FROM IMPROVISATIONAL PESTO TO HERITAGE CITY BEEF TO A NEW BROOKLYNITE’S TAKE ON URBAN-INSPIRED SOUTHERN WHAT INSPIRED MINDS ARE CONJURING IN BOROUGH KITCHENS
BY MATT SCANLON, CHRISTINE SIRACUSA, AND JESSICA JONES-GORMAN
FANTASIA DI MARE, ZIO TOTO
8407 3rd Avenue 718.238.8042
Chef Anna Napoli is a self-taught cook whose family has been in the restaurant business for 30 years. Growing up in Italy, she learned traditional Sicilian recipes from her mom and grandmother. Napoli’s Chilean Sea Bass, a frequent special at Zio Toto, is served with a side order of risotto ai funghi, and is, she describes, “a unique take on a traditional Italian delicacy,” not least in its inclusion of fresh and marvelous white truffle oil. “Mangia!” she sweetly ordered. We obeyed.
FAMILY-STYLE DINNER, CELESTINE
1 John Street 718.522.5356
Yards from the Manhattan Bridge, newly-opened Celestine is a partnership among Julian Brizzi (Rucola, Grand Army Bar), Noah Bernamoff (Mile End Deli, Black Seed Bagels, Grand Army Bar, Otto’s Market), Joe Campanale (Fausto), and James Beard nominated designers Matthew Maddy and Nico Arze (Lilia, Grand Army Bar, Russ & Daughters Cafe). The product of years of collaboration, its Mediterranean focus with a kitchen led by Executive Chef Garett McMahan (Perilla, The Harrison, Bouley, Baccarat Hotel) was intended to complement the coastal aspects of the site. McMahan’s concept was to deliver seasonal, soulful fare, with flavours and influences “from Sicily to Beirut, and all paths in between,” as he put it. His four course Family Style Dinner is a sea-spanning journey, featuring a choice of two starters and two mains, along with which the chef sends a mezze platter, flatbread, side dishes, and an assortment of desserts. Seen here is the Whole Grilled Market Fish with fennel artichoke dill salad and bitter sweet Urfa sauce, along with baked hummus with sumac and brown butter.
MALFADINI WITH RAPINI PESTO AND SWEET & SOUR PEPPERS, LEUCA
111 N 12th Street at The William Vale hotel 718.581.5900
Leuca is a self-described “neighborhood restaurant” on the ground floor of the boutique William Vale hotel, and the latest expansion of Chef Andrew Carmellini’s NoHo Hospitality Group empire (which includes Locanda Verde and Lafayette). Executive Chef Anthony Ricco sees his dining room as a place where anyone can “come and get a great pizza during lunch or eggs Benedict with hollandaise for breakfast.” That’s true enough, but it’s Ricco’s pasta that continues to surprise and delight. Typically, the idea of disturbing an already-perfect pesto flavor profile would be something close to sacrilege, but when ribbon-shaped Malfadini pasta, rapini (aka broccoli raab), and sweet and sour peppers do the collective intermingling, the sum is electrifying.
ANGRY LOBSTER, PONTE VECCHIO
8810 4th Avenue 718.238.6449
For 41 years, this Bay Ridge mainstay of “New York Italian” has been offering both classics (pasta Fruitti Di Mare, Pollo Scarpariello, Vitello Parmigiana) as well as the unexpected, such as a glorious Spaghetti Alla Dorotea, with baby shrimp and prosciutto, baked in foil and served in a cream cognac sauce. If one is going for high-theater, however, there is, according to owner Rino Aprea, a singular choice: Aragosta Arragiata (“Angry Lobster”) Di Giovanni—lobster in a spicy white wine garlic sauce and served over linguini.
“We’ve been serving this entree here at Ponte Vecchio since 1977,” said Aprea. “It is a hugely popular dish, and great for family-style sharing. There are all types of flavors; the lobster meat, garlic, extra-virgin olive oil, flake red pepper, basil, fresh lemon juice, fish stock, and white wine. Cooked principally in the pan on a high fire so the flames lightly smoke the oil and circulate into the pan the result is just extraordinary, and very difficult to approximate at home.”
SAVORY GRITS WAFFLES, NICOLE TAYLOR
Former host of food culture podcast Hot Grease, author, and the principal of NAT Media.
A Georgia native and current BedfordStuyvesant resident, Taylor, according to her site bio, “spent her early twenties trying to distance herself from her Southern cooking roots, until a move ‘up’ to Brooklyn gave her a fresh appreciation for the flavors of her childhood.” It’s in part what prompted her to write The Up South Cookbook: Chasing Dixie in a Brooklyn Kitchen (Countryman Press, 2015).
These Savory Grits Waffles are an homage to classic chicken and waffles, a dish that actually traces its roots to 1930s Harlem. It’s an adventure in cornmeal, bacon, brown sugar, butter, and black and red pepper and ginger seasoning. The recipe is available in the book, along with dozens more geographically cross-pollinated culinary wonders.
HAMBURGER, PETER LUGER STEAK HOUSE
178 Broadway 718.387.7400
“We’ve had a chopped steak on our menu for as long as anyone can remember,” said David Berson, the great grandson of Sol Forman, who bought arguably Brooklyn’s most famous restaurant from the Luger family in 1950 (the original opened in 1887 as Karl Luger’s Billiards and Café). “Only available at lunch, this is an 8-ounce patty consisting of dry-aged steak trimming and chuck, hand ground daily, and which we broil at a high temperature. We serve the hamburger with a slice of white onion and with or without American cheese. To me, it’s indicative of us as a restaurant. We try to keep it really simple, yet delicious.”
GRILLED VEAL CHOP, MARCO POLO RISTORANTE
345 Court Street 718.852.5015
Still applying the organic, epicurean philosophy that his father, Jospeh Chirico, brought with him from Calabria when he opened Marco Polo Ristorante in 1983, Marco Chirico now owns, operates, and is chef of this gem in Carroll Gardens. In living tradition, all of the restaurant’s pasta, mozzarella cheese, and sausage is still made from scratch on premises, and the family still grows most of its herbs and vegetables at its upstate farm.
“The veal is just a must-try dish here,” Marco said. “People love the steakhouse feel of a bone-in chop, and we get ours from a remarkable supplier, Fort Meat, in Sunset Park. It’s a big piece, almost thick cut. Of course, preparation is the poetry here, and I have special marinades individually for our veal, beef, chicken, and fish, using a particular oil. The veal is started on the grill, which gives a beautiful smoky flavor, then the chops are finished in the oven. The dish takes 25 to 30 minutes, so you’ll need to take your time with dinner, but lord, is this worth the wait! You can use a butter knife to cut it.”