Category Archives: Italian

La Pecora Bianca

My buddy from the Gotham Burger Social Club and I came in here with the intention to split a burger and a pasta dish, but things escalated quickly into a pretty big lunch.

We started with an Aperol spritz, still desperately clinging to the last tendrils of summer.

We went with the gramigna pasta (short n’ curlies). This is made from the einkorn noble grain.

It was served with grumbled sweet Italian sausage, red pepper flakes and broccolini. I loved this! So much better than the popular broccoli rabe and orecchiette versions that you see a lot lately. Here’s a shot of it after a light parmesan cheese snowfall.

We also had a side of eggplant parmesan to go with it. I typically despise the skin on cooked eggplant, but this was a unique preparation in which the skin on the ends of the eggplant acted like cups or little bowls for the cheese and sauce. Delicious.

Here’s that beautiful burger:

It’s two patties made of short rib and brisket, then topped with fontina cheese, crispy pancetta, pickled pepperoncini and calabrian aioli. The bun is outstanding here. It eats like a soft, pillowy ciabatta roll. Perfect for an Italian style burger. It also comes with crispy smushed and fried rosemary potatoes.

I highly recommend this burger. It’s right up there with Ai Fiori and San Matteo as my top three favorite Italian style burgers.

Last up is the hanger steak.

This was a nice and simple preparation. Nothing too complicated. Great flavor, super tender. I only wish it had a better char on the crust and some more seasoning. 7/10.

Great spot. I will definitely be back for more pasta and that burger.

LA PECORA BIANCA
950 2nd Ave
New York, NY 10022

*Note there is another location in NoMad as well.

Zio Ristorante

I came to Zio to help promote their Meatball Monday special, where you get three meatball sliders for $10.

My favorites are the lamb with ricotta, veal with mozzarella, and chicken with fontina. But you really cant go wrong with the spicy chorizo or even the veggie pesto sliders.

I also tried their lamb ragu pappardelle, which was really nice. The lamb was tender and juicy, and the pasta was perfectly al dente.

I also tried the chicken parm. This was breast meat, and the cheese is home made mozzarella. Nice crisp on this.

Looking forward to going back to trh their veal chop.

ZIO RISTORANTE
17 W 19th St
New York, NY 10011

Ristorante Morini

This was my fourth and final stop on the Michael White restaurant tour (not including Marea). This was a pretty big meal, so I’ll just get down to it and list everything we tried.

Chicken & Eggplant Meatballs

I admit I didn’t have high hopes for this, but it ended up being my favorite item of the night. So tasty. Really nice.

Scallop Crudo

Beautiful and light.

Carpaccio

The goat cheese on this was a nice touch.

We tried four different pasta dishes:

Tortelli

This was a squid ink dough stuffed with lobster meat inside, and garnished with cuttlefish. Using seafood is a great way to make a ravioli style dish a bit lighter. Really nice.

Garganelli

Braised lamb neck, sheep’s milk ricotta and broccoli rabe. A really hearty and flavorful pasta.

Tagliatelle

This was served with their classic Bolognese ragu, packed with delicious morsels of meat.

Fusilli

This was my favorite pasta of the night. Perfertly cooked al dente pasta with a delicious pork shoulder ragu and melted pecorino.

Lamb Chops

These had a grassy flavored green crust on the outside that gave the lamb a delicate earthy flavor.

Veal Milanese

The crispy prosciutto on top of the dressed greens here was killer, and it was the perfect way to introduce a little salt into the dish.

Porterhouse Florentine

This was cooked to a perfect medium rare. I love the charred lemon preparation here, and that filet side was super tender. 7/10.

We also tried two sides:

Mushrooms & Spinach

I loved that medley of wild mushrooms.

And of course, we also tried the White Label Burger from this location. Here, it is topped with fontina cheese, bacon, pepperoncini peppers and a tomato marmalade.

RISTORANTE MORINI
1167 Madison Ave
New York, NY 10028

Ai Fiori

My steak-eating crew and I came in here and tried 16 different items, so there’s no time for bullshitting. I will just get right down to it.

STARTERS

Dry-Aged Beef Tartare (bar menu)

This was damn good. Not as beautiful as Vaucluse, but it had a different flavor profile (Italian) that worked just as well as the classic French style.

Fried Soft-Shell Crab

So delicious. The zucchini puree underneath was a great Italian play for the sauce element, and the whipped ricotta just made it soar.

Octopus

The radish, white bean and salsa verde made the perfectly tender and grilled octopus shine with a bright pop of acidity.

Tomato Salad

This had stracciatella, pesto and watermelon. Very refreshing.

