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Scott Conant Returns With Scarpetta

Lost in the shuffle of this year's high-profile openings has been a major lingering question: What ever happened to Scott Conant? One of the city's top Italian chefs, Conant last year gave up both of his restaurants, L'Impero and Alto, to pursue a mystery project. (Michael White took over both places, to great acclaim.) Conant monkeyed around in the Hamptons, consulting for a friend, but only now is his next real project in view.

Gordon Finn Is Mike White's Secret Weapon at Alto

Each week, we'll be highlighting one of the great but obscure young chefs running one of the city's major restaurants. These are the unheralded chefs de cuisine, the right arms to the name chefs, and when they are big stars themselves, you can say that you read about them here first. Name: Gordon Finn
Age: 25
Restaurant: Alto
Background: Finn, a CIA graduate, earned his Italian-food chops cooking in good restaurants in Puglia, Tuscany, and Lombardy, before signing on with Scott Conant as line cook and then pasta chef at Alto, and eventually, under Michael White, chef de cuisine.

Gordo Blog Better Than the Real Thing; Water Trend More Ridiculous

A true innovator has started a mock Gordon Ramsay blog with such posts as “What? Emeril’s boobs aren’t nice enough?” But when will someone step in to fill in the gaps at Chodoblog? [News Groper via Serious Eats] Related: Food Network, Emeril No Longer Feeling the Love No holiday parties at Chumley’s this year; according to the owner Steve Shlopak, the space has no ceiling and no floor. [NYO] Even after a top-chef shuffle and “showdown between Fiamma, L’Impero and Alto … all three places have come through recent turmoil, and the good news is that they’re better than they were before,” says Steve Cuozzo. [NYP]

Fancy Jell-O-Shot Movement Began in the East Village, Of Course

East Village: Looks like a haute-Jell-O-shot movement might be jiggling into town; Detour used to feature a seasonal special, and now avant-garde recipes like this one, which combines apple, bourbon, and bacon, are popping up. [Mouthing Off/Food&Wine] Hell’s Kitchen: If you want to share a dessert with a pal at Kyotofu, expect to pay a $5 toll, per person. [Bottomless Dish/Citysearch] Midtown East: Alto did not disappoint Bruni like so many other fine restaurants, who’ve concluded many a meal by serving an even amount of petits fours to his odd-numbered party: “This is not a give-me-more-food complaint. This is a who’s-doing-the-arithmetic expression of befuddlement.” [Diner’s Journal/NYT] Upper East Side: Park Avenue Autumn will begin its winter transformations on November 27, and VIPs will get to taste the menu and see a sneak peek of the décor on that same night. [Zagat] West Village: There’s still time to book a Thanksgiving table, and now Anne Burrell has designed a special menu for Centro Vinoteca that includes brined-herb-crusted-turkey with polenta corn bread. [NYM]

Green Greek Comes to Flatiron; Thanksgiving Eats Aplenty

Chelsea: Bottlerocket Wine & Spirit will present a free Thanksgiving 101 wining and dining seminar on Saturday, November 17, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. that will be catered by City Bakery and feature chef Don Pintabona of Dani, pastry chef Nancy Olson of Gramercy Tavern and chef Galen Zamarra from Mas (farmhouse), giving cooking tips in addition to the requisite wine tasting. [Grub Street] East Village: Chikalicious will be serving on Thanksgiving, if you’d like to pass up a traditional feast for a $12 tasting of “warm cornmeal pound cake with corn ice cream and a duo of grapes in Moscato d’Asti.” [Restaurant Girl] The new and improved Momofuku Noodle Bar now features soft-serve ice cream served in brownie-stuffed cones. [Eater] Financial District: Blue Ribbon Sound on Ann Street is a recording studio brought to you from the restaurant group of the same name because the owners of the sushi houses and bakeries around town are also “dedicated to high quality sound production in a comfortable and professional environment.” [Down by the Hipster] Flatiron: Parea will be remade into a rustic Greek eatery, with an organic menu and green architecture. [Restaurant Girl] Flushing: Sai Bhavan Snack & Sweets at 141-20 Holly Avenue is a good place to find vegetarian South Indian fare to celebrate the India’s annual Festival of Lights. [Gothamist] Harlem: The farmer’s market outside of Morningside Park at 110th Street and Manhattan Avenue on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. will close for the winter after November 17. [Uptown Flavor] Midtown East: Alto has a special table for two that overlooks the dining room, but protocol for securing the prized seating remains hazy. [Eater]

A Star Swap for Alto & L’Impero; No Amore for Richman at Fiamma

The Times’ verdict is in on Alto and L’Impero, and it’s the expected three and two stars, respectively. Lost in the Alto upgrade is the hard fact that L’Impero now enters the dreaded two-star limbo into which Frank Bruni puts any place neither transcendent nor mediocre. Personally, we would have had it at four and three. [NYT] Alan Richman admires the new Fiamma (former home to Mike White) in a cool and distant way, finding the food busy and not at all Italian, although not exactly lousy by any means. No one will read this review and want to spend money to eat at Fiamma. [Bloomberg] On the other hand, Restaurant Girl’s three-star review reads like a perfume ad, it’s so loving: “Like an artist, he paints deeply flavored ragu onto a pappardelle canvas, finished with tender ribbons of venison.” Ew! But Steve Hanson must be happy. [NYDN]

NYC Chefs: Setaro Pasta Rules!

Today marks the tenth anniversary of Chelsea Market, a place we would avoid if there were anyplace else to get Setaro pasta. The supremacy of the Campagnan product, sold only in Buonitalia at the market, is something we never stop hearing about: last night, Kevin Garcia of Accademia del Vino told us, “All the top chefs I know use it — it’s the pasta of choice, the best I’ve ever been able to find.” Mark Ladner of Del Posto, Jonathan Benno at Per Se, and any number of other food luminaries swear by the stuff. But why? Buonitalia co-owner Antonio Magliulo says, “This company, Setaro, is very small. They don’t produce a lot of pasta. And when they dry it, it’s at low temperatures, so it keeps the flavor and texture. The way it cooks, the bite that it keeps — it’s something special.”

Alto Marries Marrow, Sardines, Beef, and Brasato

Sirloin
Since taking over from Scott Conant at Alto, Michael White has instilled the menu with oversize flavors and resourceful techniques. This dish, sirloin with marrow bones and brasato reduction, fulfills both criteria. As always, mouse over the different parts of the image to hear them described in the chef’s own words.

Two Chefs (and One Good Eater) Take a Trip to the Bronx

If there's something you can think of better than going up to Arthur Avenue in the Bronx in a big white Buick, for the express purpose of eating sandwiches with your two favorite Italian chefs, then we would like to know what it is. We heeded our lust for salumi and mozzarella and recorded the results for Grub Street posterity. . Roving Chef: Arthur Avenue [Video]

Eric Ripert to Feed Reader Who May Lose Sense of Taste

Dear Grub Street,
Next weekend I’m getting surgery done on an impacted wisdom tooth which is growing very close to a central nerve. I’ve been told that if this nerve is damaged, there’s a chance I will lose a large part of feeling in my face – including a loss of my sense of taste. I’ve gone into “doomsday mode”, thinking of all the best flavors this city has to offer in an effort to get them ingrained into my gray memory. As of now I’ve got a reservation at Degustation, will be making at least three visits minimum to Ssäm Bar, and another to Sasabune. Are there maybe two or three dishes or places that should be added to this ever-growing list? Le Bernardin is in my sights of course, but understandably may be difficult to get into.
Signed,
Facing My Final Hour

Michael White on His Departed Pastry Chef: “He Was a Jerk.”

Restaurant Girl reported pastry chef Tim Butler’s departure from Alto and L’Impero yesterday, not long after chef Michael White found out himself. “He just told me on Friday and only told Restaurant Girl to stick it to me,” White says. The two had sparred over what White calls Butler’s refusal to use Italian ingredients and flavors in his desserts. “I asked him over and over again — use a little hazelnut or some Gianduja chocolate — but he totally refused. Then he told me he wasn’t coming in anymore. I’m the easiest guy to work for in the world! But this guy really was a jerk.” Chef de cuisine Kevin Sippel is also leaving White but had given notice several months ago for family reasons. White expects to name a new pastry chef soon — we’ll let you know when he does. Creative Differences at L’Impero and Alto [Restaurant Girl]

A Pastry Purge at Alto and L’Impero; Dosa Man Wins His Vendy

Executive pastry chef Tim Butler has left L’Impero and Alto after a two-year stint citing “creative differences” with recently installed former Fiamma chef Michael White; Alto’s chef de cuisine Kevin Sippel has also stepped down. [Restaurant Girl] In a stunning upset, Dosa Man Thiru “Susan Lucci” Kumar won at the Vendy Awards on Saturday. [NYDN] Manhattan sidewalk dining is ghetto, and the reasons New Yorkers suffer through it might include wanting to pretend they’re like Europeans and “if something is in limited supply, New Yorkers want it, period.” [NYT]

Ov-er-ra-ted! (Clap-Clap-ClapClapClap)

The Post returned to an evergreen feature idea today, every editor’s best friend: the “overrated” list. Since our philosophy has always been to slavishly ape the Post in every way short of peppering our posts with the phrase “tot-slay suspect,” we thought we might add a few of our own. Since the Post didn’t limit itself to specific dishes at specific restaurants, we won’t either. Here are a few things that we find ourselves less than overawed with these days.

Behind the Scenes at the Conant-Cannon Divorce

As with Brad and Jennifer or England Dan and John Ford Coley, the professional marriage of Chris Cannon and Scott Conant at Alto and L’Impero seemed perfect to the world until the day it broke up. Both men tell Grub Street that they have oodles of respect and love for the other, but in speaking to both, we were able to gather a basic time line of what happened. Some time in the last year, Conant talked to Cannon about new and ambitious plans outside the restaurant, which we gather are still in play but which Cannon wanted no part of. (Conant is doing a little casual consulting for Il Tutto Giorno, a friend’s tiny, 30-seat restaurant in Sag Harbor, but by Conant’s account, that is a minor, separate affair, and he is certainly not to be the chef there.) “There are things I wanted to do, and he wasn’t necessarily on the same page with that,” Conant says. “I need to achieve my potential. The restaurant business is changing, becoming more fluid, and I need to evolve with it.”