Marea

240 Central Park SNew York, NY 10019 • (212) 582-5100 • marea-nyc.com

Poetry comes in many forms and at Marea, that form is fish, named after the stunning Tahitian island and for good reason, this place is stunning. Not so much from a décor perspective, although it is clean and elegant. The food, however, handily solidifies this as one of the top places to get your fish on in the city.

And oh boy is it on. Starting with the seared yellowtail, blistered carrots and potatoes. It is so ridic, I can’t even remember how to spell the other half of that word.

Also swoon-worthy is the lobster caprese, which is essentially as it sounds, in other words, really friggin’ good.

The octopus starter is also very good, but I did find it to be the least inventive of the three and not quite at the same caliber.

For entrees, I only had my one, but one is all it took. So good I’m glad I didn’t share. Perfection on a plate, although when I tell you the accompaniments you’re going to think I lost my marbles. Lettuce and pistachio. Yah! That’s it. How it could be so good can only be described in a word, magic. AKA butter.

Come dessert, this is my only caution, because there is a miss in the midst. The affagato is made with WAY too much coffee to the point where it throws the who thing off balance and basically tastes like a cup of coffee with cream in it. For true affagreatness, I recommend Fortina in Westchester and Stamford, CT. But fret not, dessert is not a total bust. Case in point, the donuts, warm, deep fried proof dipped in lemon crème and chocolate. Oh daddy!

Now for my only real gripes. The wine list, while decent is a bit pricey. And although I sincerely appreciate the wait staff’s sensitivity to hovering by letting us have our space, it is at the peril of attentiveness, because if you don’t ask for things your meal can easily turn into a seven-hour time vortex. Which brings up a very real dilemma, because as you know, I HUGE pet peeve of mine is being rushed out of a restaurant for turnover sake. But I guess my frustration lies somewhere in the middle. Can’t we find a happy medium?

That’s really it though. Marea is pretty perfect. No need to come off as one of those people who is so bored with life, they have to find shit to bitch about. So I’ll shut up now and you go to Marea.

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Bar Pitti

268 Ave of the Americas New York, NY 10014 • (212) 982-3300

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No longer in its heyday, Bar Pitti is still trucking along, doing its thing and keepin’ it real. And by that I mean the real deal authentic Italian, not trying to cover things up with inventive culinary gimmicks or posh smoke and mirrors. This is just bare bones belissimo.

Now I want to reiterate that when I said “authentic” I meant it. Like as if you were in Italy. As in the specials menu is just a chalkboard that they prop up on your table sans translations. So, you either better be Italian, understand Italian, have Google translate warmed up and ready to go on your smartphone, or be prepared to be insulted by your waiter who will also ask if you know what lasagna is. This is not me trying to be clever, this is them being assy. And yes, they actually asked me this with a straight face. So not the kind of service that’ll give you the warm and fuzzies. The food, however, is.

Simple is the theme top to bottom here and the ingredients carry the day quite capably. For example the arugula salad with tomatoes and parmesan is so damn basic, merely dressed with a touch of garlic, oil and lemon, and yet it sings with simplicity.

The prosciutto toast is also deceptively plain Jane, but the prosciutto they use is so phenomenal it puts anything you can buy in Eataly to shame.

The pastas are also tremendous, both in taste and portion. Of the two we tried, I found the lasagna (yes, I now know what it is) to be the clear winner. So layered with flavors and ooey gooey goodness. The artichoke and leek spaghetti with olive oil, on the other hand, was a touch bland for my tastes.

But all of the above went down quite nicely with the Multipuciano they offer by the glass.

The only other miss for me was the affagato. I found the espresso to be too strong and bitter, as opposed to rich and flavorful. I MUCH prefer the one at Fortina in Armonk, because not only is the coffee better, but I love the textural addition of amaretto cookies. But all in all a very admirable showing from a long time NYC icon.

3 teeth

Lexington Square Cafe

510 Lexington Ave. Mount Kisco, NY 10549 •  (914) 244-3663lexingtonsquarecafe.com

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It’s taken me a while to work up the courage to eat here versus my other tried and true options in the burbs, but the other day a window of opportunity opened and my daughter and I decided to step inside. Which is much nicer than one might expect from the outside looking in. In fact, one might even go so far as to say it’s impressive, with its large dining room, high ceilings, and surprisingly hip bar. The only things bringing it down are the giant, round hotel-esque counter at the entrance and the large staircase cutting through the space.

Also, a word of advice as to where to sit in the expansive dining arena. Definitely avoid the booths, because if you do sit there, you will be out of sight and out of mind, literally having to stand and flail your arms like a castaway on a deserted island just to get a waiter’s attention.And attention you will need, because the food tends to need a lot of help to get the flavor going. For example, the pizza is more of a flatbread and the flatbread is more like the crap you throw together for your kid when you are just trying to scrape by with pasta sauce, sliced cheese and a random pocket of pita bread or naan. So should you order it as an adult, you will definitely want some red pepper flakes to help overcome the nothingness.

The chicken cutlet sandwich is also pretty bland, surprisingly so for something that’s supposed to be packing Sriracha mayonnaise. So be sure to order it with a side of Sriracha to give it the oomph it was born to have. With that caveat, I can proudly say the sammie wasn’t half bad.

