Bleecker Street Pizza
“I am not the Italian member of the team,” says Douglas Greenwood, a recently retired NYPD captain and the proud new co-owner of Bleecker Street Pizza. “That’s Kenny.” What’s Kenny’s last name? “He actually prefers just to be called Kenny.” While we’ve never met an Italian Kenny before, the proof is in the pie, says Greenwood. After 27 years on the force, he’s never come across a slice quite like the one his new partner has adapted from his grandmother’s recipe—thin crust, fresh mozzarella, homemade marinara, and Parmesan. “More of a gourmet slice,” says the captain. So after his retirement, he lured Kenny away from the Huntington, Long Island, pizza parlor where he was working, and together the two brazenly opened up shop within garlic-knot-tossing distance of the venerable slice joint Joe’s. “I would not have done it so close,” says Greenwood, “if I did not feel that we have a slice that was absolutely fantastic.”
69 Seventh Avenue South
Unless your drink is Folgers decaf, you may have noticed that there’s a modest coffee-bar boom going on around town, and compared with the one a decade ago, the brew is a whole lot better. Case in point: Gimme! Coffee, a brand-new espresso bar on a bleak stretch of Lorimer Street across from the funky Beehive Salon. Gimme! is the first New York City outpost of the small Ithaca-based roastery of the same name, and with espresso blends like Leftist and Platinum Blonde, you might say that it really is the anti-Starbucks. An interesting range of beans (available at the shop or by mail order) is remarkably fresh and skillfully roasted, from light and complexly acidic to full and dark but never burnt. The in-house drip coffee is terrific, and best of all, the friendly barista can pull a near-perfect, crema-cushioned espresso.
495 Lorimer Street, Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Giving the small-plate trend a multiculti tweak, this Upper West Side newcomer serves Spanish tapas, Italian antipasti, and Turkish meze on dishware from the appropriate country of origin. The rest of the menu touches down in familiar territory, from pasta to steak-frites.
410 Amsterdam Ave., nr. 79th St.
With its elegant décor and hard-boiled egg rack, this one-table Park Slope café has a certain je ne sais quoi that eludes the nearby Tea Lounge and Ozzie’s. The owner comes from Ireland, the pastries from Marquet, and the house brew, La Colombe’s estimable Corsica blend, from Philadelphia. 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.
318 11th Street, Park Slope, Brooklyn
Daisy May’s USA BBQ Chili Carts
From cooking steaks in a strip club to barbecuing beef on Eleventh Avenue, Adam Perry Lang goes where few Daniel-Boulud-trained chefs have gone before. His latest destination is the mean streets of midtown where he’s hawking Texas chili from a pushcart. Made from hand-cut chuck and a deeply flavorful, deftly blended mix of chilies including New Mexican Hatch, it’s the best thing to happen to street food since falafel. A twelve-ounce cup goes for $6 and comes with a big flour tortilla, condiments, and a killer hot sauce; beans are optional unless you’re from Texas.
50th St. at Sixth Ave.
39th St. at Broadway
Perfectly situated to capture the young and the ravenous exiting and entering the Bedford Avenue subway stop, this fluorescently lit Middle Eastern joint supplements typical pita-parlor fare with novelties like vegetarian kibbeh and a flat pie adorned with onion, pine nuts, and sumac. But unless you keep a close eye on the assembly of your fried-to-order falafel sandwich, it will be overstuffed to the breaking point.
161 N. 7th Street, Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Let’s Go Pubbing
Bar food gets a fresh new face, from London via Chez Panisse.
