eat. shop. love. nyc.

Bianca NYC: it’s like having your own Italian grandma
August 23, 2011, 10:35 am
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Or a mini army of little Italian grandmas in the inimate, white-paneled, rustic shabby-chic candlelight that is Bianca. In reality, I’m pretty sure the kitchen at Bianca is manned by a bevy of super talented and hardworking Ecuadorians under the direction of Emilia-Romagna native and chef-owner Giancarlo Quaddalti, but I like the imagery of some sweet Italian nonna hand-shaping meatballs and whipping up a mean red sauce next to a blazing fire.

Bianca was one of the very first restaurants I checked out upon moving to New York City in 2008. It’s good, honest Italian food, nothing fancy or pretentious about it. Since then, it has remained a stalwart of my delight-your-out-of-town-guests-and-prove-living-in-NYC-can-be-affordable-to-non-believers arsenal. Nothing on the menu costs more than $15 and there are a couple bottles of wine for less than $30, so it’s especially great if you’re looking to watch what you’re spending without sacrificing ambiance or quality of food.

My go-tos at Bianca are the gnocco fritto with charcuterie (fried dough puffs with stuff-it-yourself cured meats – $9) and the insalata carciofini (artichoke salad – $8.50) to start, the tagliatelle alla bolognese (tagliatelli pasta with meat sauce – $9.50) and the straccetti di manzo (thinly sliced pan-seared filet mignon with rosemary potatoes – $15) as mains, and the tortino di cioccolata (chocolate mousse cake with dark chocolate ganache – $6.50) and the tiramisu ($6.50) for dessert. You also cannot possibly go wrong with any of their pasta specials of the day.

The artichoke salad (above) is a salad of julienned raw artichoke that’s been marinated in olive oil, lemon, salt, and pepper, topped with thin slices of shaved parmigiano reggiano cheese. I’ve never had anything quite like it before, but apparently it is a dish common in central Italy in the winter when winter artichokes are abundant. I found a great recipe for the salad on Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino, complete with a tutorial on how to trim an artichoke. I will definitely be trying out this out at home.

I veered from the usual suspects recently and tried the tagaliolini ai frutti di mare (seafood pasta – $12.50 – pictured above). Clams, calamari, shrimp, and mussels sauteedin garlic and served with a light tomato sauce. I found myself wishing this dish had some spice to it – it’s nothing a generous sprinkling of red pepper flakes wouldn’t have helped, but I was in a rush and it was a hassle trying to get our server’s attention and the dish was still tasty as it was, I just like my seafood pasta in red sauce with a little kick.

My only true complaint? They don’t take reservations. So arrive really early (they open at 5 pm daily – it’s usually not too hard to get a table before 7) or really late (like after 9:30), especially if you have a party larger than 2 people. If you don’t mind waiting a bit, sidle up to the bar at Von next door. They’ll let you bring your wine from Von over to Bianca, or you can have your food served to you at Von if Bianca’s full and you’re able to get a table at Von. Von does take reservations, by the way. If you live in the area, you lucky duck, you can also order Bianca to-go.

Note: Bianca is cash only. There’s a Chase on Bowery at Bleecker, though, so no worries if you have to run to the ATM; it’s not far.

If you’re uptown in UWS, sister restaurant Celeste on Amsterdam between 84th and 85th is supposed to be similar, as well.

Eat: Bianca (Bowery/NoHo) 5 Bleecker St. between Bowery and Elizabeth. Open daily from 5 pm.


Pulino’s is not fine dining, folks.
May 21, 2010, 10:55 am
Filed under: Drink, Eat | Tags: , , , , , , ,

It was rainy. It was windy. It was cold. I was dressed inappropriately for a wet, blustery day such as this, and there were no taxis to be found, the bus was nowhere to be seen, and the subway wouldn’t get me close enough to home to escape the treacherous outdoors for very long. As I trudged home from work, umbrella threatening to turn inside out, drenched from the sideways rain, I kept hoping for a taxi to save me from my misery and carry me home. It did not happen. Apparently, all of the taxis on Houston were busy saving other lazy, miserable people.

