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Manzo - the best "grocery store" restaurant I can imagine - and some of the best Italian food in NYC.

Full review in blog with pictures, text as below.


Having mentioned that my original Saturday lunch plan for Torrisi Italian Specialties had changed when the weekly menu failed to live up to my friend’s hopes, the last official reservation secured for this trip to New York wasn’t exactly “last minute,” but it was pretty close and even though I’d gone ahead and visited Torrisi on my own the night prior I was perfectly to do Italian again – this time at Mario Batali’s Manzo, the formal restaurant inside of metropolis that is Eataly. While some seemed to question this decision given the swirling controversy regarding Batali and Company’s business politics, the pending departure of Chef Michael Toscano, and (perhaps most of all) the mess that is Eataly on a weekend I personally was excited – the menu looked great, reservations would make the crowd a non-factor, and all things being equal New York is by far and away my favorite city to dine Italian.

With our reservation set for noon and my day started early as ever with a substantial breakfast at Dominique Ansel already behind me, my arrival to Eataly was nearly half an hour early by design – busy or empty I simply love the store, the selection, and the general absurdity of it all…it’s like Disney World for food (and almost as much fun) – and after about twenty minutes of gazing at house made breads, artisan meats, and hundreds of varieties of vinegar and olive oil I made my way to the restaurant, checked in, and grabbed a seat at the bar until my friends arrived and we were led to a table in the center of the dining room.

Shocked at first with just how well Manzo is secluded from the hustle and bustle of the store and seated on sturdy chairs in front of large tables with white tablecloths that would not have been out of place at Babbo or Mozza it would not be long before our server would arrive and with menus for both food and wine presented we sat weighing our options and chatting about our respective meals the day before until Juan Pablo returned, answered a few questions about the availability of tasting menu items ordered a la carte, and returned to the kitchen where Chef Toscano was plainly visible even on a Saturday afternoon directing his team.

Thinking aloud that Manzo was far more quiet than either of the Mozzas, Babbo, or Otto despite the flurry of activity less than twenty feet away even though the same soundtrack of the Stones, Who, Doors, and White Stripes could be heard closer to the bar it would not be long before the meal started with the delivery of bread – a crusty and warm Italian style Semolina Loaf and thick, rich Focaccia along with a pour of 2008 Vintage Olive Oil and even a round of salted cow’s butter on request. With the breads expectedly good, the olive oil clean and grassy, and even the butter surprisingly good for a restaurant that does not generally serve it things were off to a nice start.

Deciding to go with four courses each our antipasti certainly weren’t the lightest options on the menu – just the best – and with two of us choosing from the main menu and one opting for a selection from the tasting the trio arrived in grand fashion with one waiter delivering each plate and beginning with the Jewel Yam with Trumpet Mushroom, Pancetta & Saba both the flavor and presentation of it and subsequent dish would be quite impressive. For the Yam, while I only had a couple of bites, what I tasted was surprisingly complex as the tuber was presented as a puree, a baked skin, and as crispy straws all working in harmony with the hefty roasted mushroom to balance the brine of the crispy pork and drizzled cooked wine. Sweet and savory, crisp and creamy, it was the least “expected” wow of the afternoon and although I cannot recall the wine served with it, my dining companion enjoyed the pairing quite well.

Dining with a foie gras queen and myself also known to overindulge on the delicacy the other two antipasti would prove every bit as good as expected and with myself opting for the Foie Gras Terrine with Chestnuts, Cranberry Mostarda & Pannetone while the lady chose the Seared Foie Gras with Cotechino, Lentils & Aceto Balsamico it was not only a tossup as to which was better, but also which was a better bargain; to say the least, Manzo doesn’t skimp when it comes to foie. Beginning first with the seared preparation my first thought was that the richness of the sausage would be too much for the liver but in reality the pairing worked well thanks to the nuttiness of the lentils and the sweet acidity of the balsamic, both cutting the fattiness of each item substantially without muting the flavors. Moving next to the terrine – let’s just say it stacked up favorably to the one at Per Se the day before in terms of texture and quality while the creamy chestnuts and cranberries were a lovely wintery touch even as the temperatures outside hovered in the unseasonable mid-60s – and buttered, grilled Pannetone? <sigh>

