Posts Tagged With: Ulivo

5 Underrated Italian

Dell’anima Tajarin

In NYC of course. This is not a Puglia blog yet as the last three posts suggest, although much more on Puglia coming soon. I’ve been living in NYC for 36 years now, and I dont remember a more exciting time for Italian dining. Even though The prices are moving in the opposite direction. A full meal at a mid price, full service restaurant now averages $175 for two (source: EWZ Stats), up from $150 not too long ago. But the competitive environment has never seen levels like these before. A glut of new Italian immigrants has turned the Italian scene upside down where Italian/Italian is the new American/Italian especially in Manhattan and north Brooklyn. Cacio e Pepe is the new Chicken Alfredo, and Neapolitan pizza joints are opening at faster pace than NY style it seems. Its a pizza revolution of sorts, although a complete pizza transition wont happen in my lifetime.

The title of this post is oxymoronic in a way since there are literally 100’s of underrated Italian in NYC today. But I’ll focus on five places that are much easier to reserve (unlike Don Angie, Lilia, Ci Siamo, Rezdora, and so many), and may bring you similar levels of joy.

Dell’anima (Hell’s Kitchen) – The easiest pick of the bunch. Best Italian in Hell’s Kitchen historically has been a mystery, just like the glut of Thai restaurants in HK. Mercato held that claim for some time IMO, but ever since Dell’anima moved to Gotham West Market (conquered really as there’s not much left there these days. Even Ivan Ramen is no more) it established itself as the one to beat. While tourists continue to flock to places like Becco for the quantity, locals line up chef Andrew’s counter for the quality. I dont recall ever having a less than stellar dish here. You cant go wrong with menu staples like Tajarin Alla Carbonara, and Pollo al Diavolo, but I wouldnt hesitate ordering new additions and specials. The location, and being inside a food hall of course has something to do with the underrated tag.

Pollo al Diavolo

Ulivo (NoMad) – Talking about Mercato, long time readers should not be surprised to see it’s little sister here. With that said, somehow Ulivo managed to outgrow it’s sister, and establish itself as a solid choice in an extremely competitive area. That’s partly due to the talents of Sardinian born Emanuel Concas who figured out the right formula after years at Mercato and six years now at Ulivo. What you get is top notch ingredients, solid pizza, and a plethora of fresh pasta dishes, their bread and butter. You’ll find some hard to find Sardinian and Sicilian autocorrect specialties like Malloreddus with sausage ragu, and the simple but outstanding Busiate with almonds, fresh tomato, basil and garlic. No Secondis here. Instead, order another drink from the award winning bartender.

Busiate

Faro (Bushwick) – This is another no brainer. A Michelin star recipient (yay Michelin!) only to lose it a few years later (oh who cares about Michelin!). Faro is being too modest when it bills itself as a simple neighborhood Italian. Neighborhood Italian dont do Cappelletti stuffed with sweet corn purée, topped with a slow cooked short rib ragu. I could have just ended the previous sentence after Cappelletti. This is one example of a rotating, masterfully executed seasonal pastas. I believe only the Bucatini with confit chicken has been on the menu longer than a year. And they ought to bring the sick Gnocchi Alla Romana back. Its more of a destination Italian. The problem with Faro is the most likely reason its on this list. Its kind of Faro, as in deep in the heart of Bushwick. But Bushwick, thanks to the growing list of mega clubs like Avant Gardner is slowly becoming a nightlife mecca.

Cappelletti

Popina (Columbia Street Waterfront District) – It was fun seeing Popina grow over the years, and somehow remain true to itself. On my first visit. I expected the short menu to change and expand at some point to accommodate the masses, but thankfully it never did. Chris Mcdade’s stints with places like Maialino and Marta, his southern roots, and unconditional love for anchovies help create a fun, concentrated menu. Items rotate frequently but if they ever remove the signature spicy Chicken Milanese, expect local strikes. On a recent visit one particular Monkfish dish really showcased the tiny kitchen’s range. The team is opening Gus’s Chop House in nearby Carroll Gardens, sort of a gastropub.

Monkfish

Song’E Napule (Greenwich Village) – You can skim through 120 best pizza in NYC lists and you wont find anyone singing the praises of Song’E Napule. You will need to look at an Italian publication like Gambero Rosso which we probably should be doing anyway when it comes to pizza. The name has nothing to do with singing. It just means “from Napoli” in Neapolitan dialect. But if you are a fan of the Neapolitan style you’ll be belting out romantic tunes to your neighbor, Napoli great Diego Maradona on the wall. Legit oven, proper ingredients, and a capable pizzaiolo results in light and airy awesomeness. As genuine as it gets in NYC.