MID COURSES

Lobster Cavatelli

This sounded amazing but it fell a little short. It was by no means a bad dish. It was just not as stellar as the other entrees. Of course I would prefer this over the tomato salad from the appetizer courses. Duh. I just didn’t get a lot of robust flavors.

Spaghetti with Blue Crab & Bottarga

Winner. This was so delicious. Every aspect of it popped, and the robustness was there, while still preserving the delicate flavors of the crab meat.

Scallops

What made this really special was the corn pudding and toasted corn on the plate. I could eat buckets.

White Label Burger (bar menu)

My favorite of all the Michael White burgers. This one has Calabrian aioli and pickles on it, along with fontina, tomato and red onion. The blend is dry-aged Pat LaFrieda, just like the other White Label burgers as well. What’s really awesome here at Ai Fiori is the potato side that comes with it: pommes dauphines. I didn’t get a good shot, but they are basically breaded and deep fried balls of mashed potato. Again, buckets are needed!

ENTREES

Butter Poached Lobster

Insanity. One of the best lobster dishes I’ve ever had. So tender and flavorful, and it’s a really meaty lobster tail portion size with some sliced claw meat along the side.

Lamb Chops

These were wrapped in caul fat and crusted/glazed very nicely. The snap peas were a nice refreshing touch here to cut the fat, and I liked the use of barley in this dish. One of my favorite grains to eat when done right.

Tomahawk Steak (Costata)

This was an easy 10/10. Michael White’s large format steaks are just amazing at every one of his restaurants. While pretty much identical to the steaks available at Vaucluse and Osteria Morini, there is something to be said about the consistency of these steaks. Every time I visit, they are just as good, and they are all good at every restaurant. These are definitely signature items, and they are 100% worth ordering.

The charred lemon is killer! The rest of the meal was sides and desserts, which were all great but I won’t really dive to deep. My favorite dessert was the chocolate budino. There was some banana incorporated into that. Delicious.

SIDES

Broccoli Rabe

Chicory

DESSERT

Chocolate Budino

Almond Cake

Cheese Plate

I highly recommend both the burger and the tomahawk here. To start, split a pasta and a burger. Then hit the tomahawk for your entree, and get some extra pommes dauphines for the road!

AI FIORI
400 5th Ave #2
New York, NY 10018

Noi Due Carne

I’m always excited to discover a good new Italian place. Noi Due Carne really hits the high mark. Let me get right into it, before I reveal a surprise that I’m meaning to save until the end.

Fried baby artichokes:

I haven’t seen these since Rome, and they were every bit as good here as they were there. Perfectly golden crisp, expertly seasoned, and garnished with a bright citrusy sauce. I could eat this by the bucket.

Grilled marinated sweetbreads:

By far the best sweetbreads I have ever had. They were tender yet firm at the same time, not mushy and watery like other sweetbreads I’ve had. No sinew. All flavor. Amazing.

Spiced lamb flatbread:

You can pass on this. The dough or bread portion is just not up to par.

Beef carpaccio:

This was nicely drizzled with balsamic and had great texture from the crispy sweet potato.

Artichoke ravioli with a lemon and white wine sauce:

These were incredible. I get excited about anything artichoke-related, but my excitement is usually tempered by shitty execution. This place nails both artichoke dishes.

Cavatelli with short rib ragu:

Cavatelli is my favorite pasta. The beef was nicely prepared, and had a pop of interesting flavor from the pomegranate. I liked this.

This baby was made for going viral.

That may look like just an ordinary large meatball, but look inside:

That’s right. Spaghetti INSIDE your meatball!

Not really my cup of tea. Both components end up being a bit off when they’re cooked this way, and I feel like the dish is really only designed for the shock value of the presentation. The meatball itself was nice and spicy though, and the sauce on the plate was well prepared. This is probably something that’s fun to order for the kids though, since kids can sometimes be really picky eaters. Adults should pass on this. Especially men.

Half chicken al Mattone:

This had a great crispy skin on it. The chicken itself was a bit dry in parts, and I wasn’t the biggest fan of the sweet potato puree underneath. But overall this dish was delicious.

Veal Milanese:

This was perfect. Pounded thin and flat, lightly breaded, and fried to a beautiful golden crisp.

26oz rib eye for two:

This is pricey at nearly $130, but there was no waste on it and no bone to beef up the weight numbers.

This was a 9/10 too. The simple olive oil and sea salt preparation really allowed the quality of the beef (USDA prime) to shine. It even tasted dry aged to me.

On the side we had some veggies and fries. Both just okay.

