Tag Archives: arugula

Via Vai

Located right at the end of the N/Q in Astoria is an amazing Italian joint called Via Vai (translation: Coming and Going).



I was invited here for a free press dinner, but I can tell you honestly that this is some of the best Italian food around – especially the pizza. The flavors are not hidden with grated cheese or pepper on top at this place. You’re dealing with naked and natural dishes made from top quality ingredients. Everything comes to the table already nicely seasoned, and with great cooking technique there is no need for extra grated cheese or cracked pepper.

The first thing I noticed was that the staff can all speak Italian. In fact both people we met were from Italy. Valentina was from Genoa, and Manuel was from Rome. The crowd was good too; a full house by 7:30pm. Lots of neighborhood regulars were coming in, and the staff was eager to greet them. They even waved to people walking by on the streets – more neighborhood regulars that they know by name and sight. In fact the people next to us had clearly been there before, based on the conversation I overheard. They also spoke constantly about how great their pasta, shrimp and grilled veggies were. It seems like they had a great meal just like we did.

We started with some drinks: a Picus red wine, which was a nice blend of sangiovese and montepulciano. Very smooth. We also had a Staten Island hefeweizen from Flagship. It was the filtered wheat style: good flavor.


The first thing that our lovely waitress Valentina brought to us was this plate of warm flatbread foccacia, which was like a pizza crust that was ever-so-lightly salted. It was served with olive oil that had a garlic clove and a rosemary sprig in it. Light. Perfect. I could eat this shit all day.



Next up was a pizza, fresh from the brick oven:


While I’m more of a traditional margherita pizza guy, this shit was so fucking good that I could see myself having this shit at least two or three times a week. A light, airy dough is made in house and allowed to rise for 48 hours. It gets crispy, soft, fluffy and absolutely perfect in terms of texture. This particular pie was topped with a fig marmalade, prosciutto, gorgonzola, truffle oil and arugula. This was Valentina’s favorite pizza on the menu, and Manuel told us that this is how he used to eat pizza in Rome.




Next up was polpette (meatballs). The sauce was chunky and fresh, nicely seasoned. The balls were very soft, and made from all beef, which I like. Lots of times the pork, veal and beef mixtures can get too dense. I tend to be a picky meatball guy and I really liked these. I still like my mom’s better because she fries them in a pan first to give them a crispy crust before plopping them in the sauce – so you get crispy outside and soft inside.



Then we got to try this really interesting gnocchi special. The purple color is from the beet and ricotta based pasta dough (all pasta is made fresh in house). The sauces on top were twofold: parmesan fondue porcini mushroom. The dish was then finished with some truffle oil and crushed hazelnuts. This was unique and very different, and stunningly gorgeous to see in person. They were like pasta bubble gum balls. I didn’t really taste any beet, but the flavor was really good.


Last, we had some kickass desserts. The absolute best panna cotta I’ve ever had. It was insane. Realllllly smooth and creamy consistency. The texture was flawless. Not overcooked at all. It was like creme brulee but not as eggy, not too sweet.


Last was tiramisu. This was super light and whipped, with cocoa sprinkled on top. There were thin layers of cake between the ricotta, and there was just a light hint of coffee flavor, which I appreciated (I’m not into heavy coffee flavors in dessert).



Clean bathroom too – that is always important!

UPDATE 4/3/16

My wife and I came back here to try out their brunch/lunch options. They offer a great deal where you get two entrees/items and a dessert for $28. This is probably enough to split between two people, but my wife and I each did our own to maximize the items we wanted to try out.

Our “starters” were a spinach and egg pizza, and a spinach and asparagus crepe. The pizza was great, once again. The egg really brought home the breakfast feel, and Manuel even drizzled some truffle oil over the top to give it an earthy punch.

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The crepe was light and fluffy, and thicker than one might expect when hearing the word “crepe.” It was somewhere between an omelette and a crepe, I would say. It was covered with a light tomato sauce and filled with cheese, spinach and asparagus. Beautiful to look at, and even better to eat. This was a perfect brunch item.


We tried two pasta dishes for the “entrees.” First was this bucatini carbonara. Bucatini, if you don’t know, is a thick spaghetti that has a hole through the center, like a straw. The sauce was nice and creamy without being too heavy. The portion size was great for the price, and the onion, pancetta and seasonings were all top notch.


The other pasta dish was a rigatoni alla grecia, which was similar to the carbonara but without the creaminess. This ate much lighter, but both dishes contained perfectly cooked pasta that was just the right amount of al dente.


