Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria, a neighborhood Italian spot that earned three stars from the Times  

SSPNY checks out Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria, a neighborhood Italian spot that earned three stars from the Times

Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria is a neighborhood joint located near SSPNY's Elizabeth Street buildings!

SSPNY checks out Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria, a neighborhood Italian spot that earned three stars from the Times 

What sort of neighborhood has a local Italian place--open all day, not outrageously priced (though admittedly not cheap), lively and welcoming--that's also one of the best restaurants in the city? Well, if you live in SSPNY's Elizabeth Street buildings, the answer would be YOUR sort of neighborhood. Because just a few blocks away on cobblestoned Great Jones Street sits the excellent Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria, Donna Lennard's glorious Italian sandwich shop/grocery/bakery/wine bar/trattoria/three-star restaurant. If you live nearby, and have a bit of money is your pocket, you'll want to eat some sort of something here about once a week. 

 SSPNY had a great time at Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria. Good food, good wine, and good company!

I went to Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria (Lennard's Il Buco proper is a block away, on Bond Street) for a lovely late-night dinner right before Christmas, and, as is the case on nights such as these, was reminded how much I love this city. The crowd is always pretty sparkly here, and the place is packed with locals, destination eaters from far-flung NYC precincts, as well as plenty of Euro-tourists. It's a good mix, and people tend to be in a good mood from all the wine. And, of course, from Chef Justin Smillie's superb food.

SSPNY loved the fresh pasta at Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria, especially the orecchiette with sausage and parmesan!

You can't really go wrong with the Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria menu. We loved our starters, which included Crispy (and salty, and lemony) Artichokes, and especially Smillie's sweetbreads, seared to perfection--charred to caramelization on the outside, meltingly tender within--and placed upon a schmear of intense apricot "jam" with bits of crunchy Spanish corn-nuts scattered about. One of the best dishes I ate all year. The pastas were no let down, either, neither the excellent Orecchiette with crumbled sausage and parmesan shavings, nor the thick Bucatini Cacio e Pepe, a first-rate version of this cheese-and-peppercorn classic. I'd get both again in a heartbeat... except that there's so many other good things here, it's better to have some sort rotation system going.  

 SSPNY will definitely be coming back for the Bucatini Cacio e pepe!

Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria is located on Great Jones Street between Bowery and Lafayette, and is open every day for breakfast, lunch (weekdays), brunch (on weekends) and dinner. More information and complete Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria menus can be found here.  

SSPNY loved the relaxing ambiance at Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria

Checking in with Giano, one of SSPNY's go-to Italian spots in the East Village! 

Checking in with Giano, one of SSPNY's go-to Italian spots in the East Village!

SSPNY visited Giano restaurant in the East Village.

Checking in with Giano, one of SSPNY's go-to Italian spots in the East Village

 

It's always exciting to check out a hot new restaurant--the infectious enthusiasm of the crowd, the untried menu of potential delights--especially when it lives up to the hype. But really, it's places such as Giano that make a neighborhood. Opened in early 2008 by a duo from Milan, Paolo Rossi and Chef Matteo Niccoli (both of whom also, by the way, designed the space), Giano has been steadily keeping locals satisfied with its amiable atmosphere, reasonable prices, and an appealing menu of contemporary Italian cuisine. 
SSPNY thought the meatballs in tomato sauce at Giano were fantastic!
I was invited to a complimentary, multiple-course dinner at Giano on a raw and freezing night a couple of weeks ago, and the whole experience--the friendly service, the created-with-love food--reminded me how good this place can be. To start things off I was presented with a trio of samples from the appetizer section of the Giano menu, two of which I would definitely order again: the big, dense meatball (the texture was perfect) served in a bright, lively tomato sauce; and the thick stalk of asparagus (again, perfectly cooked) wrapped in melted fontina cheese, studded with chewy speck, drizzled with an intense balsamic vinegar reduction. 
Giano's pasta lived up to the hype. SSPNY enjoyed the gnocchi in four-cheese sauce!
The heart of any local Italian spot is the pasta--if the kitchen falls down here, there's really no point in returning--and I'm happy to say that all three of the dishes I tried were first rate. The soft (not gummy) gnocchi in a thick four-cheese sauce; the earthy, funky chestnut tagliatelle in a sausage ragout, studded with mushrooms and walnuts; the just-on-the-right-side-of-sweet risotto, made with butternut squash, gorgonzola and (this next part was the secret, surprisingly successful ingredient), finely crumbled amaretti cookies.
SSPNY tried the salmon filet, which was full of textures and flavors. Nice job, Giano!
At this point in any "real-life" Italian restaurant meal I'm usually done, but on this night the food kept on coming. The balsamic-glazed beef filet was terrific, accompanied with mashed potatoes, and pancetta, but the real winner from Secondi territory was the wonderful salmon filet, served unashamedly rare on a pile of peas and fava beans. This was lovely, a well-composed dish of complementary textures and flavors. Nice job, Giano. 

