If your favorite Italian restaurant is Olive Garden and your favorite dish is spaghetti and meatballs (with all the bread sticks you can eat) maybe Joe’s of Avenue U in Brooklyn isn’t for you. Some of the one- and two-star Yelp reviews are pretty funny – submitted by people who don’t know Italian, let alone Sicilian cuisine like arancini, pasta con sarde, and vastedda.
Cod Fish Oreganata
Sarde a Beccafico
Someone complained on Yelp that the chef refused make shrimp parm when there were other “parms” on the menu. She obviously didn’t know that cheese doesn’t go on seafood – it’s mortal sin. Instead of dumbing down their menu they tried to educate her but she wasn’t happy.
If you want to try typical, well-prepared Sicilian cuisine and have an open mind you should go to Joe’s. If what you really want is a standard American red-sauce place, there are plenty of those around.
A Siciliani Marionette
Avenue U just off MacDonald Avenue – on the F train
We had a great lunch last Sunday at the Churchill Tavern. They served their traditional Sunday Roast – a choice of roast beef, lamb, pork or chicken with a bunch of sides – and regular menu of English favorites.
If you’re in NYC, you might find this list useful, and I’ll help with my opinion on the places that I’m familiar with.
I’ll start with their No. 1 – Emilio’s Ballato. I agree that it should be No. 1. It’s my favorite Italian restaurant in Little Italy. Not only that, it’s located in the building that I grew up in -55 E. Houston St. I remember the original Mr. Ballato and Emilio has continued his high-quality cooking tradition.
After that, I’d rate Il Cortille and Forlini’s as the same quality. They’re both excellent and stand out from the mediocre red sauce restaurants in the area.
For pizza Lombardi’s is the best. They brought Napolitano pizza to New York when they opened on Spring Street in 1905.
Umberto’s Clam House is pretty good and famous for that Joe Gallo incident but they should have also included Vincent’s, on the corner of Mott and Hester Street. It’s been around for a long time and was always one of my favorites.
Di Paolo’s is a first rate food store on Mott and Grand Street. I’m surprised the equally good Alleva on the then same block wasn’t also on the list. It was my mother’s go-to Latticini e Salumi.
Their only pick that I take issue with is Ferrara’s. It used to be good but not anymore. Instead of trying to educate their non-Italian customer on what good Italian pastry is all about, they dumbed-down their menu and quality. There are much more authentic patisseries in the area. My choices are Caffé Roma – 176 Mulberry St, Caffé Palermo – 148 Mulberry St. and La Bella Ferrara – 108 Mulberry St.
La Bella Ferrara
The restaurants on the list that I didn’t mention are new to the neighborhood. Maybe you should give them a try and let me know what you think.
I went to a great restaurant in Harlem last week called Hop House (full menu here). You can tell from the name that they have a great selection of beer and the food was very good too. We tried a few appetizers before the main course and SHISHITO PEPPERS – blistered with sea salt, recommended by Erin the proprietor really stood out. They weren’t exactly hot but they did have a spark to them. We liked them enough to make them at home.
It’s very simple – put the washed and dried peppers in a hot dry heavy frying pan (no oil). Flatten them a bit with a spatula so they make contact with the pan. After a couple of minutes turn them. When done give them a sprinkle of sea salt and a drizzle of olive oil. That’s it.
If you like peppers with a little more heat, use serranoes.
And if you don’t like “HOT” you can use the same process with green bell peppers. No heat at all and still very tasty. But since you can’t blister them whole you have to cut them into strips first.
Whatever type of pepper that you use, they’re perfect for eating plain but I scrambled some with eggs and made an excellent sandwich.
After our visit to Terranova, we went to Sicignano degli Alburni to find someplace for lunch. A local guy recommended a trattoria in nearby Scorzo called Si Ma Quant Sit? Every meal we had in Italy was excellent but that two hour lunch at Si Ma Quant Sit? was the best. And we just found it by a lucky accident.
