Posts Tagged ‘mozzarella’

Brunch Bunch Brawlers – Part II

Brunch locations in New York City are endless, and every week I attempt to find a different restaurant to please my palette and help my friends, aka fellow Brunch Bunch Brawlers, experience a more-than satisfying culinary excursion. I shall continue the recap with our visit to Morandi on Waverly. In doing the dining research, the menu is the first link to click, so the atmosphere is sometimes a surprise. Since looks are usually the first impression, we knew this was going to be good. Marry brick and wood, and it puts

me in a time machine to where I feel most comfortable reverting. The menu items delivered the same rustic promise:

  • Focaccia “occhio di bue”*: with a sunny-side egg, pancetta & pecorino
  • Burrata e zucca: burrata cheese with roasted delicata squash, arugula & toasted pumpkin seeds
  • Con semi di zucca: whole grain toast with hard boiled egg, avocado
  • Campanelle alla norma: bell-shaped pasta with tomato, roasted eggplant & mozzarella

An extreme desire to drive to Morandi right now has overtaken my typing fingers.

Our next brunch pilgrimage was based on location. Spring had just sprung, and a walk in Central Park was in order. Along comes the marmalade institution known as Sarabeth’s with a new location overlooking the park and next to the Plaza Hotel. Of course with the locational perk comes a higher price tag, but it was a great diversion from our more casual spots and the quality warranted it. Busy, busy, busy – everyone knows the name apparently. The front dining room was all abuzz and would not have been my preference with hungry patrons milling around restlessly waiting for others to finish. Although the back dining room loses the park view, there’s a courtyard in view as a consolation.

The menu is true brunch with triple choices of “extraordinary egg” selections, sweet breakfasts and lunchie sandwiches.

  • SALMON EGGS BENEDICT: smoked salmon, hollandaise, peppers, chives
  • The popular new kid on the block (these might have been fluffier than Locanda Verde – see Brunch 1) – LEMON & RICOTTA PANCAKES: blackberries, organic maple syrup
  • HAM & TURKEY CLUB SANDWICH: bacon jam, manchego, avocado on a croissant
  • CRAB MEAT GUACAMOLE & CHIPS: cilantro, lime, jalapeño
  • A scone, muffin and preserves and butter

It looks like a lot, but we walked it off in the park.

This rustic, cash-only sister of Frank’s on 2nd Ave. is on 2nd Street! Supper is for brunch, and so simply enjoyable it was that we brawlers – a different combo – went two weeks in a row. But this Northern Italian fare doesn’t have a Northern Italian flair when it comes to eggs. How can it? It’s eggs, but it is innovative.

That flair kicks in on the basic pastas and creative pretend pasta, which somehow taste better when you sit in the glass-window fronted room and watch the foot traffic.

 

 

And server Simone is a sight for sore eyes ladies, but you’ll have to wait for supper to see him now at Supper, no more at Frank’s.

And here’s one more to wrap up this second installation of the Brunch Bunch Brawlers. Palma holds generations of family recipes in its palm and holds my tummy for being right around the corner from my favorite Pasticceria. The white stucco walls seem more Greek, but the bright rear of the restaurant is an indoor/outdoor garden.P1040994

Agnolotti Ricotta e Spinaci – homemade pasta filled with spinach and buffalo ricotta, served with basil and tomato sauce

Brunch requires pancakes/waffles or French toast. Here it was French Toast with mascarpone and fresh fruit, finished
with maple syrup even if Rocco’s desserts were steps away.

Stay tuned for episode 3, as I try to keep up!

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The Recipe for Italian Restaurants in NJ

I couldn’t even guess how many restaurants in New Jersey classify themselves as Italian. They run the gamut from pizzerias that serve simple Italian dishes to cafes or casual, to upscale dining. It comes as no surprise since New Jersey has the second highest number of Italian Americans in the country at 1,503,637, according to the 2000 U.S. Census.

I tend to lose interest quickly when I hear that a “new” Italian restaurant opened. Our market is saturated, but we all have a few favorites, and it’s often based on proximity. For some, quantity is a factor; others weigh quality heavier when comparing. I lean toward the latter, but location definitely plays favor. When my preferred casual Italian restaurant shuttered recently, a number of people I know were distraught – not because there is a lack of other choices, but because it had the formula for somewhere you can enjoy frequenting twice a month or more… quality food, hospitality, inexpensive and 10 minutes from home in Bergen County. I mentioned in a previous column that I may have found my rebound with La Cambusa in Garfield. Less than a month ago, however, a new Italian restaurant opened in Bergenfield, called The Recipe, on the corner of S. Washington and E. Clinton avenues.

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A repulsive feeling came over me – “oh, another glorified pizzeria serving lots of low-grade-cheese parmigiana dishes to try to qualify as an Italian restaurant.” But a coupon lured me in along with dangling carrots of location and cute appearance (the full-size windows allow you to see through as you drive by). My second foot in the door, and I was greeted with a warm smile and a “good evening.” That got off on the right foot. The menu is not extravagant but has basic pastas, veal, chicken, seafood and steak dishes, along with a creative list of specials, which only averaged $24.

20160219_204721The menu items were less. My first real taste of The Recipe came after the warm bread and the soup (choice of minestrone or chicken noodle that comes with an entrée) was the eggplant stack appetizer with beefy tomato slices, fresh mozzarella – the top layer slightly melted – thick breaded eggplant slices and a bed of mixed greens, all drizzled with a balsamic reduction. Thumbs up!

I usually test an Italian restaurant with a veal dish or a pasta/seafood combo. The first visit scored an 88 with a veal francese and artichoke hearts ($19). The second visit scored an 89.5 with the Linguini Del Mar red sauce (also $19), large butterflied shrimp, mussels, clams, calamari. The calamari was slightly overdone but not enough to detract from the rest of the goodness. More importantly, I requested very little garlic, and they listened! Finishing the meal with a decent cappuccino was equally important.

20160219_210831When one’s expectations are low or none is when the gems are discovered. I hope this passes the initial five-year business test because it has a solid B++ in my book. That could definitely go up as I order more.

Another recent Italian restaurant opening is Rugova in River Edge. It reopened the vacant building that housed Dinallo’s. Let us know how you grade these newcomers. Rugova is owned by the same people who have Dimora and Sear House, so they should be good at this.