Gusto

Gusto, you had me at Burrata!

Every Thursday, Gusto (pronounced goose-toe) receives a shipment of burrata from Italy. We may need to be at Gusto every Thursday from now until – well, forever!

Fork and Spoon fell in love with Roman cuisine and burrata this past summer while in Roma with our wonderful friend Mauro. Since returning from our vacation we had been aching for true Roman cuisine – Gusto certainly does not disappoint.

The restaurant is on busy Greenwich Avenue in Greenwich Village. The atmosphere is welcoming and comfortable. Dark tables, comfy seating, not too noisy, fabulous staff!

In the kitchen of Gusto is the fabulous Saul Montiel. What a vision. What a fabulous menu. He isn’t one of those stay in the kitchen and hide chefs. That being said, he isn’t one of those always out of the kitchen chefs that make you stop to wonder who is actually doing the cooking!

The menu is wonderful. So wonderful it is really hard to decide what to order. We wanted everything!

We decided to go with a few appetizers and a pasta – oh, and dessert, but we didn’t really need to say that, did we?!

First up, Carciofi alla Giudea. SMall artichokes, deeply fried. Crispy crunchy on the outside, tender and moist on the inside. Slightly different than one would be served in Rome where you see gigantic artichokes completely flattened. These were hearts, which had advantages – not as many tough outer leaves. A squeeze of lemon, a sprinkle of salt, and life is beautiful!

 Then, Raviolo con Uovo e Pancetta. Made in house and fabulous. One big, beautiful raviolo stuffed with buffalo ricotta (also flown in) and an egg. Sitting on top a piece of crispy pancetta and fried scallions. What a flavor combination. Tender pasta, creamy ricotta, rich egg yolk, salty pancetta – heaven on your fork! Did I mention it swims in sage butter? No? Well, ‘nuf said …

And the special antipasti this night, stuffed zucchini flowers. Ugly to photograph, delicious on your tongue! Cheesy and gooey inside, lightly battered and fried. Crispy and tender and so summery and wonderful!

Let’s not forget our reason for coming to Gusto! BURRATA! FLown in every Thursday, diners come just to have a fix taste of this creamy delicious cheese. firmer on the outside (like mozzarella) and soft on the inside – well, if you haven’t tried it you absolutely must. It is amazing! Served simply with fresh tomatoes, basil, salt and pepper. We could have had just this, twice, maybe three times and called it a night.

We shared Tonnarelli con Cacio e Pepe. To die for. Tonnarelli is a fresh, square-ish pasta, the perfect foil for the pepper and pecorino romano cheese. Oodles of salty, sharp cheese against the peppery bite of freshly ground black pepper. So simple and so perfect. What else is there to say – except jump in!

And for the first time in the history of our friendship Fork refused to share a dessert with Spoon. I told Spoon, ‘get your own. I will not share.’ Fork had tasted this dessert before and knew this was not something to share, not even with your best friend. Fresh peaches roasted, amaretto added in and simmering until it begins to thicken, brown sugar for a bit of sweetness, to gild the lily mascarpone cheese, really cold mascarpone cheese. Sweet peaches, drowning in an almondy syrup. It is enough to make you soon!

Go, taste, enjoy, relax, no one rushes you. Try everything. Go back, try it again. When you’re at Gusto, you’re with family. Enjoy!

Gusto ~ 60 Greenwich Avenue ~ New York, NY ~ 646.502.9901
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The Mussel Pot

As you walk along Bleecker Street, you are at no loss for restaurants. Any cuisine you can imagine, any price point, fancy, casual, fast food, good food, not such good food.

Along this stretch of restaurants Fork, and new found friend, Whisk, came across  The Mussel Pot. And the Mussel Pot may be a combination of most of the above descriptions!

We arrived at 6:30 and the restaurant was empty. The garden tables were all full, but the interior tables were completely empty. The restaurant itself is lovely and warm, beautiful mirrors run down one wall and the room is lit by dainty glass chandeliers. The garden has 6 tables around a small waterfall and coy pond. Sadly, they were all taken, but we were able to sit at the table right next to the door.