Dopo la nostra visita a Terranova, siamo andati a Sicignano degli Alburni per trovare un posto per il pranzo. Un ragazzo del luogo ha consigliato una trattoria nel vicino Scorzo chiamato Si Ma Quant Sit? Ogni pasto che abbiamo fatto in Italia è stato eccellente, ma quel pranzo di due ore al Si Ma Quant Sit? era il migliore. E l’abbiamo appena trovato per un fortunato incidente.
The menu was on a board on the table listing antipasti, pasta, and prima piatto. We started with the antipasto – some local cheese, prosciutto, capicola, and soprasade. We thought that would be it, but the owner, Raffale kept coming to our table adding things to our dishes – frittata, eggplant parmigiana, eggplant in vinegar, and on and on.
Il menu era su una tavola sul tavolo che elenca antipasti, pasta e prima piatto. Abbiamo iniziato con l’antipasto – alcuni formaggi e prosciutto locale, capicola e soprasade. Pensavamo che sarebbe stato il proprietario, ma Raffale ha continuato a venire al nostro tavolo aggiungendo cose ai nostri piatti – frittata, parmigiana di melanzane, melanzane in aceto e così via.
We were afraid we wouldn’t be able to eat the pasta course but we did.
We said we were too full for dessert but Lucia gave us some strawberries in wine anyway.
From Lucia’s garden
Raffale’s dogs wanted Bridget’s doggie bag.
Raffele and Simone
Strada Statale 19, 84029 Sicignano degli Alburni
Chili-Olive Oil Infusion
Raffale asked if I wanted some pepper for my pasta. He put a little jar of olive oil infused with dried chili on the table. It wasn’t just spicy, it had a distinct pepper taste. I asked how it was made. He gave me some to take home and got Lucia from the kitchen and she explained.
Raffale mi ha chiesto se volevo del pepe per la mia pasta. Mise sul tavolo un vasetto di olio d’oliva infuso con peperoncino secco. Non era solo piccante, aveva un sapore di pepe distinto. Ho chiesto come è stato fatto. Mi ha dato un po ‘da portare a casa e ha preso Lucia dalla cucina e lei ha spiegato.
Remove the stems and coarsely chop dried red chilis
Heat them in a dry frying pan for a few minutes until you can smell them.
Add some oil and sauté on low until the pepper softens. Put it all in a jar, add some more oil and in a few days, it’s ready.
Toward the end of our stay in Salerno, Emanuele arranged a special dinner for all of us at Il Principe e la Civetta (The Prince and the Owl) in Vietri sul Mare. The décor was elegant, the wine excellent and the food was from heaven. There were also two very good musicians – a guitarist and his beautiful accordionist partner who sang Neapolitan songs for us as we ate.
I hope this Google translation works for my Italian friends.
Verso la fine del nostro soggiorno a Salerno, Emanuele ha organizzato una cena speciale per tutti noi a Il Principe e la Civetta di Vietri sul Mare. L'arredamento era elegante, il vino eccellente e il cibo era dal cielo. C'erano anche due ottimi musicisti - un chitarrista e il suo bellissimo compagno fisarmonicista che cantava canzoni napoletane per noi mentre mangiavamo.
The Elegant Decor
A Sampling of Their Excellent Wine Selection
Some of Their Heavenly Food
In Chef Antonio’s Kitchen
Antonio and Emanuele
If you’re on the Amalfi Coast, stop at Il Principe e la Civetta for a special dinner.
There’s a stretch along the Hudson River on the Upper West Side that used to be train yards and other industrial uses that is now the Hudson River Park. There are sculpture installations and an old gantry crane that’s sculptural in its own right.
At about 70th Street you’ll find Pier I Cafe. (Use the park entrance at 68th St.) You place your order at a counter and they give you your drinks and a pager that will notify you when your food is ready.
Fine and Schapiro’s Kosher Restaurant and Delicatessen had been on the Upper West Side of Manhattan since 1927. That’s about 80 years of excellent pastrami. And although that’s my standard order, it isn’t all they serve – MENU.
Something to pick on while you’re waiting for your order.
Lean pastrami on rye, pickles and a hot cherry pepper – perfect!