The Upper West Side — flush with Dovetail's success; the boffo business at Kefi , Cesca , and Ouest ; and with Fatty Crab II on the way — seems to be of all places the hot restaurant neighborhood du jour. And the next chef heading northwest? Tuscan toque Cesare Casella, who has a lease on a 1000-square-foot space on West 73rd Street. The Maremma chef, who leads the Italian program at the French Culinary Institute, is also seeking to acquire an adjacent storefront. “If we can do that, we will have an Italian restaurant, but not a Tuscan cowboy one,” Casella says. “I have to represent all of Italy, the way I teach at FCI. If we stay with the small space, it will be Bean Bar or something like it.” Bean Bar is the Tuscan takeout bean operation Casella has wanted to open at Grand Central since last May. His new space won't be ready till fall or next winter at the earliest.
Related: Cesare Casella Jumps to Launch Bean Bar in Grand Central
If you haven’t seen Kelly Choi sporting a trench coat on her show Secrets of New York, you’ve probably seen her donning skimpier attire as the host of New York Eats. She also just appeared as a judge on Iron Chef and will soon team with a liquor sponsor to publish The 25 Most Delicious Dishes in New York. What’s one of them? The moussaka at Pylos. “I’m crazy about Greek and Middle Eastern food,” Choi tells us. She doesn’t have the extravagant expense account you’d expect, and she isn’t often hungry for complimentary desserts — but still, the former Ford model managed to put away quite a bit this week.
So you think you know spaghetti carbonara? You don’t know spaghetti carbonara. That is the theme of the Italian chef coalition ITChefs – GVCI’s current campaign to educate New Yorkers about the classic dish. TChefs – GVCI’, which stands for Virtual Group of Italian Chefs, is charging four of the city’s top Italian chefs to make it exactly according to the “authentic” recipe for one night. On Thursday, Cesare Casella of Maremma, Mark Ladner of Del Posto, Kevin Garcia of Accademia de Vino, and Ivan Beacco of Borgo Antico, will make the dish according to the master recipe approved by ITChefs – GVCI. Or will they? Like every traditional recipe in every cuisine, "authentic" carbonara changes with every chef that makes it.
On the list of people we want to see destroyed, the recently returned Tuscan tourist ranks high. Everyone has met this person. Nothing is quite the same as it is in Italy; “the pasta we have here just doesn’t compare ” “the ingredients are handled with such simplicity ” and blah blah blah. Meanwhile, they have the same flour, olive oil, and wooden spoons in both places, so what’s the big deal? We aim to find out this week, when “Five Days to Taste Tuscany’s Maremma” hits New York.
We just got our copy of the Gourmet Institute calendar, and though we expected it to be pretty good (the pictures are by My Last Supper author Melanie Dunea), it turns out to be almost surreal. Dunea really gets the the absurdity of chef glamour shots, but rather than try to tone down the portraits, she folds her insight back into the photograph. The pictures are so high-concept that they transcend their original food-porn purposes. Brilliant! The calendar, which helps to support City Meals on Wheels, features twelve big-shot chefs in her signature style, and includes such awesome shots as Maremma's Cesare Casella in a cowboy suit, looking like a tough Tuscan sheriff of the plains; Esca's David Pasternack, looking totally looped, pouring liquor into the mouth of his fish companion; and Barbuto's Jonathan Waxman, throwing what we hope is flour around in a gleeful, Tony Montana–like spree.
The Chefs of the Gourmet Institute 2008 CalendarRelated: Eating the Last Supper
The Russian Tea Room has found itself a new chef: former Beppe boss Marc Taxiera. Only in his first few weeks there, Taxiera is already revamping the menu, which has been in a state of suspended animation since former chef Gary Robins got the mitten in February. Taxiera has flown under the radar a little but is actually one of the more talented young chefs in town: Despite having no experience other than an ICE externship at Felidia and a job on the line at Baldoria, he did so well at Beppe that he was promoted from within when chef Cesare Casella left the restaurant to concentrate his energies on Maremma. Even though it's on what is usually thought of as a cursed street, Beppe continued to flourish, owing largely to Taxiera’s smart, muscular menu. Whether all that translates into Russian is another story, but it’s a smart move for the embattled Russian Tea Room.
Related: Russian Tea Room Fires Gary Robins, and Robins Fires Back
Astoria: The owners of Sai Organics health-food store have opened an organic restaurant in the old Keystone Diner spot on 30th Avenue near 31st Street. [Joey in Astoria]
East Village: The prices of Gemma’s rustic fare are shocking “and not in a Kobe/Gilt kind of way.” [Gastro Chic]
Meatpacking District: PM may lose its liquor license soon if complaining neighbors sway the community board. [Down by the Hipster]
Midtown East: Menchanko-Tei has been closed by the Department of Health. [Midtown Lunch]
Soho: Jerry’s diner has closed, but the owner may be looking for a new space. [Eater]
Tribeca: Peat Week at Brandy Library starts August 20 bringing a series of public “peated” Scotch tastings and special menu offerings. [Brandy Library] Pomodoro’s II on West Broadway at Murray Street will soon share its space with a Cheesesteak Factory Express. [Grub Street]
West Village: Reservations by phone are required if you want to eat the last of the Chianina steak at Maremma only on offer through next Friday. [Grub Street]
Clinton Hill: Il Torchio, an enoteca and Italian tapas joint at 458 Myrtle Avenue, is under construction; the exposed-brick interior and outdoor space look promising. [Clinton Hill Blog]
East Village: CBGB, DBGB: We get it. [Eater]
Greenwich Village: Grey Dog Coffee’s University Place location opens Thursday. Hours: 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. [Eater]
Nolita: Vig Bar’s temporary close had something to do with a change of management and a lot to do with the State Liquor Authority, but it’ll be back serving downtown bankers by Thursday. [Down by the Hipster]
Park Slope: FreshDirect messed with the wrong groups when it temporarily, and possibly accidentally, raised its delivery minimum from $50 to $100. [Gowanus Lounge]
West Village: From 4 p.m. until close tomorrow, the Blind Tiger will feature Christmas-themed beer from England’s Ridgeway Brewery including Very Bad Elf, Seriously Bad Elf, and another favorite, Santa’s Butt, all for no apparent reason. [Blog Chelsea] Maremma is cooking up purebred Chianina steaks starting this Thursday evening for one week only. [Grub Street]
It’s 4 p.m., and that means it’s time to play Two for Eight. We just asked ten restaurants the best time they can squeeze a couple in for dinner; you need only make your chosen reservation. (As always, we make the calls but don’t guarantee the results.) Today: Gourmet Italian.
