Monthly Archives: April 2013

An Italian Dinner from “Ciccio”

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Formerly an antique store on the edge of SoHo, “Ciccio Bar & Alimentari” gutted this tiny basement and redecorated it to open a brand spanking new Italian food & wine bar. SoHo is already full of amazing places to eat, let alone an abundance of Italian restaurants. Moving into this turf is risky business (pun intended), but it seems that “Ciccio” is up for the challenge.

A very small restaurant tucked away on a busy street, it’s a surprising retreat from the very noisy city traffic above-ground. You would barely know there was a subway and a major roadway if not for the view of them from the large windows by the front-end. This is chef Giacomo Romano’s first solo-venture, but all signs point to what could be a good beginning to having a new home in SoHo.
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Chocolate-covered bananas from “Forbidden Fruit NYC”

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We have looked at some pretty sweet sweet’s in the past dessert reviews here, be it a homemade Ring-Ding or homemade Oreo-style sandwich cookie, but what about when you want something that is a little less prone to causing diabetes? “Forbidden Fruit NYC” offers up a lighter alternative, taking fresh fruit and simply bathing them in chocolate.

Hiding away on MacDougal street, this tiny little eatery offers a variety of nature’s delights drenched in chocolate, all while maintaining a green eco-friendly store. The simple-looking menu is deeper than it looks, with combinations of coatings and toppings that turn your dessert into something tasty while still being relatively guilt-free.
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Let’s get donuts from “Doughnut Plant”!

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“Doughnut Plant” is the creation of Mark Israel, son of a baker from North Carolina. His father taught him their unique recipe for making doughnuts, starting Mark at a young age by glazing the circular treats. Mark took the family recipe and began to add his own personal flair to it, which included using fresh fruit jams and seasonal nuts for the toppings. Originally delivering his baked goods to larger stores in Manhattan, Mark opened his first store in 2000, and the rest is history. Today, we take a peek into the store on 23rd street.

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This is a haven for donut-lovers, as everything in here is shaped like one. Willy Wonka would be jealous of these decorations, mostly because they remain tasteful in spite of the fact that the decorations are based on a dessert. The tables, chairs, wall-paper, anything that you can furnish an eatery with has been given the doughnut treatment.
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Kosher Deli and beyond from “Epsteins of Hartsdale”

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“Epstein’s” has been serving traditional Kosher food in Westchester since 1943, forging a strong bond with the local community as well as deli-aficionados. The original owners passed on the restaurant to the DeGroat family, who have kept it a family-oriented business. Maintaining Jewish roots with a constantly evolving and updated menu, this restaurant has kept loyal customers for decades while courting the next generation of diners with their takes on courses that would never be seen in other Kosher delis.

With the look of a 1950’s diner on the inside, even down to the stools at the bar serving egg creme’s and the booth’s with that classic red cushioning, “Epstein’s” embraces and celebrates the origins of their restaurant. I was told to come to the place with an empty stomach, and I left not only feeling full but becoming a member of their family.
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Authentic Indian Cart Food in New York at “THELEwala”

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In New York, street food is usually not that spectacular. Typically, it’s either a hot dog, a hefty plate of Halal food that may or may not give you food poisoning (I have had my fair share of that), or tacos, if you luck out. They are cheap and filling, but it’s a risk not worth taking in most cases. Street food out of carts is not limited only to the five boroughs, but has been a worldwide way to sell food for ages. You can get Tako Yaki in Japan, rice cakes in China, and all sorts of things in India, which is where our cuisine will be originating from in this review.

Owned by Shiva Natarajan, “THELEwala” is a restaurant that specializes in Calcutta street food. About the same size as “Meatball Obsession” was from the outside, this diminutive eatery is slightly bigger on the inside, with enough room for a kitchen and some stools. Don’t let the size fool you, as what it lacks in scale, they make up for with their food.
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Dollar Pizza from “St. Mark’s 2 Bros. Pizza”

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Dollar pizza places are as plentiful as pigeons in New York City. Even in the winter, when other birds migrate, you can still find stray pigeons wandering around the streets, and dollar pizza places are a perennial nibble for New Yorkers on the go. “St. Mark’s 2 Bros. Pizza”, more simply known as “2 Bros Pizza” by most since the St. Mark’s is so tiny in the logo, opened in 2007, making them one of the first (if not the original) dollar pizza places in the city.

Despite the title of this being “St. Mark’s”, I actually went to the pizzeria on 38th and 6th Avenue since I was passing by it. Call it a morbid fascination with mediocrity, but I am very interested in these dollar pizza places lately, and the majority of them in the city are “2 Bros.” restaurants. There must be a reason for this, and I decided to give them a try and see if I could figure out why they were so successful in this niche market.
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Boston Cream Pie Cupcake from “Molly’s Cupcakes”

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I remember birthday parties in elementary school, where the kids parents would send their children with cupcakes or cookies or rice krispie treats. Simpler times, before the weight of the world crushed our dreams and smashed our motivation and esteem. The love of cupcakes was embedded in our minds at a young age, so when I came upon the big, bright storefront for “Molly’s Cupcakes”, it stopped me cold in my tracks.

The “Molly” in the title is actually not the name of the owner (who is John Nicolaides), but was the owner’s third-grade teacher that used to bake cupcakes for the children’s birthdays. Not just the Betty Crocker mix, but her own special recipes that influenced John’s love of cupcakes and inspired him not only to open this place, but donate a portion of the profits to local schools. They offer a wide variety of colorful gourmet cupcakes in different sizes, including vegan flavors, traditional frosted ones, and an assortment of filled items, which we will examine one of today.
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Paella de Mariscos from “Boqueria”

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I was a big fan of my first visit to “Boqueira”, an authentic Spanish Tapas restaurant that took the traditional bar fare and gave it a slight New York zest. However, one thing that I regretted not getting was the Paella. On my two trips to Spain, Paella was my big thing. I was even lucky enough to have Paella Negro, a type of paella made with squid ink that was special to Valencia.

It was only a matter of time before I went back for round two, and my mission was clear. I had to have the paella, end of story. I had high expectations of it from my last visit, but a burger is a vastly different world than Spain’s national dish. How did this visit compare to my first time at “Boqueira”? Let’s find out!
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