Week of June 23, 2003

Italian Iced
Please advise Adam Platt that New Yorkers did not need the chef at Esca to change their conception of Italian seafood [“The Italian Top Ten,” June 2]. Long before he came on the Manhattan restaurant scene, we knew there was more to this aspect of Italian cooking than “a stuffed clam … followed by waves of rubbery calamari.” Does Mr. Platt really think we needed a visit to Esca for our first taste of branzino, linguini with clam sauce, or grilled octopus?
-Anthony Biancoviso, Staten Island

What kind of “Italian Top Ten” for New York City excludes three of its finest restaurants: Felidia, Remi, and Il Mulino? These restaurants paved the way for all the others you listed.
-Danielle Borelli, New Rochelle, N.Y.

I rely heavily on New York Magazine’s restaurant reviews and recommendations in making dinner plans in Manhattan, so I was pleased to see this week’s cover story regarding the top 10 Italian restaurants in the City. I knew that, undoubtedly, I would see Felidia Restaurant listed among the top 10. Imagine my surprise when Babbo, Lupa and Esca were included in your list (and deservedly so), but the literal mother of them all, Felidia, was omitted. Lidia Bastianich’s flagship restaurant, a New York landmark for some two decades, currently under executive chef Fortunato Nicotra, is a glaring omission that defies explanation. I’m sure that the ten restaurants that made your list hope to achieve the standard of excellence and staying power that Felidia has consistently maintained.
-J. Foster, Manhattan

I enjoyed reading Adam Platt’s, summary last week of the Italian Top Ten, but I protest there are eleven! Serafinas’ restaurant chain provides a very honest and delicious approach to Northern Italian food in New York! With four locations alone and two new locations under construction, certainly it’s New Yorkers’ choice of Italian dining! The restaurant’s cuisine remains loyal to the Serafina philosophy: Italian food the way it’s meant to be: simple yet delicious pizza, pasta, carpaccio, grilled meat and fish all served up in a fun atmosphere. I am SO glad there is one across the street from my home, especially when I’m craving “Ravioli al Tartufo Nero”, homemade black truffle ravioli with a touch of butter or perhaps the “Goat Cheese Spinach Salad,” baby spinach, warm cheese, roasted pine nuts in a honey vinaigrette. Plus, a kiss on both cheeks from the owner, Fabio Granato is worth the trip alone!
-Jacqueline Mahalick, Manhattan

The Line on Larry
As a collector of modern art, I have nothing but respect for Larry Gagosian [“The Artful Dealer,” by Phoebe Hoban, May 26]. Much of the scrutiny he is under can be chalked up to the envy of other dealers, many of whom are suspicious of his unwillingness to discuss his finances and his unwavering respect in honoring his clients’ requests for anonymity. We could all learn a valuable lesson in civility and discretion from him, not to mention a thing or two about art.
-K. B. Doremus, Los Angeles, Calif.

Larry Gagosian should get off the phone and spend some time looking at the art on his gallery walls. Sure, it can fill up his big top of a Chelsea gallery, but aside from creating a nice backdrop for star-studded openings, too often it doesn’t add up to much. He is guilty of promoting visual inflation.
-Jeanne Wilkinson, Brooklyn

New Leash on Life
Ethan Brown’s “Ticket Master” [“Gotham,” June 2] implied that dog summonses have recently increased as a result of a mayoral initiative. This is not true. Dog summonses are down in the city across the board. The Department of Parks and Recreation has been regularly enforcing leash laws. Many park users have been attacked and bitten by unleashed dogs, and many park visitors find unleashed dogs—even cute pugs—intimidating. To channel the wanderlust of dogs all over the city, Parks and Recreation increased the number of dog runs in parks. We have worked hard to improve quality of life in parks over the last twenty years. Everyone, even pug owners, plays a role in this important job.
-Adrian Benepe, Commissioner, Department Of Parks And Recreation, Manhattan

Flying Low
I just finished reading Craig Horowitz’s article “An Inconvenient Woman” and was amazed by his sexist attitude. He tells the story of a heroic woman, whistle blower, whose chilling story about lax airport security really set my nerves on edge. The U.S. Customs allegedly is guilty of anti-Semitic slurs, corruption and sexual bias. Horowitz is guilty of the latter. Horowitz refers to Diane Kleiman as intense, high strung, and aggressive. The latter two adjectives certainly have a negative connotation when used to describe a woman. He tells of her ‘flaming’ red hair. Should this even be part of an article that clearly has three photos of this courageous woman? Mr. Horowitz went over the top, in my estimation, when he speaks of his meeting with her in a diner. He says she was in the middle of a LOUD conversation with a salesman who ‘appeared’ to be trying to pick her up. “She SEEMED to be BASKING in the attention.” This observation is totally ridiculous and uncalled for. “She was downright GIDDY, even though it was only 10 A.M.” Is there a specific time during the day that giddiness is permissible? Is reporting this even relevant? The line that was most offensive to me reads, “She wears too much makeup and at times, in her efforts to SEEM friendly, be a little bit CLOYING”. Does he have a degree in cosmetology? Would he dare say a man wore too much cologne or was too friendly? Get it straight Mr. Horowitz when writing about injustices be sure that your own prejudices do not color your work.
-Sheila Saul, Freehold, N.J.

Mr. Craig Horowitz article on Jack Maple uttered an insulting remark regarding the members of the Transit Police, likening the job as a lowest form of police work on a food chain. This remark, while totally untrue, is insulting to the second largest police department in NYC prior to the hostile takeover perpetuated by Rudy Giuliani. Its insulting to the over 3,000 men and women who serve and protect millions of passengers from the numerous kooks and crooks that roam the system. Transit Police patrol ALONE, with an antique radio system as their only hope for assistance. Lord Knows the riding public won’t help. I’ll match my record (1500 arrests in a five year period, that includes over 300 FELONY collars) against any of my brother and sister officers ‘up in the street’. I would never look upon them as dredges, as you seem to look upon a Transit Cop.  I look for an apology, but somehow, I don’t think you have the class to do so.
-Frank Wakely, Sr., Retired Transit Cop and proud of it. 

