Joseph Yaccarino emigrated from Naples, Italy, with his parents and 11 siblings at the turn of the century. He was just an infant at the time, allowing him to build nearly his entire life on North American soil. Joe's first professional endeavor was on stage, where he established himself as a comedian dubbed "Biggie." However, it wasn't long before he decided to lend his charisma—and nickname—to a different arena, one in which he'd never go hungry. Joe entered the food industry, starting by selling clams door to door.
The modest mobile business grew increasingly popular, and Joe eventually decided to apply his passion for mollusks toward opening a full restaurant in Hoboken. Three generations later, the original red brick location still thrives, as do three other locations that maintain the same family atmosphere and sea-bound smells of fresh raw oysters on the half shell. Warm italian sandwiches with fillings such as meatballs and sausage with peppers round out the menu.
After Ithaka’s seven-year stint as the best Greek restaurant in Greenwich Village according to Gayot, chef Harry Hatziparaskevas decided it was time for a change of scenery. Northeastward he went, to Ithaka’s current location on the Upper East Side. He brought with him the same authentic menu, which Time Out New York praises for offering “perfectly prepared traditional Greek dishes," such as moussaka, kapamas, and kalamari scharas—whole marinated squid charbroiled with lemon and olive oil. The new locale is roomy and rustic, with exposed ceiling beams, brick floors, and dreamlike paintings of Mediterranean destinations hanging from white, textured walls.
Marea means “tide” in Italian, hinting at the restaurant’s concentration: seafood, especially seafood plucked from the four bodies of water that surround the bottom of the boot-shaped peninsula. The menu comes courtesy of chef and owner Michael White, who New York Times critic Sam Sifton lauded like so: “He cooks Italian food as if it were purely American: big and bold.” Though diners can select specific plates from the eatery’s extensive menu—fusilli with braised octopus, lobster ravioli, salt-baked Italian wild bass—the staff recommends the four-part, prix-fixe menu. This menu includes a crudo, ostriche, or antipasto; pasta; fish or meat; and a dessert, such as almond milk panna cotta with black mission fig or the semifreddo di niccola, with dark chocolate, piedmont hazelnut, and a partial serving of freddo. The highbrow reputation of Marea Ristorante’s cuisine is matched only by the restaurant’s atmosphere. The bar, backed by a rippled amber wall resembling underwater rock formations, competes for attention with white tablecloths that pop next to dark, wood-grained booths. Llittle touches add an extra-layer of refinement to the dining room, including silver-dipped conches and nautiluses that sit on the windowsills in shiny homage to the sea. It all adds up to an appealing eatery Zagat named New York City’s Best Italian Restaurant in 2012.
Sheila Thomas's seafood shrine has been a staple in Harlem for the past 20 years, but the legacy of the food goes back much further. A native of Jackson, Mississippi, Sheila came to New York with recipes given to her by her mother after being passed down through generations of family cooks. Today, lines of hungry diners line up to get a taste of her southern-style home cooking, starting with the juicy strips of whiting, shrimp, and catfish that emerge from the bubbling fryers. To craft her award-winning fried fish sandwiches, Sheila's staff pile breaded fillets atop a whole-wheat bun or slices of white bread before smothering it in creamy tartar sauce and just a hint of Tabasco. That same famous fried fish can also be made into a dinner, paired with southern sides such as mac ‘n’ cheese, smoky collard greens, or fried okra. Ultraplump chicken wings satiate the seafood-fearing crowd, and healthier alternatives such as steamed crab legs make it easier to indulge in one of the decadent desserts including red velvet cake, peach cobbler, or carrot cake, which is technically a vegetable.
Recently renovated, Assembly Steahouse's?well-reviewed on NorthJesery.com?interior still retains the classic steakhouse look, with burgundy carpet and wood tables, and the menu still offers a good balance of surf and turf. The restaurant's old standbys such as miso-glazed beef and shrimp kabobs, grilled orange-ginger salmon, and prime new york strip steak are all the more flavorful. To pair with menu selections, the bar shakes up 15 specialty martinis, such as the Basic Naked?just gin and olives?or the Bikinitini, made with Malibu rum and pineapple juice and garnished with a bandeau top.