By then we were full, so we brought some of the pasta home with us, but we couldn’t pass up on the dessert. We shared the panna cotta, which we knew that we loved from our earlier visit. I had forgotten how smooth and creamy this was. Just perfect. This time the plating was a bit nicer too, with some orange slices and pistachios.


I highly recommend this place, especially for the pizza and pasta.

31-09 23rd Ave.
New York, NY 11105

Adoro Lei

I was invited here for a press event pizza party by a friend of mine who works in the food business.


I’m always on the hunt for good pizza, so I was psyched to try this place. But this joint is more than just pizza. They have great cocktails, a really nice menu, and a good beer selection as well.



That’s the pizza oven up top, and just underneath, you can see this dude rolling out the pizza dough with a wine bottle. That’s some old school type shit!

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Let me guide you through this awesome meal. First, we had the “Burrata Divine,” which is a nice tasty blob of burrata cheese on top of eggplant with some grape tomatoes and arugula, drizzled with a truffle honey.


This was some good shit. The burrata was soft and flavorful, and the truffle honey was a nice touch of sweet against the peppery arugula.

Next up was “Chianti Kale,” a kale, spinach and shitake mushroom salad with shaved ricotta and fried salsify, tossed in a Chianti-sesame dressing. I’m usually quick to mock kale, but this was actually an awesome salad. It had depth to it from the sesame and Chianti dressing.


We also had the “Sous-Vide Beets.” The beets were warm and plated at the base of the dish, with arugula, frisee, candied walnuts, goat cheese and blackberries on top. This was tossed with a walnut dressing.


This was earthy, sweet, hearty and savory all at once. Now that I know beets are this good when cooked sous vide, I’ll definitely be throwing them in my homemade machine at the old Johnny Prime Food Research Lab.

We snacked on some grilled shishito peppers with shaved almonds while waiting for the next courses to arrive. These were lightly salted. Very nice, with a mild heat to them.



My favorite items of the night were these “Adoro Sliders,” which were essentially braised veal and pork meatballs with a tomato sauce and sheep’s milk ricotta on a slider bun.


The bun was soft and strong, as you would expect from any good burger. The meat was tender and juicy, just like a really good meatball. This was the perfect Italian burger. I loved it. They’re a bit pricey at three for $14, but well worth the money in terms of taste.

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Another star dish was the “Lovers’ Purses.” These were pasta dumplings filled with cheese, and served with pear, brown butter sage sauce, roasted walnuts, arugula and parmesan shavings.


They were dense and cooked al dente, but they weren’t heavy.

The last of the pre-pizza items was the “Espresso Tuna.”

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Cooked to a perfect rare / medium rare, this tuna had an espresso dry rub and was served on top of spinach and fingerling potatoes, and topped with toasted pistachio nuts and roasted red peppers. The pomegranate Thai basil reduction sauce was what really set this dish apart. The acidity was perfectly balanced against the sweet components, and despite the distinctively Asian ingredients, it really tasted like a natural Italian dish. Nicely done.

Okay so here comes the pizza. I will start with the least favorite – which is by no means “not good” – and work my way to the best. This first pie is the traditional tomato sauce and cheese style, called “Casanova” at this joint.





The flavors were good, just not as robust as some of the other items from the night. This pie was a bit limp in the center, where the sauce and cheese were heaviest, so any lack of stiffness in the crust will cause some concern.

Next up was the “Veronica” pizza. This had burrata, kale, grape tomatoes, pecorino and basil.


Not a bad pie, but also just not as memorable as a good traditional or a really unique specialty pie. The crust was nice and crisp, and the toppings weren’t too heavy or overpowering of one another.

The big winner was the “Pietro.” This is essentially an arugula and prosciutto style dry pie, topped with marinated cherry tomatoes, basil, pecorino, shaved parmesan and truffle oil.


The use of truffle oil was delicate and skilled here. It wasn’t overpowering. The cheeses were perfect with the prosciutto, and despite this being bold on flavor, it never overwhelmed my palate. I’d come back for this any day. Look at us going bonkers with the photos and ooey gooey slices!






We also got to try some dessert. First was this nutella pizza, which was sweet dough on top and bottom, sandwiching a nice layer of nutella and topped with powdered sugar.



Be careful not to breathe in when taking a bite. That powdered sugar can be a coughing fit in the making!

There was also a really nice fried dough item called nutella fingers, which consisted of logs of fried dough served with nutella, blackberries and whipped cream. Simple and delicious. This was my favorite of the two desserts. The dough was crisp on the outside but pillow-soft on the inside, and nice and warm the whole way through.


