The wait for a table at Astoria’s Trattoria L’Incontro has long been an ordeal for Queens diners. Thank the outer-borough gods, then, that the restaurant’s opening a new wine bar, Vino di Vino, later this month. Right around the corner on Ditmars Boulevard, the wait-and-drink spot will have its own casual, small-plate menu centering on hot antipasti, cured meats, and cheese boards. But the big draw should be the wine list: 50 different varieties by the glass, with an emphasis on big reds like Amarones and Barolos. And, oh, the place will be enormous: 2,500 square feet. Finally, L’Incontro loosens its belt.
Vino di Vino, 29-21 Ditmars Blvd., Astoria; no phone yet.
You'd think the cast of The Sopranos would be riding pretty high right now, with the hype nearly deafening in advance of Sunday's final-season premiere. (This is, what, our 47th item on it?) But, in fact, they're a bit paranoid. Why? Crazy fans. At the world premiere at Radio City Music Hall last week, Ray Abruzzo, who plays dim-witted Carmine Jr., told us about a woman calling him over to her table in a restaurant. "She says, 'You're the idiot!' And in full loud voice, "He's the idiot! He's the idiot!' People are turning around, having no idea what she's talking about, except that I'm an idiot." John Ventimiglia — you know him as restaurateur Artie Buco — says he often gets handed actual food, "like, 'Here, I want you to try this gravy.'"
If the advent of reservation scalpers like PrimeTime Tables and Weekend Epicure didn’t prove that good reservations are more in demand than ever, an article in this weekend’s Wall Street Journal pretty much makes an open-and-shut case. They used OpenTable, a free online reservation service, to try to get spots at the top 40 restaurants in the world, and often struck out; after 3,000 tries — calling every half-hour for six weeks straight — they still couldn’t score a 7 p.m. table at Del Posto. They do report some small triumphs: A San Francisco software engineer figured out how to get a reservation at the French Laundry by reloading an OpenTable page at exactly 11:59:55 a month in advance. And in fact, the free service is probably your best bet, despite the many strikeouts. Still, we prefer to simply call the same afternoon.
How to Get the Ungettable Table [WSJ]
Related: The Death of Paid Reservations?
The perfect sign that Passover has arrived at New York, even more than those calls from mom (no, you can't take a train that late; seventeen people I'm cooking for!)? The messenger-delivered arrival at the office of PR matzo, handmade by the Chabad of — where else? — Southampton. Good yontif, everyone.
Brooklyn Heights: Jack the Horse Tavern now serves brunch. [Brooklyn Heights Blog]
Chelsea: Checking in on Balducci’s: “If Marilyn Monroe were to come back as a cupcake, this is probably what she would look like.” [Blog Chelsea] Also, Cain bails on clubland for downtown, near GoldBar. [NYP]
East Village: Seder storytelling happening at Mo Pitkin’s tonight and tomorrow at 7 p.m.; a ticket also gets you gefilte fish and hard-boiled eggs. [Mo Pitkin’s]
Fort Greene: Sordid tale of greed may have forced Christian Dennery to sell Liquor’s restaurant, but whatever: Where will we get our Bloody Marys? [Clinton Hill Blog]
Harlem: Café Largo has reopened after an exhausting four-year renovation; the space is sexier, and new brick oven? Could serve three restaurants. [Uptown Flavor] Meanwhile, could a former Associated supermarket become a W Hotel? [Harlem Fur]
Lower East Side: Chef Shane Coffey will leave his head post at Alias Restaurant by the end of April and move to Aspen. [Eat for Victory/VV]
Prospect-Lefferts-Gardens: “You like meat?”: Omaha steaks now available from unmarked vans near the Associated! [My Life in Brooklyn via Gowanus Lounge]
Bay Ridge: Ferry service between here and Staten Island restored? Or only for April fools? [Bay Ridge Blog]
Coney Island: In full party drag, the Mermaid Parade gang stormed City Hall last week to denounce developer Thor Equities' imminent Coney redo. [Curbed]
East Village: Area playwright Israel Horowitz isn't the only one lamenting the likely death of the 13th Street Repertory theater, a fixture since 1972. [NYC Blocks]
Harlem: Will a W Hotel open at Frederick Douglas Boulevard and 124th Street? [Harlem Fur]
Long Island City: The area can rest easy knowing that one of the free subway dailies has decided it has finally "arrived." [amNY]
Park Slope: Outrage unleashed! Neighbor dis R&A Bike Shop for poor customer service. [Daily Slope]
Upper East Side: Three of the biggest real-estate sales in Manhattan since 2005 were on East 78th between Fifth and Madison, including a $45 mil purchase by Mayor Mike. [The Real Deal]
With the end of March, and, tonight, the end of its best-known Madness, we thought we'd let you in on a secret: There's a different March Madness, and it took place last month on a different set of hardwood courts. It's the College Squash Association Individual National Championships, which were held at the University of Pennsylvania's Ringe Squash Center, and they were — you may be surprised to hear — as exciting to watch North Carolina State's legendary comeback against Houston in the 1983 NCAA finals, just a little more understated.
The Alice Watersization of New York cuisine is continuing apace, and now it's spreading to decidedly un-haute cuisine. Now that the budget is done, Albany leaders are finalizing a deal to give New York its first statewide Food Policy Council, charged with spreading the local-and-organic movement to corner bodegas and other places where lower-income New Yorkers shop. A Friday announcement by state Agriculture Commissioner Patrick Hooker explained that the new body will coordinate the mind-numbing minutiae involved in favorite sustainable-food efforts like getting New York State apples to the neighborhood deli and ensuring that community-supported agriculture-buying clubs are affordable to the poor. That last bit helped sell the plan to legislators less interested in dining at Chez Panisse than in combating low-income obesity — which is actually lending a little class tension to the plan. "The question is, is it just going to be a food-quality and local-food focus, or is it going to have a key anti-poverty focus?" asked Joel Berg, executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger. "I hope this really doesn't end up a yuppie thing." Sigh. Doesn't everything around here these days? —Tracie McMillan
If the current Google-versus- Viacom clash of the titans didn't already convince you that the very notion of copyright is sinking, here's another leak it sprung. Egged on by Apple chief Steve Jobs, EMI has become the first major label to chuck copy protection in its digital dealings. The music company — which controls music by Pink Floyd and Coldplay (and the Beatles, still conspicuously absent from iTunes) — will sell its wares on Jobs's virtual record store as straight-up MP3s, without the annoying add-ons that make the files playable on a limited number of devices. In the short run, this will create an unholy mess of mixed-format libraries. In the long run, it's a victory for the progressive Googlethink encapsulated by Clive Thompson in this week's magazine: "If everything is promiscuously available digitally, and easily findable, this will be a cosmic win-win for everyone."
• JP Morgan, Lehman, and Merrill are in talks with developers to build new trading floors in Manhattan. [Bloomberg]
• Donald Trump set a new low last night, defeating WWF owner Vince McMahon in a "Battle of the Billionaires." [AP via Yahoo]
• The SEC celebrates April Fools' Day with a prank press release about new disclosure rules. [Financial Times via MSNBC]
Something's particularly fishy around town right now, and it's not just all those Catholics abandoning meat. Or, actually, it ever so slightly is: Loosely timed to coincide with the Lenten season, McDonald's has debuted the Double Filet-o-Fish — and the Underground Gourmet is giddy. There's more to the sandwich than just a double dose of deep-fried mystery fish. What's the special twist? The UG tells all at Grub Street, where it's the Sandwich of the Week.
Filet-o-Fish Sandwich Now Twice As Delicious [Grub Street]
The big idea lately in newspapering — poor, beleaguered newspapering — has been the proposition that newspapers of the billionaires, by the billionaires, and for the people might just be the best kind of newspapers. (One well-known billionaire, goes the logic, is better than anonymous private-equity firms or, worse, Hassan Elmasry.) The proposition hasn't worked out quite as believers hoped in Philadelphia, and in Boston Jack Welch hasn't even been allowed to try. But this morning Chicago's Tribune Company — owner of the eponymous paper, plus the insurrectionary Los Angeles Times, Long Island's Newsday, and other newspapers, TV stations, and a baseball team — announced that it has accepted an offer from local billionaire Sam Zell.