Our waitress, Jacky, came over and introduced herself to us. Pleasant, warm, and attentive. We asked for the wine list and found a nice bottle of Pinot Grigio. Truthfully, the wine is a bit on the pricey side and this bottle was not chilled enough. THe bus boys were quick with ice, filling water glasses, and whisking plates away. Never once did they approach the table to remove a plate until it appeared both of us were done. HUGE points for that one!

We ordered two appetizers. They took a ridiculously long time to come out of the kitchen. The surprise in this? One of the appetizers was raw.

With or without the long wait, this appetizer was outstanding. Tuna Tartare. Seriously fresh tuna, sitting on a 1/2″ thick disk of guacamole. The guacamole was fresh and chunky and a perfect partner to the tuna. On top of the tuna were some microgreens and a splodge of a citrus miso mayo type condiment. To give the plate a little texture there were some house-made potato chips served alongside. The chips were a really nice addition to the tartare. You could scoop some up on the chip and have all the wonderful flavors at once.

Our second appetizer was Fried Calamari. Fork is a total sucker for fried calamari. Sadly, this was not so great. The presentation was lovely. We loved the idea of three sauces. And there ends the love fest. Fried calamari consists of 2 parts – the legs and the rings. There were perhaps 3 rings and all the rest legs. Whisk doesn’t mind the legs. Fork really doesn’t like them at all. Really, not at all. And the rings that were there were very chewy – like rubberband chewy – which usually means they were frozen. The coating, while really crispy, was not seasoned anywhere near enough.

Then there were the three sauces. There was a spicy remoulade – spicy here is the key word. I was too spicy to enjoy. The Fork and Whisk like spice in their food but not to the point of inedible. There was also a tomato sauce water. It was flavorless and so thin in consistency that nothing stuck to the calamari when you dipped it in the sauce. The third was a chimichurri. All we can say about that is  – meh! Really disappointing appetizer.

So, the schtick with the with the Mussel Pot is – well, really, it doesn’t need explaining – MUSSELS. There are 5 different cuisine styles and 15 different ways to have mussels. They range from intriguing to what were they thinking. What is glaringly absent from their line-up is Moules Mariniere.

The mussels are all served in individual stainless steel mussel pots. Okay, we get it. mussels, mussel pots. Cute. Problem? They are pretty tall and you are eating peering over the top of your pot, holding your fork or spoon at an odd angle. Really not a comfortable way to eat.

Whisk ordered the Paella style which included clams, chorizo, fennel, tomatoes, peas, white wine, saffron, bay leaf and lemon juice. The clams were unnecessary. The broth was  delicious. There was a background warmth to it that turned out to be cloves.  Really nice combination of flavors. 

Fork ordered the Posillipo style.  A light tomato sauce, garlic, white wine and basil. Very good mingling of Italian flavors.

There are plenty of mussels in each pot. They serve bread with the mussels so you can sop up all the sauce – which is also difficult with the gigantic pots! They bring a small slice of bread each, which seems kind of silly. But they gladly bring more if you ask.

Nothing really struck us for dessert. But we were instantly drawn to the Cheese Plate by the words “a variety of the finest imported cheese accompanied with honey comb, fig chutney and candy hazelnuts.” (They desperately need someone to proofread their menu). Okay. There was Brie. There was, to quote our waitress, some kind of parmigianio. There was Havarti with dill – the least dessert type cheese you could ever find.  There was fig chutney. There were candied pecans which were very soft, which means they have been sitting around a while. There were grapes. Now, if you are missing TWO essential ingredients on a composed plate and are subbing – don’t you think you should tell the patrons and ask if they would still like to have that dessert? We couldn’t recover from the honeycomb, candied hazelnuts and havarti.

Nothing was terrible, but nothing was outstanding beyond the tuna tartare. The staff needs to be better informed of what is in each dish, what is not going to be available and most of all – how to pronounce things on the menu.