Categories: Brooklyn, Gramercy, Flatiron, Midtown West, New York City, West Village | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Ulivo – Meet the Widow Maker

ulivo-widow-makerAlthough I made reservations at Ulivo a few weeks ago, it wasnt until the day before when I finally accepted the difficult fact that may change Xmas for us forever.  On this Xmas eve the Ziggy family will not eat Chinese food.  Shocking, I know.  It was mainly due to the following factors:  I’ve been blessing myself with way too much Chinese food as of late (I’ve been to the new Chaan Teng in Hell’s Kitchen three times in the past 2 weeks).  We havent had a big family Italian meal pretty much since Sicily (although I’ve been desperately trying to return to Lilia with no avail).

But the main reason for my visit is to finally have a proper meal at Mercato’s vivacious sister Ulivo.  I vowed to bring the family since I first tried it in the summer.  Besides, half a year after opening is the best time to go, after the establishment figures out what works and what doesnt.  This is also why I rather take 10 recent Yelp reviews as opposed to one NYT review two year ago, right after the place opened.

But Ulivo’s main focus from day uno, its bread and butter or EVOO if you will, is the stuff that comes out from the machine pictured above.  I got an Espresso Maker as a holiday gift which I appreciate dont get me wrong.  But I do have a special room in the house that I keep vacant for that one special something.  Its nicely decorated with a blue and sailor motif.  And when I show the house I often get a “Oh, is it for a future boy in your life”, “Kind of.  Its for my Pasta machine”.  I dubbed this one the Widow Maker because I know that would be the end of me (in a very good way) once I get my hands on one of these.  Its the creme de la creme of pasta machines.  So not surprisingly Ulivo’s 12 fresh and 2 dry pastas mask much of the menu.  Though the two dry ones are not exactly the forgotten Jonas brothers.

I know those guys.  I know them from my many visits to Mercato.  They dont look to sensationalize or wow with ingredient combinations that make the “Hot Lists” or Instagram.  Although they were close with the now more subdued pasta with crab.  They just want to continue making regional, mostly southern, dishes with the best ingredients possibly.  They dont just want to attract locals and visitors, but also Italian expats seeking homeland flavors.  They are not shy to incorporate some ingredients like Bottarga (fish roe) and anchovies that some may find too strong.  And as is the case in the south and the islands (Sicily, Sardinia), fresh tomato sauce is a key ingredient.  Here’s what we ate…

*** Dark, hurried iPhone photos Alert***

Potato and Prosciutto Croquettes, Arancini.  Special app that evening.  This was an excellent starter, in particular the croquettes.  What a difference some Prosciutto make.  A nice little ode to Sicilian street snacks

ulivo-salumiSalumi and Formaggi.  Solid all around.  Properly sliced Bolognese Mortadella. Culatello from Zibello which is not commonly found in NYC.  Sopressata without that Sopressata funk that I dislike sometimes.  Silky smooth Burrata, along with other aged cheeses that fill your mouth with nutty goodness.

Polpo – This is where things begin to get interesting.  What looked like an entire smallish Portuguese Octopus, lightly fried, bathed in an addictive spicy puree of Fava ‘nduja.

Busiate – One of the only places in NYC where you can find real Busiate imported from Sicily.  They keep it simple here just like in just about every Trattoria in Trapani.  Pesto made with almonds, fresh tomato, basil, and garlic.  Similar in a way to the Trenette in Mercato.  As much as I wish to see a more elaborate Busiate (eggplant, swordfish, pistachios, etc), I do get that its very hard to get the proper ingredient here, especially fresh swordfish.

Schiaffoni – This is the pasta with crab that made my best pasta list, although its a little more subdued now as its missing much of the crab. I had a feeling that may happen as eating it was a messy affair, but they may have other reasons.  You still have a few claws and the terrific crab flavor of the Paccheri-like pasta, but wife wasnt a fan.

Paccheri – A special that night with lamb ragu and tomatoes.  No complaints here.

Gnocchi – This is Ricotta Gnocchi.  Small, potent cubes topped with a veal Ragu. Full of flavor, just like the meaty Gnocchi in Mercato

Dessert – After a meal this rich, a nice proper Tiramisu fits the bill, and this version is as solid and light as it gets.  Though for something richer you may opt for the pictured Chocolaty Ricotta Tortino.

