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Marea

Michael White is definitely a pasta extraordinaire. Of course there are definitely other pasta geniuses out there, like the ones at Da Romano in Venice. But White is a formidable force in his own right, what with the likes of Convivio (now closed), Osteria Morini, Ai Fiori and Marea in New York.

Marea is the seafood themed pasta restaurant in nondescript ground floor outfit of an apartment building in Columbus Circle. My favorite dishes: The bone marrow and octopus fusilli (which I don’t have a picture of). The squid ink and shrimp gramigna. But of course, if you’re a fan of uni, The crab and uni spaghetti.


Michael White never disappoints with his pasta.

Marea
240 Central Park S,
New York 10019
(212) 582-5100

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Maialino

It means Little Pig.

So it might be a turn off for non-meat consumers (if you knew what it meant), but when you’re with Danny Meyer, you will most certainly be well fed. From the likes of Gramercy Tavern, Eleven Madison Park and Shake Shack comes Maialino. The signage at the door threw me off a little as I had feared and expected a little bit more stuffiness from being set inside Gramercy Park Hotel and located next to the park with the locked gates. But the space was nothing but laid back and welcoming. Family-sized tables and long counter tops dressed the dining area.

I would say the best party size for brunch would be 4 or more. That way you would be able to sample the Cestino di Dolci (basket of pastries) and a whole host of other appetizers. The glazed croissant was truly buttery and perfectly flaky. The olive oil muffin had such a subtle taste and wasn’t overly sweet. And the Bombolinis had just the right amount of cream and powdered sugar.

The star of the day was definitely the Pancetta al Pepe Nero (thick cut black peper bacon), and unfortunately I didn’t manage to take a picture of it. I really liked the Amatriciana eggs. Good amount of spice in the tomato sauce, though I could’ve done without the parmesan, but that’s just me.

I also like how they have a bread/pastry section complete with a barista. The setup reminds me a little of Locanda Verde, but given the choice I would rather come here where it’s less crowded (or maybe it’s because we came on a Saturday instead of Sunday).

Nothing like good breakfast to cure any unwanted reactions from the night before. Next up would be to try a Maialino dinner.

Maialino
Gramercy Park Hotel
2 Lexington Ave, New York NY 10010
Ph: 212-777-2410

Osteria Morini

After our 10-day-pig-out-fest in Italy, I was burnt out on all things Italian, especially the food, as heavenly as it was. My take on Italian food is that the best kinds are the heartiest, i.e. lots of meat, carbs and wine. As much as I grew up on rice, there’s only so much pasta and pizza I can eat. However, Michael White’s latest addition to his string of restaurants (though at the time of this writing, his latest is actually Ai Fiori), Osteria Morini is a take on casual Italian dining, serving the food of Emilia-Romagna in northern Italy.

The genius of Michael White lies in the pasta. The first line of the New York Times’ review of Morini goes: “Michael White cooks pasta and people go crazy”. I don’t think there’s any more to be said there so I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

 

The hungry awaits...

The Polpettine: prosciutto and mortadella meatballs

The Mare: adriatic style seafood salad

The duck liver Tortellini

Grigliata Mista

 

Bistecca

My star of the meal: the Tagliatelle

 

Osteria Morini
218 Lafayette St,
New York, NY 10012

Trattoria Sostanza

Step into Sostanza and it feels like you’ve traveled back a few decades or so. Sostanza has been serving traditional Tuscan food on long communal tables in 1869. The first thing we did when we arrived in Florence was to find this place, or at least my friend Sarah made sure that we did, but unfortunately we found out that you have to have a reservation else they won’t seat you. So we made one for 9pm the following night. It is always advisable to come hungry to Sostanza. This is not the place to grab a fast bite to eat, heck, not much of Italy is built for fast bites so be prepared to spend at least 2 hours with your food and drink.

The restaurant was bustling and crowded when we arrived, so I guess the Italians eat late like the New Yorkers too. It felt so homey and welcoming with the hanging beads at the front door and the many postcards from satisfied customers from around the world on the wall.

