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Week of February 10, 2003

the underground gourmet
Home Cooking
With Mexican cooks manning every ethnic variety of New York restaurant kitchen, it’s a wonder why more haven’t melded their on-the-job training with their native cuisine. At Itzocan Café, enterprising chef Anselmo Bello has done just that. After cooking around town for over a decade at French-inflected places like Max & Moritz and Bistro Jules, he and his three brothers (one the former sous-chef at Flea Market Café) have collaborated on an exciting menu that makes deliciously compatible use of ingredients like chilies and truffle oil, mesclun and cactus. Diners can opt for burritos or bistro fare like roasted-vegetable-and-goat-cheese terrine with extra-virgin olive oil (words seldom seen on a Mexican menu). Huitlacoche, the earthy corn fungus, is a recurring motif, appearing in elegant quesadillas, fluffy brunch omelettes, and a signature truffle-scented soufflé cake. For his multiculti steak au poivre, Bello makes a reduction of tequila, veal stock, and green peppercorns, and his caramel-drizzled chocolate-mole cake turns up the heat on a molten menu staple. You might expect to find this sort of fusion uptown at places that charge $12 a margarita, not in a fourteen-seat BYO East Village storefront where nothing costs more than $14.50. Itzocan delivers—in both senses of the word. —ROBIN RAISFELD
Itzocan Café
438 East 9th Street

best of the week
Azienda Agricola Bastianich Winemakers’ Dinners
Joe Bastianich—partner to Mario Batali and co-author of Vino Italiano—is also a winemaker, and he’ll be pouring his own at five lavish meals this week. The first is at Esca on February 18; over the next three days, he’ll be at Lupa, Felidia, Italian Wine Merchants, and Becco.
To reserve call:



Italian Wine Merchants



Supply and Demand
What brings William Prunty—Bouley graduate, lieutenant in Jean-Claude’s bargain-bistro empire, and chef-partner of the late Liam—out to the wilds of industrial Queens? His old friend Anthony Galano, who used to supply Prunty’s various kitchens with Italian products from the importing company he runs with his father, Frank. Since chef and purveyor first met, the Galanos have opened a restaurant of their own, Sapori d’Ischia, inside their Queens warehouse, and developed a regular clientele hungry for brick-oven pizza, hefty portions, and biweekly opera nights. But Anthony always wanted a chef with star power, and he’s enlisted Prunty to update Sapori’s kitchen, adding tasting menus and new dishes like butternut-squash crespelle and vegetable cassoletta to à la carte mainstays like fettuccine al’Antonio. The biggest change will be at lunch, which Prunty’s converting from an ultracasual buffet into a waiter-service white-tablecloth affair, but prices remain neighborhood-friendly. He’s got an in with his supplier, after all.
Sapori d'Ischia
55-15 37th Avenue, Woodside

Ask Gael
I want to woo her with a romantic whimsy.
If it isn’t Château d’Yquem, I rarely drink sweet wine. I prefer my calories creamy, frozen, or oozing essence of passion fruit. But on my birthday, everyone’s toasting me with something bright rose pink and sparkling. Banfi’s “Brachetto d’Acqui” by Rosa Regale, the label reads. Hmmph, I hmmph. Never heard of it. But isn’t it bad luck not to have at least a tiny sip? I take just a taste. Hey, this is really good. Another sip, just to be sure. All around me, my stuffiest wine-snob pals are sipping away and pouring more. Brachetto: a definite find for picnics, proposals, or propositions, or just to feel glamorous in the tub. On the wine lists at Jean Georges, Gramercy Tavern, I Trulli, and Vico, or at Acker Merrall & Condit and Mister Wright Fine Wine & Spirits (1593 Third Avenue, near 89th Street; $18.99).

Bites & Buzz Archive

Week of February 3
Rustic country cooking at Savoy; delicious Valentine treats; Nieporent's annual Burgundy blowout; fast-served Turkish food at Efendi.
Week of January 27
Brooklyn's bread baker; Pig Pickin' Sunday at Biscuit.
Week of January 13
Wall Street's new lunch retreat; Cipriani's specialty drink to go; a culinary delight in Washington Heights.

and more ...

Photos:Tina Rupp (1 & 3), Carina Salvi

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