eat. shop. love. nyc.

Bianca NYC: it’s like having your own Italian grandma
August 23, 2011, 10:35 am
Filed under: Eat | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.


Veg-focused Mondays at Dovetail
October 25, 2010, 1:56 pm
Filed under: Eat | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

I am an unrepentant omnivore, and it’s rare that I find myself not in the mood for meat. But lately, that’s been happening more frequently as I find my body craving greens and presumably rebelling from my usual heavy, butter-, meat-, and carb-laden diet. I want veggies, but I don’t want to give up meat entirely, and I don’t want to eat a salad. We’re getting into fall, people. Our veggies should be cooked.

Enter Dovetail, Michelin starred Chef John Fraser’s haunt on the Upper West Side, and Mondays are looking really good for satisfying those veg cravings. He’s offering both a vegetarian and a vegetable-focused course menu on Mondays for $42 (3 courses plus dessert). The seasonal menu changes frequently, so make sure you check out the Monday night vegetable menu on the website before making your reservations.

vegetarian (v. = vegan choices)
1st course
pumpkin soup rosemary, chestnuts
turnip ceviche (v.) quinoa, lime, pearl onions
beet salad greek yogurt, pistachios
2nd course
salsify (supp. 10) truffles, spinach, red wine
chanterelles on a shingle fennel, figs, peppers
autumn tempura (v.) tofu, chai curry spice
3rd course
fennel ravioli basil, artichokes, preserved lemon
braising greens lasagna baby carrots, pine nuts, golden raisins
barbeque parsnip rib (v.) coconut rice, daikon, cilantro

vegetable focused
1st course
escarole leaves
smoked trout, feta cheese
soft boiled egg bacon, quinoa, ramps, tofu
brussels sprouts leaves cauliflower, manchego cheese, pears, serrano ham
2nd course
root vegetables (supp 10) truffles, chicken, polenta
button mushroom gnocchi butternut squash, radish, sauce bordelaise
corn tamales poblano peppers, smoked duck
3rd course
salt baked fennel piquillo peppers, oranges, preserved tuna mayonnaise
roasted garlic risotto broccoli rabe, andouille sausage
endive lamb bacon, dates, apples

Eat: Dovetail (UWS) 103 W 77th St. at Columbus, New York, NY 10024-6909. (212) 362-3800. Vegetarian and vegetable-focused menus are offered on Monday nights.

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

Euripedes in the Park
August 13, 2009, 9:34 am
Filed under: Do, Read | Tags: , , , ,

I can’t say I’ve ever really felt a burning desire to watch a Greek tragedy enacted by players (not the yo whatup kind of players but the acting kind). The names Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides just don’t come up in my everyday conversations the way that Shakespeare does.

Accordingly, I was super excited when Jill scored two tickets to Shakespeare in the Park this week. A Midsummer Night’s Dream (a longtime favorite — I played Hermia in my 5th grade class production) with Anne Hathaway! Wait… nope, that’s over now. Instead, it turned out I’d be watching Bacchae. Hmm… I’ve never heard of that particular Shakespearean piece. This should be enlightening.

And enlightening it was. I thought I was going to be watching a Shakespearean rendition of some tale from Greek mythology, but it turns out that Euripedes, not Shakespeare, wrote Bacchae. Don’t you judge me. It’s called Shakespeare in the Park. Is it so preposterous that I assumed Bacchae was a lesser-known Shakespearean play? Continue reading