Il Leone Mastrantonio

22 Cobern Street | corner of Prestwich, Cape Town Central 8001, South Africa
+27 21 421 0071 • www.mastrantonio.com/il-leone-mastrantonio

This cozy Italian charmer is a pleasant surprise for being hell and gone from Italy. But as good as it is, I assure you it is nowhere even close to as good as the reviews make it out to be on Google and TripAdvisor. So go in with tempered expectations and I think you’ll be happy.

From the outside to the inside, the place has an inviting old-school vibe about it. Sadly, the crowd has an old-school vibe as well, so keep your voice down, because apparently at several places in Cape Town people like to eat in libraries. Luckily they don’t live in New York or they might starve. Either that or they’d live off takeout.

But I digress. In terms of the food, they kick it off right with a visit to the wine room to check out their offerings firsthand. The antipasti offerings are also solid, from the creamy buratta to the grilled octopus and bruschetta. Nothing exceptional, however. The real stars are their pastas. I had both the Bolognese and the carbonara and both hit the el spoto. Again, nowhere near Ultimate status, but for South African Italian, you could do a lot worse.

Like with dessert for example. I found their gelatos to be so lacking in flavor it was hard to tell which flavor was which, coming off more as just scoops of frozen cream.

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La Pecora Bianca

1133 Broadway New York, NY 10010 • (212) 498-9696 • lapecorabianca.com

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Only two years young, this relative newcomer has a soothing effect the moment you walk in, with its pastel and white trimmed decor, which feels much more French café than Italian ristorante, but I’ll let it slide.

What is harder to let slide are the flies inside the restaurant, during winter no less. Not exactly the companions I was hoping to join me at my table. The other thing I can’t ignore is that the food, on average, is relatively average.

Among my favorite things would be the caprese sandwich made with green tomatoes and stretched mozzarella, which comes off sort of like burrata. It’s definitely good, but just not as good as it sounds.

Another solid get is their gazpacho, although they blend it quite thoroughly, whereas I much prefer the chunky, textural take on the dish. But flavor-wise is hits all the right notes.

In the middle, I’d chalk up the Bolognese. It’ll do the job if you have a hankering, especially with a glass of cabernet, but don’t expect it to make your day.

And my one big skip would be the chicken sandwich. It’s as bland as this current season of Homeland.

My advice, head one avenue over and try L’Amico. It’s far superior in every way. Unfortunately that means it’s also much harder to get into.

2 teeth

 

Beauty & Essex

3708 S Las Vegas Blvd. Las Vegas, NV 89109 • (702) 737-0707 • beautyandessexlv.com

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Okay, so it’s not the real deal and merely a fabricated replica of the one in New York, but it is Vegas, which means pretty much everything is a fabricated replica of something else with the exception of sand. So put aside any delusions of authenticity and you will very likely find yourself as pleased as punch (let’s make that rum punch, after all, it is Vegas).

Located in the chic Cosmopolitan Hotel on the third floor (as opposed to Essex St. in Manhattan), you will find a pawnshop by the same name, which doubles as a speakeasy entrance through a nondescript turquoise door to the left of the counter. Upon entering you will find yourself swept into a time vortex landing you smack dab in the roaring twenties, complete with a brocade decor and twin, blond, 6-foot bombshell- flappers who cavort around the restaurant and bar along with a parade of burlesque hotties.

Surprisingly, this isn’t to distract you form the food, because almost everything was excellent. That said, it might be distracting to the servers, because I found the service to be a bit sloppy.

The excellent menu of which I speak is made up of shareable small plates, along with a decent list of cocktails and wine. And while most everything was good, there were a few dishes I would steer around such as the lobster roll, which was the only bad thing of the night, served on a warm bun, but filled with canned or even fake lobster meat. Not cool.

The other two dishes I would skip are not what I would call bad, but they don’t exactly pass mustard for me either. For example much better yellowtail sashimi in ponzu sauce with chili peppers can be found at Blue Ribbon Sushi in the very same hotel or at Sushi Roku down the strip. And the French Onion Soup Dumplings are nowhere near as good as the ones at Stanton Social in NYC, nor are they comparable to some of the other stars of the night.

But enough of the Debbie Downers and on to the stars, like both tartars- the steak and the tomato tartars are so good I don’t know which one I liked better and obviously very different from one another so it’s kind of hard to even compare them even though they are both “tartars.” They are also served differently, the steak is done more like a tartine and the tomato more like an hors d’oeuvres. Both, however, are worth doubling down on.

The bone marrow is also superb and only bested by one other dish for me, the Spicy Lamb Bolognese. Made with penne and some serious Italian game this pasta just might’ve been the best thing of the night- no, the best thing I had all week in Vegas. Not too shabby for twin, amazon, blond, bombshell, flappers. Can you tell they left an impression?

4 teeth

Torrisi Italian Specialties

250 Mulberry St. New York, NY 10012(212) 965-0955torrisinyc.com

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Torrisi is what I love about New York. These small places that don’t get noticed by their grand facades, exorbitant prices and inflated reputation. They simply keep things modest, focused and excellent. And those three words pretty much sum up our experience, with a few minor transgressions- enough to cost it a knife, but 4 knives in my book ain’t too shabby.

So, first, the décor. The place is TINY. I guess it’s ironic that I made the word “tiny” big, but it was for emphasis. There are maybe eight tables total. Half of those being two-tops. So don’t even think of having a large party here. Also, with so few tables, you can imagine that even with a reservation, you will most likely have to wait for your table, like we did.

The service, while good, was a bit odd. Our waiter was great in helping us narrow down between two wines (the one we chose was superb “Latittia Domaine Reserve 2009 Pinot Noir”), but then, when it came to ordering a few extras off of the prix fixe, he became quit rigid, and almost pushy on the lobster dish. But, we were already doing the short rib special with sweet corn polenta, on top of the crazy food-a-palooza that was already coming. And in the end, we were glad we didn’t order the lobster- of which he was asking us to order four (one for each of us), which would’ve been a colossal waste of money, because we were stuffed going into dessert as is.

Which brings me to my only other gripe. Dessert was pretty lack luster. And they served four different ones! Not one of them was worth its salt, or should I say sugar? Must be something with this dynamic duo and sweets, because dessert sucked at Carbone as well.

Oh, and one of the appetizers was also a miss. The fluke ceviche. Way too fishy. Scallops were just “eh” as well.

But everything else, the fresh mozzarella with toast, the heirloom tomato salad, the veal wrapped in bacon with foie gras and peaches, the pasta Bolognese, and the short rib with sweet corn polenta were all outstanding.

Such a great place for an intimate date or a nice meal with good friends. Granted, probably no more than two friends or you’ll never get a table.

4 teeth