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Mar 16, 2002 09:29 AM

NYC Chowhounding

  • j

As a DC Chowhound and semi-regular visitor and poster here, I thought I would do us DC'ers a service and visit a number of NYC's finer restaurants on my recent business trip up there (it's a tough job, but someone has to do it). Since this is off-subject for the DC board, I am only posting here the names of the restaurants that I visited; if you're interested in the actual review, I suggest you visit the NY board and read it there (don't want to be yelled at by the Powers That Be).

So, the list:

Esca (Mario Batali's seafood place in the theatre district);
Peter Luger (the ancient steak place, though in its Great Neck, LI, incarnation);
Craftbar (Tom Colicchio's new place);
Union Square Cafe (Danny Meyer's classic place);
Gramercy Tavern (Meyer & Colicchio's place).

Donations are being accepted to replenish the bank account after this extravaganza...

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  1. James, I identified with your luncheon experiences since often when I travel I will go out of my way to have a serious meal (lunch or dinner) and frequently find that the only seat I can get is at the bar. (I had a post three months or so back about Gary Danko's which featured sitting at the bar.) I have never been to Esca but it sounds absolutely wonderful. I have not eaten at Babbo either but have wanted to try one of his restaurants for a long time. Sooner or later I will go. Trust me, you will be toasted. Several times!

    By the way when you go to Italy in May the best steak I have ever had is in Firenze at di Vinus. It's a three inch thick rare porterhouse served over arugula on a wooden platter for two (I was with my wife). The bisteca fiorentina had incredible flavor and was coated with olive oil. I've been to Luger's in Brooklyn several times and prior to this thought that was the best steak I'd had. di Vinus' was better.

    This is terrible. One in the afternoon and all I can think about is food!

    When you return from Italy perhaps in June we should arrange a serious Chow meal for (no more than) eight of us at a round table at Tosca (which we absolutely loved!). Based on your (and others') experiences we could even request a special tasting menu that might incorporate dishes we've had elsewhere along with his own specialities. The single best dish that I make is a gorgonzola dolce toasted pistachio risotto where the original recipe came from Donna. He doesn't make it at Galileo the way he does in his cookbook. (uses mountain gorgonzola and grana parmesan; also the carneroli lacks proper texture) But I would enjoy Tosca's interpretation especially since he nailed the texture (but not the density of flavor) on the risotto I had last night. (Dal Pescatore has truly incredible risotto. Even a basic such as milanesa is wonderful-she grows her own saffron!) Perhaps several dishes that you find in Italy or have had elsewhere. I mean a real, serious blowout. With a lot of wine! I think we could talk Bill into joining us. A wife or friend or two and a few others from this board. Maybe a month or so after you return?

    I really do think I'm going to have an early dinner tonight.

    12 Replies
    1. re: Joe H.

      What a great idea! I would love to do a Chow blowout at Tosca, and second the idea. My only problem now is waiting for it to happen...

      The other couple that we will be with in Italy are also likely candidates to come along; they're true chowhounds though not so far visitors to these boards. Barbara in particular is one truly to appreciate the lengths we are going to to visit Dal Pescatore (like trying to find a place to stay nearby so we can drink our fill without worrying about getting back to Venice or Mantova).

      1. re: James G

        James....have you found a place to stay in or near Canneto sull'Oglio yet for your dal Pescatore outing? Let me know if you have any problems.

        By the way, if you are staying in Mantova--one of my favorite towns--you will enjoy the experience of visiting the Antica Riseria Ferron, in nearby Isola della Scala. There is a restaurant on the premises of the rice mill that prepares meals--all the dishes are rice-related--that are out of this world and very unique.

        Jim Zurer
        Washington DC

        1. re: Jim Zurer

          You've been to dal Pescatore? Have you also been to the two star, Le Calandre in Rubano near Padua? I realize they are different in style with dal Pescatore more traditional but if you've been to both which of the two would you go back to first? Which others truly stand out to you as extraordinary? Gambero Rosso? We all have to have a drink (or three) sometime and discuss this.

          1. re: Joe H.

            I actually have not been to dal Pescatore, but I have read a lot about it. I tend to focus on more traditional, moderately priced trattorie when I travel in Italy, but dal Pescatore is high on my list for a splurge meal. We will be staying in Busseto (outside Parma) next month for a week and we may try to get to Dal Pescatore.

            I would be happy to sit down and discuss Italy at any the time and place.

            Jim Zurer
            Washington DC

            1. re: Jim Zurer

              Brief story: two years or so ago a friend of mine asked me if I was going to central Italy on a business trip in two or three days. I said yes. He pointed out that Esquire had just called an Italian restaurant near Mantova, Dal Pescatore, the best in the world and he thought it was near where I had business.
              I looked on a map and it was about 60 miles from Bologna (where I was staying) to the small town it was in. Close enough. I called the restaurant and the man who answered spoke broken English. I told him that I wanted to make a reservation "for one" four or five days from then. He laughed. Loud. I thought he was laughing because I was trying to reserve for one. When I started to explain he told me that I didn't understand. His restaurant only had eight four seat tables and for a dinner reservation you had to reserve at least a month in advance. Four or five days was simply impossible.
              Then he asked me if I could come for lunch the same day because he had just had a cancellation.
              I said yes and changed my business appointment.
              By the way I remember that you mentioned arborio in an earlier post. I usually buy carneroli or violane nano and bring it back with me. A little grocery store about two miles away charged 5,000 lira for a kilo of carneroli. That's about $1.20 a pound for what Sutton Place charges over $4.00 for when they have it.

