Like Alice’s rabbit-hole, Jack’s beanstalk, or Huck Finn’s time-travelling river-raft, Grotto is an easy-to-miss gateway to a magical, otherworldly realm. A low-lying neon sign and a short descending staircase are all that mark the cozy eatery from the outside. But inside, a wonderland of refined continental furnishings unfolds in three distinct regions. A bar and intimate, candlelit leather-booth seating face each other between exposed brick walls immediately past the entryway, and in another section, navy wainscoting with porthole-shaped flourishes recall the dining hall on a turn-of-the-century cruise. On the patio out back, vines, fronds, and ferns clamber over a playground of trestles, offering a distinctly Mediterranean ambiance. In the words of Time Out New York, this “hidden subterranean spot” is “worth seeking out,” and the menu, “much like everything else about this place, provides a bounty of unexpected gifts.”
Originally from Munich, proprietor David Wiesner developed a love for Mediterranean culture and cuisine over the course of many summers in southern Italy. Along with co-owner (and German television host) Steven Gätjen, he updates the inspired menu on a regular basis. Offerings have included fragrant buffalo mozzarella, organic Cornish hen in a spicy balsamic reduction, and pumpkin ravioli. Additionally, the use of the finest ingredients paired with an immaculate sense of presentation and a romantic setting make Grotto an excellent choice for a first date.
Despite our shared history and ocean coasts, there are a lot of English foods that sound more foreign to American ears than even the traditional dishes of India, Mexico, and Japan. But at ChipShop, guests can finally taste English favorites such as bangers and mash, treacle pudding, and steak-and-kidney pie with a side of chips. The chefs separate their menu into three broad categories—different styles of fish ‘n’ chips, varieties of shepherd’s pies, and puddings—with each dish showing off regional flavors, such as the Welsh rarebits or Scotch egg salads. Guests can eat their fill in the English-themed pub, or take the food to go to experience the culture of both New York and England at once without convincing the Statue of Liberty to accompany you to London.
Bruno Cavalli left Italy in 1888 with big dreams of providing for his family. He could only initially find work busing and waiting tables, but he made an important discovery. Customers from the old country were craving fresh ravioli but couldn't find it in New York, so fresh ravioli is what he gave them—even though at first he had to pack his handmade pasta in shoeboxes and deliver it by bicycle. By 1905 he opened his first shop, which he fittingly called Bruno's Ravioli. His wife worked at the counter, and his sons slept in the back, within earshot of the youngest raviolis' nighttime cries for marinara sauce.
Four generations later, the King of Ravioli's legacy lives on through his family's gourmet market, which has expanded to include Italian delicacies and sandwiches. Shoppers there can still snap up traditional ravioli made with Bruno's old recipes, as well as newfangled varieties with fillings such as tofu or shiitake mushrooms.
There are many good places to people-watch at Kaydara Noodle Bar?at the circular bar or near the windows that overlook Main Street or even near the open kitchen where chefs prepare Southeast Asian noodle dishes in bowls of broth and simmering stir fries. Vietnamese pho is served hot enough to cook thin slices of raw beef, and udon and crispy egg noodles arrive mixed with your choice of meat. Tofu is typically an option, too, as the menu makes many efforts to accommodate vegans and vegetarians. Daily features have included vegan pho, and there's always a vegetable side of the day.
Aside from noodles, Kaydara serves a variety of small and large plates. Potstickers stuffed with potatoes, goat cheese, and Chinese vinegar can preface entrees of beef tenderloin with sweet chili butter, or spicy black-bean pork riblets. To balance out the piquant flavors, try sipping on a house-made pear and lychee soda or licking one of the wall's more calming paintings by local artists, each one available for sale.
The dining possibilities are practically limitless at Ridgeview Family Restaurant, thanks to its huge menu of American diner classics. Stop in for breakfast and you'll be greeted with eggs cooked a few different ways?fried into omelets, scrambled next to steak, and poached into eggs benedict. The choices continue throughout the day with dozens of sandwich offerings at lunch and hefty seafood, steak, and Greek-inspired dinners. To top it all off, Ridgeview Family Restaurant keeps its display cases full of sweet cakes and pies. The restaurant offers New York State Lottery games as well.
The most charming sights Wendy Weston recalls from her travels along Italy's Amalfi Coast were scores of open-air picnics. Wanting to bring this slice of culture back to the United States, she founded Perfect Picnic NYC?a food-preparation and delivery enterprise dedicating to helping customers turn an outdoor meal into an experience. Ingredients sourced from regional farms and producers go into every spread, such as the American picnic with baguette sandwiches and the opulent brunch picnic with smoked fish and pastries. Eclectic sides include more than just whoopie pies and seasonal veggies; customers can also opt to add butler service to their meal, eliminating the need to bother with set up, clean up, or remembering which fork is the best for eating the tiniest pickles.
Knowing that the picnic experience isn't just about the food, Perfect Picnic NYC also makes itself accessible with Manhattan delivery and pickup. In addition to is Lower East Side kitchen, the company provides pickup at the west entrance to Central Park, and its goods often pop up at kiosks in Governors Island, Brooklyn Bridge Park, and other popular spots.