Category Archives: Italian

Bacaro

I’m officially hooked on this place. A while back, my wife and I stopped in for a drink and an app – the fritto misto. We were already sort of full, but that pplate of mixed fried items like calamari, olives, lemon rinds, shrimp, and artichoke really made us want to go back.

Last night we finally did! We tried two more apps, meatballs and fried zucchini blossoms. Both were incredible. In fact, the meatballs are some of the best I’ve had outside of family.

The fried zucchini blossoms are stuffed with velvery smooth ricotta and served with an anchovy pesto oil. I liked swiping them in the meatball sauce though.

The pasta entrees are pretty large servings! Check out this massive bowl of gnocchi with peas and mushrooms.

The cavatelli with duck meat ragu was a massive serving too.

They had to be half a pound each. We couldn’t finish! I’ll definitely be back here to try more pastas, and perhaps one or two of the fish items from their entree menu.

BACARO
136 Division St
New York, NY 10002

Baker & Co.

My wife and I came here with another couple for a double date. We started with the pizzette that was on special, which involved squash, figs and balsamic:

Excellent. The fried calamari was great too, and, in fact, was mixed with fried shrimp and artichoke as well.

Speaking of artichokes, this fried artichoke salad was probably the low key winner of the starters.

For my main, I had the paccheri with lamb ragu and fava beans. Delicious!

My wife’s duck with black truffle and mushrooms entree was the winner, however. I wish I took a pic.

Dessert: Vanilla panna cotta. Perfection.

I would definitely go back here for another meal. They have a dry aged burger on the menu – maybe I’ll try that!

BAKER & CO.
259 Bleecker St
New York, NY 10014

Brooklyn Roots Italian

One of the great things to come out of the pandemic is Brooklyn Roots. Chef Thomas Perrone struck out on his own despite all of the fears and warnings. It started out as pick up and delivery only, but now he’s running a full-fledged old school Italian restaurant in the heart of Sunset Park, Brooklyn.

The atmosphere, the food, the smells… it’ll take you back. Nearly everything on the menu is under $30, and the portion sizes are triple what you see at other Italian joints. And this isn’t a typical red-sauce joint where you leave thinking that you could’ve made the food at home. This stuff is all done with top notch cooking technique, and high quality ingredients.

My wife and I went big, because we knew we wanted to try everything we could and bring a bunch of stuff home for the weekend. We started with the octopus and fried zucchini to start.

The zucchini was light, fried to a perfect golden crisp, and served with a bright marinara dipping sauce. The octopus was perfectly tender, and served in an amazing pesto. Definitely get these items when you go.

For the pasta dishes, we tried the “Matty Guns” special, who happens to be an actual person – he was there in the restaurant when we went. Baked rigatoni in a vodka sauce, topped with ricotta, melted mozzarella and basil. But lurking under the broiled cheese is a delicious collection of meats: sweet and hot Italian sausage, and meatballs. Amazing. Again – at $29 the portion size can feed two people for two days.

The next pasta was the linguine with corn and shrimp.

This was markedly lighter, but great for a summer pasta dish. Tons of great flavor coming in from the light tomato and garlic wine sauce.

For our entrees, we went with chicken and veal. For the chicken, we did the scarpariello preparation, with sausage, vinegar cherry peppers and potatoes. This took me back to when my mom used to make a similar dish with pork chops.

We did the veal parm. I was tempted to do milanese, but maybe next time.

This was such a great deal. Two cutlets fried to a perfect crisp and covered with sauce and cheese. Just awesome.

ENHANCE! Incredible.

We came with a huge appetite and still had no room for dessert – and we took home tons of leftovers. But from the looks of people around us, the dessert was great. I can’t wait to go back and try more.

BROOKLYN ROOTS ITALIAN
4601 4th Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11220

Emilio’s Ballato

This old school Italian joint is known for having some great parms, whether it’s chicken, veal, eggplant or whatever. Of the three I tried, the veal with vodka sauce, peas and prosciutto took home the win and beat out both the standard chicken and veal varieties.

The meal began with an awesome platter of antipasto (probably the best I’ve had) meatballs, and baked clams oreganata.

We tried three different pasta dishes: cacio e pepe, carbonara, and linguine with clams. Of these, I will throw down with the carbonara every time.

The star of the mains, however, was not the veal parm, but, rather, a special double cut pork chop that was prepared with vinegar cherry peppers. Awesome, and cooked perfectly. The photo doesn’t do it justice.