While I could have easily left Manzo and given it high praise then and there (yes, I could definitely see going in for just the bread, foie, and a glass of prosecco as a perfectly lovely afternoon) the next course was the one I looked forward to most – the primi. Dining with familiar friends and knowing that much sharing was to be done it was with little difficulty that we made our choices and again with a waiter per each large plate the portion sizes would actually prove shocking – easily 2-3x the size of a similar priced course at Babbo or Del Posto – and with suggested cheeses shaved tableside the tasting began with the “Orecchiette with Sausage & Broccoli Rabe Pesto,” the only dry pasta of the group, imported direct from Italy, and perfect al dente with the spicy fennel sausage chopped directly into the robust sauce and notes of bitter and pepper nicely balanced by a mild sweetness, plenty of basil, and a dusting of aged Tellagio.

Moving next to a dish simply called “Agnolotti with Brown Butter & Parmigiano” I was amazed when it arrived with more than a dozen thumb-sized pockets of pasta and after a quick tableside dusting of Parmigiano my impression only improved after taking a bite. House made (and apparently at times sold in the pasta section of the store,) these agnolotti were not the ultra thin ravioli of Babbo but instead a toothsome Piemontese pocket stuffed to bursting with a creamy blend of Fontina, Mozzarella, Veal, Pork, and spices that literally melted in the mouth like a savory pudding. Simply dressed and intensely flavored this was probably my favorite pasta of the afternoon – no small feat considering its competitors.

For the final primi selection I ordered the Spaghetti alla Chitarra with Lobster, Tomato & Basil and finished tableside with Tellagio the dish delivered exactly what was expected of it – tender house made pasta, snappy lobster, plus a bold and bright sauce with acid and sweetness in harmony. It was simple, it was fresh, and it was delicious.

At this point realizing we’d over ordered (especially with dinner plans for Dovetail that night) the main courses began to arrive and while my dining partners had each opted for a robust secondi I let my love of pasta run wild with a second round for my main course, this time the Fusilli with Duck Ragu & Foie Gras, another mountain of carbohydrates but this time fortifying the beautiful San Marzano tomatoes with the smooth sapor of foie gras and adding texture with a combination of duck confit and cracklins- the overall effect like a hearty duck stew and only improved with the tableside addition of 24-month aged Parmigiano Reggiano DOP – a taste so rich that just a little went a long way.

Moving next to something a bit more substantial…and when I say ‘a bit’ I actually mean a daily special from Raven & Boar featuring about twelve ounces of bone-in chop from a whey fed pig along with winter vegetables, kale, leeks, brown butter, and aceto balsamico. Having had Batali’s interpretation of pork more than once in the past I guess it really should have come as no surprise that the supple pig arrived in such plethora, but roasted or not I still fail to comprehend how they manage to cook such a thick chop so well without charring the surface. I also don’t know how much of this went back to my friend’s apartment for a meal (or two) in the subsequent days, but I’m pretty sure it was at least half.

For our final savory it should be obvious by now that we ordered everything that contained duck and to round things out another substantial dish arrived entitled “Glazed Duck with Shiitakes, Charred Scallions, Pancetta & Persimmon” and like everything else about that afternoon the execution was flawless. Beginning first with the Long Island sourced fowl, a large margret was presented with minimal fat overlying the supple, rosy flesh and resting atop a thick bed of woodsy mushrooms, pungent scallions, and sweet persimmon ‘pudding’ the plate was completed with a light touch of local honey and crisp, smoky pancetta. Like the pig this was another dish where all three of us loved it and should have liked to enjoy more but taking into account what had already been eaten and the night to follow this too was another dish to be re-experienced in the following days as leftovers.

With the hour now just prior to 2:00 and myself with plans to attend the barista competition/coffee and tea show before dinner the dessert menus were presented and while all of us were full I simply could not see forgoing dessert – besides, I finished all my plates – and with that noted we placed our orders and waited briefly before the three (thankfully) dainty desserts arrived. Beginning first with a trio of frozen treats, one of my friends ordered the house made gelato and sorbetti consisting of Hazelnut and Stracciatella Gelato plus Coconut Sorbet – each dense, smooth, and expectedly well made but the coconut the true show stopper of the group in its delicacy of texture but impact of taste.