Giano is located on East 7th Street between First Avenue and Avenue A, and is open Tuesday through Sunday from 5:30 to 11:00, or 11:30 on Friday and Saturday. Closed Monday. More info and the complete Giano menu can found here.  

Just in time for chocolate-eating season (oh... also chocolate-giving): SSPNY pigs out at the new Roni-Sue's 

SSPNY Heads to Chocolate Heaven at Roni-Sue's!

SSPNY heads down to sample the chocolates and other treats at Roni-Sue's-located on Forsyth Street between Delancey and Rivington.

 

SSPNY heads to chocolate heaven at Roni-Sue's!

 

It's long been established, in my mind at least, that Rhoda Kave's Roni-Sue's makes the best chocolate, slightly sophisticated division, in town. Yes, the super-sweet creations at Li-Lac's West Village emporium are all pretty irresistible (get the chocolate-covered-oreos, or the chocolate-covered caramels, or the chocolate-covered anythings), and Soho's one-two punch of Vosges (get the goji berry ones) and Mariebelle (get the bark) will always make me happy. But even among these first-rate options, Roni-Sue's stands out, both just because the sweet treats here are amazing, but also because many of them have an added little something special, by which I mean: liquor.  
SSPNY found out that Roni-Sue's handmade chocolates all have something special in them-including liquor!
Backing up just a bit, the reason we're right now excited here at SSPNY about Roni-Sue's is that they've opened a brand-new chocolate shop/cafe/kitchen on Forsyth Street. Not to worry, Essex Street Market shoppers: Roni-Sue's will still be at their little counter over there. But now not only are there two spots to get these desserty delights, but at the new place on Forsyth Rhonda Kave and her crew are selling coffee and, even more exciting, hot chocolate. There are a few stools by the window at which to enjoy your warming beverage of choice, and be sure to add to your pleasure with one of Kave's muffins, brownies, biscotti or, as I did, with a excellent, chewy, chocolate chip cookie.
SSPNY loved the variety of sweet treats at Roni-Sue, especially the chewy chocolate chip cookies!
But the real star at Roni-Sue's operation are the truffles, with dozens of flavors (boozy or non-) from which to choose. It had been a while between Roni-Sue binges, so I decided to do a full six-pack: Pecan Pie, Sour Cherry, Raspberry, "Frida" (named after Kahlo, and featuring espresso), Pumpkin Spice, and, best of the bunch Beer and Pretzel Caramel, which really nailed the crunchy/chewy/creamy texture trifecta. And as delicious as any of the above is Roni-Sue's signature Butter Crunch, sweet and smooth, available in small bags or large tins. The new Roni-Sue's will also be a pick-up spot for all of the baked wonders from the great Butter and Scotch duo, including their amazing S'mores Pie.     
 SSPNY loved Roni-Sue's truffles! Flavors include pecan pie, sour cherry, raspberry, and even beer!
Roni-Sue Chocolates is located on Forsyth Street between Rivington and Delancey, and is open every day from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. More info about Roni-Sue, here. And if you want to orders pies--or anything else--from Butter and Scotch, see here.   

Mille-Feuille Bakery Cafe: NYC's Best Croissants--Plus Plenty of Other Delights--Are Right Here in the West Village 

SSPNY Heads to the West Village for Great Treats and NYC's Best Croissants: Mille-Feuille Bakery Cafe

SSPNY checks out the small Mille-Feuille Bakery Cafe by Parisian owner and baker Olivier Dessynon on LaGuardia Place for hands-down the best croissants in town

Mille-feuille Bakery Cafe, located on an unassuming stretch of LaGuardia Place, is tiny, with limited indoor seating, and a design more utilitarian than cute. It's basically an open kitchen and a big display case, with a four-stool counter to your right. When it's not raining there are several generic tables set up outside, which have mostly lost their appeal now that December's kicking in. In other words, there are no real outward indications that Mille-feuille, and its Parisian transplant/owner/baker Olivier Dessyn, are right now making what are hands-down the best croissants in town. Really: if you're out and about and hungry for a snack or a treat, this is where you need to be.

SSPNY first checks out the Almond Croissant at Mille-Feuille for a perfect blend of chewy, sweet, and nutty, while others swear by there Pistachio Croissant and Dessyn's Pain au Chocolat paired with a cup of coffee, for the best refuel in the city

I've never not been able to NOT get the Almond Croissant at Mille-feuille, because it's so knee-bucklingly good--buttery, flaky, chewy, sweet, and nutty in perfect proportions--but others swear by the Mille-feuille Pistachio Croissant, or Dessyn's Pain au Chocolat, which, like all of his creations, doesn't skimp at all on the filling. Any one of these beauties, plus a cup of coffee, et voila, you have the best re-fuel in the city. And through some sort of baking wizardry, Dessyn's Mille-feuille croissants, though of course best right out of the oven, are almost as heavenly the next morning!

Mille-Feuille Bakery Cafe also offers first-rate sandwiches and a no-brainer Ham and Cheese Croissant, as well as a huge selection of Macarons including Salty Caramel, Pistachio, Raspberry, Rose, Espresso, Lemon, Coconut and more, along with desserts, cookies, and other wonderful pastries.