We lost no time in ordering and I (and my friends agree) will have to say that the star of the night was the chicken breast pan-fried and oven-baked in sizzling butter. The meat was extremely juicy and tender and was definitely a perfect end to a long and tiring day.

The best piece of advice I ever got from someone regarding eating in Italy was to always order the house wine in any restaurant. I’m not sure if it was because of the fatigue or hunger but the house wine at Sostanza tasted heavenly, crisp with a little hint of spice. I never thought I would say this about any wine, but I loved it.

Trattoria Sostanza
Via della Porcellana, 25
50123 Firenze, Italy
Phone: 055 212691
Open Weekdays 12pm-2:15pm, 7:30pm-9:45pm

Scarpetta

This post will be disappointingly void of pictures because yours truly wasn’t on the ball enough to bring her camera along. My dear roommate brought me here for an early birthday dinner last weekend since I guess I had been unknowingly harping about this place for a while ever since I heard its raving reviews from my friend, Sarah. So, I’ll just list down what we had and point out the notable dishes, mostly for my sake because I know I will forget soon enough.

Appetizers:
Seared Sea Scallops w/ sunchokes and roasted porcini mushrooms — The scallops were succulent and fresh and went extremely well with the mushrooms.

Pasta:
Tagliatelli w/ white truffles and parmagiano
— Possibly the best dish we had. Bursting with flavor.
Spaghetti w/tomato and basil

Entré:
Sicilian-spiced Duck Breast — Duck cooked medium rare can usually be chewy and hard to digest but here they were tender and moist.
Moist-roasted Capretto — Young goat meat cooked with rapini, pancetta & potatoes. If only I was not completely stuffed at this point in time. I know I would’ve enjoyed this much more. The goat was absolutely tender and the vegetables were a refreshing accompaniment.

Chef Scott Conant has done well here. Definitely a satisfying and great eating experience. Thank you Ms. SY!

Scarpetta
355 W 14th St
New York, NY 10014
http://www.scarpettanyc.com

Di Fara Pizza

Sheriff: “What shall we do tomorrow?”

Me: “Uh, I don’t know.”

Sheriff: “Mmmm…”

Me: “I KNOW! Let’s go to Di Fara’s for pizza!”

Sheriff: “Let’s JOM!”

So I might have paraphrased some of those sentences (as many as they were) but that was how we decided to make the trek into the bowels of Brooklyn for some pies, or as it turns out, just one pie. Due to some confusion, we ended up waiting for 20 mins in a line that wasn’t really a line that would eventually put pizza into our bellies. So this is important: when you go to Di Fara’s, squeeze through the crowd and find the guy who’s in charge of the list of orders. There really isn’t a systematic line to access this guy, but DO NOT under any circumstance stand around and wait, you will be very disappointed. Find out where that list is, and get your name on it.

The pizzas at Di Fara’s aren’t cheap. A plain cheese pizza is $20, the special pie (with sausage, onions, mushrooms) costs $30 and each additional topping is $2 I think. But even the cynical pizza eater in me thinks that it was worth every single penny.

The pies are made fresh as they come to your name on the list. Mr. DeMarco (or Dom, as I’ve heard people call him) flattens out the dough, smears his special sauce on it, lays on a generous serving of 3 kinds of cheese, sprinkles on the toppings, pours on some serious amount of olive oil and then shoves it into the oven – which out of 6 visible, he only uses 2 or 3 as far as I could tell. Every few minutes he opens the oven door and pokes at the pies and sometimes he takes a peek under them to check the base hasn’t been burnt. He then pulls out the ones that are ready, in all its sizzling glory, cuts some fresh basil leaves on them, pours yet another serious amount of olive oil and voila! The pie is ready to slide down your throat into your ravishing tummy.

I wouldn’t call myself an avid fan of pizza, but Dom’s pies are awesomely made. One can tell that he really puts his heart into his work. An hour long trip to Midwood, Brooklyn and another hour’s wait justifies its awesomeness.

Di Fara Pizza
1424 Avenue J
Brooklyn, NY 11230-3702
(718) 258-1367