Moving on to a pair of composed desserts (aside from all the lovely ones they sell at the Patisserie in Eataly) my selection for the afternoon was titled “Bonet alla Piemontese” and featuring a sort of mousse meets flan it would definitely prove to be the most interesting of the three in that I’ve really never tasted anything like it. Airy, light, and described as Espresso Custard the texture really still remains hard to define, like a marshmallow but wet or a panna cotta but dry and heavily perfumed with sweetened espresso plus a drizzle of Amaretto, crumbled Amaretti cookies, and Stracciatella Gelato on the side.

For the final dessert, a bit more easy to characterize than the Bonet but just as interesting and delicious, the “Chocolate Crostata” delivered a dense dark Amedei chocolate Tart with a buttery crust, sliced toasted almonds, salty caramel, and both caramelized banana and banana puree to round it out. Intense and bitter with those characteristic fruity notes so prevalent in all Amedei products I loved the manner in which all of the sweet accoutrements held the flavors in check and rounded out with a small quenelle of vanilla gelato the only thing that could have made this dessert better would have been a cup of coffee.

Asked if there was anything else we’d like and subsequently delivering the bill (and telling us the shopping bag of leftovers was waiting with our coats) it should be noted that lunch at Manzo is certainly not “cheap,” but rather quite on par with other fine dining Italian options in the city that are open during such hours (Ai Fiori, Marea, A Voce, Lincoln) but in reality this really does not seem out of line as not only the food and the service but also the setting were every bit as pleasant. Having never had a bad meal in a Mario Batali restaurant but understanding his critics I can only say that whether he is still truly a chef or instead a businessman who can cook really does not matter – the man hires smart people to run his kitchens and while he could have easily mailed it in on Manzo and still packed the place based on location he instead brought in one of his best from Babbo with results no less impressive.

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  1. Great job describing what was, indeed, a spendid meal!

    As I noted on your blog, Mr. R. did not have a pairing with the yam. With the orecchietti, he had a Chianti and with the pork, a Barolo.

    My photos of this lunch at Manzo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11863391...


    1 Reply
    1. re: RGR

      That seems odd. My pictures generally aren't out of order. Okay though, memory may have faded in the intervening months and 50 other meals that still need to be written up.

      PS, you have an e-mail. ;-)


    2. All I can say is "WOW", great report on what sounds like an amazing meal....I'll have to add it to my list :)

      1. Have you been to Perla? Toscano is now wielding his magic there.

        1 Reply
        1. re: peter j

          Toscano left for Perla right after we were there (a Saturday), so that may very well have been his last day at Manzo. Perla is on my "go to" list. I'm sure uhockey has it on his for when he next visits NYC.


        2. Thank you for posting this intelligent and thorough review uhockey. Good news is that my partner had lunch at the post-Toscano Manzo recently and the food was everything it always was: excellent.

          1 Reply
          1. geez lunch at manzo and dinner at dovetail, can i borrow $20?

            10 Replies
            1. re: AubWah

              No - I spent it at Per Se and Torrisi the day prior.


              1. re: uhockey

                Thanks for the detailed report!

                I am confused by your mention of a "vintage 2008 olive oil." Can it be true that they are offering an oil that is so old? I've always heard that quality deteriorates with age, after a certain amount of time. Did the server mention that it was from the 2008 harvest?

                1. re: erica

                  It was written on the bottle, he mentioned it, and I've seen oils aged as much as 5 years at Spiaggia in Chicago. As long as they are kept cold they are fine to the best of my knowledge, but like any natural fat they surely 'change' with time.

                  A quick search of Dean and Deluca's Inventory, Amazon.com, or some of the better overseas trading companies shows a number of 2008 bottles, mostly unfiltered varieties, and some at impressive prices.


                  1. re: uhockey

                    It strikes me as kind of odd that Dean and DeLuca and at least one other purveyor is selling Capezzana "Nuovo" dated 2008, and I'm a big fan of the estate. It's obviously not nuovo any longer!

                    Would love to hear from an olive oil maven about this topic.


                      1. re: erica

                        I politely disagree. While it may not 'improve,' it very much maintains its flavor. I also did not "have it" at another restaurant as you implied, but rather saw it listed on a tasting of oils. I do agree with the person who claimed vintages do not matter, however.