This is another solid option in the increasingly posh hotel district NoMad.  The main difference with this one is the lack of coverage which makes it easier to reserve even on a Saturday night.  This why you need Uncle Ziggy!

Ulivo
4 W 28th St (5/6) NoMad/Flatiron
Rating: Two Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: Salumi, Polpo, Busiate, Schiaffoni, Gnocchi, Tiramisu

ulivo-gnocchiulivo-busiateulivo-ricotta-tortino

Categories: Gramercy, Flatiron, New York City | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Top NYC Pastas

Lincoln StrozzapretiLast update: August 23, 2016

Just a quick note that some of these pastas are seasonal and arent on the menu the entire year, but worth mentioning anyway

Trenette Al Pesto Trapanese at Mercato.

From the port of Genoa sailors brought Trenette al Pesto to Trapani, Sicily where the dish was perfected even further with the addition of almonds.  Homemade chewy dried Trenette cooked to al dente perfection, with almonds, garlic, tomato and basil.  Its fresh, simple, and quite tasty.  I havent seen this dish anywhere else, and at $12, I feel like I negotiated something at the shuk with a simple stare

Mercato Trenette

Fusilli with Octopus and Bone Marrow at Marea

One of two NYC classics on the list, and perhaps the most celebrated pasta in NYC America.  Articles, blog posts, children books (Goodnight Fusilli with Octopus!) have been written about this clasic.  The twisted homemade Fusilli is tossed with the most addictive fresh red sauce you will ever taste, with Sangiovese braised octopus, and bone marrow being the culprits.  A no brainer on this list

Marea Fusilli

Strozzapreti Con Aragosta at Lincoln (top)

One of the best pastas I ever had is on, off, on in the seasonal Lincoln menu.  Calling it simply Strozzapreti with lobster should be punishable by Italian law.  The beautiful Strozzapreti, which most likely were invented when someone envisioned a pasta shape while witnessing a priest being strangled to death (Strozzapreti means priest chokers) are made with lobster coral hence giving them the orange look.  They are mixed with not only sweet chunks of lobster but also lobster and scallop sausages (my favorite part) which is like eating the most glorious chicken skin you can imagine.  The sauce is zesty, light, and the perfect compliment to this delicate dish.  A classic in the making.  Not always on the menu, and preparation may differ based on season.

Black Spaghetti at Babbo

A menu staple at a NYC staple.  How can one go wrong.  I’ve seen Babbo post a picture of this dish on Twitter one day, and the rest as they say, is history.  Squid ink Spaghetti, Rock Shrimp, Spicy Salami Calabrese and Green Chilies.  Its another good example of a fairly dry pasta, that is packed with wonderful flavor and texture.  The Spaghetti has that wonderful sweet inky richness, with that crunchy salami, shrimp, and occasional garlic, like the gift that keeps on giving.  This is one of those dishes that makes you Google recipes when you get home.  Until your mind get intercepted by more Kardashian news.  Apparently Kim already lost 80% of her baby fat.

Babbo Black Spaghetti

Malfadini at Lilia

Choosing a favorite pasta at Lilia is like choosing your favorite current presidential candidate.  But for opposite reasons.  The ‘imperfect’ conveyor belt-like Malfadini is essentially Cacio e Pepe on crack.  Take your average Cacio e Pepe, change the pasta to something with more texture, add sharper cheese like Parmigiano Reggiano, and pink peppercorns, and you essentially got Cacio e Perfect

Lilia Malfadini

Agnolotti del Plin at Pasquale Jones

I dont care if this wintery delicatessen is not on the menu as of this writing.  You should be eating pastas here regardless.  They do have a lovely sounding Tajarin with summer truffles which just adds to the impression that Tim Caspare just knows how to handle those Piedmontese classics.  This is the only del Plin in NYC that stays true to its origin, and would make any Piedmont nonna blush.  Buttery, pillowy, explosive little dumplings, packed with Guinea hen, sage and Pancetta.  PANCETTA!

Pasquale Jones Agnolotti

Uni Mushroom Ramen at Jun-men Ramen

Calling this one Ramen is like calling Maialino’s Cacio e Pepe, Ramen.  Its essentially a nicely crafted, rich, and gorgeous looking pasta.  Mushrooms, salty Pancetta, Porcini butter, truffle oil, noodles, and Uni that gets better and better in quality.  I keep returning to Jun-men for this.

