Bonci is one of the best pizza joints I’ve ever eaten at in my life.
My wife and I first encountered this place in Rome, at their flagship location behind the Vatican. Then I heard they opened up shop in Chicago. This was one of the primary reasons I decided to book the trip to Chicago. yes. Pizza. Not so much the steak. Anyway, this place is just as good as the Rome location.
With the added benefit of free sparkling water on tap!
For those that don’t know, Roman style pizza is the shit. It’s a square pie, more like focaccia bread almost, but with pizza toppings. Crispy, light, fluffy, thick, airy, puffy. All that good shit. Well risen.
You order by weight at these places, so they will cut it up as thick or thin as you like. I went for sicilian slice sizes of four different styles, and the price came to about $33 for nearly a full pie’s worth.
That’s traditional margherita, nduja and potato, spicy sausage, and soppressata and potato – all with varying amounts of fresh mozzarella, ricotta, tomato etc. Fucking amazing.
The only place that comes close is PQR in Manhattan. If you want this experience closer to home without having to travel to Rome or Chicago, then go there. They do great work.
One of my all time favorite diners to eat at is down in Tribeca. The place is small, and they keep their prices fucking LOW. It’s a low key little joint where you almost feel like you’ve stepped into suburbia, if not for the occasional celebrity dining across from you in sunglasses with a newspaper in front of their face. I always went for standard diner fare here, like eggs, pancakes, burgers, fries, and shakes. Never disappointed for what it is.
I went to law school around the block from this little hole in the wall, and my first impression upon seeing it and walking in was that it was going to suck. It’s just a skinny, narrow little one story building with old school signage. But I have to say – this diner is one of the best I’ve ever been to in my life. The food is CHEAP too, but very good. Prime example is the burger. For under $10 you can get a burger deluxe with fries and a drink, and it’s good shit. The interior is close quarters: there’s a bar seating area and a dozen or so tables that stretch back into a narrowing corner. The fun part is that on occasion you will see some famous actors who live nearby eating there or grabbing coffee. This place is definitely worth a try, at the very least for the nostalgia and cheap-eats aspect. You will feel like you are out of town for sure.
My wife and I decided to give Shula’s a try for their restaurant week menu, and to also take advantage of the 15% off discount for reserving via Savored. As it turned out they wouldn’t let us do both, so we had to ditch the restaurant week option (which seemed lame to me anyway), and my wife had to change her order completely (I was ordering from the regular menu). Check out the review, d-bags.
I went with the cowboy ribeye, and my wife had a shellfish trio (see below). The ribeye was okay. It was cooked to the right done-ness, but it lacked a crisp outer coating, and was a little short on seasoning. Long story short, you can pull this place from your list of “go to” restaurants unless you are looking to cash in on a deal.
Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 9
There’s a lot of beef on the menu here, and it’s all “premium black angus,” according to the menu. Under the Shula cuts they have two sizes of filet, two strips (NY and Kansas City – or boneless and bone-in), two sized of porterhouse, and the ribeye. All the bases are covered well, but they also offer some beefy entrees too, like prime rib, Filet Oscar (with crab meat and hollandaise), and Steak Mary Anne (two small filets with peppercorn sauce). There’s a surf & turf too. I took a point because the preparation hindered the quality, in my opinion.
Portion Size & Plating: 8
The Shula steak cuts are solid: 8 and 12oz filets; 16 and 20oz strips; 24 and 48oz porterhouses; and a 22oz ribeye. For the price, these are above average sizes. Well played. However, the appetizer portions seemed to be on the small and overpriced side. On the other hand, the sides and desserts were properly portioned.
Check out the bill below; not too bad. All the steaks are under $50 (except the 48oz porterhouse), but the ribeye wasn’t top notch, so make your own assessment on value here. They offer sauces for the steaks at $2 a pop, but I wasn’t really interested in trying any… except maybe the red pepper chimichurri. The appetizers were a little pricey and on the small side, as I mentioned above. $17 for two scallops? Fuck that.