                        As someone who does research on oils (sesame, cla, olive, safflower) I will tell you that the oil denatures minimally if at all when kept in cold storage, its bioactivity is equivalent, and its lipid membrane concentration is also equivalent. Taste, I guess, is subjective.....who knew?


                        1. re: uhockey

                          But if it is just maintaining its flavor (which sounds dubious to some people), and not improving, why feature oil from 2008? Why not just use new, fresh oil?

                          I obviously do not have the scientific credentials that you do, but I've eaten my way through much of Italy and would guess that this practice might be laughed at in that country.

                          I certainly will inquire next trip and report back!

                          As you say, to each his, or her, own taste..I've always enjoyed your reports!

                          1. re: erica

                            I'm not sure they "FEATURE" it, it is just what they were serving. Perhaps someone likes that brand or year, or perhaps they just had some sitting in the freezer - I don't know.....or care, I just reported what we received and answered your question as best as I could. It tasted good, had no 'funk' or rancid flavors, and was sufficient for the bread.


                            1. re: uhockey

                              ...“the olive oil clean and grassy” is how you described it. On another board it seems there really is no such thing as vintage oil...


                2. re: uhockey

                  Yep...And there goes my afternoon tea all over my computer screen!

              2. I'm interested that you attribute Manzo to Mario Batali.

                You are aware that Lidia Bastianich (who was cooking before Batali knew about knives) is a full partner in the Eataly venture? How sure are you this restaurant is Batali's creation and management opp alone?

                3 Replies
                1. re: ChefJune

                  An even better question is why do you assume otherwise, particularly as many of the dishes have his signatures in them and the chef executing them came from his kitchen? I think everyone is aware of the Batali/Bastianich relationship, but do you have any evidence that Manzo is her concept?


                  1. re: ChefJune

                    It's pretty common knowledge to fans of Eataly and the Batali/Bastianich empire that Batali is behind the restaurants at Eataly, Joe Bastianich is the wine and beer guy and Lidia has the cooking school.

                    Plus, the menu at Manzo has Batali "written" all over it.

                    1. re: ttoommyy

                      Olive oil should never be refrigerated because it loses it's freshness and loses it's freshness as well over a period of time. A 2008 olive oil should never be served in 2012

                  2. I'm curious about two dishes. You said "these agnolotti were not the ultra thin ravioli of Babbo but instead a toothsome Piemontese pocket stuffed to bursting... " What made them Piemontese?

                    The second was the dish "For the final primi selection I ordered the Spaghetti alla Chitarra with Lobster, Tomato & Basil and finished tableside with Tellagio the dish delivered exactly what was expected of it – tender house made pasta, snappy lobster, plus a bold and bright sauce with acid and sweetness in harmony. It was simple, it was fresh, and it was delicious."

                    I presume you meant Taleggio. What is "expected of it." Is this an Italian dish? If so, why the Taleggio?

                    9 Replies
                    1. re: allende

                      To the best of my education, agnolotti are Piemontese by their very nature - it is the region of Italy with which they are associated.

                      ...and yes, I meant Taleggio, an Italian Cheese on an Italian dish. I apparently "added" the incorrectly spelled version to my word dictionary, so thanks for the catch.

                      I'm not sure why you're having trouble following this post, but for a dish titled "Spaghetti alla Chitarra with Lobster, Tomato & Basil" I'd expect good al dente pasta, good lobster, good tomatoes, and some basil. I got what was "expected" of it - something fresh and simple.

                      I hope this clears up all the apparently difficult details...


                      1. re: uhockey

                        I'm sure you had an excellent meal at Manzo and don't mean to disparage it in any way. You did a very good job of describing it. Some things struck me as being very different in an Italian restaurant in New York (where i was born and lived much of my life) from here in Italy.

                        Agnolotti are Piemontese (in general) but in the great restaurants there (Da Renzo; Cascinalenuovo; Priocca; Borgo Antico) are anything but toothsome. In fact, the best are thin.

                        Secondly, " but for a dish titled "Spaghetti alla Chitarra with Lobster, Tomato & Basil I'd expect good al dente pasta, good lobster, good tomatoes, and some basil. I got what was "expected" of it - something fresh and simple. "

                        Sounds good, not something you'd typically see in Italy, but no problem... until you come to the taleggio. That is something you would never see here and Batali knows that very well. Where was the taleggio? You said, " finished tableside", but I have no idea of what that means with a pasta dish with seafood. Call me perplexed. Is seafood with cheese a standard in Italian restaurants in New York? Can you enlighten me?

