Tuesday, February 19, 2008
A Day in New York.
I was in New York the previous day, and aside from being as puzzled as ever about some smells, it was a good time. New York is many things, and one of the few good things is that it's a culinary paradise. Unless you want to travel to So-Cal, Paris, or Tokyo, there is no other city on Earth with the wide array of foods and such high levels of quality. Everything about NY is great. Even the street vendors are producing better food than some restaurants in such backwater places like Rhode Island.
So, unfortunately, the trip only lasted a day, but I got to as many places I've never been as I could. I didn't hit up any of the prestigious locations, like Per Se in the Time Warner center, or Masa... Ohhhh Masa, how I've wanted to try you. Still, I did, finally, thankfully, get a chance to go to the mecca of Italian food in this country, Lombardi's Pizzeria. The patriarch, Gennaro Lombardi, came over to the US in the late 1800's and was the very first pizza joint to register for a license when it was required in 1905. Thus, Lombardi's can claim to be the first pizzeria in the US, and their website declares that loudly and clearly; www.firstpizza.com.
So, here are the places I went.
Lombardi's Pizzeria: It was as good as I guess I could have expected. I must admit, I was expecting Zen pizza, or something, but it just turned out to be good pizza. The sauce was very light and sweet. A sauce that very much relies on quality tomatoes than spices. The cheese was fabulously fresh. We had a margherita and a white pizza. The white was the pizza that really let them show off their quality cheese. I guess Rhode Island spoiled me. We've got so many Italians running around that one of them, someone, was going to start selling pizza as good as Lombardi's. And, yeah, the final product was as good as I've had around RI. Still, it did nothing to sully the experience. The pizza was very good, although a bit expensive, the atmosphere was great, and service was fast. I feel much more satisfied with life.
Guy & Gallard: A small chain exclusive, apparently, to Manhattan. Busy as hell. The insides are appointed in a light, modern, and trendy way. The menu is small but focused. Everything I had was good and the whole place is competitively priced. They have the Morning Routine thing down pat, with a good selection of bagels, yummy muffins, and very good coffee and espresso. Breakfast foods are served until 11am-ish. They seem to concentrate on lunch and breakfast. They close at 9pm, and nothing is big or heavy enough to really count as dinner. If I lived in NY, I would probably make this place a frequent visit for coffee and muffins. The multiple locations also make it a reasonable alternative to Starbucks if you're into corporation-hating, or something.
Pinkberry: I got to eat at a Pinkberry! I had heard of them, but I thought them only a California chain. I'm so glad to see their expansion campaign as aggressive as it is. And man! Was it cute. They really need to make Hello Kitty their mascot. The layout is similar to Coldstone Creamery, where you pick your basic flavor of ice cream and then select ingredients to have mashed into it. Except, here, it's yogurt and they don't mash in the ingredients, they just dump them on top. The frozen yogurt was tart, sweet, and oh so yummy. The ingredients were... weird. Chocolate chips, a variety of very fresh fruit, cereal(?), carob chips, and chestnuts. Maybe cereal in yogurt is common, but I've never done it, and I think you're a communist if you have. They need to ditch the Japanese shop-club motif on the inside. Everything was very bright, very white, and very plastic. Judging from the volume and choice of music played, I'm assuming that Pinkberry thinks it's a techno club. Fools. They can't do that unless they offer ecstasy as a topping. I really like Pinkberry and hope that a location arrives in RI soon.
Cosi: I now know they're all about the country, but the one on 31st and Park was my first exposure to one. Ostensibly, just yet another entrant in the growing casual-dining market segment. They seem to be aiming themselves at the same trendy (or wannabe trendy) urbanite that Panera Bread has targeted. They do enough differently to make their existence worthwhile. Coffee and espresso are certainly better than Panera Bread, which isn't hard. The Paneras I've dined couldn't steam milk if their bloody lives depended on it. And around me, it sometimes does. There's one nearby, in Mansfield MA, which means it's too far away to make the trip, but if this place was next to a TGI Fridays or an Applebees, I know where I'd go. In general, a worthy, well-priced place.