This is definitely a place you’ll want to go to repeatedly to take advantage of both the great regular menu items as well as the daily specials.

Emilio’s Ballato
55 E. Houston St
New York, NY 10012

Sandro’s

Sandro’s is a small Italian joint on the upper east side that serves up some really delicious and authentic dishes.

For example, I haven’t had a fried artichoke this good since I was in Rome.

And seeing things like porchetta and culatello in the sliced meats department took me right back to Trastevere.

Back in my wheelhouse, however, was this delicious carpaccio dish that came with white truffles.

We went a little nuts with the truffle:

It was awesome. But even this salad had me excited.

The simplicity of something like chicory and anchovy dressed perfectly with citrus is not really seen to often here, stateside. This was a totally unique salad for me, and I’m glad I listened carefully to the massive list of specials before ordering. I’m not kidding when I tell you they could open a second restaurant with just the menu items that the waiters and waitresses memorized as specials. There were about three or four salad specials, five or six fish specials, three or four meats, four pasta dishes, and a bunch of appetizers too. Oh and dessert as well. Absolutely insane.

But back to the meal. Pasta time:

This first pasta was my favorite – goat cheese stuffed cappelletti with a lemon cream sauce. This was insanely delicious.

Next up was sea urchin ravioli with a scallop tomato sauce.

And finally some rigatoni with meatballs and sausage in a nice tomato ragu.

But we didn’t stop there, because I had to try some veal dishes. First up – and my favorite of the entrees – was this stuffed veal chop.

Inside was thin sliced ham.

After that, a nice classic veal parm.

And then some giant broiled prawns.

I really didn’t think we’d have room for dessert, but I’m glad we tried this delicious pistachio cake with ricotta. This was probably one of the best desserts I’ve ever had.

And the finishing move of bringing lemon cookies with the check really took me back to being a kid and eating these at my grandparents’ house.

This place is a gem! I’ll definitely be back here to try more stuff. There is a LOT of menu to work through here.

SANDRO’S
306 E 81st St
New York, NY 10028

Carbone

The moment you step inside Carbone you are instantly transported.

The dimly lit but lively dining room is both an homage to your Italian grandmother’s house as well as the restaurant where Michael shoots Sollozzo and McCluskey in The Godfather.

The place is immediately familiar and cozy. You may even recognize furniture and light fixtures if you grew up around Italian-Americans.

The music is all the great crooner hits from your favorite mob movies like Goodfellas, with some doo-wop classics from Bronx Tale mixed in. Not too loud, not too soft. And the food is some of the best red sauce Italian-American cuisine I’ve ever had.

The sharply dressed, deep burgundy tuxedo-clad servers will first bring to the table a basket of tomato focaccia, garlic bread and sliced Italian bread.

There’s also a plate of pickled cauliflower to snack on, some locally made finocchiona salami, and of course a nice hunk of parmigiano reggiano cheese.

We started with the truffle emulsion Piedmontese beef carpaccio, which is served with some peppery arugula, walnuts, chives, coarse salt, sliced mushrooms and a generous drizzle of some killer olive oil. This was hands down the best carpaccio dish I’ve ever had.

Their baked clams are pretty great as well. My favorite of the three styles is that center one, topped with pesto and uni. Absolutely awesome.

We tried three pasta dishes, because we are savage animals. The first was the spicy rigatoni vodka, which they describe as being “part of the DNA” of Carbone.

This was perfect. Perfectly spicy sauce, perfectly cooked pasta. Easily one of the best pasta dishes I’ve had this year. This is a must order pasta dish when you dine here. Even if you split it as an appetizer or something. Get that Carbone DNA in your mouth!

Next was the orecchiette with beans and cabbage.

This seasonal pasta was mildly reminiscent of the “pasta e fagiole” that I ate growing up, only with the escarole swapped out for cabbage, and with a less porridge-like texture. This you can eat with a fork on a plate, unlike what I grew up eating, which required a bowl and a spoon. Either way, delicious.

Finally, the tortellini with meaty ragu.

I’m generally not a huge fan of tortellini, but that’s probably because I’m used to the frozen or vac-sealed grocery store products that I usually eat cold (and dense) in a salad with olives, peppers and cheese. These bundles of joy were stellar. The stuffing inside was almost creamy, without any grainy or lumpy ricotta texture. And the sauce was going down my throat by the spoonful. Loved these. Absolutely beautiful plating as well.

