Restaurants »Mozza

6602 Melrose Avenue

At about ten to noon (on weekends) the line starts forming outside the Mario Batali pizzeria, Mozza; this is exactly where you should hope to find yourself if you haven’t booked ahead as all the reservable tables will be booked. Ideally it’s where you should find yourself with a small party since the limited stool seats offer an amazing up close and personal view of the pizza-making which runs like a well oiled machine from the dough forming, to the topping adding, to the baking and slicing.

The menu was extensive and we decided to split the famous squash blossom with tomatoes and burrata, the classic Margherita and the Stracchino which had artichokes, lemons and olives and was – by a slim margin in a tough contest – my favorite of the bunch.

Of course, I couldn’t resist starting off the pizza feast with the brussel sprouts. I just can’t get enough of those little greens lately, especially now that restaurants are frequently serving them in so many delicious ways (locally, try Anella’s lemony delights). At Mozza they’re coated in prosciutto breadcrumbs… yum!

We also managed, due to the surprising lightness of the dough (or just because we’re gluttons), to enjoy a dessert of butterscotch pudding with salt and a pinenut cookie. Batali has done good again, this time in sunny California.

Click here for the rest of Mozza

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Posted on March 14, 2010

Restaurants »Totonno’s

totonno's462 2nd Ave

Totonno’s is one of those weird New York restaurants in a weird New York block that makes you feel like you could be almost anywhere in the United States – it’s generic, but kind of comforting too. The table cloths are checkered and a wee bit worn, the TVs are glowing (oddly with ads for their own restaurant), and the Bud Light is flowing.

The pizza, a large margarita, was simple and yummy. While pizza has had somewhat of another renaissance with more sophisticated pies in the past few years, Totonno’s still has a place in the list of ones to try with its crunchy crust and chewy, minimal middle. Now you can enjoy the fresh mozzarella and cheesy goodness in the glow of Christmas and Hanukkah lights that adorn the walls.

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Posted on December 20, 2009

Recipes »Batali Bolognese

batali bolognesefrom Molto Italiano

Mario Batali doesn’t mess around when it comes to his Ragu Bolognese. Veal, pork, and pancetta? No wonder this hearty meal filled us up so thoroughly. Mike, who was nice enough to prepare this dish for us, substituted parsnips for carrots.

The recipe comes from the Molto Italiano cookbook.

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Posted on December 13, 2009

Restaurants »Miranda

miranda brooklyn80 Berry Street, Brooklyn

Miranda has been around for a while now, but until recently I had steered clear. Not for any real reason, though I do recall the initial menu may have been too much on the pricey side to lure me in. That’s all changed, however, with the big bang for your buck pre-fixe menu which fills you up with three courses for a mere $25. I opted for a fresh beet and cheese salad, a spicy chicken chipotle gnocchi – which most pleasantly illustrates the restaurant’s seemingly strange but in actuality yummy Italian and Latin fusion flavor – and the coconut flan. The atmosphere is dark (so forgive the less than stellar photography) but inviting and the staff is accommodating.

I was certainly won over and plan to return during the colder nights to come as well as to try their intriguing brunch menu; creamy Polenta and Poached Eggs: wild mushrooms, tomato fonduta and Mangu and Fried Eggs: smashed sweet plantains, crumbled chorizo, pickled shallot being just a few items.

Click here for the rest of Miranda

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Posted on December 13, 2009

Restaurants »La Bella Mariella II (Worst Restaurant)

This is a truly heartbreaking story. Once, not too long ago, a miraculous thing happened – an ugly menu for a pizza joint called Vinnie Vella's (adorned with an illustration that practically begged for low expectations) arrived on our doorstep and, surprisingly enough, their 'Grandma's Pie' (fresh ingredients atop a perfectly thin/thick crust) turned out to be absolutely delicious. Furthermore, VV's actually delivered to our neighborhood (I'll never forgive you for forsaking Greenpoint, Fornino).

Then one day we called up (the number was actually in Jim's phone – no longer) and ordered the usual. The place had a different name, but they assured us the menu was the same; we had no idea to what degree our lives were about the change for the worse. The delivery was late, we were starving, but what was in the box – ugh – we couldn't even bring ourselves to try more than half a slice each.

Nice job La Bella Mariella II, you ruined a beautiful thing with your gloppy cheap cheese and overly sweet canned tomato sauce you try to pass off as belonging on a pizza (PS: the photos on their site are totally inaccurate). I'm truly ashamed to admit it, but we actually threw away almost an entire pizza.

