Nelson Hernandez was a teacher for ten years before he decided he’d rather make art than teach it. He now performs around town as a singer-songwriter and pays the rent by waiting tables at Marco Canora’s joint Insieme. Since Insieme is located directly across from the darkened Winter Garden, we thought Hernandez might be just the person to tell us what the scene has been lately at a restaurant that caters both to theatergoing tourists and to homegrown aficionados of contemporary Italian cuisine.
It’s been a while since we first got wind of it, but the Hearth's long-awaited spinoff wine bar, Terroir, is finally close to becoming a reality. The space, known in its former life as Bikes by George, will begin its transformation right after Thanksgiving, and co-owners Paul Grieco and Marco Canora hope to open the place by New Year’s. Grieco, the wine director, is a wine geek’s wine geek, which means he's got some lofty plans.
The fuel that fires the midtown's restaurant economy is, like electricity or natural gas, indispensable. It's that bustling, shuffling mass we like to call tourists, and with 27 theaters currently dark thanks to a stagehand strike, the tourism machine may be poised to shudder and stop. “The strike has a huge effect on us,” bemoans Insieme chef Marco Canora. “That's like 40 percent of our business.” Thanks to Insieme's high repute, the place gets a good seating between pre- and post-theater, but other restaurants are even more vulnerable.
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]
I am attempting to find establishments that have a table in their kitchens. I have a teenager who is interested in the industry and I thought this would be fun to do together!
An Encouraging Mother
Last night's Meatopia was everything we could have dreamed of and more: an unforgettable spectacle of infanticide with world-class chefs, world-class gluttons, and the beauty of the Water Taxi Beach as a setting for both. Here's some hint of its wonders, captured by society photographer Melissa Hom.
Word of Terroir, Hearth’s new spin-off wine bar, got out faster than owners Marco Canora and Paul Grieco wanted, but with the genie now out of the bottle, Canora tells us he’s ready to talk about it. “We wanted to keep it low-key, because we’re low-key guys,” he explains. The place is only 500 square feet, the chef says, and they don’t even plan to pipe in gas. There will be eight seats at the bar, a communal table with twelve to sixteen chairs, and a “very minimal” menu created by Canora, who with Grieco just recently opened Insieme in midtown.
Chef Marco Canora’s menu at Insieme is divided between modern dishes like uni risotto and traditional ones like spinach lasagne. But tonight’s special, black-olive fettuccine with duck ragù, falls somewhere between the two sides. “I love this as a take on a really rustic dish, but reworked,” Canora says. “The acidity of red wine goes with the richness of the duck, and both are complemented by the brininess of the olives.” The dish is topped with fiore de Sardo cheese, which Canora says he likes for its smokiness. If we were ordering it, we would start off with a cold, clean crudi appetizer, before taking on its deep, salty flavors. ($16 for an appetizer portion, $26 for entrée.)
The attentions of New York’s food staff are divided between modernity and tradition. Gael Greene is vexed with Provence, a reopened French restaurant which was faithfully conventional even in its former incarnation. Rob and Robin, apart from their usual announcements of new places in Openings, extract from Anthos chef Michael Psilakis a comparatively novel recipe for mature dandelion greens. And Adam Platt finds himself caught in the middle of Marco Canora’s half-modern, half-classical menu at Insieme.
Marco Canora has the reputation as a chef’s chef, a guy who knows how to take great ingredients and develop their taste with a minimum of artifice or flash. He was that way as the original chef at Craft, at Hearth, and now at Insieme, his ambitious new midtown restaurant. Lamb four ways with lavender, spring garlic, peas, morels and spicy greens is a quintessential Canora dish, intense, multilayered, but somehow humble. Mouse over each element for Marco’s description.
