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Week of August 12, 2002

Back Into the Cold
In the early eighties, after an influential and high-calorie summer vacation in Italy, 19-year-old Jon Snyder left college to start Ciao Bella, the little gelato company that could. Burned out after nearly six years spent cold-calling chefs and custom-blending flavors, he sold the brand to a new owner who eventually gave it a national identity and a coveted slot on just about every dessert menu in town. Snyder went off to do other things, like earn an M.B.A. at Columbia and trade equities on Wall Street. But the Bronx-born grandson of Carvel franchisees couldn't get the butterfat out of his system, and everywhere he looked, his past life called to him. "Everybody was always saying they love Ciao Bella. Every restaurant, it's Ciao Bella." New York, he decided, was ready for another premium ice cream — especially since Ciao Bella had moved its production facilities to New Jersey. "I was always proud of the fact that it was a Manhattan business," says Snyder. And since his noncompete clause expired years ago, there was nothing to stop him from importing a batch freezer from Bologna, sourcing the best local ingredients, and opening Il Laboratorio del Gelato in a storefront next door to the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, guaranteeing him a steady stream of nostalgic visitors. Although he expects to do mostly wholesale restaurant business, he's also opened a small café serving coffee, shakes, twelve flavors a day, and toppings like homemade hot fudge and fresh berry coulis. In times like these, even M.B.A.'s need something to fall back on. — ROBIN RAISFELD
Il Laboratorio del Gelato

95 Orchard Street

Fusion Power
At Cendrillon, Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan's stock-in-trade is sophisticated Filipino cooking, spiked with variations and ingredients from all over southern Asia. Now, as a fund-raiser to build a school for Cambodian children in a village near Angkor Wat, they're bringing a series of celebrated chefs into their kitchen to ring further inversions on their usual fusion flavors. On August 21, the trio of Dorotan, author Regina Aguinaldo, and Nobu chef de cuisine Ricky Estrellado will prepare an authentic Filipino barbecue (pictured). On October 16, author Maya Kaimal will cook recipes from the south Indian state of Kerala-a region sadly unrepresented on the usual New York Indo-Pak menu. Finally, Amherst, Massachusetts's best (only?) Malaysian haute cuisinier, Pengyew Chin, will serve his country's refined and little-known cooking on December 4, when author Amitav Ghosh (The Glass Palace) will be the guest speaker.
45 Mercer Street

Hamburger Helper
Has Frenchman Daniel Boulud irrevocably altered the all-American burger? Inspired by a shaky economy and (we'd wager) the huge success of Boulud's $29 Big Mac gone mad at his bistro DB, Rouge's David Ruggerio has come up with his own signature all-beef patty. It's a slightly less colossal DB burger minus the truffles and foie gras but filled with shredded braised short ribs and portobellos, and layered with roasted tomato and frisée. The bun's too chewy, but the accompanying pommes frites are perfect, and, at $11.95, you won't mind winning the tug-of-war for the check. Can a Quarter Pounder stuffed with chopped chicken liver on a brioche bun be far behind?
135 East 62nd Street

best of the week
Cafe St. Bart's Tuesday Night Clambake
Somehow, chef Donna Hall has transplanted the traditional seafood-fest to the patio outside St. Bartholomew's — one of the few streetside restaurant spaces in town that's actually pleasant. Lobster, cherrystones, corn, fruit pies, and more, on Tuesdays through September 3 — and the fixed price is only $35.
Cafe St Bart's
109 East 50th Street
Call 212-888-2664 to reserve


Ask Gael
Are you charting signs of Harlem's renaissance?
Rupa Mehta and her architect husband, Parag, live downtown but proudly styled Revival — with its trellis of pinlights outside, flickering votives and bright-hued globes spotlighting tables and booths to bring warmth and life to a desolate patch of Harlem still waiting to blossom. The ambitious storefront evokes memories of the first Chanterelle, aglow on a not-yet-gentrified Grand Street eons ago. Sad to say, no one need rush here for the amateurish fusion "French American cuisine . . . Caribbean and Creole," the menu advises. Still, locals with kiddies in tow seem happy enough at this gift to the neighborhood, and the lovingly overwrought cooking is gently priced. Cream is definitely in revival: Crusted seafood (too thoroughly cooked for me) has that chicken à la king creamy rush I sorta liked. On its second try, the kitchen gets our steak and lamb chops rare. Apologizing excessively, our amiable waitress treats us to dessert- wonderful apple pie and ice cream we devour. A good bet if you stop by after the show at the Apollo.
2367 Frederick Douglass Boulevard, at 127th Street

Bites & Buzz Archive

Week of August 5
Chefs get creative with their favorite summer fruit; Gael goes to Naples
Week of July 22

Where to indulge a fish taco craving; the inside scoop behind Daniel Boulud's kitchen; yogurt goes Greek; the Ambassador Grill's limited-time star menu
Week of July 15
Steak as smooth as butter; Dosa Hutt takes Manhattan; Two Italian Girls' ready-to-eat meals; Gael impresses the boys at Michael Jordan's

and more ...

Photos:Patrik Rytikangas (top and bottom), Kenneth Chen, Carina Salvi.

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