When it comes to food, pretty much every culture claims a place within the confines of New York City. Thousands of restaurants have long left their mark on the sprawling metropolis with ethnic flavors. But in the early 2000s, Michael Momm felt something was still missing from the culinary landscape: a contemporary German restaurant like those found in his native Cologne. Sure, a handful of German eateries already existed, but these exhibited what he considered to be stale traditions, such as folk music and displays of cuckoo clocks that still announced the long-defunct 13th hour. He opened Loreley Restaurant & Biergarten as a means to showcase more contemporary German culture.
The restaurant's brick-lined dining room and outdoor biergarten exemplify the concept of Gem?tlichkeit, which roughly translates to "coziness." Diners sit together at long wooden tables, socializing or cheering during live German sporting events. It's at these tables?built by a carpenter in Cologne?that patrons sip imported wines and more than 20 German beers in bottles and on tap. Narrow glasses contain the restaurant's signature light ale, K?lsch, which is complemented by offerings from a menu of classic German comfort food. French fries accompany various schnitzel dishes, and the aptly named Sausage Party sampler showcases seven different german sausages over beer-marinated sauerkraut with bacon. On Saturday and Sunday until 4 p.m., the kitchen staff also prepares plates from a brunch menu, including German-style pancakes and eggs benedict topped with black forest ham.
You can't get much more Little Italy than Grotta Azzurra. Originally opened in 1908, the restaurant is a neighborhood fixture that was once a regular hangout for Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack. Even Robert De Nero grew up on Grotta's Old World cooking. After closing for several years, a refurbished and reinvigorated Grotta Azzurra came back strong with Chef Frank Castellana helming the kitchen.
Tradition remains a guiding force behind the robust Italian menu. Castellana's chefs bake focaccia bread daily, make their own mozzarella, and create gnocchi and other pastas by hand. Menu mainstays are all time-honored classics, such as beef braciole, chicken parmigiana, and a whole Maine lobster served with clams and mussels in a spicy red sauce?the restaurant's signature entree since 1908. Grotta Azzurra pairs these hearty plates with glasses, bottles, and Erlenmeyer flasks of wine from its extensive list, which earned an Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator.