This Side of Paradise
Moving from NYC to LA was really hard on me – 10% because New Yorkers are supposed hate LA, but 90% because I was leaving my food paradise. Fortunately, over the five years I’ve been here, the LA restaurant scene has pleasantly evolved. Nonetheless, I still yearn for my old haunts. This recent trip was extra special because Diana joined me. I’ve been dying to share all of the spots that I’ve been raving about since we met. Now, I’m thrilled to share my New York Foodie’s Guide here! With only a few days in the city we resolved to spend our days restaurant hopping so we could fit everything in. Restaurant hopping is one of our favorite pastimes, the key is to only order 1-2 dishes per place.
Where to Eat | New York Foodie’s Guide
This East Village’s small, dimly-lit dining roomis chock full of old-school Italian character. It’s the kind of cozy spot where you can get lost for hours sipping wine and twirling pasta. Here, I crave the Spaghetti Limone, which leaves you wondering what magic they use to turn such few ingredients into a masterpiece. For night owls like us, Lil Frankie’s is open until 2AM on weekdays and 4AM on weekends.
In Astoria, I was lucky enough to live right above this no-frills neighborhood staple. Widely regarded as the best authentic Greek food in NYC, their simple preparations highlight the exceptionally fresh seafood. The octopus is easily the best I’ve ever had. The Aegean-blue and white color palate of the open-air patio instantly transports you to your favorite taverna on the Mediterranean. Like many small European villages, there are two options for wine: red or white. Portions are ample and dessert is complimentary – a creamy custard in phyllo called galaktoboureko.
Recently, a sister location opened in Manhattan near Union Square. On this trip, we didn’t have to time get to Astoria, so we decided to give it a go. The vibe is chicer, the wine list is longer, and the prices are higher. Nonetheless, the food is equally yummy, plus the line is shorter. Here, the gratuitous dessert was plain yogurt with cherries in syrup. We were in awe over the yogurt which had this natural sweetness we had never tasted before. Blown away with it’s simplicity, we had to ask our waiter what kind of yogurt it was. Sadly, it appears that My Favorite Greek Yogurt can only be purchased wholesale.
For noshing on handmade pastas al fresco while rubbing shoulders with supermodels, look no further than this West Village cafe. Typically, I find that celeb frequented restaurants are disappointing, but Bar Pitti is the exception. You are greeted by sexy, but curt, Italian waiters who seat you and shove an oversized chalkboard into your hand, displaying their fixed specials. It’s heavy and hard to balance, but it’s part of Bar Pitti’s charm. To begin the meal, a salty chunk of aged Parmesean is served alongside bread and fruity olive oil. Since we had a full day of eating ahead, we decided on the bolognese to share – it was just as good as I remembered.
Another West Village standout, Barbuto by James Beard Award winner, Johnathan Waxman is always revolving. Expertly prepared dishes focus on super in-season ingredients. On this visit, we started with an interesting composition of buratta, yuzu, arugula with English peas – which screamed seasonal – it was fantastic. Pasta with crispy breadcrumbs and Calabrian chiles was equally delicious.
Feeling the urge to pretend you are in a fancy Parisian movie? Soho’s bustling Balthazar is just the place. This New York institution is as scrumptious as it is beautiful. Grab a table and order from their decadent raw bar. Serving a classic French brassiere menu for breakfast lunch and dinner, there is ample opportunity to check it out. Already ate? Enjoy a cocktail at the bar and soak up the stunning interior. Don’t miss the artful ceiling leading to the bathrooms!
In a city that prides itself on it’s pizza, it’s quite the feat to consistently be considered the best pizza, . This critically acclaimed gem claims too many awards to list. Anthony Bourdain proclaims it, “the best of the best”. It’s pretty far out in the Brooklyn, which is probably why I’ve never been before. We got the margherita and it was damn good – super thin and crispy with quality melty mozzarella.
Scott, my sister’s fiance grew up eating Di Fara’s, so he insisted we grab a pie. He excitedly gave us the lowdown. He gushed about how it was always the same man with same vintage oven making the pizzas… ever since he was a kid. After all of these pizza making years, he’s able to grab the piping hot pizzas out with his bare hands.
Secrets Behind New York’s Best Pizza
Naturally, I googled Scott’s living legend. Turns out, Dom DeMarco is that man. In 2004, Dom told the New York Times, “My pizza is good, because I use fresh tomatoes. They come from Italy, from Salerno. Then I started to get mozzarella from Italy, from my hometown in the province of Caserta. It’s $8 a pound, and this Parmesan, it’s $12. It comes twice a week. I do this as an art. I don’t look to make big money. I’m very proud of what I do. I don’t have any employees; I use my kids.” In the same interview he also sites burnt dough bubbles as a precursor to authentic pizza, “[if it’s] got a lot of black spots, it’s Italian pizza. If you see pizza that’s straight brown, it’s not Italian pizza.”
No Foodie’s Guide to New York would be complete without a visit to a Jewish Deli. In addition to Di Fara’s, my sister Emma’s relocation to Marine Park (way far out in Brooklyn) thankfully brought us to Mill Basin Deli. NYC is home to many notable Jewish delis, but boy am I glad we tried Emma’s favorite! Voted the best pastrami sandwich by New York Daily readers, she’s not alone. Try a super juicy, super snappy hotdog loaded with sauerkraut. On the side, their homemade pickles are the impossibly perfect balance of crisp and sour.