Salvation came in the form of Pulino’s. After writing about Motorino Brooklyn earlier in the day, I had begun yearning for pizza. More importantly, it was warm inside, and there was no rain and no wind to beat me down.

The host was a spectacularly good looking black man with graying dreads, and he informed me that there was no wait for a table for two around 6:45 pm. Phenomenal! We were squeezed into a tiny table for two, the backs of our chairs flush against the backs of other diners’ chairs. Such is the crowded but convivial atmosphere of Pulino’s, as with Schiller’s, where you go with friends for the bustling ambiance and inexpensive wine and food is just something that keeps the booze down. Continue reading

Soft shell crab season is here
May 4, 2010, 12:50 pm
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Just had my first soft shell crab of the season at Great NY Noodletown for lunch. $8 each.

The photos really don’t do it justice. Trust me, this is some effing good ish. Dip in vinegar and chili sauce mixture. Eat. Enjoy. Repeat.

Also very good: egg plant over rice $4.95 and sauteed pea shoots $9.95 (shown below), and pretty much all of the noodles. In fact, it is from Great NY Noodletown’s Lo Mein with Ginger and Scallion that David Chang got the idea for his own ginger scallion noodles. Note: Tsingtao beers are $3 each.

Go: Great NY Noodletown (Chinatown/LES) 28 Bowery, New York, NY 10013. Open to 4 am nightly.

Bone Marrow Madness in NYC

I truly love bone marrow. I grew up eating it mostly in Korean seolleongtang soup and other beef or oxtail broths or sucked out of galbi bones, but as an adult, my eyes were opened to the joys of roasted bone marrow. I had been scrolling through my Twitter feed when I saw this tweet from Michael Voltaggio:

“Colicchio and sons bone marrow with anchovy, need I say more! Great dish..

I’m a little disappointed that I didn’t post about bone marrow earlier (this blog had been saved in “drafts”), as it seems Yelpers have now beaten me to the punch and now I just look like I’m just hopping on the marrow wagon when I’ve been a longtime passenger. Whatever the case, I thought I’d get to typing and put together a little bone marrow roundup for y’all.

I recently had the bone marrow at Jo’s, which is cut lengthwise and topped with anchovies and crusty parsley bread. The anchovy adds another level of complexity that elevates the bone marrow from something that’s already great to something even better.

Still, there’s something to be said for the simplicity of roasted marrow served on its own, with nothing to detract or distract from its ooey gooey rich and fatty goodness. The marrow at Prune is served just this way, the bone served intact and upright with a side of salt and fresh parsley.

Here’s a list of restaurants in NYC where you can try bone marrow different ways. If you try any, let me know what you think! Full list of roasted marrow and marrow soup restos after the jump: Continue reading

Good beer at Whole Foods Bowery Beer Room
January 16, 2010, 9:00 am
Filed under: Drink, Go | Tags: , , , , , ,

[tweetmeme]Whole Foods Bowery has a giant beer room. At any given time, they have several different craft beers on tap, and those craft beers rotate daily/weekly, more or less whenever they run out. While you can’t get a pint for consumption in the beer room (it’s not a bar), you can refill your reusable 64- and 32-ounce growlers with whatever’s on tap. A growler (thanks for the definition to follow, Whole Foods) is a “glass container used for toting a rich delicious brew to and fro. For over 100 years people have been carrying beer home from their local pub in some form of the modern day growler. Theories abound about name origin — one accepted version is it comes from the sound the carbon dioxide makes when the vessel is opened.”

I bought a 64-ounce growler for $3.99 (I think the 32-ounce ones are $2.99) and decided to go with a chocolate espresso stout for my first refill. $9.99 for 64 ounces of a rich, complex beer that would normally run at way more than that bottled, and it tastes better from the draught. There were beers that ran as high as $27.99 for 64 ounces and as low as $4.99 for 32 ounces. Since Whole Foods is on my way to and from work, I intend to take my growler, whenever it is empty, to work with me, and bring a full one home with some new and exciting beer-of-the-week. It’s recommended that you finish your growler within 5 days of filling it.

Call ahead to find out what’s on draught: Bowery Beer Room 212.420.1320 ext. 249.