Don’t read anything into the fact that the cozy Greenwich Village restaurant formerly know as DeMarco’s Room has mutated into Marco New York: The name’s similar, but the menu and owners aren’t. New owners Barbara and Marco Martelli, late of Marco Fire Island, have lightened and brightened the long, narrow space with a fresh coat of white paint and a multipaneled abstract painting by Tommy Tune (first in a long line of the Martellis’ friends who’ll show work there). In the kitchen, Marco (pictured) highlights the cuisine of his native Tuscany with dishes like trippa alla fiorentina, zuppa di pesce alla viareggina, and baccalà livornese, and his late-night bar menu fuels what the couple hopes will be a lively neighborhood crowd.
142 West 10th Street
Service With a Smile
Disgruntled Luger waiters need not apply: What distinguishes the new Capital Grille in the Trylon Towers at the Chrysler Center from the zillion other midtown steakhouses isn’t the dry-aged beef, the 5,000-bottle wine vault, the clubby portraits of New York icons, or even Philip Johnson’s soaring glass-and-steel pyramids. It’s the super-friendly service, a preopening glimpse of which had us wondering whether we’d been teleported to Pleasantville, so unrelentingly chipper was the staff. Conspiracy theorists take note: The D.C. outpost of this Atlanta-based chain is a known haunt of red-meat-loving Republicans, and the New York branch is opening just days before the Republican National Convention. Coincidence?
155 East 42nd Street
Some fast-food joints could learn a lot from Pollo Campero, the hugely popular Guatemalan fried-chicken giant that’s just opened two outer-borough satellites. The sprawling branch in Corona, Queens, is spotless, the counter staff has a pulse, and the line of poultry-starved customers moves quickly and efficiently thanks to a crackerjack lieutenant who directs traffic the way they do at Whole Foods. The crisp, lightly breaded, and deftly fried chicken, as well as unusual sides like tostones and souped-up red beans, is impressive, too—but skip the Kozy Shack dulce de leche pudding.
103-16 Roosevelt Avenue, near 104th Street, Corona
4506 Fifth Avenue, at 45th Street, Sunset Park, Brooklyn
One year after the fire that destroyed the beloved Blooms Public House in Sunnyside, its owners have regrouped in midtown Manhattan with a sleek restaurant and lounge featuring more ambitious fare like pâté en croûte, tuna niçoise with wasabi cream, and shellfish pappardelle. In its new, cosmopolitan incarnation, the closest you’ll get to fish and chips is moules frites. (M)
431 Third Ave., at 30th St.
The owners of this sliver of a West Chelsea tapas bar bring an unapologetically authentic, regional Spanish approach to the sizzling small-plates trend, courtesy of a husband-and-wife chef team who met in the kitchen at Meigas. Much of the enticing menu is available in two sizes, for tasting or sharing, and daily specials like duck breast and sea bream cater to larger appetites. (I-M)
205 Tenth Ave., near 23rd St.
The Underground Gourmet
The Buck Stops Here
For a deep-fried empanada or a tropical ice pop, all it takes is a dollar and a dream.
Empanadas can be found in nearly every Latin American country, and so can their deeply partisan fans. When the Colombian owners of Empanadas Del Parque opened what they’d hoped would be a sort of United Nations of empanadas last winter, they learned firsthand that one man’s meat pie was another’s poor substitute. “The difficulty was in trying to please everybody,” says Patricia Bernard, who runs the business with her brother, Jaime Bermudez, and sister, Luz Helena Bermudez, both of whom have channeled years of Manhattan catering experience into churning out nineteen varieties of fried empanadas from a Corona kitchen. After encountering initial resistance, they sacrificed attempted authenticity for full-blown creative license, stuffing their spongy corn-flour and flaky white-flour pies with untraditional ingredients like shrimp, cod, spinach and ricotta, and the ever-popular trinity of ham, pineapple, and cheese. Made to order and served with a spicy avocado sauce, the empanadas (a deal at $1 apiece) ultimately won over a loyal Latino clientele. (The location, four blocks from the soccer fields at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, can’t hurt.) On hot days, locals huddle over the freezer case, excavating dollar ices and ice creams made from tropical fruits like soursop, guava, avocado, and mango. Judging by their popularity, the Lemon Ice King of Corona might finally have some competition. —Robin Raisfeld
56-27 Van Doren Street, at 108th Street, Corona
Bemoaning your miserable love life with a pint of ice cream while watching reruns of Elimidate has gotten a whole lot better lately, thanks to enterprising pastry chefs like Vento’s Elizabeth Katz, who now offers the restaurant’s gelati and sorbetti to go by the $8 pint or $4 half-pint. Gobble down the delicious pistachio crunch straight from the container, or maybe the excellent fresh-mint chocolate swirl (which in our book is a great improvement on the texturally misguided mint chocolate chip), then cry yourself to sleep.
675 Hudson Street
Something Old, Something New
Jimmy Bradley and Danny Abrams struck a culinary chord with what they called “comfortable American food” at the Red Cat, the Harrison, and Mermaid Inn. Next week, they extend the franchise with Pace (pronounced pah-chay, Italian for “peace”), a visual and culinary celebration of Italy past and present. Jim Walrod, the man behind the distinctive look of places like the Park and L.A.’s Downtown Standard, referenced Italian materials and designers of the thirties by distressing glass, acid-etching the ceiling, and burning woodwork for an effect he dubs “crumbling beauty.” Chef Joey Campanaro has concocted a menu melding the trendy and the traditional, from cured meat and raw fish to grilled pizza and sweetbreads saltimbocca.
121 Hudson Street
What’s swifter and surer than Prozac?
Thoroughly bummed out after bailing on a touted but listless place in Queens, the four of us speed toward Manhattan seeking instant comfort. That’s how we get to Patsy’s Pizzeria, the beloved, ancient, way-uptown anchor of the chainlet. Though the place is mildly trendified, with a few modish items like crème brûlée and chocolate soufflé and bright-red aprons all around, the waiters are still impatient and scold you if you change your mind. And the pizza tastes like childhood. A pleasant-enough Caesar, a mountain of freshly fried zucchini, and four beers cheer us up as we wait for the major mood elevator. For the purists, a big, crispy-edged margherita, cheese and tomato perfectly balanced, and a second with anchovy on one side, pepperoni on the other. Our innate optimism has been restored for less than $20 each. Cash, of course. Some customs are not easy to gentrify.
2287–91 First Avenue, near 117th Street