                        Did you have wine? If so, what did you drink.

                        Thanks in advance.

                        1. re: allende

                          They shave cheese over all sorts of pasta in the states, seafood or not. It isn't exclusive to New York (and I'm not from there.) For this dish they opted for Taleggio. Considering the foie torchons and other "Americanized" dishes on the menu I'm rather certain Batali knows his audience and isn't trying to replicate Italy 100% in ANY of his restaurants.

                          I did not drink. I generally do not.

                          ...and in response to your harsh criticisms in erica's olive oil thread, I know a tad more than "labels," and I'm glad you find my writing 'funny' or 'enamoured' or whatever else - I used the phrase "vintage" to describe a year, not to imply that vintage was better. It sounded better than "an olive oil from 2008." Similarly, when I said "a pour" - it was 'poured' tableside - ie, a pour, into a bowl. Clearly my language is 'funny.'


                          1. re: uhockey

                            Allende: Based only on my own experience, a diner would almost never be offered cheese with seafood in New York City Italian restaurants these days so Eataly is the exception.

                            I've seen the combination in a few Sardinian recipes (using Pecorino Sardo, not Taleggio) but as far as I know, we have no Sardinian restaurants here, and also once or twice in Puglia, in a dish featuring mussels.

                            For the OP, somewhat interesting article here:

                            1. re: erica

                              Strange - they did it at Convivio, as well.

                              It seems that when red sauce is involved in the states they often add cheese, though when fish is involved it never seems to be parmigiano.


                              1. re: uhockey

                                Growing up in a somewhat Italian-American neighborhood in Brooklyn, shrimp Parmigiana was a staple of many Italian-American restaurants, and the waiters always asked whether you wanted Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.

                                1. re: ellenost


                                  Thanks for the link.

                                  As you and I well know, here in Italy cheese is never served with fish, that is, never to an Italian. Tourists yes (in Venice for example), natives no. In New York, guess the answer is yes. In Italy, Italian chefs and cooks seem to think the combination is a poor one. I agree.

                                  Your Sardinian reference is absolutely correct. Strangely, I've never had a fish dish in Sardinia in a restaurant where there was any cheese (nor was any cheese offered).

                                  Whatever. If Batali's clentele wants cheese on their seafood, let them have cheese on their seafood. Convivio as well. I'm glad to see that at least two of us won't.

                              2. re: erica

                                On occasion I have seen grated pecorino (or some other hard cheese) together with breadcrumbs as part of coat or stuffing for fish or seafood in an Apulian restaurant I frequent here in London.

                                1. re: limster

                                  London, New York. All the same.
                                  Italy no.

                                  And you bring up a very good point. Grated pecorino or some other hard cheese. In Manzo they were grating taleggio? Aside from the issue of cheese and fish, how does one grate a soft taleggio?

                      2. Once again, thanks for the review uhockey. I appreciate the effort.

                        1. Yesterday, I made my long-awaited visit to Eataly to meet some friends for dinner at Manzo. Sadly, my plan for an early arrival to do some shopping went awry, and I arrived just in time to meet my friends at the bar. Soon after ordering our drinks, we were told that our table was ready, and we were ushered to the most secluded corner of the room. If it wasn't that I hadn't seen one of my friends in years and was anxious to catch up, I would have requested another table in the not-very-full restaurant.

                          Despite not being full, the noise level was high with sound bouncing off the hard sufaces surrounding us, so it was difficult to hear our waiter who mistook our quizzical expressions for non comprehension, and began, in his Spanish accent, to explain what linguine was to three Italian women! Our three mains were an arugula salad, carpaccio, and baby artichokes. I had ordered the carpaccio knowing that the specialty of the restaurant was meat, but I was very disappointed. The paper thin slices of beef were nearly tasteless, and adhered to the plate in such a way that it was nearly impossible to scrape them up. The quail egg in the center was minuscule, and added almost nothing to the flavor of the dish. The baby artichokes, with beans were not baby artichokes, but rather artichoke hearts, and my friend was very disappointed since the flavors of the dish were muted, and did not make up for her disappointment in not getting what she thought she had ordered. The arugula salad was an undistinguished mound of underdressed greens. It got taken away mostly uneaten, though our waiter never asked if there was something wrong with the dish.