Mille-feuille Bakery Cafe has plenty more going for it as well, from a small, first-rate selection of sandwiches (on just-baked bread, naturally) and the no-brainer Ham and Cheese Croissant, to some excellent Macarons in all of the usual, mostly appealing varieties: Salty Caramel, Pistachio, Raspberry, Rose (um, gross), Espresso, Lemon, Coconut, etc. The desserts, cookies, and pastries are also wonderful here, including the namesake Mille-feuille (with not-quite-a-thousand layers of flaky crust sandwiching a cloud of sweet vanilla cream) and, most especially, the incredible Chocolate Caramel Fondant, with its gooey interior and blob of salted caramel on top. Amazing. All of it.

SSPNY lastly checks out Mille-Feuille Bakery Cafe's especially incredible Chocolate Caramel Fondant, which has a gooey interior and glob of salted caramel on top.

Mille-feuille Bakery Cafe is located on LaGuardia Place just south of West 3rd Street, about a block away from Washington Square Park. Mille-feuille is open Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., and on weekends from 8:30 a.m. to 7:00. Lots more information, plus a look at the Mille-feuille menu, here. And if you're looking for a extra-special holiday gift, every Saturday Dessyn teaches Macaron-making, a three-hour lesson in which you will bake (and take home) 30 macarons!

Mille-Feuille Bakery Cafe is located on LaGuardia Place just south of West 3rd Street and a block away from Washington Square Park, and every Saturday Dessyn himself teaches a Macaron-making class for a three-hour lesson where you can make and bring home 30 macarons!

 

Fall in Love this Winter with The Fat Radish 

SSPNY Falls in Love with The Fat Radish this Winter, and You Will Too!

SSPNY falls in love with The Fat Raddish, which opened 2 years ago by partners Phil Winser and Chef Ben Towill in the ever-hip six-block stretch of Orchard Street, making their presence known with an oyster bar Leadbelly across the street and a Thai place, Two Good Traders coming soon.

The Fat Radish is a restaurant with which to fall in love. A rustic, airy, ridiculously pretty room, usually filled with equally attractive people, The Fat Radish sits at the foot of the ever-more hip and lively six-block stretch of Orchard Street which, by the way, with its art galleries, coffee shops (go to surfer-hang Lost Weekend for a Blue Bottle pour-over), fabulous boutiques, skater shops, and old-school craziness (check out the window display of Orchard Express Tailor Shop), has become one of my favorites destinations/walks in the city. And The Fat Radish menu? Veggie-centric but by no means vegetarian, totally appealing from start to finish, and I've never had an even remotely disappointing dish. HUGE crush.

SSPNY insists everything on The Fat Radish's menu is great, including the complimentary plate of fat radishes they bring to your table at the beginning of the meal and ordering an entree of four plump Montauk Diver Scallops

The Fat Radish has been successfully seducing downtown diners for about two years now, and partners Phil Winser and Chef Ben Towill have recently been upping their already-considerable presence on Orchard with the oyster bar Leadbelly across the street, and plans for a pricey Thai street food joint just up the block, Two Good Traders, coming soon. Anyway, I stopped into the mothership over Thanksgiving weekend for an early supper, to see if all of the planning and expansions have the kitchen distracted, and though it had been a few months since my last Fat Radish feast, I'm happy to say that they can still really bring it back there. The love (lust?) affair continues.

SSPNY also tries the Grilled Cheese plate as a bar snack

Everything on The Fat Radish dinner menu is good--and the complimentary plate of, um, fat radishes they bring you to start, in lieu of bread, is always a treat--but on this night my meal seemed particularly cheering, three course of big, well-balanced flavors, everything prepared with skill and care. Take my entree, four plump Montauk Diver Scallops, seared and appropriately rare, topped with capers and sitting on a pile of mashed golden beets and sweet potatoes, mustard greens adding a touch of chewy bitterness. Outstanding. My "bar snack" was equally good, a Grilled Cheese plate, the bread just on the right side of greasy, the biting cheese perfectly paired with grainy mustard, the plate completed by the sweet, acidic pickles. And my side of Roasted Brussels Sprouts was a simple, completely satisfying version of this ubiquitous dish. Basically: SWOON. I miss you already, Fat Radish.

SSPNY lastly orders the Roasted Brussels Sprouts which were completely delicious

The Fat Radish is located on Orchard Street just north of Canal, and serves weekday lunch from 12:00 noon to 3:30; weekend brunch (I've never tried, but it's always packed) from 11:00 a.m. to 3:30; and dinner nightly from 5:30 to 12:00 midnight, except for Sunday, when it closes at 10:00. More info and the complete Fat Radish menu, here.

The Fat Radish is located on Orchard Street just north of Canal Street and serves lunch weekly from noon to 3:30 and on the weekend from 11am to 3:30, with nightly dinners being served from 5:30 to midnight



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