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Restaurant Openings & Buzz
Week of June 2, 2003

SheepMeadow Cafe
Shakespeare and SummerStage are two excellent reasons to hang out in Central Park after dark, and the new SheepMeadow Cafe, opening this week on the northern fringe of that lush lawn, is another. Concessionaire Peter Aschkenasy, a veteran of Lüchow’s and Gage & Tollner, tackles a different sort of urban landmark, this time armed with a charcoal-fired barbecue and a supply of seasonal Greenmarket produce. During the day, he sells hot dogs and tuna sandwiches at the relandscaped snack bar; after five, he grills sirloin steak, swordfish, and rainbow trout (and pours beer and wine) at the new 100-seat café out back, where he’s also serving weekend brunch.
Enter at Central Park West and 69th Street


Alma Blu
If you’re an Italian chef in this town, how do you break out of the macaroni mold? Expand your culinary reach around the Mediterranean. That’s what partners Michele Maritato and Giovanni Iovine, co-owners of Borgo Antico, have done at Alma Blu, where they supplement pastas with Spanish serrano ham and queso blanco, Greek fried zucchini and eggplant with tsatsiki, and North African couscous. The wine list traverses similar coastal turf, from Ischia to Crete. Prices are gentle and the service is warm—distinguishing characteristics in a neighborhood like Soho.
179 Prince Street


A.O.C. Bedford
A.O.C., D.O.C., and D.O. are prestigious, highly regulated terms that designate wine, cheese, and other foodstuffs from a particular European region. They’re also the gimmick at this elegant new restaurant, where the menu lists pedigreed ingredients like D.O. manchego, D.O.C. vinegar, and A.O.C. duck terrine.
14 Bedford Street

Ruth Chris Steakhouse
Between Atkins mania and the comfort-food craze, beef has never been bigger. Reason enough for the New Orleans–based chain to open a second Manhattan branch, audaciously situated a mere three blocks from the Palm and poised to staunch the red-meat cravings of the U.N. workforce and the big spenders at Trump World Tower.
885 Second Avenue, near 47th St.

Chef Q&A
A Spirito Discussion
You’ve heard about The Restaurant, airing in July on NBC. But what about Rocco’s, the actual restaurant, opening this week to those unafraid of being filmed while chewing? We checked in with Rocco DiSpirito and his mother (and executive chef) Nicolina, to see if they were ready for their close-ups. More important, are you?
Q&A with Rocco DiSpirito...
underground gourmet

Transcendental Pie
We’ve always considered the Roman-style pizza at Sullivan Street Bakery the best slice in town—cut from long, rectangular sheets, minimally equipped with toppings like potato, celery root, or just a simple swipe of tomato purée, and served at room temperature by the square, it occupies a fringe pizza category all its own. Now, like some kind of superstar athlete intent on beating his own world record, Sullivan’s Jim Lahey has come up with another, even better version. The new one is a twelve-inch round pie with a remarkably flavorful one-eighth-inch crust that’s much crisper than the original. Two terrific styles (one topped with radicchio, Gruyère, mozzarella, pecorino, and red onion, the other with fresh spinach, mozzarella, and garlic) are available by the $3 slice or $12 whole pie, daily from noon to 2 p.m. or until they run out. It’s the new best slice in town and—who knows?—maybe even Rome.
73 Sullivan Street


in print

The Vineyard
Thirty years ago, Alex and Louisa Hargrave challenged conventional wisdom and made viticultural history, planting vinifera grapes on Long Island’s North Fork. Where the pioneering Hargraves went, more than two dozen like-minded vintners followed—though if they’d had the chance to read Louisa Hargrave’s The Vineyard (Viking; $24.95) first, they might have had second thoughts. Part memoir, part cautionary tale, Hargrave’s wistful account chronicles the young couple’s Sisyphean struggles against weeds, pests, hurricanes, and red tape, each momentary triumph tempered by backbreaking labor and financial strain. By the time the then-divorced couple sold the vineyard to an Italian prince in 1999, they’d proven that Chardonnay and Merlot could thrive on the East End—even if romantic fantasies didn’t.
Buy it online at



Ask Gael
Do I hear footsteps overhead at P.J. Clarke’s?
Having spiffed up the mythic nineteenth-century saloon without disgruntling its eclectic clientele, P.J. Clarke’s new owners hope to expand the brand upstairs at Sidecar with a gentrified chophouse menu, ambitious prices, and an unlisted telephone. Special cards that open the unmarked door have gone out to pals. “We want only our friends,” allows managing partner Philip Scotti (also an owner of Docks and Sarabeth’s) defensively. But okay, anyone can come with a reservation: “If you’re not a friend, we’ll make you one.” Romantic in a roadhouse way, Sidecar is woodsy and dark, with bare brick, Sinatra crooning, and ceiling planks from an old Vermont bridge. That Docks fishmarket clout buys glistening scallops and the dizzyingly fresh raw cherrystones (alas, wounded in the shucking). “We didn’t want dainty,” Scotti says of the jumbo lump crab cakes, carefully cooked salmon cut as big as a T-bone, Jamison Farm lamb chops with goat-cheese polenta, and a fine sirloin shell with fries. The pastry cook learned those ladies’-magazine-pretty layer cakes at Sarabeth’s. So why is the cherry pie such a mess?
205 East 55th Street

In the Archives

May 26, 2003
Max Cafe, Flatiron Lounge, Eleven Madison Park Hotdog Cart; Aigo; Morrells Restaurant's Friulian pancakes; Fauchon's summer sorbets; Gael is Amuse'd.

May 19, 2003

Crudo, Bacchus, Dumonet, Il Fiore, Klatch, Say Cheese; comfort eats at Mooncake Foods; salad perfection at Prune; meatless midtown eats; splurge for lunch at Shun Lee.

May 5, 2003
Mother's Day Dining; 'Wichcraft and Snackbar open; L'Impero's new espresso lunch; Pelagos is an easy please.

More Openings & Buzz

Photos: Ellie Miller (1, 5), Patrik Rytikangas (2, 6), Carina Salvi (3, 4).

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