After more than a decade following different paths in the restaurant industry, friends Donny Giordano and Pellegrino Mongillo merged their culinary passions into Pellegrino's Restaurant & Lounge. In the kitchen, chef Mongillo—a Culinary Institute of America graduate—and his staff combine fresh, seasonal ingredients into dishes inspired by the various regions of Italy. Fresh seafood crops up in the octopus bruschetta and the scallop-, shrimp-, and mussel-flecked orzo. Other offerings include seared hangar steak with provolone and cavatelli pasta with sun-dried tomatoes, goat cheese, and chicken.
In the main dining space, servers glide across tiled floors to wood tables set under arched doorways. Behind a granite bar, bartenders mix specialty flavored martinis and pour a range of international wines.
Luis Parada is an unofficial ambassador for Cuban culture. A celebrated musician, he traveled the globe sharing the unique arts of his homeland. But he's also a master of traditional Cuban cooking, having tried his ladle at homestyle dishes that have been passed down through generations. Today, Luis and his fiancee Doris Fenton make it their mission to share the spirit of the island at the Cuban Flavor Cafe. That heritage informs every plate that passes out of the kitchen, whether its a classic Cuban sandwich with roasted pork, ham, and swiss cheese, or a grilled, marinated skirt steak proudly waving a tiny flag. And ears can feast on Cuban flavor as well—live music fills the cozy cafe on Friday and Saturday nights.
Rudy’s Pastry Shop whips up tongue-tingling baked treats in a variety of incarnations including cakes, pies, and tarts. Nosh on an assortment of freshly baked, sugary nibbles such as a black-forest or red-velvet cupcake ($1.75–$2.50). Other handheld flavor devices include danishes and tarts—imbued with the creamy fillings of raspberry or nutella ($2.50 each). A delectable pie ($8.25+) is sure to provide sweet satisfaction for an entire geometry class, or hours of edible enjoyment for one.
Artful twists on classic recipes reign at Rose Valley Cafe and Grille. Charred octopus shares a plate with lentil salad and herbs. Grilled polenta pairs up with braised beef short ribs. Spicy avocado, pickled tomato, and ginger add a piquant flair to cured salmon. When the elegant meals draw to a close, customers' dessert-trowels dip into housemade ice cream and cheesecake, the varieties of which change daily, unlike the pope's fashion statements.
Sugar and Plumm manages to exude a distinctively French charm that appeals to the refined palates of all ages. The Parisian–inspired whimsical haven caters to virtually every taste bud by enlisting the talents of formally trained chefs, Parisian chocolatiers, and various ice cream makers and pastry chefs. Together, this team creates an eclectic assortment of sweet and savory treats, beginning from scratch whenever possible, and enjoyed while dining in or being delivered.
Executive Chef Ben Dodaro oversees the kitchen at the Upper West Side bistro, cooking a sophisticated combination of upscale yet familiar French classics and refined versions of American comfort foods. His team handles every piece of protein from start to finish by butchering, smoking, and curing all of the meats and fishes in-house. This extra bit of effort helps elevate dishes such as the waffles with crispy, free-range chicken, and it complements the classical elegance of dishes such as the salad with confit rabbit, heirloom carrots, and an orange-cider vinaigrette.
Sugar and Plumm’s savory offerings are only one small piece of the puzzle, though. Master French chocolatier Thierry Atlan and his team use raw, all-natural, sustainably farmed chocolate as they meticulously craft small batches of treats. The pastry chefs bake in two shifts every day, ensuring that the shelves are lined with fresh macarons and cakes, even while taking the time to make their own jams and jellies in-house. These chefs also prepare their own ice creams and sorbets from scratch, patiently allowing the flavors to meld and coalesce by using a process that, much like a book club discussion of The Oxford English Dictionary, takes two full days.
With a crêpe-centric menu, Kafe Neo expands on the repertoire of the typical café kitchen with a variety of breakfast, lunch, and snack-time fare. During each visit, diners can look on as crêpes ($2.99–$8.99 each) are cooked to order in a pan, flattened over a copy of the French Constitution, and filled with signature combinations of more than 70 different meat, vegetable, cheese, and fruit fillings. After coffee beans are carefully put through the antique roasters at nearby Dallis Bros. Coffee, they're ground up and brewed onsite to make café mochas ($4.49), lattes ($3.99), and classic cups of joe ($2.49 with refills). Whether you're eyeing something savory, sweet, or simply not caught on fire, the restaurant also serves fresh paninis, omelets, and french toast.