Dessert consisted of some kind of stacked, light, airy pastry with some sort of whipped topping and fruit…

A chocolate mousse cake of come kind, with some kind of frozen treat on top – like an ice cream…

And fondue with frozen banana, ginger snap cookies, marshmallows and strawberries:

The reason I’m cryptic about the pastry and the cake/ice cream is because, well, this place is Kosher, and I really have no idea how they pulled off pastry, whipped cream, cake and ice cream without using dairy. My wife would know, but I haven’t the slightest. Everything was really good.

But yes, that’s right: This place is Kosher. That’s the surprise I hinted about up top. This was the best Kosher meal I’ve ever had in the city, and I think I’ve had three or four? I would definitely eat here again. The fried artichoke, the sweetbreads, the artichoke ravioli and the steak were all top notch amazing dishes. Don’t PASS OVER (KNEE SLAP!) this place just because it’s Kosher and Kosher joints have a reputation for bad food.

NOI DUE CARNE
143 W 69th St
New York, NY 10023

Trattoria Dell’Arte

This fucker is going to be short and sweet. A friend of mine alerted me to an interesting dish here that I just had to try. Chicken or veal parm with pepperoni on top like a fucking pizza:

Yup. That’s the veal. Those white blobs are extra burrata. Fuck yes. I always thought this place was a shit hole tourist trap, but apparently they’re slinging some good shit. Needless to say, I’ll be back for the chicken version, and possibly their Italian rib eye. Take another look at this thing, you savages:

Not quite as good as Tuscany Steakhouse nearby, which happens to be $6 cheaper as well (without the pepperoni). This was a whopping $56, but probably big enough to split with another person if you’re a raging pussy lip.

I went back for a full meal with my wife just a two months later. Here’s what we had:

Fried Artichoke:

Calamari and Braised Octopus:

Chicken Parmigiana Pepperoni:

That was fucking KILLER. Go get it.

Lemon Pie Brûlée:

Like a cross between key lime pie and creme brûlée. Very good.

TRATTORIA DELL’ARTE
900 7th Ave
New York, NY 10106

Patsy’s

Patsy’s is a NYC institution for Italian food in the Times Square and Hell’s Kitchen north area.

This joint has been around since 1944. I’m a sucker for old restaurants like this, so I had to give it a shot. Plus, they serve some really interesting dishes that I’ve only ever had at home growing up.

For example, I rarely see escarole served anywhere, and I love it. They do it a bit differently here than the traditional “escarole and beans” soupy stew. Here, its sautéed with garlic, olives, capers, pine nuts and raisins:

It was delicious. It reminded me of the stuffing my grandmother used to make for her artichokes. And speaking of which, they had stuffed artichokes on the menu too. I hardly ever see these anywhere except for at home either:

This was okay, but very pricey at $17. Honestly, my mother makes a much better one. This was stuffed with bread crumbs, olives, capers, anchovies, cheese and pine nuts. Very similar to how my grandmother used to stuff them, and similarly a bit dry like hers often were, since they are baked (usually for too long) after steaming. My mother steams and sautés instead of bakes, and stuffs them with breadcrumbs, cheese and sauce. A bit simpler, but it tastes way better.

My grandmother on the other side used to make stuffed squid for part of our massive Christmas Eve seafood feast. She stuffed them with cheese, anchovies, moistened Italian bread and egg. Then she would stitch them closed and they were cooked in a big bubbling pot of seafood sauce that contained blue claw crabs, shrimp, scallops, scungilli (conch) and more squid. It was amazing.

Anyway I see that dish even less frequently than the others above, so I had to order it when I saw it on the menu here.

These babies are stuffed with squid and shrimp, among other things. This was a pretty nice dish, especially the sauce, although a bit pricey at $36.

The last thing we tried was the veal parm. I pretty much have to order this whenever I see it on the menu, anywhere.

This one, however, was a bit of a let down. The breading fell off almost instantly upon cutting, and was just overall a bit soggy and not up to par. The potato croquette that came with it was just okay as well. The bar, however, was a nice little stretch of mid century modern goodness where I’d love to have a martini:

To sum up, nothing tastes as good as mom’s and grandma’s cooking, but when you need a fix away from home, Patsy’s might be the right spot to get it.

PATSY’S
236 W 56th St
New York, NY 10019

Scampi

My buddy from Gotham Burger Social Club organized a kickass meal here at Scampi because he loved the place so much and wanted us to all try the greatness of PJ Calapa’s cooking.

We started with a round of seafood apps:

Razor Clams

These were my favorite. They were dressed with fennel, chives and prosciutto, and they were minced up with Manila clams and placed back into the shell. You could just shoot them rather than having to pry them from the shell and eat them in one big sloppy bite.

Fluke

This was a really nice, crisp and fresh crudo dish with tomatoes, castelvetrano olives and lime. Simple but perfect.