Almost Famous
Not once but twice in his review of the Chinese anti-commercialism film Together, Peter Rainer asserts that the “West” has plenty of “famous soulful artists” who are “rich and pure”—especially in the classical music world. Conspicuously, though, Rainer does not name one single such person. Indeed, one might be hard-pressed to name any classical musician of any kind who is truly “famous” (that is, widely known outside that tiny group that regularly buys classical music and frequents concert halls), much less rich by Hollywood standards. And outside that group? Who was Rainer thinking of? Madonna? Swarzenegger? Bono? Basinger? Perhaps Together was better than Rainer let on, and in fact struck a nerve?
-Andrew Miller, West New York, N.J.

Bloomin’ Mad
In the June 2, 2003 article “Teflon Mike” by Chris Smith, the mayor’s director of communications, Bill Cunningham, was quoted as saying, “Look, we know people don’t like him [Mike]. We understand. But it’s an interesting experiment.”I was rather disturbed by this insensitive comment. In this post 9/11 age, when New Yorkers feel entitled to reparations, we are instead feeling stabbed in the back, not only by the state and federal governments but now by our own city government. Loss of city sponsored services, initiation of controversial issues (some bordering on constitutional rights infringement and ‘progressiveness’ that is actually regressive, as with the smoking ban and summons issuing), not to mention the loss of weekend meals for the impoverished elderly, the overlooking by the mayor of the unnecessary, quality of life infringing summons’, as well as the loss of jobs for hardworking New Yorkers, including those who should be praised, firefighters for instance; and increasing taxes and financial burdens, as well as a plethora of others, are all no joking matter. In fact they are very serious issues; at least until the next terrorist attacks, which, unless there is complete destruction, will only put these issues on the back burner for a little while.We did not elect a mayor so we could be the pawn-like guinea pigs in a rich, corporate-minded ‘experiment’ or some ‘Bismarckian’ realpolitik fantasy. And even if he doesn’t see it that way, he should be aware of what the people around him are saying. Part of the responsibility of an elected official in the public sector is to put personal and contraindicating beliefs aside to serve the people in a most consistent and honest fashion. Our mayor is honest, independent, intelligent and consistent. He even got my vote, but where is he on the streets asking, “How am I doin’? We the people are the critics. His beliefs on what is good for New York are respectable but maybe not realistic in the face of the current fiscal and social crises and what the people want. Bars and restaurants are suffering. Business overall is suffering. There must be a healthier balance. Things do not need to be so totally across the board. The people must be pleased as well as the books must be balanced. This is not a time to go off on a disillusioned, unresearched, monomaniacal personal venture marked by, for example, increasing cigarette taxes for revenue, and then banning their use. When politicians “ ignore the polls and do what they believe,” they will find their political careers to be extremely short-lived, as we will wait to see in the 2005 elections. Indeed the constituents are unhappy, and we will be until change is made. Even though our outrage is ‘tempered by the sense that far worse may be lurking and even though we know we all must sacrifice,’ that does not dilute the issues. This is not an experiment, a ‘let’s try this’ scenario, or corporate risk, that in the worst case would yield a failing business; furthermore, progress will never be made if it is looked at as such.
-Joshua Niedelman, Manhattan

Chris Smith in his City Politic column writes, from his observation of New Yorkers, there is a “civility to our rage” when it comes to Bloomberg? I don’t know what rock Mr. Smith lives under, that would lead him to write something so completely inaccurate. Personally, I don’t know one single person who does not freely and passionately voice their feelings of HATE for the mayor (and the City Council too, for that matter) at every turn. I refer to people who live in Manhattan, the boroughs, and even out-of-towners who used to want to visit New York, until Bloomie came into power. Everyone I know, and even people I speak with casually in the supermarket or post office say things like they hope he gets sick and dies, or gets zapped by Martian rays and disappears off the face of the earth – ANYTHING to make him leave us alone and stop ruining our once-great, once- FUN city. I do hear people more and more frequently saying they are now completely convinced that he is insane, and call him names like “Adolph Bloomberg.” But I have YET to hear anyone speak about our little dictator with an iota of “civility.”
-Michele Robinson, Manhattan

In the Bag
Thanks to Ethan Brown for a great review of Richard Thompson’s The Old Kit Bag. Brown’s so right when he says Thompson hasn’t received proper public recognition. Fairport Convention, the band which Thompson founded, still sounds great!
-Matt Engel, Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

Feeling Blue
Somebody please tell me when my subscription to New York Magazine was switched to Penthouse Magazine? I can’t believe what I am reading in the “Naked City” columns by Amy Sohn. New York used to be a classy publication but now it has sunk to the levels of trash journalism. Her columns have ranged from descriptions of hot sex between an elderly couple, sex between older women and young studs, one-night-stand Internet sex, and most recently the vulgar article describing in graphic detail sex between two men. The big issue here was whether one was a “top” or a “bottom.” Please spare me the details and bring back the New York Magazine that I signed up for.
-Ann Hickey, Yorktown Heights, N.Y.

Glass Houses
I take great offense at Ms. Schoeneman’s [Gotham] remark “East End brokers taking to the bottle faster than Billy Joel.” While Billy Joel has had his misfortunes and setbacks, he has attempted to correct his problem. I find it extremely insensitive and callous to make such a remark, even if in jest. He who is without sin cast the first stone.
-Bridget Burke, Bayside

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Week of June 23, 2003