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Week of February 4, 2002

the underground gourmet
Team Players

A good pizzaiolo is hard to find. That's why Salvo Scalia, co-owner of Carroll Gardens' month-old Savoia, knows he's lucky to have snagged Alfonso Carusone (pictured), third-generation-Neapolitan pizza man and, until September 11, the pie guy at Gemelli at the World Trade Center. When that restaurant was destroyed, its staff dispersed to other kitchens. But Scalia and his partner, Lisa Nazzaro, reunited three of them at Savoia, their rustic, wood-beamed restaurant and pizzeria, where the menu reflects the owners' respective Sicilian and Neapolitan heritage with dishes like rigatoni alla Norma, bruschetta with caponata, and the classic pizza margherita, named for the queen of the dynasty (Savoy in English, Savoia in Italian) that ruled the kingdom of Italy for 85 years. Scalia, who's had some experience with New York empires-he worked for Pino Luongo and Bice's Roberto Ruggeri-persuaded Carusone to expand on the traditional pizza repertoire with newfangled ingredients like shrimp, pears, and walnuts. "He's not happy putting salmon on," admits Scalia, referring to the "Norvegese" combination of smoked fish, mascarpone, capers, and truffle oil. "We had to work it out." To judge by the tender crusts and scrupulously applied toppings, the two have achieved a satisfyingly tasty, crisp-edged truce. ROBIN RAISFELD
277 Smith Street, near DeGraw Street, Brooklyn


Bid Two Hearts
In recent years, dining out on Valentine's Day has become the restaurant-industry equivalent of Super Bowl Sunday-a compulsory extravaganza that often leads to indigestion. Bid executive chef Matthew Seeber's Valentine's menu, by comparison, is more like Wimbledon, a suave, sophisticated antidote to all the love-potion hoopla. In between four luxurious courses-warm oysters with champagne and caviar, roasted scallops with sea-urchin custard, roasted sirloin with black truffles, and chocolate tart with chestnut sauce-you and yours can listen to romantic music and survey some of the art that's been consigned to Sotheby's and borrowed by Bid for the occasion. If there was ever an excuse for wandering eyes on that most intimate of evenings, Jim Dine's Double Venus in the Sky at Night (pictured, behind Seeber) is it.
1334 York Avenue, at 71st Street
See our Valentine's Day restaurant picks

best of the week
Dim Sum Go Go Chinese New Year
The Year of the Horse brings good luck and love to all. Make reservations through February 10 to celebrate Chinese New Year (February 12 and 13) with this banquet for ten, a feast that includes duck-and-mushroom dumplings, and dry oysters and scallops.
Dim Sum Go Go
5 E. Broadway


Drink in the Love
Throughout February, City Bakery is running its tenth annual hot-chocolate festival, a good excuse to consume a mugful on the 27 days of the month that aren't Valentine's Day. But don't bypass the place on February 14, when owner Maury Rubin (pictured) marks the occasion with "Love Potion" hot chocolate, served with what killjoys might deem an excessive dose of hot fudge. To monitor the flavors of the day, which range from mellow milk-chocolate and toasted-hazelnut to maniacal banana-peel and mango-tea, visit Rubin's new Website, In an effort to elicit more public participation than the usual slurping and aahing, and to elevate haute chocolate into a more cerebral realm, he's posted an essay contest on the site, and plans to reward the winner handsomely. For a full year of City Bakery hot chocolate, answer this question: Should hot chocolate be drunk with or without a marshmallow? Why or why not?
City Bakery
3 West 18th Street


Ask Gael
Am I missing something hot?
Sardines served in the can says it all. Ditto the "nice ordinary name" (as the slightly frazzled co-owner Brian McNally puts it) and the nobody's-home whitewashed façade. The mayhem at 150 Wooster, with the whole shameless Almanach of Gotham and twelve other nations scheming to get in the last time McNally ran a joint all his own, is still vivid. So he's skimping on profile at Smith, talking about "just a nice neighborhood place." Is that why the look is so . . . spare? Actually, it's unfinished, he says. Happily, chef Kenny Addington (Eight Mile Creek, '44,' Picholine) really knows how to cook and keeps it clean, as in beet-and-blood-orange salad with goat yogurt, crusted lamb shank with parsnip purée, and an elegant Long Island duck, just roasted rosy pink. Soon there will be art on the walls and smith in red neon out front (to compete with the nearby tattoo parlor), and if there's a lemming crush, McNally will deal with it. "But maybe nobody will come," he broods. "As problems go, that's not as desirable."
64 East 1st Street

Bites & Buzz Archive

Week of January 28
A Royal feast; Valentine's Day at Daniel; Le Zinc's devilish treat; Brooklyn's answer to Balducci's; Gael's cure for the mid-winter blues
Week of January 14
Craft's new offshoot; a taste of Burgundy's best; Gael on Harlem's renaissance
Week of January 7
Tongue in chic, AKA Cafe's two-timing chef, Gael finds a class act on the Upper West Side

and more ...

Photos: From top to bottom- Patrik Rytikangas (2); Kenneth Chen

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