Scientists and Surgeons Get Asian Takeout and Italian Standards Around 65th and First
The folks from Memorial Sloan Kettering, Weill-Cornell Medical, and Rockefeller University working in the micro-micro-neighborhood around 65th Street and First Avenue feast at tasty ethnic joints and cozy trattorias.
Business• Mediterraneo The lighting is seductive and the soundtrack sexy at this popular Italian spot. Take a seat at the long bar, put a bottle on the corporate Amex — the list ranges from simple Chiantis to pricey Tuscans — and graze on generous appetizers that double as mains, like raw-artichoke salad with lemon and fresh Parmesan and velvety carpaccio on a bed of peppery arugula. 1260 Second Ave., at 66th St.; 212-734-7407.
Co-worker• Totoya Daytime dining is a tranquil affair at this conversation-friendly Japanese eatery. The interior’s cool and dark, so sit by the street-side windows to catch some late winter rays as you sample nontraditional sushi rolls like the oyster tempura, teriyaki-marinated eel and mango, and the Upper East Side–appropriate “Sunday Morning” (smoked salmon and cream cheese, naturally). 1144 First Ave., at 63rd St.; 212-751-6123.
• Portofino Grille Fake starlight and Amalfi watercolors lend a kitschy yet homey feel to this country-style ristorante. Ask for a table by one of the fireplaces and chat over steaming bowls of pasta e fagioli, the house’s superb spaghetti and meatballs, and a glass of rustic Montepulciano. 1162 First Ave., nr. 64th St.; 212-832-4141.
• Ming’s Garden Dim sum is the draw at this sparse but neat and clean hole-in-the-wall. Share favorites like sweet red-bean buns, crackly fried pork rolls, and delicate dumplings filled with minced scallop, shrimp, and asparagus. If you’re still hungry, snack on the irresistible Cantonese-style spareribs, lacquered to perfection with hot barbecue honey. 1205 First Ave., at 65th St.; 212-396-2800.
• John’s Pizzeria Crowd into a worn wooden booth and share a steaming pie at this old-school standby. John’s offers an array of toppings from anchovies to sun-dried tomatoes, but the simplest slices — the classic margherita; the sauceless pizza bianca, covered in a blizzard of ricotta and mozzarella — are the best. 408 E. 64th St., nr. First Ave.; 212-935-2895.
Solo• 879 Taco Colored Christmas lights and neon beer signs make for a festive, roadside-border-bar vibe at this tiny Tex-Mex joint. The prices are low, the portions huge: Pig out on rich steak enchiladas buried under a crust of melted cheese or soft fajitas bursting with pulled pork, grilled onions, and spicy peppers. Wash it all down with a cold Corona and a couple of fresh limes. 1229 First Ave., nr. 66th St.; 212-879-8226.
• Gotham Coffee House Brick walls and iconic black-and-white prints of Paris add to the bohemian charm at this comfy but crowded coffeehouse. Relax with your reading over a hazelnut cappuccino and a turkey-avocado club on Blue Ribbon Bakery bread — or skip straight to the decadent desserts, from gooey pecan pie and mammoth chocolate-chip cookies to the addictive “almond pretzel,” a twist of puff pastry sprinkled with nuts and dipped in a dark-chocolate shell. 1298 Second Ave., at 68th St.; 212-717-0457.
• Caffe Med Avoid the noontime crowd of teens from nearby Talent High School by toting your laptop to this jazz-themed café for a late lunch. Take advantage of the free wi-fi while you nibble panini — we like the Parma ham with Fontina and the prosciutto with tangy Gorgonzola, pressed between fluffy focaccia slices. Don’t miss the gelato — ask for a scoop each of chocolate, hazelnut, and vanilla with candied cherries. 1268 Second Ave., nr. 66th St.; 212-744-5370.
Takeout• Ravagh Persian home cooking just like madar used to make. Order a traditional starter — favorites include pickled vegetable torshi, sour-cherry rice, and fried chickpea dumplings — and top it off with succulent grilled kebabs of yogurt-marinated lamb and lemon-saffron Cornish hen. 1237 First Ave., nr. 67th St.; 212-861-7900.
• Pongal This Pan-Indian place is a vegetarian’s takeout dream: Roam the subcontinent from Punjabi vegetable fritters and Gujarati green lentil stew to southern dosai crêpes filled with curried onions and potatoes. Two helpings of chile-spiced cashews make for an excellent afternoon snack. 1154 First Ave., at 63rd St.; 212-355-4600.
• Asia Grill Skip straight to the noodle dishes at this bustling haunt. Bun xao, Vietnam’s answer to pad Thai, comes steaming with fried egg and crisp vegetables; cold vermicelli serves as a backdrop to textures both crunchy (cucumber, bean sprouts, peanuts) and sticky (spareribs in plum sauce). The banana pudding travels well, but the tempura-fried green-tea ice cream is unbeatable. 1239 Second Ave., at 65th St.; 212-753-9818.
• Bagelworks The bagels at this specialty counter run the gamut from traditional (pumpernickel, blueberry, cinnamon raisin) to inventive (jalapeño cheese, corn, spinach). Select an appropriate spread — blue cheese for the black Russian, perhaps, or melted butter over chocolate chip — and a cup of their strong black coffee to warm you up once you’re back at the office. 1229 First Ave., nr. 66th St.; 212-744-6444.