Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Pie in the Sky

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Having some "early evening" pizza at Basile's in Hoboken!
On a valiant quest to secure the coveted “Pizzaiolo” badge on Foursquare (check-in to 20 different pizza places), I broke the half-way point this past weekend and decided to reminisce about some of the best and “just OK” so far, because honestly, I’ve never met a pizza I really truly disliked… 

-        Dozzino (Hoboken, N.J; http://www.dozzino.com/) – When restaurants pride themselves on “fresh and local” ingredients it can often mean a limited and boring menu – but fortunately Dozzino’s delivers.  The small pies – with several toppings from red pepper and calabrese salami to pecorino romano, fontina and basil – cooked by a wood fire, make this one of the hottest new pizza places in town.  And they have a bocce court too!  

-        Carmine’s Pizzeria (Brooklyn, N.Y.; http://www.carminespizzeria.com/) – This may look and feel like your typical Italian restaurant, but Carmine’s offers so much more.  Not to be confused with the tourist trap in the city, this Carmine’s is a local legend that keeps patrons coming back – from the Chicken Parm to the Yankees Pie, this place is as Brooklyn as you can get.

-        Rosario’s (Hoboken, N.J.; http://www.allmenus.com/nj/hoboken/17083-rosarios-at-willow/menu/) – The debate between thin/crispy versus thick/doughy pizza has been around for ages (or at least since 1889, according to Wikipedia).  If you’re of the doughy camp, Rosario’s is the place for you.  It’s a friendly, neighborhood joint with five tables and a small TV that will always be playing some local sports team’s game.  The food is reliable, but nothing to write home about, especially if you live around the corner! (Full disclosure: I do…)

-        Gennaro’s (Hamilton, N.J.; http://www.gennarospizzeria.com/) – Run by an Italian family in Hamilton that your “mother’s sister’s cousin probably went to middle school with,” Gennaro’s is the place you go when you want home cooking but don’t feel like doing the dishes.  The Italiano Pie – topped with fig, prosciutto, arugula, red onion and goat cheese – is famous in Hamilton and one of the best topping combinations I’ve ever had. 

-        7 Stars (Hoboken, N.J.; http://www.7starspizza.com/) – Following a friendly discussion on the characteristics that make a good pie, the term “late night pizza” (© BA) surfaced.  7 Stars may hit the spot after a long day or night spent at the bar, but it’s not the type of place you’d go without your beer goggles securely on first.

-        Napoli’s (Hoboken, N.J.; http://www.allmenus.com/nj/hoboken/243834-napolis/menu/) – Unexpectedly one of the best pizza places in Hoboken - and with more than 20 to choose from, that’s saying a lot.  The Margarita Pie was not too doughy or too crispy and the combination of the sweet marinara sauce and salty fresh mozzarella made it the Goldilocks of pizza!

With only eight check-ins to go, I’m at a crucial turning point where I have to choose whether to continue stumbling into whichever pizza “joint” I come across in my ‘hoods or be a tad pickier and rightfully earn the badge that rewards only the “true pizza connoisseur.” 

This badge has been my most recent foodie adventure – I’m so close I can taste it.  I just need to ponder where my finals check-ins should be, taking me one step closer to this lifetime achievement.  What are your most/least favorite pizza shops?  How would you spend your 20 check-ins?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Butter….eh – I’ve had better

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I still get excited about restaurant week. It’s a great excuse to connect with friends (one Scott A. Berwitz) who I haven’t seen in a while and a wonderful way to afford some of the great restaurants in the city.

That. Said.

My trip to Butter…was…well…not bad. But I’ve had better…

The dream child of Chef Alexandra Guarnaschelli, Butter opened in 2003 to much fanfare in the East Village and became a bit of a “celeb” hot spot. So while it’s not “new” it’s always been on my list to try - so off we went. (Note – no celebs :(

The cocktails were great– I had a champagne cocktail called The Veranda with sparkling cava and St. Germain and Scott had The Butter Martini. The service was great and the d├ęcor was super cool. It’s all wood paneled and almost feels like you’re stepping into a high end spa. Very warm and serene.

But the food was…just OK and not what I was expecting. The appetizer of fried green tomatoes was three greasy tomatoes on a plate – no garnish, no dollop of creme fraiche or goat cheese or even a drizzle of olive oil. It looked like it had been tossed on a plate with all the care a fry cook at McDonald’s stuffing French fries into a happy meal (no offense to fry cooks!! We heart you in our own special way!). The goat cheese pizza consisted of a thick paste of strong goat cheese slathered on a very thin (what would normally be a very enjoyable crust) and then doused with onions. The best dish was the braised short rib. No knife was required and it was a perfectly rich, hearty dish that is always a favorite of mine.

The Takeaway
Go there if you are in the mood for a fun cocktail – but you can get better food elsewhere.

Butter
415 Lafayette St.
New York, NY 10003
212-253-2828
http://www.butterrestaurant.com