At Pescatore, chef Kenneth Johnson and his team honor the deceptive simplicity of Italian cuisine's commitment to culinary fundamentals. The restaurant's menus showcase the importance of using a base of simple, vibrant ingredients, then adding flair and complexity. This is evident in dishes such as the eatery's ricotta appetizer, which is accented by chives, hazelnuts, clover honey, and mint, and its roasted red- and yellow-beet salad, dotted with pickled shallots and dressed with champagne-honey vinaigrette.
Competing on a National Stage
Whether he's cooking for a crowd of diners or competing on national television, Johnson uses basic techniques to craft delicious dishes. So, when faced with the daunting task of preparing a dessert using spiral ham, spiced rum, green plantains, and water chestnuts, he created a traditional streusel. Sticking to a straightforward dessert netted Johnson a first-place finish on the Food Network's Chopped?his second victory in as many appearances.
Key Ingredients at Pescatore
As the sun rises, Chef Pasquale can be found one of two places. Most days, he wakes up early to visit a Bronx marketplace where he personally selects the freshest ingredients for Da Marino's menu. If he isn't there, then he's picking even-fresher produce directly from the vine in his home garden. Chef Pasquale learned the importance of fresh ingredients from his grandmother while he was first learning to cook in Calabria, Italy. From there, he honed his skills in Italy, Germany, France, and Finland before coming to the United States and opening Da Marino. Here, he crafts homemade pastas, such as the stuffed-cheese rigatoni and thin capellini, and prepares Old-World entrees of sea trout saut?ed with tarragon and capers in a lemon-butter sauce and new york strip steaks grilled to order.
The chef pays attention to the restaurant's ambiance just as much as he does to the food. Once featured in a scene on Sex and the City, the restaurant is designed to mimic an Italian villa with faux stonework and murals of Tuscan scenery painted by Italian artist Davide Rodoquino. Even the restrooms match the Old-World aesthetic with stone fountains, vases of flowers, and vaulted ceilings painted with blue skies that earned a nomination for 2012's Best Restroom in America from Cintas and the Plumber's Tourism Agency.
Located on the ground floor of Chelsea's Hotel Indigo, Blu Restaurant shares the same dedication to understated elegance as the hotel, incorporating Asian and Mediterranean influences into its menu of refined continental cuisine. The chefs man their stations from sunrise to moonset, whisking together meat- and vegetable-filled omelets in the morning before devoting their evenings to the seasonally rotating dinner menu. In addition to grilling dry-aged new york strip steaks and roasting free-range chicken, they also introduce palates to subtle trans-Pacific flavors by glazing tuna with teriyaki sauce or infusing salmon with ginger.
To accent meals, the bartenders can either mix one of their signature cocktails or telekinetically uncork a bottle of wine from the 50-bottle-strong list, which emphasizes small-production wineries from Spain, France, Italy, and the United States. The 20th-story Glass Bar NYC affords guests panoramic views of the Manhattan skyline amid a modern Mediterranean atmosphere of palms and illuminated sculptures. Here, patrons sip flavor-forward cocktails prepared by quizzical mixologists, and, on friday nights, mingle at the bar's swanky slumber parties.
Nick?s has burgers. Nick?s has pizzas. Nick?s has omelets, nachos, matzo-ball soup, reubens, ravioli, and barbecue-charcoal beef ribs. Nick?s has a massive menu stocked with the world?s cuisine. And while Nick?s can surely sate any appetite other than Slash?s appetite for destruction, what it excels at is burgers and pizzas. More than 30 burger varieties sprawl on kaiser-roll buns, whereas some 20 types of pizza slices join individual and large pies.
Inside Nick?s original location on Broadway, cozy booths, tables, countertops, and walls plastered with celebrity headshots have accrued half a century of charm, keeping true to the aesthetic of the restaurant?s first years. In 2012, Nick?s received a City Council citation to honor its 50-year anniversary, serving as a landmark in owner ?Big Nick? Imirziades?s culinary odyssey, which began during his childhood in Athens. There, his mother laid the foundations for his kitchen principles by using high-quality oil in her cooking and making sure every other ingredient followed suit. Today, Nick?s stays true to his early lessons, keeping his ingredients fresh and his meals plentiful.
Born in Eastern Europe near the Italian border, executive chef Mario Curko has an innate rapport with Mediterranean flavors, one that he's honed throughout his four decades in the restaurant business. His menu for the occasional celeb hangout Destino stays true to homestyle southern Italian cuisine, although the restaurant's environs are far from rustic—a Renaissance-style ceiling mural looks down over minority owner Justin Timberlake's piano and quilted banquettes, wooing diners with its vibrant colors achieved by layers of garlic-scented oil paint.
Atop white tablecloths, appetizers such as sautéed mussels and housemade meatballs rest in simple, elegant preparations. Mussels, clams, shrimp, and fresh fish of the day all catch themselves in the frutti de mare's net, offering a hearty complement to turfy plates of new york strip steak.
Destino's wine list rambles from California whites through dozens of regional Italian reds. The dessert menu shines a spotlight on four flavors of housemade gelato, molten chocolate cake, and traditional tiramisu.
Every day, an endless stream of airplanes flits between the United States and Europe. One of them, though is carrying precious cargo: a daily delivery of sorbetto and gelato for Gente Ristorante Italiano straight from Milan. This tight connection with Italy shines in the rest of the menu, too. All of the cuisine is directly inspired by owner and executive chef Jay B. Mitchell’s hundreds of visits to the country. For example, he first spied the insalata parma dish on the menu at a Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat beach club. With his risotto, he hopes to re-create the classic risottos served at the Hotel Principe di Savoia in Milan.
Zagat ranked the comforting Italian cuisine at Gente Ristorante Italiano “very good to excellent,” thanks in part to all this research. “The trick, I believe,” wrote a reporter for Short and Sweet NYC, “is when combining local produce with unmatchable Italian staples, Gente manages to produce the essence of a ‘local’ Italian dining experience in a neighborhood notorious for grab-and-go commuter clientele.”