The bar here was small and unimpressive – certainly not the kind of place to hang out in. The martini was good, but one of the olives had a half of a pit still in it. I almost busted a tooth.
Specials and Other Meats: 6
On special, Shula’s had nada, zip, zero. For non-beef meat, they only had two chicken preparations (one skinless, the other not), and a lamb porterhouse. Perhaps one or two other dishes would round this category out a little better. The restaurant week special, which we didn’t order from, is pictured below. Who the fuck wants a 5oz filet? Pussies and broads? This is a FOOTBALL restaurant for Christ’s sake. Get rid of the motherfucking 5oz scraps and keep it real.
Apps, Sides & Desserts: 5
We started with the oysters. They were good, and came with a nice cocktail sauce, but there was no horseradish served with them; instead I got a large hair on my plate, and some of the oysters were still connected to the shell. We also had the blackened scallops. They were overpriced but cooked well. However they were accompanied by a mediocre-at-best mango salsa that reminded us of something we’d have at Applebees. Bastards. My wife had the shellfish trio app for her entree (half of a small lobster tail, two shrimp, and some lump crab meat). It was decent, but I thought a little skimpy for $29. The lobster tail was certainly not the Maine varietal based on its “extra jumbo shrimp” sizing. For sides we had creamed spinach, which tasted like frozen chopped spinach to me, with a touch of cream and some shaved Parmesan on top. Bland. We also tried the crab meat mac and cheese. This was better, but would have been great if the crab meat was mixed into the dish instead of just put on top, if they put more bread crumbs on top, and if they added salt or a bit more cheese to it. In other words, it too was somewhat of a disappointment. For dessert we had key lime pie. No complaints there; it was pretty good.
Seafood Selection: 7
A good amount of seafood graces the menu here. For apps they have lobster bisque, blackened scallops, shrimp cocktail, BBQ shrimp, seared tuna, lump crab meat, fried calamari, a shellfish trio, and oysters. A solid showing. On the entree menu they offer a fish of the day (prepared one of several ways), seared scallops, crab cakes, and lobster tails. Point off for not having a full lobster on the menu, and two points off for the lackluster performance on the shellfish trio app (pictured below).
The service here was odd. We made a reservation for 5:30. The restaurant was pretty much empty, yet we were seated way in the back on a very small table for two. We were also approached twice regarding what kind of water we wanted. The table cloth on my side of the table was either stained or dirty, as I mentioned my oyster plate had hair instead of horseradish, and there was just way too much shit on the ridiculously small table when we were seated. Here’s a list: Four empty wine glasses (two for water, two for wine), my wife’s wine glass from the bar, my martini glass, the Shula football (which has the signature steaks listed on one portion of the pigskin – see pic below – an interesting touch but not needed), salt & pepper shakers, two menus, two restaurant week menus (which my wife was not permitted to order from since we were using a 15% off coupon via Savored), a book of wines by the bottle, a candle, silverware, napkins, and the flatware. All of this remained with us until the waiter took our order, and even after that we had to move the two extra wine glasses to a nearby empty table ourselves. I was barely able to see my wife’s face for 15 minutes after being seated. Just a reminder: the table was SMALL – REALLY FUCKIN’ SMALL. I’m talking 7 sq. ft. at maximum: seats for two at McDonald’s are bigger than this shit. Other than that the bread was good: a pre-sliced loaf of warm, crispy, fresh sourdough.
Shula’s is part of the Westin hotel in NYC. It’s located on the mezzanine floor of the building, overlooking NOTHING… There are no windows in the restaurant. It has dark wood walls, dim lights, and football images all over the place (Don Shula is a hall of fame coach, and former corner back), but it is elegantly decorated. The building sits just on top of the A,C,E subway lines at the 42nd street stop, so you can feel the room shake when one passes by underneath. The bathroom was completely out of the way… no… completely out of the restaurant. I had to go up a flight of stairs, out into the elevator bank, past the hotel bar, and into the lobby to use the bathroom. On the bright side, it was large, clean, and all marble.
The Westin New York at Times Square
270 W. 43rd St.
New York, NY 10036