We had a short break after the pasta and took down a trio of beautiful meatballs.

These off-menu delights are nice and tender, and packed with flavor. Rustically formed, you can sometimes get a chunk of melty cheese or a piece of soft, roasted garlic in the occasional lucky bite. These were great. Don’t be alarmed, either; they will be served pink in the middle.

For the entrees, we had both the veal parm and the pork chop with peppers. The veal was pounded out flat, and fried to a golden crisp with seasoned breadcrumbs. The bright sauce and melted cheese (both mozz and ricotta, with some grated parm on top) were topped with crispy basil leaves to bring home that nice herbaceous pop.

What a dish! They even serve it with the breaded and fried rib bone alongside the cutlet. And if you take some to go in a doggy bag, they’ll send you home with a sesame seed bun to make a sandwich out of the leftovers.

The pork with peppers reminded me of when my mom used to cook pork chops with cherry peppers and sliced potatoes as a kid. Nothing beats the taste of nostalgia, but this was a pretty close runner up. Those red peppers and onions on the side were delicious.

We were so stuffed that we had to skip dessert, despite the selections looking fantastic. I really wanted a slice of the lemon cheesecake.

But the captain, Jared, brought over some snacks for us after he saw how infatuated we were with all the little details in the restaurant that reminded us of growing up with Italian grandparents.

The rainbow cookies with espresso (and a splash of Sambuca!)…

The Jordanian candy-coated almonds (just like those old Italian wedding favors in the mesh bag)…

The simplicity of cotton candy grapes and walnuts (reminded me of Christmas Eve)…

And, of course, the Italian cookies and pastries from an old tin box…

It’s no wonder this place has a Michelin star and has become a tough reservation to score. I generally don’t like hyped up joints, but here it is well-deserved. We even saw Adam Sandler there. This place is worth your time and money. Go, as soon as you can! And if you’ve already been, then go back.

CARBONE
181 Thompson St
New York, NY 10012

Rezdora

As soon as you walk into Rezdora you’re hit with the sharp, pungent odor of fresh garlic. Another thing you might be hit with is a plate, as waiters scurry to serve the handsome stretch of bar and tightly packed tables in the front of the restaurant. The small and crowded space would normally have pissed me off, but my wife and I managed to get seated across from each other in a corner spot in back with a circular table that was slightly larger than the almost microscopic rectangular tables for two nearby.

I had heard about and seen great things from this place. The chef, Stefano Secchi, had trained under Massimo Bottura, at the Michelin three-star “Osteria Francescana” in Modena; a place that has been crowned the best restaurant in the world a few times, if I recall correctly. Needless to say, I was not let down.

We started with some nice aperitif style cocktails and a few bites of an amuse that consisted of toasted bread with fresh ricotta and a nice Modenese balsamic. We opted to skip the appetizer menu completely. Instead, we shared three pasta dishes and two entrees.

The first pasta was a garganelli-like macccheroni with duck ragu. This was absolutely delicious. Just the right amount of salt, al dente pasta, and a really hearty sauce with properly cooked duck meat well-dispersed throughout.

Next up was my favorite dish of the night, and probably the best pasta I’ve had all year if not in all of my life. “Apertivo in Reggio-Emilia:” Doppio tortelli filled with prosciutto, parmigiano and “erbazzone” greens. These pasta pouches were pleasantly packed with prosciutto. I could eat these by the bucketload. I strongly suggest getting your ass in here ASAP to try these, because from what I understand, this particular pasta item will change with the seasons, whereas some of the others will remain the same if not similar.

The third pasta was the spaghettoni with clams. Spaghettoni is just longer/fatter version of spaghetti. The clams in this were more like cockles (in the oyster family, from what I understand) as opposed to the Little Neck variety. At first we were concerned that there would only be three clams in this dish, based on the shell count, but the sauce was riddled with these little fuckers, sans shells. This pasta was cooked extra al dente. From what I was told, this is the only pasta that isn’t made in house. I’m not sure why that is. In any case, it was our least favorite of the three pasta dishes we tried. But don’t take that to mean it was bad in any way. This was still better than most other Italian joints that sling this dish.

