Week of September 9, 2002

Molto for the Masses
New Yorkers have ready access to Mario Batali's cooking (at Babbo, Esca, and Lupa). But suburbanites and expats now have an alternative to idling in traffic at the river crossings: Batali's new Molto Sugo regional tomato sauces, plus Bagno Modenese-a Chianti-balsamic marinade-sold exclusively at the Trader Joe's chain of markets, are headed this way after a hugely successful tryout west of the Mississippi. The southern-Italian spicy Sugo Arrabbiato sauce works on its own over pasta or, with the addition of a few clams, snapper, and shrimp, makes a quick cioppino. The Sugo Finocchiato sauce from Puglia is heady with sweet garlic and toasted fennel seeds (we like it with chicken or sausage, making a very hearty dish), and the Sugo Pomodoro is a basic tomato sauce that is a foundation for all of Mario's braised dishes. The sauces are, in fact, exactly the same as those made in the restaurants, using the same Italian components ("You can't make a good thing out of crappy ingredients," says Batali). To ensure quality control, he tastes every batch before bottling-and, he says, he's already rejected one. Unfortunately, there's no Trader Joe's (yet) in New York, but stores are flourishing in Scarsdale, Westport, Westwood, Merrick, and other nearby suburbs ($2.99 at all locations). —GILLIAN DUFFY



Ask Gael
Has Patricia Yeo got the right stuff at Pazo?
Yeo's smart Asian-fusion strut at AZ prompts those of us who move on our stomachs to pounce on Pazo. There, in the low-slung, smartly decked-out room, served with ceremony by shaven-headed men (and a dame), we are quickly seduced by a fritto misto of lobster, corn, and stuffed artichoke and by a wood-roasted pork chop with cockles and fennel sausage. Alas, it's clear that Yeo and her co-executive chef, Pino Maffeo, are still finding their way. Not every dish has the thrilling citric balance of their Campari-caramelized quail with grilled grapefruit: There's too much intellectualizing, not enough editing (at these hefty prices). Already banished, thank goodness, sugar-vanilla-glazed endive tastes like dessert on too-cooked turbot. The scallops seem stingy. Yet the intense tang of apricot cream as a prelude to dessert restores our faith, as does the red-wine tart (though strawberry-verjus granita needs far better berries). As a fan, I'm writing it off to new-launch jitters and will return for an encore.
106 East 57th Street

Bites & Buzz Archive

Week of September 2
Kevin Zraly's Windows on the World Complete Wine Course; a perfect new Latin-Caribbean flavored bakery; Zagat's updates and changes in New York's Marketplace; Gael finds a feast in western Long Island
Week of August 19
Caffeine culture in Queens; Jell-O dessert with strawberries and champagne; Bleeker Street's new sweets; Christmas memories at Rockefeller center; Rick Moonen's Branzini; Gael finds splurging civilized at Oceana
Week of August 12
Orchard Street's new sweet spot; dinner-time stories raise money at Cendrillon; David Ruggiero introduces the McRouge; Clambakes at St.Bart's; Harlem's Revival

and more ...

Photos: Joe Scafuro, Patrik Rytikangas