Oh, one last thing. If Fork or Whisk had gone downstairs to the restrooms before we ate, we would have left. There is. The worst. Fish. Smell. And (as if you need another thing) they have unisex restrooms. Gross. And the floors are all wet from God only knows what.

Try it. Perhaps your experience will be different. I, for one, am very glad I had a 30% coupon from Blackboard Eats or I would have been far more disappointed.

Mussel Pot ~ 174 Bleecker Street ~ NYC, NY ~ 212.260.2700
The Mussel Pot on Urbanspoon

Porchetta

A number of years ago, Fork, Spoon and the Salad Tongs went to a tasting at the Armory on Lexington Avenue. The tasting was a disaster. It was so crowded you couldn’t move. The food was running out of most of the stands – IF you could get near them.

The one thing we did try – and went back for – TWICE! – were little sandwiches from Porchetta a tiny place on East 7th Street in Manhattan. We had been trying to get here for 2 years. Blackboard Eats was the twist of fate that finally tilted us toward this oasis of delight.

Totally off topic – Blackboard Eats is a great restaurant program in NY, LA and San Francisco. You receive emails from them and if you are within their chosen number of participants to receive a coupon you get one. They have slightly changed their program now – the coupon costs you $1. Totally worth it for 30% off your dinner bill!

Porchetta was opened by Sara Jenkins and Matt Lindemulder.

They wanted to bring a classic food of their childhood to New York City. Porchetta is a roasted pork with crispy skin, seasoned with aromatic herbs and spices, garlic, sage, rosemary and wild fennel pollen. It’s a typical plate of Roman cuisine. It’s slow cooked Italian fast food that’s found on food carts all over Rome.

The aroma as you walk in is so heady – rosemary and sage and pork and garlic. Sitting in the display case are porchette. You just want to break the glass, grab a porchetta, and run waddle down the street as fast as you can.

The staff is very pleasant. The smells make you insane. The food is phenomenal. There isn’t much choice by way of drinks, but that’s okay.

This is mostly a take out place, but you can sit on a stool and eat. There are 6 stools facing a small U shaped counter. You can sit and face the beautiful porchette or sit and people watch the folks walking back and forth on East 7th Street. Either way, one bite and your surroundings will become a little fluffy cloud in heaven.

The menu is small and perfect. You can order a porchetta sandwich or a porchetta plate. The plates come with greens and beans. There is a mozzarella sandwich, though we’re not sure why. There are three sides – greens, beans and crispy potatoes with burnt ends.

Fork and Spoon both ordered the Porchetta Sandwich – no reason to mess with greens and beans! Beautifully aromatic, perfectly cooked, tender chucks and slices of pork on top of a toothsome bread. To add to this perfection on pane were shards of pork skin, painfully crispy and yummy. Fork was feeling a little tarnished around the tines when we decided on this Adventures, but one bite of this sandwich made all the clouds part and the sun shine. It is – well, divine is the perfect word.

Because the promise of burnt ends was too alluring to pass by, we also ordered the Crispy Potatoes with Burnt Ends. Crispy potatoes. Crunchy burnt ends of porchetta. Rosemary. Need anything else be said? I don’t think so.

So sorry we waited so long to get there. So delighted that we finally did – and will again and again!

Porchetta ~ 110 East 7th Street ~ NYC, NY ~ 212.777.2151
Porchetta on Urbanspoon

Burger Bistro & the Donut Burger

We absolutely adore the Burger Bistro! The service is great! The owners are great! The burgers are superb. Knork and Fork had dinner there a few nights ago, and being the nosey Fork that I am, I overheard a conversation about a special  burger for the weekend …

A DONUT BURGER

Really? When? Where? How? Have to there!

I had seen a donut burger on Man v. Food and was intrigued and grossed out at the same time. How can a burger on a donut possibly work. That being said, if anyone could make a donut burger work it would be the crew at Burger Bistro!

In a very donut entranced Homer Simpson way Fork spent the next 2 days repeating … must come back Saturday…. must come back Saturday … must come back Saturday!

