Where To Find Great Pizza

Pizza is the doughnut of meals: You start with the basic baked dough and add cheese and tomato sauce.  Kind of like the “Old Fashioned” served at Dunk’s. Dining out starts with the premise that you have choices.  You go out solo or with a group and can add this or that to what’s being ordered.

Speaking of ordering: Where else during the course of a day do most people get to order anything?

It’s a military model, dining is, about orders, brigades, and telling people what to do.

Which brings us back to pizza.

You walk into a pizzeria and order a slice with…whatever you fancy.  Never mind that it all more or less tastes the same.  Tell that to the guy in front of you in line at Dunk’s dithering over a Bavarian cream filled doughnut or a glazed Bavarian chocolate filled doughnut.  What makes these Bavarian, anyway?

Back to pizza.

So in Boston where the food trends of 2014–I kid you not–are burgers, fried chicken, and pizza, what’s great?

(Fried chicken?  That’s a food trend?  Seriously?  Is there an easier and cheaper food to sell?  $17-$24 for 1/2 a fried chicken that cost the restaurant a buck-fifty?  Wait, there’s burgers!  That’s even more profitable.)

Meanwhile: pizza.

Interestingly, for all the new joints that opened in Boston within the past year the best pizzerias have been around a very long time.

We’re talking about:

1. Galleria Umberto.  Simply the best Sicilian slices outside of Palermo.  (With apologies to Sullivan Street Bakery in Hell’s Kitchen.)  No choices.  Cheese, tomato.  Pay, sit down.  NORTH END

2. Santarpio’s.  Where the pies are one size, toppings hidden under the cheese, sold for take out in a back room that looks like it belongs in a Scorsese movie still.  EAST BOSTON

3.  T. Anthony’s.  This is the finest example of NYC/NJ style pizza in the area.  Thin slices, delicious cheese, tang to the tomato sauce.  BROOKLINE




Food News: Farms to Cocktails

Great piece in today’s NYT on organic farming.  It’s in the Business section, of course, as many of the best pieces on food are: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/25/business/the-elders-of-organic-farming.html?ref=business.  Geezers gather at Esalen to talk about the struggles and glories of farming.  What’s cool about the story, ironically, are the ways in which the farmers don’t talk much about science.  It was never about science for them, but rather a way of life.  So, yes, enjoy organic farming for its alternative message: Anti-big business, pro-small networks of insular communities.  Ultimately, by closing down channels of communication, the organic farmers offer a retro, white man’s view of the world.  Not a single woman is quoted in the article and there are no people of color.  But, hey, no pesticides!

On a completely unrelated topic, my latest piece on Japan: http://www.seriouseats.com/tags/all/japan.  Cocktails in the big city!  Ichigo-ichie!  Creating moments that are here today and gone tomorrow.  Like that old Stones song, “No Expectations”: “Our love is like our music. It’s here and then it’s gone.”

Dining In

Let’s be honest, it’s dining in that is most satisfying this time of year in a place where dining out, at least in my neighborhood, means a choice of four burger joints, six pizza places, and restaurants written in faux French handed out by college kids hoping for a decent tip on that $43 steak.

So we turn to Russo’s.  Folks, say what you like about the French, but without our Italian brothers and sisters we’d have starved here long ago.  We’re talking perfect vegetables and fruit and fresh pasta at this venerable store.  Plus poultry from D’Artagnan.

Speaking of D’Artagnan: Tonight it’s baby chicken, braised, and served up with leeks and Brussels sprouts.

Giulia, the latest and greatest Italian restaurant to ever hit Boston, is so good you can’t get in.  If you score a seat, go.  Otherwise, spend time at the stove.


On Sunday it was more eating.  The great thing about good food is one is often satisfied with reasonable portions rather than the gargantuan stuff that often shows up on plates.

At Tribeca Grill it was a delicious onion soup followed by a turkey Club and fries.  Crispy bacon and low on the salt.  The room is designed for conversation and of that there was plenty.  Eight of us for over two hours.  Drew Nieporent, the owner, has arranged matters here for talk: It’s a hang out for those involved in the Tribeca Film Festival, and I am always happy here.

Later that night, we found ourselves at Alimentari Il Buco on Great Jones.  It’s one of my favorite restaurants in town.  Delicious house cured meat, spaghetti with bottargo, a room with long tables and a delightful neighborhood feel to it.

Finally, at least for now, a stop at Second Avenue Deli.  This is the world’s best deli, and the drill is simple, I’ve been following it for decades: Corned beef and pastrami on rye, two Cel Rey’s, a side of baked beans. Fine, so it was a very large portion, but so wonderful that I won’t eat again for another eight hours, at which point:

It’s supplies from Eataly.  Namely: Spinach stuffed, house made pansotti with red cow parmigiano, black pepper, and pan seared radicchio.




Sunday in TriBeCa

Yes, another Sunday morning in TriBeCa on the 19th Floor facing North.  The city is still, people are sleeping it off, and the day ahead is Tribeca Grill and football.

Last night: Daniel.  Is this my favorite upscale restaurant in NYC?  The States?  Yes, it is.  Mosaic of duck liver and Dover sole.  Not just the food, but the room, the service, the room, the care.

