When a restaurant is gone, it’s gone. Well, not always. Sometimes, shuttered restaurants, like bumped-off soap-opera characters and horror-movie serial killers, spring back to life. But the resurrection often takes place in a different location, and the vibe isn’t the same. It’s hard, after all, to re-create the particular alchemy of all the things that make a place special: the staff dynamic, the cast of regulars, the menu as a whole. Individual dishes, though, travel through time and kitchens and have the singular power to evoke moments and memories. Here, a few coronavirus culinary casualties that happily can be found elsewhere — either in homage or purely by coincidence.
Pegu Club Cocktails
Available at Tooker Alley, 793 Washington Ave., Crown Heights
Audrey Saunders’s pioneering cocktail lounge closed in April 2020, but her original tipples live on at bars around town, many led by those who trained under her. One such is Del Pedro, who has been rotating Saunders signatures like the Old Cuban, Jamaican Firefly, and Gin-Gin Mule (pictured) onto the menu of his Crown Heights bar, Tooker Alley. Pedro is planning a tribute menu this summer, which will include the “greatest hits” as well as some deep cuts from the Saunders repertoire. “It’d be nice to be at least one of the keepers of the flame,” he says.
When Ciro Verdi first slathered creamy robiola cheese inside a split-and-dimpled flatbread at Pino Luongo’s Le Madri three decades ago, he created a sensation, pizzalike but with the best organoleptic qualities of a toasted bagel with shmear. It became the specialty of the house at his eponymous Da Ciro, but after that restaurant succumbed last year, both the chef and his focaccia reemerged in Hudson Square at Luongo’s new Coco Pazzeria. There are other versions around town, all inspired by Verdi, but none better than the original.
The best pasta at Sara Jenkins’s restaurant was the anelloni — fat tubes nuzzled with spicy lamb sausage, mustard greens, and bread crumbs. It was one of those dishes you couldn’t not order every time you ate there. Hillary Sterling’s fusilli with lamb sausage at Vic’s is no clone, but in its spicy heft and bitter broccoli-rabe bite, it achieves the same deceptively rich effect — a pasta that scoffs at the notion of pasta as primi piatto.
A thick puck of juicy beef with smoked cheddar, BBQ mayo, cucumber, onion, Cuban-style potato sticks, and a cult following is not something you put into retirement just because the pandemic-induced pressures of the New York real-estate market have forced you to close your restaurant. So Gabriel Stulman took his star menu item across the street to sister restaurant Fairfax, where you can now get it with a side of Old Bay tater tots.
To be clear, Prune has not given up the ghost, and we hope it never will. But at press time, the only place we could find a trace of chef-owner Gabrielle Hamilton’s culinary DNA was Houseman, a restaurant run by former Prune cook Ned Baldwin. On occasion, he’ll add a tribute dish to the menu, most recently sweetbreads with capers, bacon, and brown-butter–lemon sauce. And for an upcoming brunch, he was talking about serving “the rösti I made thousands of back in the day. I could see running a Tabasco omelet as a special down the road one day, too.”