Fortunately for Fork, Butter Pick was intrigued by the Donut Burger as well. Off we went … a little nervous … after all, this could be a disaster or a delight.

John greeted us, and all we could mutter was donut burger. And there arrives in front of you a beautiful combination of ingredients … a glazed donut (from Mike’s Donuts in Bay Ridge – some of the BEST donuts you have EVER had), a beef burger, cheese, a fried egg, and bacon. All stacked up, waiting for you.

Yes, yes, I know, sounds strange. But the beauty is in the combination of flavors – the sweetness of the donut, the saltiness of the bacon, the richness of the egg, and the wonderful beef flavor – my only dislike was the American cheese. First, Fork is not a huge American cheese fan, and I thought a different cheese would add just another layer of flavor. The bacon being chopped into Burger Bistro type bacon bits was perfect!

You didn’t want this burger to end. There were flavors just dancing around in your mouth.  I know this may not get to you in time to RUN to Burger Bistro, but go in, and BEG for this burger.

By the way, if you’re on Facebook or Twitter, follow the Burger Bistro, John made us privy to some super cool events and burgers coming up at Burger Bistro. You’re gonna want to be there.

7217 3rd Avenue ~ Brooklyn, New York ~ 718.833.5833 ~ @theburgerbistro
The Burger Bistro on Urbanspoon

Bubby’s

Fork & Spoon needed a restaurant close enough to an event we were attending to not involve a lot of walking in the rain. Our biggest dilemma always seems to be what to eat. Neither of us ever wants to decide. You pick, no you pick, no you pick. Whining ensues. Not a pretty sound. A zip code and google helps in these situations.  Hmmmm …… southern, BBQ, fried chicken? Oh, Bubby’s, you have won our hearts! The online menu looked great. And Bubby’s is renowned for their pies and desserts.

They have many different menus. There is a breakfast menu, a lunch menu, a brunch menu (they are famous for their brunch menu), a midnight brunch menu, an afternoon menu, and a dinner menu. Our timing was going to be a little off, so the afternoon menu, which is served from 4pm to 6pm and from 11pm to midnight would be perfect. One glitch, the menu online and the afternoon menu didn’t match, so the dishes we wanted to try from the online menu weren’t available at the time we were there. It was 5:30. Would Bubby’s let us wait?

Fork was early. Spoon was running late. Would they even let Fork sit and wait? Well, yes, of course, you can sit and wait. Iced tea, menus, a discussion with Dominick – our wonderful waiter – about the menus. Yes, we had to wait for 6pm for the dinner menu, but we were welcome to wait. Iced tea was in huge glasses, fresh and most importantly bottomless.

Once Spoon arrived, and more iced tea ordered, we went to work on the menu.  Dominick listened to what we were thinking of ordering, and knew what was on both the afternoon and dinner menu so we could begin ordering. Dominick, you are the best! What a great waiter, interested in the customer, knowledgable about the menu, and attentive.

Our first choice was on both the afternoon menu and the dinner menu, so that was easy. Warm Hand Cut Potato Chips with Maytag Blue Cheese. There isn’t a single word in that title that doesn’t make you drool and isn’t decadent and amazing. The chips are amazing. Thick cut potato chips with just the right amount of crispy and chewy. The chips are city in a pool of melty blue cheesey goodness with large chunks of Maytag blue cheese swimming around. There is  just a bit of the sauce and cheese drizzled on top of the chips. It kept the chips from becoming too soggy and icky. This dish of fabulousness gave us time to get close enough to 6:00pm to put in our dinner order.

We had originally intended on ordering the BBQ Pork Sliders. They’re on the dinner online menu, but they were not on the restaurant dinner menu! After a bit of a discussion – and trying to overcome our severe disappointment – and with Dominick’s help – about what we were planning on ordering, he came up with a simple solution: The Red Wattle Pulled Pork Plate. This let us try the 2 sides we were going to order as appetizers and have BBQ pork at the same time. Sheer genius!