And so it begins…


Dining in NYC, Part Forty-Seven

It looks as if there are many choices for dining in NYC, and sure there are lots, but the more time I spend in restaurants here the more it becomes clear that only several stand out.

PERLA is my new favorite Italian in town.  It’s in West Village, right near the basketball courts in Waverly Square, where back in high school it was for me a slice and lots of walking.  I didn’t know where to eat then and even if I did I didn’t have the money.  PERLA excels at vegetable driven Italian food served in a room with low ceilings, a chill staff, great cocktails, and a musical track that makes me feel as if I’m at home minus the jazz: Ray Charles, James Brown, et. al.  Delicious pastas and beautiful antipasti.

ESCA is my favorite restaurant in town, I go about six times a year: Crudo, smoked eel with an egg and some mustard, bignoli with sardines and walnuts, crazy-delicious lobster with spaghetti.

ROTISSERIE GEORGETTE is brilliant, ingredient driven food in a part of town where casual dining is needed: Upper East Side.  Amazing Amish country chickens, glasses of good Burgundy, a lovely and well-lit room in which romantic music plays, and really, truly the best chicken pot pie I have ever tasted.

What Will 2014 Bring?

Lots of big developments, that’s for sure.

This week alone:

1.  SUNTORY bought Jim Beam Bourbon.  The Japanese spirits company now becomes the world’s third largest liquor company.  What this means is increased centralization of taste and an implied homogeneity.

2.  GMOs and marketing.  Big food companies, as of this week, are now taking the lead in labeling which of their products are genetically modified and which are not.  The non-GMOs will be priced higher.  There is zero evidence that GMOs are in any way harmful, but so what?  Some people will pay more for the non-GMO product.  Ironically, these were the same companies that fought the California law that would have mandated GMO labeling.

3.  Divisions in Dining: You’ll see more really cheap places to eat and several crazy expensive, impossible to get into restaurants.  In-between, average checks in cities will go to about $95 per couple for two cocktails, at $14 or so each, appetizers from $11 up, and entrees $21-28.  We’re talking lots of pork, offal, and cheap cuts of beef.  High in salt, high in fat, turn the tables over.

4.  More interest will be generated in home cooking.  Here’s a secret: Stop trying to cook new dishes or food you read about and instead work on perfecting at most a dozen dishes using top ingredients so that you can avoid eating at about 95% of the restaurants serving second rate food.



On the Menu

On the home front, it’s an easy-peasy Icelandic leg of lamb, pan seared for a crust, and then in the oven for about 75 minutes studded with garlic, rosemary, salt, pepper, and olive oil.  Served with white beans and spinach, and preceded by homemade salmon “spread.”

Outside, we’re talking the formidable square slices of Galleria Umberto, simply the best pizza in Boston, and bread from bakeries.  See the theme?  Baked.  The city is baked.

On the horizon, there’s Perla, Esca, Rotisserie Georgette, a place TBD, Tribeca Grill, and Buco Alimentari.  Just sayin’.

And even further we’re talking Tokyo, Kyoto, Kaga Onsen, and Karuizawa.

Meanwhile…back to the lamb.

2014: Food Trends

Depends on what you mean by a trend.  Sure, in Harvard Square the trend is burgers, pizza, and fried foods from Asia.  Why, at this very moment there are four burger places–two of them opened in the past year, and one is the NYC-based Shake Shack; five pizza places; and, a couple of Indian, Thai, and Korean places.  There are three high end restaurants when mom & dad show up to buy the kids $43 steaks and $39 plates of halibut.  Why it’s $43 and not $40 or $39 and not $40?  Talk to marketing.

Elsewhere, in Boston, more pubs selling pork and sliders and offal are on the rise.

Noodles?  Pasta?  Fish?  Vegetables?  Shellfish?

Not quite yet.  Though I will say that Legal Seafood remains the best and most reliable restaurant in town.

Elsewhere, we are seeing more rustic, regional Italian places opening up–vegetable driven, simple, few ingredients and all top notch.  Like Perla in the West Village or Il Buco Alimentari in the East Village.  And then, too, we see raw fish, simply plated, small portioned, like Nakazawa.  Or focused, high end ingredient driven restaurants like Rotisserie Georgette.

So it ends up being meals at home more often than not: Grey sole, yellow fun tuna, fresh pasta in a tomato cream sauce.

I’m heading soon to Japan where simplicity in cuisine is regal.

New Year, Fresh Snow

Over a foot out there, and it’s lovely, and the two Bernese mountain dogs on their 28-foot leashes are grateful and look happy as they roll and chase in it.  After the park, after the shoveling, we’re talking onions in a Russ & Daughters bialy with belly lox and Amish butter.

One resolution leads to another each year and I suppose if half are met, we are good.  Me, I’m seeking funds to dig a parallel canal to the one in Panama with lower tariffs that should line my pocket.  That and an organic salmon fishery in South Boston where the bright orange eggs can be harvested and sold to sushi seekers.  Finally, a food truck selling snacks for pets, from parakeets to Siamese cats.

But more pragmatically I’m well stocked: Chickens, poussin, lamb, beef, and bacon.  Chick peas, split peas, black beans.  Spices from sambal oelek to Jamaican curry.  Bok choy, red onions, Brussels sprouts, and small, orange peppers.

One must be prepared for contingencies.