Chelsea: The big pink cupcake may have gotten all the press up until now, but how do the cupcakes taste? [Blog Chelsea] A man who claimed to be the nephew of Dolce & Gabbana was arrested at Bungalow 8 and not by the fashion police. [Eater]
Jamaica: Delta terminal 2 at JFK is getting a Balducci’s. [NewYorkology]
Southampton: Cain drops its plans for the Hamptons. [Down by the Hipster]
Upper West Side: P&G Corner Café getting harassed by its landlords; hence the no walls. [Lost City]
West Village: New York toasts Italy this weekend. Maremma and Otto are among restaurants serving special tasting menus by the chefs. [Bene Magazine] A tipster says its lights out for Central Kitchen, but a message machine says they’ll be open by June. [Grub Street]
Midtown West: Harry Cipriani looks to be reopening in the Sherry-Netherland Hotel. [Eater]
Park Slope: A Korean restaurant called MOIM will open on Garfield east of Seventh Avenue. [Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn]
Prospect-Lefferts-Gardens: Scary-looking bar with good fried chicken is getting an exterior makeover. [across the park]
Red Hook: 253 Conover Street, marked as “Bar” since 1890, has a new awning displaying its true name: Sunny’s Bar. [NewYorkology]
Upper West Side: One-hour-and-up line persists at Grom, even after opening day’s free gelato. [What I See]
West Village: From Tuesday to Thursday, Maremma will feature a reservation-only Chianina steak dinner. [Grub Street]
Williamsburg: Hole-in-the-wall Yola’s Cafe has big beefy burritos, and food is ready in minutes. [Gridskipper]
Cesare Casella of Maremma is known for his way with livestock (we’ve written of his specialty breed of pigs and his much-prized Chianina cattle herd). However the Tuscan-cooking guru made his first big product splash with his Republic of Beans import company, and he’s now looking to get back into the beans business. Casella is in negotiations to open Bean Bar, a carryout shop in Grand Central Station that will sell some of his signature Tuscan bean dishes as well as uncooked beans and possibly other Italian products. “The main idea is to have cooked beans,” Casella tells us. “They’re great and so healthy, but for many people, they are a pain in the ass to cook. I want them to be able to take home beans when they go home on the train.” Families around the tri-state area will definitely be thanking Casella for that.
The James Beard Awards after-parties presented special challenges which could only be solved by the liberal use of an open bar. The place to go was the Hawaiian Tropic Zone, whose bikini-clad waitresses and go-go dancers, serving at the behest of chef David Burke, provided a welcome dose of vulgarity after the high-class Beard gala. But the truly hot ticket was the Momofuku party bus, which, if David Chang & Co. were to be believed, was a chartered party vehicle where the most intense celebrating would be done. Regretfully, though, it was closed to press. “Sorry, dude,” David Chang told us, dazed and blissful and still unbelieving in the wake of his victory.
The nominations for the James Beard Foundation Awards, the Oscars of the restaurant industry, will be announced Monday morning. We’ll report on that as it happens, but for now, here are picks for the main categories from Adam Platt, Rob Patronite and Robin Raisfeld, and Josh Ozersky. Our choices are admittedly New York–centric (the awards go to restaurants across the country), but the ceremony is held here, and the city always looms large in the proceedings.
The Amateur Gourmet interviews Mario Batali, but he's too starstruck to get tough with the chef (like he did with Sirio). One highlight: Batali insists that you can in fact drink a whole case of wine in one sitting. [Serious Eats]
It’s not an official review or anything, but Bruni ate at Maremma and wasn’t crazy about it. [Diner's Journal/NYT]
There are apparently a number of New York City “food bloggers” who have some influence on the restaurant business. [NYT]
Few chefs in New York are more in tune with animals than Cesare Casella; he's even developing a new breed of pigs, as we recently pointed out. But tonight at Maremma, he'll be serving something even more special: purebred Italian Chianina beef, from his Tutto Bene ranch upstate. Chianina are the classic Italian cows; no bistecca fiorentina made from Black Angus or other British breeds can truly be considered authentic. Supplies are limited, so you're not guaranteed a steak, but the restaurant will also be offering Chianina carpaccio and a ragù made from the aged beef. We sampled each preparation last night; the meat is extraordinarily lean, with a light, delicate texture reminiscent of veal. Call 212-645-0200 now for dinner reservations.