                          For the main, but really primi, I ordered the tortelloni with braised beef and brown beech mushroom butter. Recently, I had bought some triangle shaped ravioli at the Batali/Bastianich owned shop in Port Chester called Tary Market (a mini Eataly), served them with a simple marinara. What I made with that ravioli was better than the tortelloni I ordered at Manzo simply because they were almost tasteless. And, I had to ask for some parmigiano on my pasta! The other two dishes were the Tajarin a'sugo d'Arosto, and the agnolotti with summer squash. My companions ate silently, no one exclaiming that it was particularly delicious. Moreover, the wine that had been ordered after the appetizers wasn't served until midway though the main course, and one of the wines was not the one that had been ordered, though it was served with great style and fanfare.

                          For dessert, I had the bomboloni with vanilla gelato. The bomboloni were tasty, but an extremely heavy -- dare I say bomb-like?-- donut. I have made better, lighter donuts than these. One of my companions had seen Eataly's facebook posting that trumpeted an Acacia Honey Gelee dotted across Fig and Balsamic Semifreddo, and she wanted it for dessert. Apparently, it was only part of the tasting menu, and the kitchen REFUSED to serve it to my friend for dessert. I have never experienced a refusal of that kind in a fine dining establishment. She ordered the panna cotta, which the waiter initially insisted wasn't on the menu. Our third diner ordered a chocolate tart. Once again, there were no oohs and aahs about the dessert.

                          I have eaten at several of the Batali Bastianich restaurants, and this has to be the most disappointing meal since one I had at Il Posto. After reading uhockey's rave review, I was completely excited about eating at Manzo, but I have to say that the experience was far less than the anticipation had been.

                          8 Replies
                          1. re: roxlet

                            Chef has changed.....sorry to hear it has dropped off. :-(


                            1. re: uhockey

                              We were there just a few weeks ago and found it to still be top notch. I guess one man's meat...

                              1. re: ttoommyy

                                My dinner at Manzo last night was likewise top notch. I thought it was even better than previous dinners when Toscano was still in the kitchen.

                                1. re: Scott_C

                                  Glad to hear that. Thanks for reporting in Scott_C.

                                  1. re: ttoommyy

                                    I obviously ate during the chef's night off, but oddly, the FOH was off too...

                                    1. re: roxlet

                                      One person's meat is another's poison. I doubt it was an off day. Some of us love Manzo and others don't. I also happen to love Del Posto and think it may be the best restaurant in NYC. On the other hand, I find EMP to be very disappointing and the service annoying. That's just the way it goes.

                                      1. re: ttoommyy

                                        I had a late afternoon lunch at the bar today at Manzo. It was delightful. I started with the beet salad -- a lovely composed plate with a schmear of smooth goat cheese, golden beets, red beets whizzed semi-fine to the texture of a horseradish spread, a few gorgeous slices of raw candy cane beets, a bit of a sensational black truffle vinaigrette and some finely chopped candied hazlenuts. Excellent composition and presentation. That black truffle vinaigrette with the baby golden beets was sensational.
                                        Following the beets, I had the Tortelloni filled with braised beef cheeks in a brown butter demi glace sauce. This was very very rich, but I loved every bite. The pasta was toothsome and hearty, and filled with a smooth, savory meat filling.
                                        I got excellent wine service and recommendations from a knowledgeable server, who expressed her favorites, but also gave ample detail and tasting notes regaring other selections -- allowing a guest to make an informed choice based on one's own preferences in wine style.

                                        I went at an off hour, around 3pm and had not trouble getting a set at the bar. My friend joined me late, and ordered a selection of 3 cheeses, all of which were fantastic. The cheese were served with fresh raisin bread, and fig, candied walnuts, fennel fronds and candied orange peel on the plate.

                                        All in all, Eataly, and Manzo in particular, were fantastic on a rainy afternoon. I would definitely go back. Many of the other dishes on the menu also looked great.

                                        1. re: MAH

                                          Thanks for the report MAH. I love hearing about others' enjoyable experiences at Eataly and Manzo. Eating at the bar is one of my favorite dining experiences in NYC.