What arrives is this gigantic platter of goodness. Fork and Spoon are never quite sure that the white bread is about. But, white bread aside, on our fabulous platter was BBQ pulled pork, hush puppies, mac & cheese, pickles and cole slaw. The pickles are crispy and tangy and sweet. The cole slaw? Take a page from the Daily News, soak it, shred it, put it in a ramekin, voila, cole slaw. It was just plain awful. The crusty mac & cheese was really yummy. The crust was – well, as the name implies, crusty! There was a wonderful smokiness about the dish. Very cheesy, pasta not mushy. The hush puppies were so good! Free form in shape, flecks of herbs throughout, great flavor, crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. The pork was totally the star. It’s seasoned really well, but dry rubbed, not in sauce. Don’t th ink for a minute this means it was dry! Not by any stretch of the imagination. The pork was tender and falling about and very moist. There was a terrific vinegary tang to it.  On each table is a trio of sauces that are made in-house at Bubby’s. One is vinegar based, one is spicy tangy and one is mustard based. The spicy and mustard were our favorites. These sauces were good on everything!

One of the sides that we had to try, but couldn’t include in our platter was Cauliflower James Beard Style. Lightly sautéed, herbs, breadcrumbs. Needed a little salt. We needed a vegetable! And this totally fit the bill. Mostly healthy, very good.

As we were sitting and happily sipping iced tea and munching away on our s, Spoon spied Dominick bringing a biscuit to a table behind us. Tines spun around so quickly to see the biscuit it’s a wonder we weren’t permanently damaged. Spoon called over our dear Dominick and merely pointed. He winked, turned and when he reappeared he had 2 of the most beautiful biscuits we had ever seen. They were so tall and golden – popover sized. You could see how flakey they were just by looking at them. They were piping hot. When you broke them open the insides were tender, just beckoning for butter! The outside was crispy with a slight saltiness to it. Dominick told us there was a new gal as the pastry chef and she had just made the biscuits. We would have run into the kitchen and kissed her had we been allowed!

And of course dessert. It can’t be a true adventure without dessert. We were still reeling from the deliciousness of the biscuit and wanted to try and blankly staring at the spinning dessert display. Every single pie and cupcake and cookie looked amazing. We couldn’t decide. We looked to Dominick and he simply said ‘Sour Cherry’. SOLD! Michigan sour cherries tucked into a flaky and crisp crust. Not too sour, not too sweet, just enough of both elements to satisfy your palate. A little whipped cream on the side and Bob’s your uncle.

I wish I could remember the pastry chef’s name. I know she was knew when we were there for dinner, I am pretty sure her name began with a K, maybe Spoon will remember. If you see this – YOU ROCK!

If you’re jonesing for good BBQ, Bubby’s will satisfy you! While we ate in Tribeca, there’s also a location in Brooklyn.

Bubby’s ~ 120 Hudson Street ~ New York, New York ~ 212.219.0666
Bubby’s ~ 1 Main Street ~ DUMBO ~ Brooklyn, NY ~ 718.222.0666
Bubby's on Urbanspoon

Max

Fork and Spoon were recently invited to our first press dinner at Max. We were very nervous at this prospect. What if we hated it? Would people feel our review was credible if we were invited to review the restaurant and weren’t paying for our meal? We decided to continue our review process regardless of the situation. If we loved it we would say so, and if we hated it or disliked certain things, we would say that as well – as we always have.

Max is FABULOUS. Max’s owner, Luigi, is charming and endearing and so passionate about his restaurants, his vision, the food he serves, and where that food comes from.

We thought that, perhaps, the name Max came from one of his children, maybe his father, but no, Max is an Italian magazine. It’s about the hippest trends and the current cool people. After eating here, we can understand the name choice!

Max is a small Italian restaurant in the East Village. Charming and warm, you instantly feel at home when you walk through the doors. There is a lovely dining room in the front, a small bar in the back, with a few more tables, an enclosed patio that seats about 18 more and then a garden dining space (seating 50) that literally transports you to a small palazzo in Italy.

