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Week of November 11, 2002
Caserta Vecchia
Remember the Associazione Vera Pizza Napoletana, the Italian pizza police who breezed into town a few years ago and summarily dismissed our pies? Next time they show up, we know where to send them: the homey new Smith Street trattoria Caserta Vecchia. That's where third-generation Neapolitan pizzaiolo Alfonso Carusone has turned up, wooden peel firmly in hand, after stints down the street at Savoia and at Tony May's Gemelli. Carusone and his partner and cousin Lina D'Amato named the restaurant after their hometown outside Naples, and the menu reflects their culinary heritage with unfussy salads, pastas, and specials like Neapolitan meat loaf, tripe, zuppa ra Nonna (grandma's stew), and, of course, perfectly tender, light, and fragrant brick-oven pizza and focaccia. In defiance of the pizza purists, Carusone even tops one with ham and pineapple and calls it Hawaii.
221 Smith Street
Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn

· Cuisine: Italian, pizza

Before rock stars opened up a whole new world of chemical dependency, their nineteenth-century art-world counterparts chugged absinthe, the intoxicating and reputedly toxic "green muse" distilled from wormwood. Banned in the U.S. and France, the stuff hasn't lost its café-society cachet, if restaurant names like L'Absinthe and Opaline are any indication. And now the owners of Osteria del Sole have opened Assenzio ("absinthe" in Italian), a rustic East Village wine bar where the most addictive thing on the premises is the crackly Sardinian flatbread called pane carasau, served with everything from carpaccio and vitello tonnato to the pasta of the day.
205 East 4th Street

· Cuisine: Italian

Blue 9 Burger
Old-school burgers that come with the works, hand-cut fries, and decent shakes are already drawing crowds at this throwback counter-service burger joint.
92 Third Avenue

· Cuisine: American

The Upstairs at '21'
Downstairs, chef Erik Blauberg has to satisfy certain historical expectations, like chicken hash and the famous '21' burger. Upstairs, in a posh new 32-seat dining room equipped with its own kitchen and $85 four-course prix fixe menu, he can surpass them. Melting red-mullet bouillabaisse terrine and cast-iron rabbit confit are representative of his "seasonal American haute cuisine." Or splurge on the $125 winter tasting extravaganza of beluga, truffles, and house-aged kobe beef.
21 West 52nd Street

· Cuisine: American

Openings Archive

Week of November 4
Dish, Biscuit, Bruno's, Savannah Steak, Willow Creek Fresh Baja Grill
Week of October 28
Voyage, Shopsin's Jr.
Week of October 21
Gabriel's Dessert Boutique

and more ...

Photos: Carina Salvi, Patrik Rytikangas

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