You will never be forgiven and I hope you perish the way of Better Fellas (the short lived shop that set up in the same location between Vinnie Vella's and Bella Mariella II).

Souen is really lucky, by the way, that I was so crushed by this pizza shop debacle and spared them the wrath of a lengthy tirade because their vegan dirt food made me sad while I was eating it and mad to be paying obscene amounts for it.

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Posted on November 9, 2009

Recipes »Pasta with Squash, Sausage and Goat Cheese

It was hard not to be too gluttonous with this recipe of Pasta with Squash, Sausage and Goat Cheese. Another excellent dish from Use Real Butter, this is scrumptous and was absolutely perfect for the ungodly freezing temperatures we have been surprised with lately. The original recipe calls for summer squash and rigatino but we adapted with butternut squash and macaroni. Call it the winterized version and love it.

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Posted on October 19, 2009

Recipes »Fennel, Orange, and Olive Salad

insalata de finocchi, arance e olive nere or, Fennel, Orange, and Olive salad seems like an unlikely combination, if not downright gross. But the mix of peppery, citrusy, and salty is actually quite yummy and refreshing. Throw on a bit of pecorino romano cheese like Shaun did when he so graciously served this to us at a recent Italian dinner night. This recipe comes again from his favorite Roman food blog, Italialicious.

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Posted on September 21, 2009

Recipes »Eggplant Mozzarella Panini

This Eggplant Panini from The Passionate Eater is a hearty sandwich with marinara sauce and melted cheese. It takes only a few minutes to make – be sure to get the eggplant nice and soft by pan frying first. We used our panini maker, which is an appliance I find far more useful than I ever I expected we would when we got it years ago.

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Posted on September 7, 2009

Recipes »Bucatini all?amatriciana

Some of the best dishes are the simplest and only require a few great ingredients. Our friend Shaun just returned from Rome with an appetite for their amazing cuisine and was kind enough to share this dish, Bucatini all'amatriciana with us.

Bucatini is the key, a thicker hollow spaghetti that is filling, delicious and cooks quicker than most. Also make sure to not substitute the guanciale, an unsmoked Italian bacon (Shaun found both at the Chelsea Market).

This recipe came from this week's website of the week, Italialicious, where I plan to make many more excellent meals from.

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Posted on August 31, 2009

Web Sites »Italialicious

Italialicious Food BlogItalialicious is a great food blog with a plethora of amazing looking recipes from a Canadian PhD student with a passion for Italian cusisine.

Pasta, pizza, paninis, gelato – they're all here and photographed beautifully.

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Posted on August 31, 2009

Restaurants »Anella

While our little neighborhood is by no means a restaurant wasteland – we boast great coffee, sandwiches and donuts – Annella is still a great and much needed addition to the area. Reasonably priced and delicious, the mainly strictly Italian menu is best for days when you have a heartier appetite, but does offer a few lighter options.

On the heavy side, you can't go wrong with the amazing meatballs that were a candidate for the New York Wine and Food Festival Meatball Madness competition. Once a special and now a beloved permanent fixture on the menu, they're a gut busting combination of flavorful meats including prosciutto. If you crave a less hulking plate of food, I'm a huge fan of the clam pizza: a crisp and garlicky white pie with a touch of cheese and plenty of briny little ones.

My friends and I find ourselves dining here a lot because they've got the perfect blend of ambiance (dark with warm lighting, lots of antiquey touches), service (always really kind and efficient), price (which is made even nicer with their waning – but still current — BYOB policy), and menu of delightful food. It's not easy to get everything so right, but Annella seems to do so quite effortlessly.

And now they're open for an equally impressive brunch; you can enjoy massive benedicts and steak and eggs in their lovely back yard.

On Yelp!

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Posted on August 17, 2009

Recipes »Pasta with Roasted Cauliflower and Prosciutto

If I am at a loss for what to cook, I love to revisit the lovely little recipe site and former Brix Pick, Simply Recipes. Pasta with Roasted Cauliflower and Prosciutto sounded amazing and I rarely use cauliflower, which I like so much.

Jim actually prepared this for me and says it pretty easy if you're not distracted and make sure your pasta is al dente. It's a great combination of flavors and a must for cauliflower lovers.

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Posted on August 10, 2009

Restaurants »Bacaro

bacaro nycNestled within the no mans land at edge of Chinatown (especially with the sad loss of Good World) the Venetian small plates restaurant Bacaro is truly a hidden neighborhood gem with underground arched hallways and romantic private dining nooks. With real candle and crystal chandeliers, faded brick, rustic table settings, and general castle-like feel, it's a transportative atmosphere that alone is worth a recommendation. Fortunately, the food is equal to the setting.