What isn’t made in house is made by small artisans throughout the City and imported from and made for Luigi in Italy. The bread comes from Il Forno in the Bronx. The pasta is made for them in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The extra virgin olive oil, mozzarella, and tomatoes are made for Max and flown into the States. Doesn’t get much more authentic than that. You couple all of these wonderfully fresh ingredients with Luigi’s passion and you understand how this restaurant has been around for so long.

Our adventure began with Salsetta and bread for dipping. The Salsetta is a dipping sauce that is presented to diners while they’re looking through the menu. A little taste of what treats are awaiting you. The Salsetta – loosely translated to a salsa or dip – is made from roasted tomatoes, lemon and orange peels, olives, extra virgin olive oil. Just incredible. So fresh. If the bowl had been a tiny bit bigger, we may have swam in it! If this is what the first step was like the rest of the adventure was going to be great!

Just so you know in advance, this was not a meal for the faint of heart! Excluding the Salsetta, the menu said we would sample 13 different dishes (in abundance) – but there were more – and at least 5 wines. By the way, the wine list is absolutely wonderful.

Our next taste was Crostino Toscano. Chicken liver pate on sliced, toasted bread. The pate was warm and creamy, rich and flavorful. There was a slight undertone of anchovy which cut the richness of the pate with a bit of saltiness.

Next on this adventure, Luigi brought Melanzane a Funghetto to the table. By the way we were mesmerized by Luigi and his descriptions of his dishes – but we digress just a bit – back to the melanzane. This dish is typically a southern Italian dish. The melanzane (eggplant) is cooked in the style of funghetto (mushrooms). First the eggplant is pan fried and then roasted low and slow with tomatoes and garlic and parsley and basil – some folks add capers and olives to the mix. As it roasts the eggplant becomes meaty and rich, taking on almost the texture of mushrooms (see? si!).  Wonderfully earthy dish.

Our next sampling was fabulous, smooth and creamy Mozzarella di Bufala. This mozzarella is made from the milk of water buffalo. THe water buffalo milk gives the mozzarella a slightly different flavor – a slight sour flavor. Luigi’s mozzarella di bufala is imported for him from Cilento, Italy, just south of Salerno (just south of Altavilla Silentina, as well, where part of Fork’s Cutlery were forged). Again, attention to detail and ingredients. We asked for more basil so each of us could have a little basil leaf with our mozzarella. This was one of those situations where Fork wished there was a hidden ziplock nearby to scoop up the mozzarella for a treat later. Note to self, stick ziplocks in your pockets!

Next came an Inslata Misto – mixed salad. A little rest before the next push forward. Fresh greens with a light dressing. Perfect at this point!

The ravioli changes everyday. With a small kitchen – and the space needed to make the amount of pasta needed daily – it would be impossible for them to make all the pasta there. The pasta for the ravioli is also made for Luigi in Brooklyn, but filled at Max. This ravioli – let me just say, my tines are swooning just thinking about this dish again – was heavenly. Ravioli di Porcini in Crema Tartufata. Mama Mia! Though the menu said ravioli this was shaped more like an agnolotti – half moon shaped. The pasta was filled with porcini mushrooms. You would think that would be enough. Nope not enough. The pasta was blanketed in a cream and truffle sauce.  Tiny pieces of truffle and cream. The aroma alone was heady. The flavor nearly beyond words. Bravo!

Just a note: One of the other diners didn’t like mushrooms, so ravioli with lobster was brought to the table as well.

Next up? Lasagna Fatta en Casa. House made lasagna. The pasta was perfectly cooked – slightly al dente. The beef inside added a lot of flavor to the lasagna, but was not overwhelming. The bechamel sauce rich and creamy, perfectly blending with the cheeses inside.  There’s a little hint of a spice throughout the lasagna – a spice we promised not to reveal – but it gives the dish a certain warmth that is unmistakable.

Loosen your belts. There’s still more!

Our next pasta dish was Fettuccine al Sugo Toscano.  Yummmmmmy. Al dente fettuccine – again, made for Max in Brooklyn. With a wonderful tomato based meat sauce. A little bit of cream. A lotta bit of flavor.