Mackerel

Mackerel is one of my least favorite fish to eat, but this preparation was nice – even with the eggplant in there, which I also usually dislike. Pine nuts, basil and tomato really brought his together.

Endive

While this wasn’t technically a seafood item, it contained anchovy in the “bagna cauda” dressing. The parmesan, fried capers and breadcrumbs gave it a really nice texture.

Next up was a selection of four pasta dishes:

Lumache

This had Manila clams, filone and tarragon pesto. This was a great, light clam sauce dish with perfectly cooked “large semi-elbows.”

Mafaldini Scampi

Long skinny lasagna style ribbon pasta with shrimp, parsley, buttre and lemon. Classic and so good.

Campanelle

Show stopper! The trumpet pasta was served in a buttery half-red sauce with fennel sausage, broccoli rabe and parmesan. It was perfect in every way.

Mezzaluna

Half-moon shaped ravioli filled with braised pork in a pomodoro sauce with pecorino. Really nicely executed.

Now on to the main entrée, the 60-day dry-aged tomahawk:

This beauty is only $135 for 42oz, but it’s limited availability, first come first serve, so you will need to ask them if they have any left if you want to try it (it isn’t on the regular menu). Pat LaFrieda, Creekstone Farms.

Chef PJ’s cooking technique is very involved on this beast. It sees constant movement and several methods of cooking, from the pan to the broiler to a butter bath. This is a 9/10.

We also had some nice sides with this steak:

Spring Onion

These roasted onions were plated with gorgonzola, aged balsamic and crispy shallots.

Asparagus

Simply grilled but then topped with cured, grated egg yolk, toasted almonds and tarragon. Even the veggies get creative techniques applied to them.

Roasted Potato

These came with shaved fennel and castelvetrano olives in a light lemon dressing.

For dessert, we tried three items:

Cannoli

These were some of the best I’ve ever had. Very classic treatment with chocolate chips and ricotta cream.

Torta

This was an olive oil cake with mascarpone, berries, almonds and strawberry swirl gelato.

Cassata

Semifreddo, dried apricot, pistachio, chocolate and almonds.

I highly recommend trying this place out. Everything I tasted was great – not one dish fell short or disappointed.

SCAMPI
30 W 18th St
New York, NY 10011

Cafe Fiorello

My wife and I popped in here before seeing “Darkest Hour” at Lincoln Plaza Cinemas (great flick, and too bad that the theater is closing down in a month due to high rent). The place was jam-packed at 5:45pm, but luckily my wife had a reservation locked in.

Our movie was at 6:35, so we wanted to eat quick. We ordered our drinks and pastas at the same time, and they came out within three minutes.

I had the spaghetti carbonara, which was made the right way with no cream and a runny egg.

Enjoy the yolk porn:

It was made with guanciale (pork jowl) bacon, which added nice salt content to the dish without actually using salt.

My wife had the fettuccine pesto, which had a really nice, fresh flavor to it. Delicious, though a bit garlicky.

Everything was great, but the prices were a bit steep. All in, with tax and tip, for just two drinks and two pasta dishes, we were at $95 and change. That’s pretty steep! The interesting tidbit: This was one of the fastest meals we ever had in NYC. We were in and out within 20 minutes, like a horny teenager at a whore house.

CAFE FIORELLO
1900 Broadway
New York, NY 10023

Mannino’s

Mannino’s is a local Italian joint near my parents’ house on Long Island. It’s gotten a lot of buzz in the last few years, and the food is pretty great. I’ve been there several times, but this time I decided to document the meal.

We started with octopus salad:

Stuffed and fried zucchini blossoms:

And an order of fried calamari:

The fried calamari was a bit on the small side in terms of portion size, but if you’re taking it down all by yourself, then it’s probably just the right amount. The squid was fried to a nice crisp, but still tender on the inside.

The zucchini blossoms were stuffed with ricotta and were a little more dense than I expected, but still tasty nonetheless. I wished there was four in the order, since we had a table of four. We made it work, however.

The octopus salad was good. The squid was tender, and the acid from the citrus cut nicely across the dish.

For my entree, I had pork parmesan. I’ve been dying to dig into some of the incredible looking bone-in chicken parm dishes I’ve been seeing lately in NYC, so this pork version was the perfect way to get my fix.

The meat was incredibly tender, pounded flat and fried up to a crisp. Good cheese coverage and melt, and the sauce was delicious. Great dish.

My wife had the beef braciola. This is beef that’s pounded flat and rolled up with cheeses, pine nuts, cured meats and raisins. Really nicely executed.

Get over to Mannino’s if you live in the area and haven’t been there yet. And keep an eye out for their tomahawk steak for two; they have it on special some nights.

MANNINO’S
1575 New York 27A (Montauk Highway)
Oakdale, NY 11769