          2. re: Jim Zurer

            No, I don't have a place in Canetto yet; any ideas? And after the outstanding meal we had in a small town in the Lot valley of France two years ago, at a walnut oil mill where all the dishes had walnuts in them, the idea of an all-rice meal does not sound at all off-putting. Sign us up!

          3. re: James G

            When you return later in May we'll talk seriously about doing it. It could be an "event."
            If you're going to Venice consider the one star da Fiore. Patricia Wells in the International Herald Tribune four or five years ago called it "the best restaurant in Italy." Considering its price then for the value received it really might have been! But as it has become "notoriously" famous (written up in every American publication that has run an article about Venice in the past four or five years) the prices have gone up. Carol and I have been there five or six times ranging from a year ago to seven or eight years ago. Every time we order essentially the same kind of dishes and similar quality of wine and I would guess that the current price-if the exchange rate were the same-is at least 60% higher or more, approaching dal Pescatore. Having said all this it is still extremely good and the overall experience is unlike any other restaurant anywhere. da Fiore is virtually impossible to find. (This in itself must limit the number of Americans!) If you know where you are going it is still at least a 15 minute walk from San Marco. If you do not, well, you might find Malpensa Airport quicker! But part of the adventure is knocking on doors and asking strangers who speak no English. Many of them are veterans of this because there is a certain flick of their wrist that seems quite practiced. After a half dozen or so wrong turns you'll recognise this motion quickly, knowing all the while that you're still going in the right direction otherwise they would not know what you are talking about, i.e. no wrist flicking.
            But, James, if you can, go. And if you're lucky enough to have a foggy, misty evening (don't laugh!) you WILL have a memory for life. Quite possibly this might be the most "eerily romantic" little adventure of your life in getting there. Getting back? Does it really matter if you find your way back after good wine and a full stomach?
            Al Covo is also very good, the chef owner speaks perfect English since his wife-a wonderful hostess by the way-is from Lubbock, TX. Not on par with da Fiore but quite good. If you go they have superb frito misto but they sell out by 8:30.
            I spend 10-12 days a year in Italy on business from Rome north and have travelled there like this for about ten years. Then Carol wants to go there every year on vacation. The result is that I've been really spoiled. That which I hate travelling by myself on business for (with the obvious exception of the meals and shopping) I absolutely live for when she is with me.
            About shopping: below is a link for a post I made about a month ago on the General Board. I am into shopping perhaps more than food. Did you know that Lladro has a store at their factory in Valencia where it is literally 25% of the American price? Or that Hickey Freeman sells their $1200 to 1700 suits for $399 twice a year out of a warehouse in suburban Rochester? Or that All Clad has a biannual sale with some pieces as much as 75% off (or that there is a website to buy direct at 40% off). Or (knowing that you are into cooking as much as I am) that arguably the best knife in the world is the German Potts and you cannot buy it in North America. In fact you can only buy it in Germany, a few places in Italy and two or three other places in Europe.
            Did you or your girl friend know that GUCCI AND PRADA HAVE OUTLETS IN TUSCANY? Or that Bruno Magli has an outlet in the heart of Milan? Or that Zegna has an outlet in Orlando where EVERYTHING is half price. Zegna also has an outlet in Biella where everything is half the Italian price meaning that ZEGNA IS ONE QUARTER THE AMERICAN PRICE.
            Anyway, the link is below.
            Carol's already thinking about what we can include in a what could be an 8 or 10 course meal. She even is reminding me of our 17 course meal at El Raco de can Fabes outside of Barcelona but that seems far too ambitious.


            1. re: Joe H.

              My cup runneth over!! As a shopholic myself, I have dutifully put this link in my 'favorites' folder. Thanks!

              1. re: James G

                Also Gambero Rosso's tres forchettes 2001 was just released.


          4. re: Joe H.

            I'd be delighted to fill-out a table at Tosca! Anytime. Please keep me in mind when you begin the planning.

            My knowledge of Italy is limited to two trips, but my thirst, hunger and enthusiasm will not disappoint.

            Have a great trip James G. I'll look forward to hearing all about it.

            BTW Joe H., I'll be hosting a table at Obelisk on Friday at your suggestion, after re-newing my wedding vows earlier in the evening. Wish me luck!

            1. re: Bill

              Well, I'll be sitting in an Italian restaurant in Dusseldorf by myself on Friday. Trust me, I will toast you several times.
              Well, maybe more than several times!
              Congratulations and best wishes!!
              We'll start putting the other together when James returns from his trip to Italy.

              1. re: Bill

                At what time should all the Chowhounders arrive for the dinner at Obelisk? That was an invitation for all us to join in, wasn't it?