What I loved about each and every one of these dishes is the earthiness about them. I know there are some folk out there that will see this next statement the wrong way, but there is a wonderful peasant quality to them. These aren’t fancy schmancy dishes, but dishes that you would eat at your grandmother’s table or when visiting friends. I remember  driving through the country side in southern Italy with some of my Cutlery drawer and stopping at a small restaurant. There really was no menu to speak of, and not a lot of choices, but what was served was over the moon good. That is the feeling I instantly felt from Luigi and Max.

Before we get to the last dish in the pasta round, all of the canned tomatoes used in the sauces are imported from the Tuscany region of Italy. Luigi brought a gigunda (a little bigger than gigantic) can to the table and opened it for us to see. These were the freshest and brightest canned tomatoes I have ever tasted. The scent from the can and the brightness of the tomatoes was of a quality that you would never expect from a can of tomatoes. Again, a place where a hidden ziplock bag would have come in handy – though tomatoes would have been far more difficult to sneak into a ziplock and slip into a pocket!

Ok, the last of our pasta endeavor was Spaghetti Chitarra al Ragu d’Agnello. Okay, let’s start with the pasta. The pasta is a like spaghetti, but instead of being round, it’s square. The pasta is cut on a chitarra, which means guitar in Italian. The dough is pushed through the strings, making it square. Now the ragu. Again, fabulous tomato sauce base, this time with a ragu of ground lamb. You could smell and taste from the ragu that this had been cooked for a long time, allowing all the flavors to meld into a deep, rich, hearty ragu.

And again, here, one of the diners was vegetarian, so Luigi brought hergnocchi. And, of course, you can’ bring gnocchi to one person and not bring it to everyone, so we all sampled the gnocchi. Unlike the pasta, the gnocchi is made in-house. Light and fluffy, completely delicious!

Fork has never been a fan of Baccala.  I don’t quite get, catching a beautiful fish, drying it out in salt, and then putting it into some sort of liquid to reconstitute it. And besides, to Joe Stiff, a Baccala was always someone who was dopey! But this Filetto di Baccala al Forno was amazing. Beautifully pan seared baccala (cod fish) finished with a little truffle oil, served alongside the fluffiest, most delicious mashed potatoes this piece of cutlery has ever tried! Luigi, you have won me over on baccala, but only if I have it at Max!

 Our last main course dish was O’Polpettone “E Mamma”. Polpettone is simply a rolled meatloaf. Inside this meatloaf was an egg, ham, mozzarella and parmigiano. For this dish, Luigi served us a regular portion that diners are served when they come to the restaurant for dinner. The polpettone is huge – like a nerf football in size. When you cut into the polpettone, the mozzarella just oozes out. The entire polpettonei s drenched in a deep rich marinara sauce. Now, my notes here say, that the regular mozzarella is made in-house. I may have been a bit tipsy from wine and food at this point, so forgive me if this is not right! Served alongside the polpettone – and almost the star of this dish was a gratin. A simple potato gratin, about 4 ” thick, studded throughout with pieces of pancetta. Oh, ziplock bag, why have you forsaken me!? 

So we have managed to get through all the antipasti, primi and secondi. Now, we’re off to the dolci.

First up, Tiramisu. Max serves their tiramisu in a sundae-type glass. This is a nice change from the usual squares of tiramisu that are usually plopped in front of you. The savoiardi still had texture and were not a mass of mush. The filling was light and airy. The alcohol was not over the top.

We also sampled their Panna Cotta. This was a delicious and decadent dense version of this dessert. It was wonderful. The panna cotta sat in a pool of golden caramel-ish goodness. It was more of a cross between a creme caramel, a flan and a panna cotta. The fresh slices of strawberry just drove it over the edge.

Our last dessert was Creme Brulee. Now, Luigi would like us to believe that this is an Italian dessert. I don’t think that went over to well with Spoon. But this was very good creme brulee. Perfect crack and crunch from the burnt sugar topping, revealing a creamy and rich custard beneath the shatter.