Uni Jun-Men Ramen

Jun-men

Pasta with Crab at Ulivo

If you are scoring at home, or if you are alone (stupid old Baseball joke) we have more than 10 pastas this time.  Which is why I had to remove the “10” from the title.  And while you are alone, you should try this messy beauty by Mercato’s baby sister, otherwise you will find yourself alone in a hurry.  The sauce featuring spicy slow braised stone crab is worth the price alone.  Add an entire meaty stone crab to play with, and its party time.  No one that I know, makes this.

Ulivo Crab Pasta

Spaghetti with Fresh Tomato Sauce and Basil at Scarpetta

Simple isnt it?  Well, why dont you try it, and invite me for a tasting.  Recipes are all over the internet.  Chances are unless you are Scott Conant reading this (sup man) you will not succeed in matching the flavors of this classic.  Its fresh, bright, and utilizes the highest quality raw material.  Scarpetta’s signature dish and the most celebrated Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce and Basil this side of wherever they make the best Spaghetti with Fresh Tomato Sauce and Basil.  Pure awesomeness on every bite.  The smell alone will cause shaky hands, and blurry pictures.  See?

Scarpetta - Spaghetti

Clams Grand Lisboa at Nishi

While polishing up on their policies, and any identity issues, one thing remains constant at Nishi.  Executive chef, Joshua Pinsky dishing out some of the most unique pastas in NYC.  The clams are dressed with Oregano based sauce, sitting on top fried Chow Mein noodles and cabbage.  Calling this Cho Mein almost sounds like an insult to this dish.  Its cooked with apple sauce which gives it this sweet deliciousness you wont find anywhere.  This is David Chang’s favorite dish here and I can see why

Nishi Grand Lisboa Clams

Agnolotti at All’onda

As of this latest update, not on the menu, but All’onda continues to make killa pastas.  This is a tricky one since its not even the most popular pasta at All’onda (that honor goes to the Bucatini or Garganelli), nor the second or third most popular actually.  But in this town, its more unique and interesting to me than the others.  Not your average Agnolotti, nor “Plin”.  They are Mortadella filled with pistachios, and a crazy tasting homemade XO sauce made with dried shrimp, scallops and soppressata.  XO is a sauce that Cognac laden Hong Kong chefs invented in the 80’s, except they forgot to add the key ingredient, Cognac.  This version of the sauce adds a funky aroma, and plenty of depth to otherwise just fine Agnolotti

All'onda Agnolotti

Tonnarelli a Cacio e Pepe at Maialino

Open the drawer in the kitchen where you keep the pens, ribbons and paper clips (just in case that paper clip emergency comes), take a pen and write the ingredients for Tonnarelli Cacio e Pepe… Tonnarelli, Cacio, Pepe!  The Romans like to keep it simple (Carbonara, Gricia).  And when I was in Rome, in a way I was disappointed that I wasnt exactly blown away by all the wonderful Carbonaras and Cacio e Pepes because Maialino quite frankly spoiled it for me.  If you’ve never had this dish before perhaps because “pasta with cheese and pepper” doesnt sound very enticing, now is a good time to have it.

Maialino - Cacio e pepe

Stracci at Osteria Morini

From the one who knocks I bring to you the one dish that you will not find in Emilia Romagna out of that splendid ER inspired menu.  Wonderfully chewy wide ribbon pasta inherits the juices of the succulent braised mushrooms.  I would be happy with just the mushrooms.  It was love at first Stracci at one of my favorite Italians in town

Osteria Morini Stracci

Pasta with White Truffles At ??

Ok for this one you need to do a little bi of homework.  Its white truffle season at the (original) time of this writing and you can enjoy your Tagliatelle, risotto, scrambled eggs, pizza, car keys or anything else you desire with White Truffles from Alba, Tuscany or Umbria.  I know Lincoln, Maialino, Marta have it currently and last year The NoMad (below) offered it at cost.  Its a feast for all senses, especially the nose.  Me?  I’m not touching the stuff this season in this town, as I’m heading to the source, Alba white Truffle festival.  Buon Appetito!  Ciao, Ziggy

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Categories: Brooklyn, Chelsea, East Village, Gramercy, Flatiron, Midtown West, New York City, SoHo, NoHo, Nolita, West Village | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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