Monday, September 28, 2009
My first apartment in New York was on 14th and Ave. A, right on the edge of Stuyvesant Town, and while the East Village, specifically Alphabet City, might be more infamous for heroin dens, clubs, the late night scene, and eco-friendly hipsters, it holds its own gastronomical delights, and some of my favorite haunts are in the nether-reaches of this quirky neighborhood.
One of the main drawbacks of Alphabet City is simply the fact that it is such a pain to get to. But certain places make it all worth while--I Coppi on Ave. A and 9th street serves marvelous Italian food and has a romantic back garden that is open year-round. It has a special "home-y" feel, most likely because the owners, a Tuscan husband and wife team, built much of the restaurant themselves, including the brick oven, where bread is baked without salt, as per the Tuscan tradition. Everything on the menu is excellent, especially their chestnut soup and but my absolute favorite thing is their gnocchi with an orange and gin sauce and lump crab meat. Divine, and unlike any other dish I have had, anywhere in the city. Their gnocchi is so light and delicate, every other formulation seems clunky and heavy by comparison.
Matilda, on 11th and Ave. C, is a wildly original Tuscan and Mexican fusion restaurant that my roommate discovered. The flavor combination are so perfect, it is amazes me that I've never had prosciutto and basil in a quesadilla before. And to make it even more lovely, the two owners, one of Tuscan decent, the other from Mexico, met while working at the aforementioned i coppi.
This same roommate is also obsessed with Death & Co. , purveyor of decadent cocktails, and I recently discovered a fun little place on Ave. B, Rue B., which has great fresh-fruit infused cocktails, live jazz every night, and tasty paninis.
Ost Cafe and Atlas are two of my favorite cafes in the whole city. Ost has wonderful coffee, and you can sit and read/edit/work unmolested while people watching out the gloriously large windows. Atlas has all sorts of delicious Mediterranean inspired food and an unbelievable variety of soups, salads, and sandwiches at amazing prices, with a non-intrusive staff that will let you munch and work quietly all day.
I will say, however, that the best way to explore this neighborhood is to simply walk around. One of my favorite New York "memories" is the day when Vronsky and I decided to walk off a hangover one morning and mill around down Avenues A, B, and C, through the LES and into Chinatown. We discovered an urban farm on Ave. B, complete with koi pond to "eat" the run off (koi are basically aquatic pigs...they eat anything and everything and are the basically swimming garbage disposals), a place with vegan cookies that also sold bongs, and fabulous little vintage shops that sell everything from shearling pimp coats to bird-cage veils (both of which I want). We even found a VHS of the movie "Clue," which is one of my favorite movies of all time. Tom Curry rules, and I really want to go to the "Rocky Horror Picture Show" sing-along sometime this winter. Any takers?