All the while during the meal we were having a beer tasting. We tried six different brews. My favorite ended up being an Ommegang, with the Bluepoint Toasted right behind.


Get down here for some food. You will definitely go home happy!

287 Hudson St.
New York, NY 10013

Beefalafel Burger

I should say up front that I initially intended this recipe to involve lamb rather than beef, so feel free to swap out the protein. Shit, you can even go with ground turkey if you want. What the fuck do I care?

Anyway, the grocery store that’s on my way home from work didn’t have ground lamb, and I wasn’t about to break out the Kitchenaid stand mixer and grind up the lamb chops that they DID have for some $20+. Also, I didn’t feel like going to Whole Foods and waiting on a line filled with granola-eating vegans to procure said ground lamb (Whole Foods has everything – it really is awesome… just always crowded with food Nazis). All that said, I went with ground beef. About half a pound of ground chuck, to be exact. Under $3.

My idea for this came to me when I was trying to decide what I wanted for dinner. I was thinking or ordering a burger from a local steakhouse, but I was also craving falafel. So I decided to combine the two desires into one. Behold, the beefalafel burger:


It’s a really simple recipe, with an incredibly delicious end-result.

What The Fuck Do You Need?

  • lemon juice
  • plain greek yogurt
  • a few cloves of garlic
  • olive oil (for sauce)
  • vegetable oil (for frying)
  • falafel mix
  • half pound of ground beef
  • potato buns
  • tomato
  • red onion
  • arugula
  • feta cheese
  • various normal, everyday household cabinet spices

*Note* as I mentioned above, feel free to swap the ground beef out for something else. Also, you can play with the ratios. If you add more meat, you will have a beefier final result that leans more toward the burger side than the falafel side. This recipe ratio – with a half pound of beef to one packet of falafel – yields four burger patties that are somewhat more falafel-ish than burger-ish. However, they are WAY more juicy than your typical no-beef falafel.

How The Fuck Do You Make It?

First, I’m going to pop my time-lapse cooking demo into the post here, that way you can see for yourself how the steps unfold. It’s really fucking easy.

So now that you’ve seen it made, here’s the step-by-step:

STEP 1: Make The Sauce
Cut up a few cloves of garlic. Sautee the garlic in a pan with olive oil and lemon juice until they get softened and the mixture starts to get slightly brown. Allow this to cool. Place a few tablespoons of plain Greek yogurt into a small dipping bowl and add some spices to your taste. I like cracked black pepper, oregano and crushed red pepper. Once cooled, add your garlic, olive oil and lemon juice combo into the yogurt from your pan. Mix thoroughly and set aside for later.

STEP 2: Make The Falafel
Prepare your falafel according to the instructions on the packet. If you’re industrious, feel free to make your own falafel from scratch. I go with the packets because they are easy as fuck, and they taste perfectly delicious to me. Besides, all that’s really involved here is adding a cup of water to the falafel powder and then mixing the shit into a fucking paste.

STEP 3: Add The Ground Beef
Mix your half pound of ground beef into the falafel paste and get the meat particles evenly distributed throughout the falafel.

STEP 4: Make The Burger Patties
Form four equi-sized burger patties on some wax paper. Step four is fucking one line of text. Don’t fuck it up.

STEP 5: Fry The Burgers In Vegetable Oil
Add your vegetable oil (1 & 3/4 cups, thereabout) into a frying pan and crank the heat. Once it’s hot enough for frying, place your burgers into the pan. When the patties turn to a dark brown color on the bottom, it’s time to flip (maybe 5 minutes). When both sides are done, take them out of the oil and place them on a drying rack or a bed of paper towels.

STEP 6: Assemble The Burgers
While you’re waiting for the oil to get hot, you can slice your tomato, red onion, and feta cheese, and rinse your arugula. When you’re ready to go, smear some of your yogurt sauce onto each half of the bun. Be generous, too. This shit is actually pretty healthy. Add your burger, onions, cheese crumbles, tomato and arugula. Close that bitch up and eat! I like to slice mine in half for easy mouth-shoving.


As you can see, this leans a bit more on the falafel side than the burger side. Add more meat and you’ll see some pink in there for a nice medium.

Parting Thoughts

This is a great way to stretch your supply if you’ve only got a small amount of ground beef left from an earlier meal. It’s also a smart way to cut down on the fat and red meat if you’re dieting, without sacrificing flavor. Lastly, it is really budget-friendly. For about $15 you can feed four people. Not bad! And you can make a salad with the rest of your arugula, tomato, feta and onion, if the burger itself doesn’t fill you up. Just make some extra yogurt sauce to use as a salad dressing.