Over the course of his music-business career, A&R executive Ken Friedman developed a reputation among visiting musicians and managers as the consummate host—inveterate restaurantgoer, chef groupie, wine geek, and home cook. So when he found himself pushing 40 and a generation removed from his core market of record-buyers, he decided to turn his hobby into a job. This weekend, with some help from close friend and consigliere Mario Batali, a chef recommended by Jamie Oliver, and a cadre of high-profile music-business investors, Friedman opens The Spotted Pig in the 50-seat West Village premises formerly occupied by Le Zoo. But don’t call it a restaurant: The Pig, despite an Italian- accented menu crafted by English expat April Bloomfield (pictured), late of London’s esteemed River Cafe and fresh on the heels of a stint last summer at Chez Panisse, belongs to that British subgenre called the “gastro-pub,” a bar serving simple, straightforward food. Bloomfield’s interpretation transcends the steak-and-kidney-pie norm with pansotti with roasted pumpkin and goat cheese, bresaola with raw artichokes and arugula, and pork-and-fennel sausage with polenta and broccoli rabe. Friedman, a Los Angeles native who says he’s enthralled by atmospheric New York taverns, justifies the “pub” part of the equation with a 100-bottle wine list, two cask-conditioned beers, and the compulsory Irish stout—an offering, no doubt, for bands that prefer to drink their dinner. Robin Raisfeld
314 West 11th Street
Here’s the Beef
For a brief spell in the pre-Atkins mid-nineties, rodizios were all the rage—those Brazilian beeferies where skewer-wielding waiters circulate from table to table, plying diners with carved-on-demand grilled meat. Their numbers in Manhattan have dwindled to one, the theater-district stalwart Churrascaria Plataforma, but not for long: Churrascaria Plataforma Tribeca, opening this week, features the same unlimited—and insidiously filling—salad bar, potent caipirinhas, and mouthwatering cavalcade of beef, pork, seafood, lamb, and poultry (save room). Dark woods and leathers signify steakhouse, while the bar area is meant to evoke Rio, with a sky ceiling and a floor in the mosaic-sidewalk style of Copacabana Beach.
221 West Broadway
Whole In One
With its second Manhattan megamarket opening Thursday at the Time Warner Center and another under way at Union Square, Whole Foods is changing Manhattan’s gourmet-grocery landscape. By now, we’re accustomed to the speedy checkout lines, the roomy layout, the bountiful organic produce, and the antibiotic-and-hormone-free beef. But the new 59,000-square-foot store, ensconced in the basement of New York’s foodiest real estate, adds a few new twists to the gourmet-health-food formula: a cooler to dry-age meat; a sushi bar; New York’s first Jamba Juice; parbaked breads to finish off at home; and three hot-food bars heaped with Indian, Latin, Pan-Asian and Chinese food and a 248-seat café to eat it in. An enclosed wine store makes for truly one-stop shopping.
10 Columbus Circle
The Norman Conquest
Until now, fans of Christopher Norman Chocolates have had to buy their oozing caramel-filled dominoes, petits fours, and butternut crunch from gourmet stores or mail-order catalogs. But late last year, chocolatier John Down (Christopher and Norman are his middle names) expanded from his cramped Lower East Side factory into a financial-district space four times the size. There’s room enough for Down’s first retail shop—a compelling destination for impulse purchases, Valentine’s Day gifts, and workday luxuries like hot chocolate thick and rich enough to see us through this Arctic winter.
60 New Street
What’s the trick to scoring a table at Casa Mono?
Forget it. With fans of Molto Mario (Batali) and partner Joe Bastianich out in full clamor and only twelve tables, you’ll be lucky to land a spot at Casa Mono’s fourteen-seat no-reservations bar. List your name and squeeze into Bar Jamón around the corner to wait for your summons, warming up with an intense Rioja Reserva and a few tapas, especially the two sensational jamónes. Back at the Casa, not everything is strictly Spanish, but never mind. The small plates we’re tasting are mostly marvelous (even Brussels sprouts a la plancha). Crusty balls of sweetbread on fennel, saffron-scented wild boar, skirt steak with onion marmalade, and a lush crema Catalana under a crackle of burned sugar. A few items come in threes, annoying our foursome, as does a chintzy ration of octopus, but we love fried calamari, cuttle-fish with white beans, and patatas bravas. Slithering through nonexistent aisles, servers stay cool and professional, and our sommelier sure knows her grapes.
52 Irving Place, at 17th Street