Week of October 13, 2003
Pinch-Pizza by the Inch
Who knew selling pizza was such a precision science? Hot on the heels of Pie by the Pound, where you’re charged for your custom-cut slab by its weight, comes Pinch-Pizza by the Inch, a restaurant and pizzeria where they believe that pie should be measured with a yardstick, not a scale. The brainchild of Todd Birnbaum, a former manager at John’s Pizza, Pinch was inspired by the meter-long pizza Birnbaum ate in Uruguay. If the pricing seems difficult (figure 50 cents per inch, toppings extra), the appetizers, pastas, and main courses, courtesy of Birnbaum’s brother, Lupa grad Matthew, are normally priced. But they break out the ruler again for the mocha tirami su.
416 Park Avenue South, near 29th Street
When you quit the fashion industry to open a restaurant called Fatty’s Café, one might presume you have … issues. But Suzanne Furboter, a former Anne Klein publicist (and the Fatty in question), swears it’s a term of endearment. Her boyfriend Fernando Peña—a.k.a. “big fat Fern”—is the manager, mixologist, and guiding culinary force behind the gently priced Latin-themed menu. He’s also a bit of a gym rat, which accounts for the high-protein presence of jalapeño-turkey burgers and sofrito-marinated grilled chicken with blackened asparagus, and flaxseed oil in the avocado sauce.
25-01 Ditmars Boulevard, Astoria
It’s hard to keep track of Orhan Yegen. The whirling dervish of Turkish restaurateurs always has another culinary concept up his sleeve, and after recent triumphs at Beyoglu and Efendi, he’s applying his considerable talents to Divane. In a valiant effort to break the pattern of a typical Turkish meal, where diners overdose on appetizers and surrender well before the main course, Yegen is offering only four starters. Even more subversively, they’re meant to be eaten with the char-grilled entrée, be it yogurt doner kebab, a seafood special, or filet mignon shish.
888 Eighth Avenue, at 52nd Street
Three things fuel Latin dinner-and-dance clubs: hot music, spicy food, and big-time bottle service. The owners of Babalu have taken that tried-and-true trio crosstown to LQ, their sprawling new club at the Radisson Lexington Hotel. Cultures clash enticingly in executive chef Alex Garcia’s “Lat’Asian” fusion menu, which features newfangled and not outlandishly priced sushi, seviche, and such hybrid concoctions as oxtail-lobster rolls with chayote slaw and short ribs braised in Rioja and miso.
511 Lexington Avenue, at 47th Street
Talk about having your finger on the culinary pulse: This week, Patria chef Andrew DiCataldo simultaneously tackles two burgeoning trends—Mexican and barbecue—when he transforms the space that was formerly Chicama into Lucy. Tacos, tamales, seviche, and a wealth of antojitos are on the menu, but barbacoa (Spanish for barbecue) is the thing here. In Mexico, that word connotes goat, cow, or lamb heads buried in a pit in the ground and cooked over coals. Realizing that that process wouldn’t exactly fly at ABC Carpet & Home, where the restaurant is located, DiCataldo opts for barbacoa by way of Manhatttan: spring-lamb leg wrapped in banana, avocado, and hoja santa leaves and slow-roasted in the restaurant’s wood-burning brick oven.
35 East 18th Street
The 8,000-square-foot ground floor of the luxury loft building at 1 Main Street in Dumbo has undone a pioneering restaurateur or two, but Bubby’s owner, Ron Silver, is undaunted—though he admits “it’s been scary, sitting in that space and trying to make it look homey.” Something about the neighborhood—and a very persuasive landlord—convinced Silver that Dumbo was ready for Bubby’s Brooklyn, an outpost of his Tribeca comfort-food canteen scheduled to open October 10. “It’s a family restaurant, and there are lots of families here,” says Silver, whose picture windows overlook the beautiful new Brooklyn Bridge Park and its busy playground. As in Manhattan, the menu is packed with crowd-pleasing fare like macaroni and cheese, meatloaf, barbecue, and Silver’s signature pies. Kids eat free Sunday nights.
1 Main Street, Brooklyn
The Week That Reeks
Inspired by the Saugerties garlic festival, Anne Rosenzweig and Charleen Badman of Inside have planned a pungent celebration of their own. This week, their special menu showcases the stinking rose in the fragrant form of fish soup with garlic rouille, chicken roasted with 40 cloves, and garlic-potato pizza. The festivities culminate Sunday, October 12, when the restaurant’s purveyors, Lana and Charles Moravus of Valley View Farms in Orange County, park a pickup curbside full of farm-fresh bulbs of you-know-what, plus assorted fall produce. Sidewalk tables will be stocked with Inside’s own watermelon pickles, caramel lady apples, and garlic-sausage heros.
9 Jones Street
Showing Her Roots
Lucky for us, Sara Jenkins just can’t shake Italian food.
Just when Sara Jenkins thought she was out, like Al Pacino in The Godfather Part lll, they pulled her back in. After trying to shrug off the Italian-chef label she earned early in her career, and expanding her culinary horizons at places like Patio Dining and Il Buco, she’s finally embraced her destiny. “At the end of the day, it’s really the food I love the most and the food I cook the best,” she says, surveying the dining room of 50 Carmine, the scene of her professional epiphany. With Jenkins’s wholeheartedly Italian menu in place, the dim, sparsely furnished restaurant seems poised to eradicate the memory of its long-lived predecessor, Cent’Anni. Jenkins’s deft touch is discernible in the big, robust flavors of her braised rabbit with nutty Umbrian chickpeas, and in small details like the pea shoots in her brodo of chicken and Parmesan. She dresses fresh escarole with a chili-spiked anchovy dressing, and lavishes exquisite bucatini with a dark, delicious purée of cavolo nero and breadcrumbs. Ever the Greenmarket loyalist, Jenkins plans to supplement her menu with specials, but nothing too outré. “I can’t promise that there won’t ever be yogurt in my food or a few Spanish ingredients here and there,” she says, leaving the door open a crack. But it’s clear from her inspired, confident cooking that she’s not in any hurry.
50 Carmine Street
We’re into eating light and sharing.
Enter the Twilight 101 zone, where the bar, with its river-rock wall and romantic glow, is great for sipping wine by the glass and sharing small plates—from terrific almonds or four itsy bacon-wrapped dates and olives ($3), to a trio of fried goat-cheese balls rolling in lavender honey ($5), to quail with braised white beans ($10). The pineapple-topped blue-cheese-Serrano-ham melt could be warmer, but we loved the gentle anchovies atop onion-walnut confit on grilled bread, the garlicky citrus-paprika yogurt, and the toss of caramelized cauliflower bits with Manila clams, chorizo, and golden raisins. Four of us were tasting away one night, sharing cockles in heavenly orange-smoked tomato broth and six small Danish pork ribs, when we realized we were still hungry, so we raced west to Gonzo for a grilled pizza. Since then, chef Harrison Mosher (formerly of 71 Clinton Fresh Food and Danube) has added some heftier items: fabulous shrimp-and-tomato risotto with pancetta, a brace of big heads-on-shrimp, and less-than-thrilling monkfish. This is a work-in-slow-progress for veteran restaurateur Christopher Chesnutt, but eventually he hopes to open the big central room with its fireplace.
64 West 10th Street