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.
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
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
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
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