Brooklyn Heights: Brooklyn Pigfest, a major outdoor barbecue event at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge, is slated for May 12. [The Food Section]
Financial District: Front Street sees the soft opening of New Zealand gastropub Nelson Blue. [Eater]
Midtown West: Haven't made it to Insieme? Jason Perlow's photo-essay chronicles, in loving and lingering detail, every course at Marco Canora's new restaurant. [Off the Broiler] Landmarc at the Time Warner Center makes a mean-looking burger. [Gothamist]
Red Hook: A new stoplight at the intersection of Van Brunt and Sullivan streets should help ease traffic caused by Fairway. [The Brooklyn Paper] Opening day for the ball fields' food stands has been postponed, for one more week! [Gowanus Lounge]
Flatiron: Eleven Madison Park declines to keep their trial pastry chef, Richard Bies; until they hire a permanent replacement for Nicole Kaplan, Daniel Humm himself is handling the dessert program. [Grub Street]
Related: Nicole Kaplan Ditching Eleven Madison Park
As Rob and Robin announce in this week’s Openings, Marco Canora has finally opened up a second restaurant. As its just-published menu shows, Insieme represents Canora’s efforts to do two things at once. On the one hand, dishes like lesso misto con condimenti tipici (mixed boil) or bistecca fiorentina (grilled steak) represent his take on ultratraditional Italian food; the “contemporary” side, with offerings like sea-urchin risotto, allows him to assert the thoughtful but restrained style he showed as the original chef at Craft and in his own, still-popular Hearth.
Five established chefs take center stage in this week’s issue – or six, if you count Kurt Gutenbrunner, who, per In Season, has a way with white asparagus. The others? Michael Anthony, the Blue Hill Haute Barnyard prodigy who stepped into Tom Colicchio’s shoes at Gramercy Tavern; Christopher Lee, a major rising talent who filled big shoes at Gilt; Kerry Simon, a Las Vegas–based Vongerichten lieutenant who is now doing the food for a giant karaoke bar; and finally Marco Canora and Asian dessert master Pichet Ong, whose long-awaited debuts, Insieme and P*Ong, respectively, open this week. All this star power, along with two short lists that couldn’t be more different, awaits in this week’s magazine.
Dear Grub Street,
I’m hoping someone can explain Craft to me. I was taken there the other night for my birthday dinner and came away completely confused and disappointed. Really, what’s the big deal? What’s with all the glowing reviews?
Recently, apropos nothing much, a prominent young chef we were chatting with launched into a tirade about the restaurant world’s “labor problem.” “None of us can get enough good cooks!” he exclaimed, by way of explanation. Between 2000 and 2006, only a handful of high-end restaurants — Lespinasse, Meigas, Quilty’s — have closed, and there has been an avalanche of major openings: Robuchon, Ramsay, Per Se, Masa, Craft, Del Posto, Morimoto, A Voce, the Modern, Lever House, Buddakan, Cafe Gray, Alto — the list goes on and on. “And it’s not just the massive boom of restaurants,” Adam Platt tells us. “They also have to be either bigger, or chefs have to open multiple places, so that they can enjoy the economies of scale they need to compete.”
Being typical office drones, our New Year’s resolutions were fairly predictable: lose weight, use our time better, quit freebasing Lipitor. Thankfully, a few of the city’s chefs have shared some of theirs with us.
Marco Canora, whose Italianate cooking at Hearth has been a big hit lo these past few years, will also be taking over the former Limoncello space in the Michelangelo hotel come March. "I want to do two menus at once," the chef tells us. "One will be old-world — no-frills, no bells and whistles. Just the dishes that have been around for 500 years. The new-world side will involve more global sourcing and be more composed, but still Italian." (The beet-and-Gorgonzola risotto at Hearth, with its julienne of fried beet bits on top, hints at what you can expect from the latter.) "This is not Marco Canora as a molecular gastronomist," Canora says, speaking grandly in the third person. "This is Marco Canora as an evolving chef."
Kobe Club, a Future Gastrosaloon and After Hours at Suba [Nation's Restaurant News; scroll to bottom of post]
Kimberly Witherspoon and Peter Meehan's fine new book, How I Learned to Cook, is a collection of first-person accounts of celebrated chefs' rocky beginnings. Some of the best chapters are by New York cooks: Andrew Carmellini of A Voce, Gabrielle Hamilton of Prune, David Chang of Momofuku and Ssäm Bar, and Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin. In case you have any doubts about adding it to your Amazon wish list, here's a breakdown of the hometown highlights.