Well, I am back on the East Coast, and I certainly can't make it to the motherland without passing through Little Italy... F and I were in NYC for a few day before Thanksgiving, and basically, we just ate the whole time.
First we went to Via Quadronno www.viaquadronno.com on the Upper East Side. Their logo is a winged wild boar (whick squeals and flys on the web site) - the food has to be good (and it is)! We just had a quick lunch there: the minestra del lavorante "workman's soup", and the lo spazzino panino - young roast pork, arugula, provolone, red onion, and caper, followed by Tiramisu di San Don, which is a "deconstructed," Venetian style tiramisu. I usally loathe "deconstructed" anything, but I have to admit that it was great, and fun to eat. The menu says that it is for 2 people, but I think its for more like 4 people - we couldn't come close to finishing it.
That evening, we went to Morimoto www.morimotorestaurant.com. We only went here because we couldn't get into the Philly version this past weekend (I forgot what its like to be in a bigger city - reservations???), and I wanted F to see it, plus I just think Morimoto is an awesome chef. We ordered toro tartare, rock shrimp tempura, spicy king crab, O-toro sashimi, and albacore, hamachi, octopus (surprisingly rubbery), unagi, and scallop sushi. While we were eating, I found a piece of foil in one of the dipping sauces, so the chefs sent us some more sashimi, maguro, kanpachi, and striped bass, as well as 2 free desserts, a trio of sorbets (terrible), and a key lime cheesecake (really good). Overall, I'd say the experience was good, but not great. And for the price, it should be great! If I went back, I would just go to the one in Philly.
The next day we had coffee at Ferrara Cafe www.ferraracafe.com, where Italia meets Goomba in the heart of Little Italy. Ferrara touts itself as being America's oldest espresso bar and pasticerria. Its definately one of the biggest, and most expensive. Three espressos, a pastry, and a bottle of S. Pellegrino was $26 - get outta here! Ferrara's does get you into the holiday spirit though - the pastry case is amazing - hundreds of different pastries, cakes, cookies, gelati, as well as imported sweets - la dolce vita!
We crossed the street to Di Palo Fine Foods (corner of Mott and Grand), the mecca of Italian foods! Coincidentally, they also happen to sell a certain Umbrian olive oil called Trampetti.... Di Palo's boasts over 300 Italian cheeses - cheeses you can't even find in Italy! - a large selection of imported cured meats and products, and daily, house made fresh ricotta and mozzarella. The ricotta is heavenly.... Besides all of the beautiful foods, Di Palo's proudly diplays 2 beautiful antique Berkel slicers (which they still use for special demonstrations), one from the 1920s, and one from the 1960s - I don't know what made me salivate more, the cheese or the slicers!
Lou, the owner of Di Palo, took us to out to lunch in Chinatown at Green Bo Restaurant, a Shanghainese restaurant on Bayard St. We ate Scallion Pancakes, Steamed Soup Dumplings, Stewed Pork Balls with Vegetable, and Shredded Pork with Preserved Cabbage. Everything was excellent, and we had so much food, and it was all together less expensive than coffee at Ferrara's!
A walk around town, a rest, and what do you know?....its time to eat again! For dinner tonight, we went to Il Buco http://www.ilbuco.com/restaurant.html, at 47 Bond Street. This restaurant is a cook's dream - very cozy with lots of wood and tile, and antique cooking utensils hanging everywhere. We sat in the back room (try to sit there if you go), which faces the kitchen, adorned with mosaic tile, and lots of beautiful hanging copper pots. This was my favorite meal in New York, everything was perfectly excecuted and delicious! We ate Jamon Serrano (supposedly smuggled), Insalata Invernale (with the most perfect, just slightly bitter, radicchio and dandelion greens, balsamic, breadcrumbs, and shaved Los Beyos cheese), Crudo (raw wild striped bass, pomegranate, lime, chile, and cilantro - this was a perfectly balanced dish - the fish is what stood out - I think if I ate this same combo in Seattle, it would have tasted like lime-fusion hell), Tonno (wild fennel pollen crusted sashimi-grade tuna over "Biachi di Spagna" beans - aka the difficult to cook Corona Beans , with extra virgin olive oil and fresh parsley, Pulpo (octopus, Umbrian chickpeas, parsley over charred bruschetta with aioli) sound familiar???? I had to laugh when this one came out --the manager was ordering every thing for us..., Riccioli con Salsiccia e Rapini (pasta with housemade pork sausage, broccoli rabe, chile, and tuscan pecorino), Fettucine al Ragu d'Agnello (house made farro pasta - the only good farro pasta I have ever had, with lamb ragu and sheeps milk ricotta), and for dessert, a yummy Torta di Cioccolata... If you go, be sure to take the time to read the entire menu - it goes beyond anything I have seen before, with quotes from De Agricolture, and long writings about the products they use as well as themes on Olio, Balsamico, Sale, ed Acqua.
Believe it or not, I woke up hungry the next morning. I had read about Iacopo Falai in the NY Times, and I was anxious to test out his Panetteria on the Lower East Side www.falainyc.com. Oh my gawd.......his croissants were so airy and heavenly, they made Besalu's (Seattle) seem like lead balls (which they are not, of course...). We got 2, the Chocolate Croissant, and the Apple Turnover, and then we went back for a third, the Roasted Vegetable Tart. I am not kidding when I say that I thought about those pastries all day - they were so good - like buttah, but air buttah!!!! The Panetteria serves light breakfast, lunch and dinner, but when I return, I think I will try his restaurant across the street for dinner.
We walked all the way back up town (we needed it), and stopped at Mario Batali's Italian Wine Merchants. I am sorry to say that I was extremely disappointed. I think I just had the wrong idea about the place - I thought they were going to have, like, every Italian wine they could get there hands on - quite the opposite! When you walk in, the sales person tells you that everything is organized by price (I think that is really tacky) - its also next to impossible to find the wine that you want when it is not organized by region, or at least, by country - they are all mixed up! Plus, all of the bottles are placed sporadically on the shelves, making it extremely difficult to read the labels. Unless they change their format, I will never go back there (as if they care). that evening, Lou and Connie took us to Peasant http://www.peasantnyc.com/index.htm
, where we had another excellent dinner - this time everything was cooked in a wood-fired oven - bellissimo! If you go to Peasant, make sure to stop into the wine bar in the basement for a grappa after dinner!