Waaaaay back in 1999 (and I’m just now realizing how long ago that was) I spent five weeks in Israel. I was ostensibly studying film, and I did do a little of that, but I spent more time seeing the sights, traveling the length of the entire country. I went scuba diving in the Red Sea, I walked the stations of the cross, and I visited the Wailing Wall. I’m not bragging (ok, maybe I’m bragging a little bit), but telling you all this because the thing that made the biggest impression on me was the falafel. There was one falafel place in particular, near Dizengoff Square in Tel Aviv, that I loved. There are a few things that separate the great falafel in Israel from most falafel you find here in NYC. One, the falafel themselves are heavily spiced and seasoned, crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. Two, they offer a huge selection of salads with which you can top your falafel. Three, you can get an oversized falafel wrap on a giant flat bread called lavash, allowing you to consume way more falafel than one person really needs to. Enter Maoz, a falafel chain from Amsterdam of all places, which gets two of those three things so, so right.
Note: I know there haven’t been many updates lately, I’ve been having computer problems. Thankfully that’s over, and I will be updating regularly once again. -HW
When I wrote about Pulino’s, i wrote that it “[wasn’t] a game-changer in the NYC pizza scene.” Having eaten at Donatella, I’m confident that this new pizzeria is the game changer I was hoping for. After I saw the rave that Slice wrote about Donatella, I made plans with my friends Jess and Garrett (of We Heart NY) to try it for myself. Donatella has a lot going for it — they constructed a glowing gold pizza oven, and they brought in a master pizzaiolo from Italy to give lessons to the staff on how to make authentic pies. More importantly to the business, in Donatella Arpaia they have a restaurateur who isn’t afraid of self-promotion.
So what sets Donatella apart? It’s the crust — far thinner than most of my favorite Neapolitan pizza places, but still chewy and wonderfully charred. I don’t know how such a thin crust can maintain its structure so well. The margherita that I got was wonderful for its balance of crust, sauce, and cheese, and that balance is what makes for great pizza. I think the balance of ingredients was a little off on the carita, the pizza that Jess ordered. She said she felt a little silly complaining that a pizza topped with anchovies and olives was salty, but in a restaurant setting I think we leave it up to the chefs to find that balance for us, and that it’s a legitimate gripe. Still, there’s no arguing with that fantastic crust and that perfect char. Donatella may just be serving the best Neapolitan pizza in Manhattan.
Donatella’s — 184 Eighth Avenue
As the New York Times pointed out yesterday, “New York’s pizza moment is stretching into a pizza era.” Case in point: Olio, a new Neapolitan-style pizzeria in the West Village, which barely got any press when it opened. What press there has been has been mixed — my friend Jess (of We Heart New York) said there major flaws with the pizza, and yet she couldn’t wait to go back. We met for lunch there last week, and they must have been having a good day because my margherita was excellent.
Way back when I did my tasting of pizza along the L train, I had a really good Neapolitan-style pizza at Fornino in Williamsburg. I was excited to hear that there was a Fornino opening near me, in Park Slope, a few months ago, and on a recent Friday night I met up with my friends Jeff & Eva to check it out.
A couple of weeks ago my friends Jess & Garrett, of We Heart New York, invited me along to a lecture at Proteus Gowanus. When they suggested that we meet someplace beforehand for dinner, I thought of Sheep Station, which bills itself as “an Australian ‘local’ in Brooklyn”.
I went for the veggie burger (for a dollar extra, topped with Aussie cheddar). The patty itself was pretty standard fare (that is, it fell apart pretty quickly), but the toppings were interesting: beets, a slice of grilled pineapple, and a fried egg. There’s no reason that all of those things should work together, but somehow they combined to make something pretty good. The side salad left something to be desired, and the veggie burger wasn’t good enough to warrant a second trip, but if you find yourself down 4th Avenue you might want to give it a try.
Sheep Station — 149 4th Avenue, Brooklyn
I know it’s not really fair to judge a restaurant on the second day it’s open, but since I work a block away from the new Park Slope Eatery I figured I’d have lunch there. I walked into what was one step removed from chaos, aka the lunchtime rush. When I ordered the falafel, the guy behind the counter looked confused and ended up consulting the menu board behind him. I asked about stuffed grape leaves, and he said, “Grape what?” before directing me to ask someone else. I didn’t bother. My falafel was fine, though not quite hot or crispy enough. The best part about it was that it was topped with tzatziki, a yogurt sauce flecked with dill, rather than the standard sesame tahini.
I used to live on the corner of E 3rd St and Avenue A, and I loved the neighborhood. This was before this blog existed, but I still was excited about the many food options available to me: Nicky’s Vietnamese Sandwiches, Mama’s, and a 24-hour Key Food, among others. I was not, however, aware of the existence of Perbacco, an Italian restaurant that blends tradition and the avant-garde. Lucky for me my friends Jess & Garrett knew about it, and the three of us met there for dinner last week. Lucky for you also, because their photos came out much better than mine (click the link to their blog if you don’t believe me).