For the first of our mains we shared the braised rabbit leg, which came with rabbit sausage and sweetbreads, as well as a parsnip puree and some roasted baby zucchini. The leg was deliciously tender, falling apart and peeling away from the bone with just the slightest pull of a fork. The sausage was light, yet robustly flavored with spices and herbs. Almost porky but without the grease. The sweetbreads were creamy and crispy at the same time. A beautiful contrast. I highly recommend this dish.

Our next main was the “steak for two.” They offered 60-day bone-in Pat LaFrieda rib eyes in two sizes: 28oz or 32oz. Now, I know what you’re saying: “That’s for two?” Yeah – I agree. That’s small for two. They’re charging $99 for the smaller size as well, which is borderline crazy. However, I was really happy to see that it came with two sides (we chose zucchini and sautéed greens), and was prepared in such a uniquely Modenese way that I felt transported.

Okay so what makes it uniquely “Modenese?” On the bone there is a “Modenese Pesto,” which consists of pork lard, rosemary and spices. It was like sausage butter. Adding a smear of that on a bite of steak here and there made for a real treat. But the meat itself was rubbed with dried mushroom before cooking to give it a uniquely earthy crust. I also detected a hint of finishing balsamic on there as well, as I understand it is common in Modena to eat cooked steak with balsamic (I usually just use it on cold or raw meat salad type dishes). The only spots that had any real dry-aged flavor (a definitively different taste than the mushroomy crust) was along the bone, where less of the pellicle must have been trimmed away during butchery. In any case, that balsamic cut the fat nicely, and the mushroomy crust offered a very unique “steaking” experience on a perfectly cooked and tender cut of beef. 9/10.

This place is a must try for anyone who enjoys good Italian, especially pasta dishes. If you’re adventurous, get the rabbit as well. Now that Summer is over, that is a perfect dish for the Fall. Good luck getting a table though! From what I understand it’s pretty hard. We lucked out and someone gave us theirs (even though my wife had already gone once a few months ago).

REZDORA
27 E 20th St
New York, NY 10003

Caffe Napoli

My wife and I tried Caffe Napoli in Little Italy this week. This joint is one of Little Italy’s long standing places that many people go to for their red sauce fix. Here’s what we had:

Rosemary Focaccia Bread

Baked Clams Oreganata

I’m a sucker for this dish, and they did a great job with it here. This was my favorite dish of the meal.

Bucatini All’Amatriciana

Veal Parm

Lobster and Shrimp with Lobster & Shrimp Ravioli

This was an impressive dish. Lots of ravioli tucked under there – difficult to see but there was probably more than half dozen.

Caffe Napoli
191 Hester St
New York, NY 10013

Cardoncello diVino

My wife and I discovered Cardoncello diVino this week and so far we are loving it.

First off, they have great cocktails like the smoked negroni and grande stella (tequila, mezcal, elderflower).

The table bread is a good variety of quality breads and breadsticks, served with a zucchini puree.

To start, we had a side of Cardoncello mushrooms, salmon carpaccio and sardines.

The salmon was a slight favorite over the mushrooms, but not by much. All were very good.

The pasta dishes really shine here. This paccheri with veal ragu was absolutely perfect. Cooked to a nice al dente texture and impeccably seasoned.

This crab and lemongrass tortelli dish had a fresh pea sauce that was awesome.

For one of our mains, we had shrimp with quinoa in a sambuca sauce. It may sound weird, but I assure you it was great. Only thing I’d change is to maybe swap the quinoa for something heartier like a farro risotto, made with that sauce.

The wagyu beef cheek was braised to fork tender deliciousness. It’s very easy to mow through this dish very fast.

For dessert, we had a lemon and coconut budino (rice pudding) with raspberry jelly on top, and a goat cheese and barley tart that was a teetering balance between savory and sweet.

I’m psyched to go back and try more pasta dishes, as well as take on their extra virgin olive oil tasting.

CARDONCELLO DIVINO
43 West 27th St
New York, NY 10001

Isle of Capri

In my quest for all things parm, I came across Isle of Capri. With prices under $30 for these entrees, I just had to grab both the veal and the chicken parm.

At $27.25 this might be one of the best high end chicken parm deals you can find. I’ve had better at higher price points elsewhere, but this is very good for the money.

The same goes for the veal:

I was kinda hoping for a nice beautiful bone-in chop, but again just $28? I can’t complain.

I’d like to come back and try some pasta dishes soon. Everything looks good.

ISLE OF CAPRI
1028 3rd Ave
New York, NY 10065