Sigh. We’re full just writing this! Luigi served the most wonderful Moscato d’Asti this Fork has ever had with dessert. La Caudrina. If you love Moscato d’Asti – as I do – buy this one!

Just to drive home our opening remarks – we absolutely loved Max, we love Luigi, we think you should go to this restaurant, over and over again, we know we will! Our opinions have absolutely nothing to do with our being invited to try this wonderful restaurant.

Max also has a location in Tribeca at 181 Duane Street. Try one of them, try them both, but please try them!

Max ~ 51 Avenue B ~ New York, New York ~ 212.539.0111
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Virgil’s BBQ ~ Birthday Celebration 4

Are you tired of my birthday yet? By this time, Fork needed sleep and an Alka Seltzer! But forge on we must!

As a birthday treat, Knife treated Fork to dinner and the theatre. We were both working, wanted a place for a quick bite and that was relatively close to the theatre. At the outset, I must tell you that Knife is a sucker for BBQ – which, I must say is surprising as Knife is allergic to tomatoes!

So when asked the question “Do you mind BBQ?” the answer was heck no, I don’t mind BBQ.

Virgil’s is one of those annoying places that does not let part of a reservation sit. Everyone must be present and accounted for before they let you sit. It isn’t as if there is anyplace for you to hang out and wait either. Your choice is the bar or the bathroom. 

The iced tea is bottomless, but the service was so slow we could not get a quick refill.

While Knife is a BBQ hound, Fork would go to the ends of the earth for Hush Puppies, so it was natural that our quick bite started with Hush Puppies with maple syrup butter. These were really strangely shaped! Fork is sued to little round spheres of hush puppy delight, but these seemed to be piped and cut into the oil. Nice and crisp and golden on the outside. The hush puppies themselves were full of flavor, lots of herbs flecked throughout, more dense than your usual hush puppy, but still addictively good.

Fork ordered the Kansas Fried Chicken. HUGE portion – well half of a very large chicken portion. You can 2 from the sides and you get a corn (SAHARA) bread muffin. Fork chose the Memphis Barbeque Beans and Cole Slaw.  The chicken was better than I had expected. Crispy, crunchy, slightly salty, flavorful outside, and still very juicy and tender inside.  The beans were smokey and tangy. I expected them to be mushy, but they weren’t. Pleasantly surprised at the flavor. The coleslaw was just generic. It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t bad either. Be VERY careful about the BBQ sauces on the table. After I tried one and burned my mouth to pieces, our dopey waitress came over and said ‘oh, no one came to explain the sauces to you?’ Hmmm, no, you didn’t. I suppose it isn’t HER job to explain anything, just to take the order and collect the tip. The bottles weren’t even labeled. So sauce user beware!

I did ask to substitute a biscuit for the corn bread. Nope. No can do. I can’t imagine it makes one bit of difference whether you have their yucky corn bread or biscuit, but nope, no can do. So I ordered a biscuit anyway. Seriously, what is BBQ without a biscuit. The biscuit was huge and so delicious. very crisp outer shell, and very tender and moist inside. The biscuit is served with more maple syrup butter. So much better than their dried out, sticky corn muffin.

Knife ordered the Memphis Pork Ribs. First, before we talk about the ribs, let’s talk about Virgil’s only serving Memphis style ribs (dry rub only, no sauce) and only pork ribs (not even a baby back to be found). Seems a little odd, doesn’t it? Glad you think so too! That being said, the ribs are terrific. Moist, tender, smokey, spicy, packed with flavor.  The meat falls off the bone. You can try the BBQ sauces on the table if you like your ribs saucy – but try very little first or you will be unable to speak for hours! Knife ordered the pickled beets and coleslaw to go with. The beets were very good. They said they were house cured. Fork isn’t sure she’d bet the farm on that one!

Now for the REALLY annoying part. Our service was SO slow we didn’t have time for dessert. We barely had time to get to the theatre! If you are going pre-theatre, leave yourself PLENTY of time!

Virgil’s Real BBQ ~ 152 West 44th Street ~ NYC, NY ~ 212.921.9494
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