My two DCs "dining companions" and I went to Stuzzi in the West Village for lunch. They offer a $19.95 special of any salad and pasta dish. .95 or.99 pricing is a pet peeve of mine. It makes it sound so retail. At the Bistro we have some dishes at .5 and beverages at .25 or .75 but I'll never use the .95 or .99. It sounds dishonest to me. But anyways, I can't let it bother me that much or I'd only be able to eat at a few places.
For salad I chose the Caprese with soft buffalo’s milk cheese, tomato and basil. I usually don't order Caprese salad when tomatoes are not in season, but I love a delicious mozzerella cheese. The tomatoes were seasoned well and the cheese was delicious. For pasta I selected Spaghetti alle Vongole with Manila clams, white wine, and grape tomatoes. It's a simple dish but I like the addition of the roasted grape tomatoes for the color it adds and the additional flavor. At the Bistro we order clams from Woodbury Farm on the Cape. They are fedex'd overnight and are expensive. I was weary at first about the price, but after tasting one side by side to a Manila clam, it tasted so much more like it was fresh out of sea. It's all about the juice that releases from the clam than the tiny little snot that's inside. We just use a few less clams at the Bistro to keep the cost down. I also ordered a side dish of Cavolfiore with cauliflower, pine nuts, raisins and breadcrumbs. It was good and gave me some more ideas for vegetable side dishes at Positano.
Next stop was Eataly. This enormous Italian market place sells everything that is remoteley Italian. Check out the website www.eatalyny.com I really liked the dried pasta section and came away with an idea with the multicolored lasagna noodles. On the 14th floor they have a beer garden named BIRRERIA. BIRRERIA is a rooftop restaurant and brewery that offers the highest quality beer and food under the stars and skyline. In collaboration with Dogfish Head, Baladin and Del Borgo, they are brewing unfiltered,unpasteurized and naturally carbonated Cask Ales just 30 feet from where you sit, eat and drink. Each is served through traditional hand pumps, at the perfect temperature, so you can enjoy their beers in the most natural and traditional way. The menu conjures the family style feasts of Italy influenced by Austria and Germany. Its dishes are unlike anything served at Eataly’s five restaurants on the main floor with a focus on hearty fare of deeply flavorful mushroom entrees, pork shoulder paired with housemade pickled vegetables and sauerkraut, housemade sausages and grilled meats.
I can't even imagine what this place cost to build. It has a retractable roof and a great view of the Empire State Building. The Moretti Blonde Ale I had at the bar tasted great on this warm sunny day and I look forward to going back to try some more beers.
I chose Dell'Anima in the West Village for dinner. My friend Jill who is a sommelleir in the city recommended it and it had great reviews. I couldn't get a reservation but my new beautiful DC and I secured seats at the Chef's bar at the kitchen. The chef was only 5 feet in front of us along with his 2 sous chefs.
We ordered the Peeky Toe Crab with Avocado and Charred Octopus with White Beans for appetizers. Both were excellent! I used to make a crab avocado and mango salad at my Downtown Bistro restaurant in Lynn "may it rest in peace" and that's a whole other blog to talk about. Octopus is predominent in the Meditteranean and a favorite of mine. I am going to try to sell it on the menu at Positano, hopefully it will sell. I might have to give out free samples at first so people try it or otherwise might be horrified at thought of ordering it. Olives in Charlestown used to have it on the menu and it was the best I ever tasted. It was super tender and came with Fried Potatoes and Lemon Aioli. I'm very disappointed it's now off the menu. Do you think that would be bad if I brought some raw baby octopus into Olives and ask Todd to make it for me?
We split our next pasta dish of Linguini and Morel Mushrooms. Morels are only in season for a coule of months are usually in the $30 a pound range. They are strong in flavor and only a few are needed to make a dish delicious. The last course we split the Chicken al Diavolo with Broccalli Rabe. The chicken was cooked to order and the portion was huge. It was seasoned with smoked paprika and had chorizo flavored oil on the plate. It was good, but not great. To me chicken is best when prepared just simply with some fresh herbs or a little lemon.
I did find a new white wine of the Erbaluce grape grown in the Piedmont region of Italy. It's a dry wine with noticable acidity and aromas of apple. It paired well with my food and I'll be seeking some more wines from this region.
I was a great experience to sit that close to the kichen and I got to chat with the chef for some brief moments. When you visit any big city, I always feel it's best to seek out restaurants in the so called villages or outer neighborhoods to find a true neighborhood place with cutting edge food.