My sister and brother-in-law did the honors of ordering since they are huge fans and know all the best dishes. The spicy fried meatballs and fried rice balls were excellent and not at all greasy nor too heavy. For pasta we had a great duck ragu with whole wheat pasta and the gnocci which is a favorite of just about anyone who's dined there. Since most dishes are shared it's wise to order a couple of these if you have a larger party.

Jim and I split the daily gelato for dessert, because we can never, ever say no to olive oil ice cream, and wow! It was some of the best I have ever had the pleasure to try. Cocktails here are also good, and more interesting than your standard offerings.

We got here early enough to accommodate a large group, though later in the evening you may have to wait – though there are worse fates than to drink in their airy, grand bar. It would be a perfect spot for romance, especially if you love and know each other well enough to excuse a big belly from all the rich and delicious pastas, fried appetizers, and dessert.?

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Posted on June 8, 2009

Restaurants »inoteca

inoteca'inoteca, a Lower East Side institution, is always bustling and crowded when I walk by – and now I know what all the fuss is about. Good food, service, and atmosphere at reasonable prices will always win and this place (which has spawned two sister restaurants around town) has such a combination.

We shared a plate of five bruschette and I found the pate and riccota with tomatoes to be exceptional. Jim and I shared a porchetta sandwich, which, though it paled in comparison to the highly (and justifiably) praised Porchetta version, was still great and served on excellent bread with a pile of real fresh grated horseradish (which we initially mistook as a heart clogging pile of cheese).

We also shared my favorite meal of the night, a polenta with poached eggs, charred ramps and parmesan. It was a simple dish that won me over with its fresh ingredients, perfectly cooked eggs, and garlicky greens.

I tried the yummy soda, Chinotto here, but they also serve Italian beers and reportedly boast an impressive list of wines for which they're famous.

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Posted on May 18, 2009

Drinks »Chinotto Soda

san pelligrino chinottoI've learned by now that when I hangout with our friend Marcus I should always consider what he orders, no matter what, because he's got great taste; some may even call his a sophisticated palette.?So if he says something called Chinotto on a menu is good, alright then, let's try it.

Don't let the cola look nor the citrus flavor definition throw you because it's not quite either. It's more likened to Campari, with a slightly bitter and not too sweet quality that's really refreshing and a welcome change to over-sugary American sodas.

Among other places, you can order Chinotto at inoteca.

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Posted on May 4, 2009

Desserts »Caffarel

caffarelMy coworker Sarafina is always getting holiday care packages from home, stuffed with thrilling little goodies that she's generous enough to share. This Easter bestowed the beautifully packaged chocolate eggs from Caffarel, a company founded in 1826 in the Piedmont region of Italy.

We spent some time with an Italian to English translation widget to learn the flavors: mandorla (almond), torroncino (nougat), gianduja (hazelnut & chocolate paste); I finally decided on mandoria which was rich with a hint of marzipan sweetness.

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Posted on April 27, 2009

Albums »Crime and Dissonance

ennio morricone crime and dissonanceI doubt there's many familiar with the work of Ennio Morricone who would argue his genius but, for those of you still unconvinced – or unfamiliar – there couldn't be a more compelling argument than the recent Crime and Dissonance collection. Compiled from several scores Morricone authored throughout the '60s and '70s by “What is it?” querying singer Mike Patton and friends, the films selected include Verushka, L'Uccello Dalle Piume Di Cristallo, and (in a rare instance of breaking my and repeating recommendations) Una Lucertola Con La Pelle Di Donna.

It's a truly transportative collection that jumps from emotional landscapes and inventive musical techniques. In one sitting I took notes of the images the music conjured in my head as it washed over me and they include: the ethereal calls of a siren (Ninna Nanna Per Adulteri), sitting atop a lonely Himalayan mountain (Ric Happening), the flight of an insane bumble bee that grows melancholy (Il Buio), the lair of the phantom of the opera (Postludio Alla Terza Moglie), and being trapped in a German clock with wooden kids who then go on a groovy trip before being drafted into the army and getting married – just listen to Ricreazione Divertita and see if you still think my interpretation is crazy. The composer is also an expert heavy breather, which is highlighted in L'Uccello Con Le Piume Di Cristallo and Forza G (Quella Donna).

My absolute favorite number is the Jew's Harp-heavy Rapimento In Campo Aperto which, my friend (who used to work at Ipecac, the label that released the compilation) informed me, was the track selected as the radio friendly single. I know it's hard to imagine, but it seems that most stations just couldn't find a spot for it?

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Posted on April 6, 2009