel like street food one can find off the streets of Lima for 25 cents.  In Williamsburg they go for $5-8 a pop.  For about $2 per bite you do get pleasant complex flavors out of the chicken and pork belly.  But I would skip the Shrimp

Quinoa – One of the more popular dishes here for some reason.  With the occasional presence of bananas and bacon not every spoonful is the same which normally is a good thing but not here.  With her getting all the bacon and me getting all the bananas, something has to give.  Its like the Russian roulete of Quinoa

Sea Bream Tiradito –  Best dish by far.  Although the Sashimi is swimming in sauce the acidity is restrained.  And the occasional Cancha (toasted corn kernels) added a nice crunch.  The one dish that reminded me that I’m eating Peruvian

Rock Shrimp – This should not be a surprise if you do your homework.  But while the rest of the menu lists the main ingredient first, this is more of a well crafted seafood paella.  It includes rock shrimp but also mussels, squid and clams.  Some of the seafood is breaded which just didnt work for us

Short Rib.  Another meh!  Slightly overcooked meat with grilled summer beans that stole the show.

Llama Inn
50 Withers St, Williamsburg
Rating: One Z (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: Tiradito

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Madame Vo – Real Vietnamese Housewives of East Village

Madame VoThis post was supposed to be about the other housewife, from Hanoi.  Both Madame and Hanoi House opened in East Village around the same time earlier this year, pretty much turning the Vietnamese scene in East Village upside down.  Both heavily reviewed by local media, sometimes even together.  Early consensus indicated Hanoi to be the slightly more serious contender of the two, so I set my sight on the hot looking Madame on St Marks.  We had a little fling.  A little fun with the Bun Cha if you will, and the always dependable Beerlao (which both have).  But it felt like I wanted more… Trout!  There’s this great looking whole trout on the Hanoi menu, setting the anticipation for round #2.

But it never arrived.  Well, not yet at least.  The culprit?  A Jewish theater!  You see I always wanted to see a movie in Village East Cinema, a converted movie theater that was once a Jewish theater.  One of the remains from the old Yiddish Rialto days when some two dozen Yiddish theaters spread along 2nd ave.  I visited the theater over 100 times during my East Village tours but havent actually watched a movie there.  And while the two Vietnamese hotties are not exactly miles apart, Madame Vo’s location made more sense this time.  Besides, I was intrigued.

Madame Vo feels a bit more Madamish and less East Villagy than Hanoi House.  In fact next to Vo, Hanoi feels like Trashy Debby.  I am however attracted to both kinds.  But especially to the one with the chutzpah to put a beautiful mural of herself (presumably, but looks very similar) in the front.  Who does that?  Imagine Ivan Orkin mural in front of Ivan Ramen.

Madame Vo Ginger Chicken

And as for the menu, just like with any Nevada bunny ranch this is the kind of lineup that makes you want to order more than you can handle.  After three visits so far, I feel the emphasis should be on the mains.  Its a spring roll heavy lineup early on that is uninspiring when compared to the rest of the menu.  And that is broken into noodles and rice, where the latter may just mean that it comes with it.

Chao Gio – Spring rolls as satisfactory as spring rolls can get.  These were stuffed with shrimp, crab and pork, with the shrimp taking the lead role

Banh Xeo – This is the one dish I didnt quite get.  Crepes filled with bean sprouts, shrimp, pork belly and more bean sprouts.  Some of the pork was more edible than others, and the dish overall required a heavy dose of the table condiments (Hoisin, Sriracha).  I was instructed to make lettuce tacos with these as I often do in Vietnamese places but the flavors were just not there

Garlic Noodles.  This dish has a few things going for it including the robust garlicky flavors, and the easy to remember English name.

Bo Lu Lac –  No english here, but this dish does speak the universal language of delicious. Rib eye cubes with fried egg come sizzling and oh so perfectly spiced and juiced.  This one is a must.Madma Vo steak

Ga Kho Gung – This is another big winner here.  Delicious white chicken meat cubes infused with Ginger arriving in a clay pot that keeps the heat and juices intact.  Loved picking those scallions off that thing

Goi Cuon – “Summer rolls with shrimp, vermicelli, lettuce and mint” according to the menu.  “Lettuce rolls” according to Ziggy.  Thats all I tasted

Mama Ly’s Fried Rice – A good if not standard fried rice.  A bit on the sweet side for my taste.  Table Sriracha to the rescue again.

Its odd that this reviewer did not try the signature Pho during his three visits, but during the summer heat he starts sweating just by being in the same room as one.  But all accounts indicate that this is a very proper rendition.  Another big plus, worthy of rounding up to two stars (from 1.75) is the fact that Vo’s dinner items are available for lunch as well, in addition to the lunch specials.

Madame Vo
212 E 10th St, East Village
Rating: Two Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: Garlic Noodles, Bo lu Lac, Ga Kho Gung

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