Tag Archives: italian

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

Lioni

Lioni is a famous place in Bensonhurst for sandwiches, mozzarella, and generally any Italian food specialties.

My wife and I stopped in here on the recommendation of a friend who grew up across the street. We ordered two sandwiches:

The Sophia Loren (#12) was made with prosciutto, fresh Lioni mozzarella, stuffed sweet peppers, lettuce, olive oil, salt and pepper.

This thing was awesome. At $16 and over a foot long it can feed two people with ease. The bread was superb, and the meat quality was awesome – no stringy bits, which is sometimes common with average, run of the mill prosciutto. They only use the good stuff here.

The other sandwich was one I concocted myself – generally a no-no in here as they like you to order by number (they have about 300 different sandwiches on the menu). It was bresaola, banana peppers and provolone.

The bresaola was incredible. This one cost $19 and that’s because the bresaola was so top notch. I’ve never had better. The sandwich, however, needed some kind of sauce or hydrating ingredient. I added a spicy honey at home and that seemed to do the trick nicely.

I highly recommend this deli. Great sandwiches!

LIONI
7803 15th Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11228

Gene & Georgetti

Gene & Georgetti overall score: 77

Another old timey Chicago joint that my wife and I hit on our trip was Gene & Georgetti.

This Italian place has been slinging food since 1941 with steak as their specialty.

The air conditioning was indeed comfortable, as the front of the menu suggests. In any case, we did a somewhat smaller meal here, as we were still a bit full from lunch and I knew I wanted to get another Italian beef sandwich later that night.

Flavor: 6

We shared the smaller cut porterhouse, which is generally meant for one. I think it was 24oz.

It was cooked nicely to medium rare throughout, and it was tender. Every bit of it was devoured. The down side was that it didn’t have a great char on it, and the flavor was a little weak, though it was indeed properly seasoned. There is certainly potential here.

Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 8

This place covers the four steakhouse basics and then some, with different sizing of each. Most of the beef is wet-aged, with the exception of the tomahawk special.

Portion Size & Plating: 8

Portions are good here. No complaints whatsoever. I think the plating is typical of old time steak joints: a semi-fancy plate with the item plated neatly in the center.  No fluffy bullshit; I respect that.

Price: 8

At this point I was starting to get used to Chicago steakhouse pricing. The marked up items are generally the dry-aged stuff or the specials. The single cut porterhouse came in at about $55, which is closer to NYC pricing, but it did come with a soup or salad as well as a potato. Not too bad.

Bar: 7

The bar here is a mid-century modern stretch at which I would be happy to sit and have a drink.

There’s a great plaque on the wall at the bar with an excellent quote:

And as for the drinks themselves, they’re nicely mixed. I had a negroni since this is an Italian steakhouse. It was delicious.

Specials and Other Meats: 8

They had a few items on special. Let me grab the menu for you:

Maybe we should have tried that tomahawk.

Apps, Sides & Desserts: 7

Aside from dessert, we really only tried the soup, salad and potato that came with our entrees. They had a shrimp appetizer that sounded like scampi that seemed interesting to me. Next time.

Nothing too impressive here, but all of it reminded me of what my mom used to make at home when I was growing up. Just not quite as good. Their “Garbage Salad” sounded way more appealing, and we should have ordered that instead. It has all sorts of meats and cheeses in it, which would have been exactly like my mom’s. The potatoes were just under-seasoned and under-crisped. Mom’s are better than these too.

Dessert was great, and it was a much appreciated gift on the house.

That’s pistachio, coconut, chocolate and strawberry ice cream. Keeping it simple! I like it.

Seafood Selection: 8

There are a bunch of seafood entrees here, but we decided to try a seafood pasta for our second main course. A classic: linguini with white clam sauce.

This was great. Not only was there an abundance of clams in the shell, but the sauce was also made with minced clams as well. Very flavorful, with perfectly cooked pasta.

Service: 10

Top notch service here. Attention to detail, nice staff, and they pay attention to what you write on your OpenTable reservations. I was also a huge fan of their bread sticks.

Ambiance: 7

I love the old feel to this place, but I think it might be time for an update. The original touches and details can definitely remain, but maybe some spit shining can happen. I wish I was able to check out the upstairs, but it seemed like there was a private event going on up there. The two dining rooms downstairs were nice though.

GENE & GEORGETTI
500 N Franklin St
Chicago, IL 60654

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

Perdinci Meats

I discovered Perdinci Meats at a food show in the Javitz center. I contacted their representative because I was really blown away by the quality of their meats, especially the dried, cured pork loin, or lonza. They sent me a variety pack of sample meats, including salami, guanciale (pork cheek), pork belly, that delicious lonza, and some softer spreadables like nduja and finocchiola.

These babies were tucked away in my fridge for quite a while, and I was happy to see that they held up just fine and didn’t spoil with proper storage.

The lonza is still my favorite, but all of the other products are excellent. I highly recommend this stuff.

Domenica Fiore Olive Oil

Domenica Fiore reached out to me to try their olive oil. I can always use an extra bottle of olive oil around the food lab, so I jumped at the opportunity. Here’s what they sent to me:

We used it for some sautéed broccolini and mixed it into a truffle sauce to eat with some black truffle stringozzi pasta. The result was awesome.

My wife really nailed it with that dish, and we were both very happy with the quality of the oil.

Central Grocery

This legendary Italian deli in New Orleans is world famous for creating the muffuletta sandwich.

Muffuletta is technically a massive sesame seeded bread, but the name has been coopted here to describe this particular sandwich. When I first saw them back in 2009, I thought they were giant burgers.

So what exactly is in the sandwich? It’s essentially an Italian hero (high quality Italian meats and cheeses) on that circular shaped muffuletta bread, but with one special ringer: the magical olive and giardiniera salad (pickled cauliflower, hot peppers and carrots).

There are lots of joints serving this sandwich all over New Orleans, and even now in NYC.

But the one and only, the original, is Central Grocery. It’s either $10.95 (half) or $20.95 (whole). Below is a half on top, and a whole in my hand.

If you can’t find a place serving muffuletta near you, and if you can’t hop on a jet to NOLA, I highly suggest making one at home. Olive salads and giardiniera salads are usually available in jars at gourmet grocery stores. If you can’t find the bread, just slap those salads on top of a regular Italian hero and you’ll pretty much have it sorted out.

CENTRAL GROCERY
923 Decatur St
New Orleans, LA 70116

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

Giovanni Rana Pastificio & Cucina

My wife and I stopped in this nice Italian joint for a quick meal. We kept it light here, and shared a meat and cheese board, along with a pasta dish.

Finocchiona, mortadella, cooked prosciutto, taleggio and another kind of cheese that I currently can’t remember. All were great, though I expected the finocchiona to be more like a roasted pork roll as opposed to a salami. Five items for $25.

The pasta was awesome. It was pricey at $36, but there was enough to share. Squid ink linguini with Maryland lump crab.

Before cheese:

After cheese:

This reminded me of Christmas Eve dinner with my family. Mom always made bucatini pasta with blue claw crabs that we caught ourselves at the docks along the Great South Bay. Ours was usually spicy as fuck though. This one did have a slight kick with some jalapeños, so cheers to that. I’d eat this dish every day if I could.

The reason I also have this marked off as a product review is because you can buy their uncooked pasta to go from a counter up front. My wife brought home some squid ink pappardelle once and it was incredible. Really nicely made, not too fishy, and great texture when cooked to al dente. She made it with prawns in a lobster sauce.

GIOVANNI RANA PASTIFICIO & CUCINA
Chelsea Market
75 9th Ave
New York, NY 10011