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The Underground Gourmet

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Introducing the ‘Gastroteca’

Even in the dead of winter, good new things keep happening to New York City. The Underground Gourmet giddily points out a new wine bar, Gottino, that is outpacing its panini-packing rivals. The Insatiable Critic found a new, urbane restaurant in Dovetail and loves the Sunday prix fixe. Among this week's openings, Periyali adds a midtown sister in Persephone, giving the city another blue-chip Greek restaurant. Ah, New York: Even our lean seasons have their harvests.

Steve Schirripa Has No Problem With Little Italy, Steaks

Steve Schirripa
In his new cable cooking show, Steve Schirripa’s Hungry (Lifeskool network, debuting December 6), Uncle June’s faithful manservant Bobby Baccalieri tours his favorite New York Italian kitchens and takes some sauce-splattered pointers from pals like Rao’s Frank Pellegrino and Peasant’s Frank De Carlo. Rob Patronite and Robin Raisfeld asked the man Tony Soprano immortalized as a “calzone with legs” to expound on his favorite pastime — eating on and off the set. There are a lot of cooking shows out there these days. What distinguishes yours from the competition? This is a real guy going into a real kitchen; I think after you watch this, you’re really going to learn how to make the meatballs from Rao’s. It’s a combination of talking, comedy, and how-to. Who does the cooking at home? My wife; I eat, she cooks. Which is why I’m doing this new show. They’re teaching me how to cook. In one episode, you spotlight the Mulberry Street restaurant Il Cortile. Do you think that Little Italy gets a bad rap? I think it does. First of all, it’s a lot of fun down there. There’s a lot of tourists, but Il Cortile is as good an Italian restaurant as any in the city.

Sandwich of the Week: The Cheesesteak

cheesesteaks
Waitrose Food Illustrated, the British magazine put out by the Waitrose supermarket chain, recently listed its “100 Greatest Moments in Food,” and, initially at least, the Underground Gourmet along with the gluttonous staff at Sandwich of the Week couldn’t have been more pleased had someone sent them a six-foot hoagie. Coming in at No. 2 on the list, you see, right after the harnessing of fire for cooking purposes, was John (4th Earl of Sandwich) Montagu’s invention of the sandwich.

Women Chefs Take the Reins in This Week’s Issue

“It’s a man’s man’s man’s world,” James Brown once sang. Was it the official anthem of the restaurant world? Sometimes it seems like that, but this week’s issue has eight reasons to the contrary. The names of the first seven are April Bloomfield (The Spotted Pig), Rebecca Charles (Pearl Oyster Bar), Alex Guarnaschelli (Butter), Sara Jenkins (formerly of 50 Carmine), Anita Lo (Annisa), Jody Williams (Morandi), and Patricia Yeo (formerly of Monkey Bar and Sapa). All talked about a woman’s place in the kitchen in a special New York forum. The eighth reason? Alex Raij, whose new tapas restaurant, El Quinto Pino, gets three stars from the Underground Gourmet. All this, and a recipe for pan-roasted chicken (plus a video!), come at you in this week’s issue of New York. A Woman’s Place? Small Is Beautiful In Season: Pasture Raised Chicken [NYM]

The Cutest Sea-Urchin-Egg Sandwich Ever at El Quinto Pino

Uni Panini
There is no end to what you can shove between two slices of bread and call a sandwich, and that, of course, is the beauty of the thing. But is everything edible suitable sandwich material? That was the point brought up for debate the other night at El Quinto Pino, the new taperia from the Tía Pol folks, where the UG tucked into a ficelle smeared with rich blobs of sea-urchin roe. Oddly, the sandwich in question was listed on the otherwise all-Spanish chalkboard menu as an “uni panini.” It came swaddled in a wax-paper jacket like a Danny Meyer Shackburger, still warm from a gentle turn in the sandwich press and smeared with butter flavored with a zingy Korean mustard oil. And although it was only about the size of a Tootsie Roll and the UG could have finished it off in a bite and a half, it was the kind of toothsome tidbit you want to savor slowly.

Sandwich of the Week: The Pavarotti at Alidoro

Pavarotti
When an international celebrity of Luciano Pavarotti’s magnitude dies, it’s only to be expected that there will soon follow a flood of posthumous recordings. But what to make of the posthumous hoagie? That was the question on the Underground Gourmet’s mind after the Golden Tenor had taken his final bow, and Walter Momente, the owner of the Soho sandwich shop Alidoro, had decided that a fitting tribute to the opera superstar would be to meticulously layer salami, smoked mozzarella, sun-dried tomatoes, artichokes, and sweet peppers into a titanic semolina loaf and call it the Pavarotti. “We had to do something for him,” says Italian-born Momente. “Besides, I am a huge soccer fan, and before he became a singer, Pavarotti was a very good professional soccer player.”

Where to Shop Like a Chef

Market Table
The current issue of New York features a command performance by Rob Patronite and Robin Raisfeld. Their extensive guide to the new trend of food markets spun off from restaurants belongs on every New Yorker's refrigerator door — these stores are "stocked with the precision and artistry of museum curators." And in their guise as the Underground Gourmet, they introduce us to a former art-supply store now serving what the Robs say is some of the best Mexican food in Brooklyn. Something tells us Dumbo General Store is going to be packed this week.

Cheap Eats est Arrivé!

The annual Cheap Eats issue arrives this week and represents, as usual, a massive compendium of low-end gastronomic wisdom. The Underground Gourmet round up some of the city’s very best cheap eats in the main section, but Adam Platt also weighs in on what passes for cheap in the city’s high-end places, some top chefs give their own picks, and three of the city’s greenmarket specialists vie to outdo each other not just in locavorism but also in “cheapavorism.” Add to that laser-focused profiles on burgers, barbecue, and Korean fried chicken, and you have a Cheap Eats supplement to put all others to shame.

Tuscan Square’s Meatball Maven Gets His Say — and Sandwich of the Week

If you saw Page Six last Thursday, you know that there may be a vast meatball conspiracy upon us. A quick recap of the item: Restaurateur Pino Luongo yields to no one in his devotion to the study and the making of meatballs, and along with Coco Pazzo chef Mark Strausman, he is feverishly scribbling a manuscript entitled Two Meatballs in the Italian Kitchen. Yet Luongo was ignominiously left out of an article by the Lee brothers in the Times’s Dining Section entitled “The Expanding Meatball Universe,” which traced the not-so-recent popularity of the things to the giant beef-veal-and-pork orbs made by Ápizz chef-owner John LaFemina (author of A Man and His Meatballs). Luongo smelled a rotten polpetta.