Chef Ricardo Cardona might be from El Salvador, but that doesn’t mean his cooking sticks to tradition. At Mamajuana Café, he draws on more than 25 years of cooking to build his modern cuisine on a foundation of his homeland’s centuries-old cooking traditions. And it seems like his efforts have paid off: his Nuevo Latino dishes, which also prominently feature Dominican flavors, earned the eatery a Critics’ Pick designation from New York magazine. All that attention might be on account of the chef’s inventive flavor combinations, such as sweet plantains stuffed with salted cod, chicken-tempura sushi rolls, and Cornish game hen topped with diced chorizo and lobster. In the dining space, tufted leather banquettes run along the wall just beneath studio lighting and backlit artwork. Bright red and earth-tone curtains give the room a clublike vibe, which set the tone for when diners take to the dance floor between courses.
Gallery Pizza serves pizza dough two ways: in the traditional flat crust manner and by rolling it. Depending on whether you like to see your ingredients or have them hidden, both options are bedecked with anything from saut?ed spinach to chicken cutlets and ricotta cheese. And when it comes to building pasta dishes, chefs stick to classic recipes found all over Italy. They saut? chicken in a marsala wine sauce and tuck veal under a blanket of tomato sauce and melted mozzarella cheese. Shrimp scampi and sausage and peppers are also on the menu, as well as homemade meatballs with tomato sauce. If people don?t feel like making the drive to the eatery, the staff will happily deliver pizza and pastas to customers? front stoop or treehouse.
Patsy Grimaldi wasn’t like other boys his age. While his friends busied themselves playing baseball and balancing checkbooks, Patsy studied pizza-making under the tutelage of his uncle Patsy Lancieri. By the time Grimaldi was old enough to open a pizzeria of his own, he had perfected a recipe for fragrant tomato sauce and mastered the art of baking ultra-crispy crusts. As word of his pizza-making talents spread across New York, Patsy’s pizzeria attracted long lines and a variety of celebrity devotees including Bill Cosby, Bob Costas, and Frank Sinatra. Allegedly, Sinatra was so impressed by Patsy’s brick-oven pies that he regularly called in orders from his place in Vegas.
Today, Grimaldi’s Pizzerias have sprouted up across the country and earned accolades from Time magazine and Lonely Planet. Chefs continue to shower thin crusts in Pasty’s secret sauce along with handmade mozzarella and fresh toppings. They bake the pizzas in coal-fired brick ovens, faithfully following the tradition started by uncle Lancieri more than 80 years ago. Diners enjoy pies and brews in casual dining rooms where red-checkered tablecloths cover tables and NYC-inspired artwork decorates walls.