Panini @ Alidoro

105 Sullivan Street, New York, NY

Alidoro is all about panini in the typical Italian tradition. This means that the high quality and tasty combination of the ingredients does not require greasy-sweet-spicy sauces as flavor enhancers.

The “Dino” is the perfect representation of this concept. Every bite is an addictive combination of flavor and textures. Bitter and fresh arugula, sweet tomatoes, soft and smokey mozzarella, lean and savory ham dance in your mouth and please your palate.

The “Melody” has a traditional combination of tuna, arugula and artichokes, with the creative touch of balsamic vinegar used as dressing for the arugula.

These two sandwiches are a small but representative sample of the thirty-plus options available in the menu. They can be enjoyed also on site, if you like the ultra-vintage almost tumbledown and 100% NY inspired decor of the store.

 

Alidoro

Alidoro

Pizza @ L’Asso

192 Mott Street, New York, NY

The sight of a wood fired pizza oven is an unexpected and pleasant surprise on Mott Street. Even more pleasant is the actual experience with the pizza.

The pizza is thin, with a thick and soft border. There is a wide choice of toppings, from traditional recipes to more creative concepts with ingredients such as Brussel sprouts, pistachios and home made chips (not all on the same pizza, obviously). 

As usual, the “Margherita D.O.C.” is the fundamental quality test. The crust has a peculiar style: relatively thin in the center with a thicker, soft border. The mozzarella is properly melted and integrated with the lightly sweet tomato sauce. After finishing the pizza, I would like to have more of it. The test is successfully passed. The other half of the 21″ pizza confirms the experience with Margherita, and provides an opportunity to enjoy the quality of the toppings. The mushrooms with smoked mozzarella and truffle oil invite you to quickly empty the tray.

“Asso” means “ace” in Italia. This place deserves its name: the pizzaiolo is an “ace of pizzas”.

L'Asso

L'Asso

Frozen Yogurt @ Yogorino [CLOSED]

193 Bleecker Street, New York, NY

A surge of frozen yogurt flooded New York City in the recent years. Frozen yogurt now comes in many different flavors, from pomegranate to the omnipresent sea salt caramel. It is served in stores that combine white tiles with another dominant color – green, orange, blue – depending on the brand of the chain.

In my opinion there is only one flavor (plain) and only one place to go: Yogorino.

At Yogorino there is no choice dilemma as far as the frozen yogurt is concerned. They make only plain frozen yogurt, and it is the best. The delicious tart flavor and soft and creamy texture make this yogurt delightful hybrid of gelato, yogurt and frozen dessert. The mouthwatering toppings offer the opportunity to create more complex flavors and textures. My favorite is a combination of (real) pistachio syrup and ground hazelnuts.

Some customers are initially confused by the lack of yogurt flavors. A few of them leave the store disappointed because they cannot have their chocolate-hazelnut-pomegrante-vanilla frozen yogurt. Those who are either brave, wise and or lucky enough to try it, will enter a new, higher dimension of frozen yogurt experience. And this is a point of no return. After tasting this frozen yogurt there will be two distinct experiences, Yogorino and the rest of the pack.

Yogorino - Pistachio and Hazelnuts

Yogorino

Donut Croissant and Chouquettes @ Mille-Feuille

552 La Guardia Place, New York, NY

Donut Croissant at Mille Feuille

If one day you cannot decide between a donut and croissant, go for both. One of the most recent creations at Mille Feuille is a delicious blend of the two recipes. The typical croissant layers are arranged in donut shape with a crunchy surface and a flaky inside. The soft texture and sweetness of the raspberry jam create a perfect contrast with croissant dough. 

The small size of the donut is probably good for the calories count but it leaves some craving for sweet pastries. This is the moment when chouquettes – small pebbles of soft and moist dough – come at your rescue. They melt in your mouth, releasing a delicate flavor of fresh eggs balanced by the coarse sugar’s crackling bursts of sweetness. It is again a successful and addictive play of contrasts.

Chouquette at Mille Feuille

Spritz @ Temple Bar

332 Lafayette Street, New York, NY

Spritz  @ Temple Bar

Temple Bar does nothing to capture your attention, but once you try it you know you will come back.

While walking on Lafayette street, it is easy to get distracted by glittering neon signs and tables on the sidewalk, and get past a rather anonymous door that looks like the entrance of a residential building. If you are lucky enough to go through that door, you will enter into time capsule. The decor is elegant, inspired by the style of lounges of the first half of 1900s. The dim lights ensure privacy while the light spots at the tables allow you to see what you are drinking and eating. The waiting staff is nice and courteous. The surprisingly low noise level, at least around 9pm-11pm, gives the opportunity to have a good conversation in front of an excellent drink.

Talking about drinks: the Spritz was a pleasant surprise. This cocktail, typical of the north-east of Italy, is not an easy find in New York. There are different versions of the recipe, all requiring prosecco combined with a bitter flavor. At Temple Bar the prosecco is mixed with Aperol, as recommended by the International Bartenders Association.

The Aperol and the prosecco are well balanced, creating a refreshing sensation. The potato pancakes with tuna sashimi were a good complement to an already pleasant experience.

Omakase @ Ushiwakamaru

136 W Houston Street, New YorkJapanese Sea Urchin

There are different types of Japanese restaurants in New York: the restaurant owned by the star-chef; the restaurant with a trendy interior design, dim lights and fusion dishes; the restaurant that prepares sushi in black trays with fake plastic grass between rolls.

And finally, there are places like Ushiwakamaru, where each member of the staff is focused on delivering a superb and rigorous culinary experience.

These are places where you can ask the sushi chef to please and impress you. These are the places where you should ask the “omakase”.

With the omakase at Ushiwakamaru, you will experience a journey through delicate textures and delicious sensations. White shrimp, mackerel, fatty tuna and the heavenly Japanese sea urchin literally melt in your mouth with an explosion of flavors.

The temptation is to never say “stop”, and continue tasting the sushi chef’s next creations. I personally said “pause”, knowing that I will be back soon to continue exploring the art of sushi.

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Omakase at Ushiwakamaru Green Tea Mille Crêpes

Stumptown Coffee

30 East 8th Street  New York, NY 

Stumptown NY

Stumptown’s flagship location at 8th Street and MacDougal offers almost every brewing option that a coffee fanatic could dream of: from espresso shots to Chemex coffee (the latter is actually a really awesome brewing method, despite the unfortunate branding).

The espresso is rich and complex, from the nutty and cocoa flavor of the first sip to the strong and bitter notes of the last. This does not come as a surprise and it was actually the minimum expectation, considered the quality of the espresso brewed by other bars using Stumptown Coffee.

The real surprise is that one of the most expensive espressos in the city ($3.25 for a single shot served by the barista) does not come with the perks that would justify a such high price tag: no complimentary glass of water is served with the espresso; no options to choose coffee beans from different producers or geographies; the chairs and the tables seem to come from the playroom of my kindergarten (both in terms of size and comfort).

Bottom line: a very good coffee that would have been stellar a few years ago. In today’s competitive market, you could walk a few more blocks to either UR Cup or Third Rail Coffee and probably have a better experience.