And last but not least, something that wasn’t half good. The apple crumbly with ice cream and a caramel drizzle simply isn’t worth the time on the treadmill. And compared to places like Truck, Fortina, Beford 234 and Village Social the Lexington Diner simply isn’t worth the space in your stomach.

2 teeth

Moderne Barn

430 Bedford Rd. Armonk, NY 10504(914) 730-0001 modernebarn.com

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In truth, I would actually give it 2.5 knives, but Ferocious Foodie don’t play that, so alas, I feel the need to round down out of sheer ferociousness, well, that and because it’s very overpriced for what it is. And what exactly is that? Mediocre, inconsistent execution of seemingly interesting preparations served up in a nice, but noisy dining room that’s perhaps a bit too large for its own good.

So, with the food being all over the map, consider this your culinary Garmin. In terms of liquid starters, I had the Pear Tree Martini, which goes down easier than you can say “I’m sorry occifer. I didn’t realize the stop sign was green.” But as for the more chewable starters, I’ve had the octopus, which is a solid good, although I can’t say it lives up to the rave reviews, especially when you can get better tentacles just right down the street at Fortina.  The broiled Bluepoint oysters with blackberry barbeque sauce, bacon and maytag blue cheese (see what I mean about the preparations sounding good?) are terrible. And whatever my wife’s,  salad was, don’t get that either. It came horribly over-dressed.

As for entrees, I’ve had the short ribs, which are just okay, better when you combine them with the bone marrow mashed potatoes- like biting into a meaty cloud with a smoky finish. The burger also hits the spot with the help of gruyere, caramelized onions and rosemary sea salt fries. But unfortunately, once again, wifey missed with the fig & prosciutto pizza which was a not so distant cousin to cardboard.

Yes, with so many hits and misses you’re bound to feel like Indiana Jones trying not to step on the wrong tile, but fortunately the light at the end of the tunnel arrives at dessert, which is where the Barn shines brightest. Both the Chocolate Hazelnut tart and the Ginger Peach Crumble were excellent! So good they almost make you want to forgive them for all of the other duds… almost.

My advice? Drinks and dessert, and you are golden!

2 teeth

Macchialina

820 Alton Rd. Miami Beach, FL 33139 • (305) 534-2124 macchialina.com

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We heard about this place from the waiter at Yardbird, who seemed so spot-on with his recommendations that we asked for some on other menus. Very emphatically he proclaimed that only one other restaurant in Miami that truly impressed him was Macchialina. So, without hesitation we booked a table.

But those hesitations we forewent on the front end, crept up with a vengeance the moment we arrived. The location is in the middle of nowhere and the décor doesn’t help much in terms of making up for that. In fact, the setting was so uninspired we opted to sit outside, which is right on the sidewalk of a busy road filled with buses and fire engines. Now, I realize how hypocritical this is, being that I come from New York City where this is the norm, but in Miami it just seems worse.

Once the food came our hesitations were abated for a spell, with dishes like their creamy polenta topped with sausage ragu. The polenta was stick to your ribs creamy, and the ragu was morta bene. But sadly they skimped on the ragu, throwing the dish off balance after the first few bites. Regardless it was still the best thing of the night.

After that came the grilled Octopus, which was also good, but needed something more as well. And that was the general theme here. Everything was missing that one extra element to make the dish truly great. For example, even the escarole salad needed more salt.

But the biggest infraction of the night came from the highly acclaimed short rib tallegio lasagna. Sounds unbelievable, right? In fact I think it was this dish and the bread pudding that sealed the deal on our changing reservations just to go here. Well, it saddens me to say it, but the legend far exceeds the lasagna. It is way too much of one note, in dire need of crushed red pepper to help liven things up. And with the added kick it is most certainly good, but “best lasagna ever” it ain’t.

And as for the other reason we came, the bread pudding, it was every bit as disappointing as the lasagna. Not only is it not the best bread pudding ever, I don’t think it would even crack my top 100. Hell, there are two places in Westchester, New York that would put this pudding’s head in the sand. The Cookery and Fortina– but here’s the kicker, not even those, as much as I love them, make my Ultimates list. That’s how far Maccialina’s bread pudding is from being worthy of its praise.

Suffice it to say that if you’re staying on the other side of the island, this place is most definitely not worth the trip. However, if it’s close by, you could most certainly do worse. Like at Yuca for example.

3 teeth

il Buco

47 Bond St. New York, NY 10012(212) 533-1932 • ilbuco.com

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I’m starting to feel like maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m the problem, and all of these 4 star restaurants on Yelp really are great and my taste buds are just old and crotchety. That, or maybe the value of the star has fallen drastically against the knife in the foreign currency exchange? Well, I might’ve felt this way had it not been for the fact that the three other people who dined with me were equally underwhelmed.

Dare I say it, but I honestly think NYC Italian restaurants are more often than not, not all that. I know that’s a confusing double negative, so to clarify, they suck more than they sing. I’ve had better Italian in Westchester for Christ’s sake! Seriously. I challenge anyone to eat at Il Buco and then at The Cookery in Dobbs Ferry or Fortina in Armonk and tell me Buco is better.

L.A. also has SEVERAL Italian restaurants that blow this away. C’mon New York! WTF?!? Get your Italian shit together.

As for our meal, we started with the croquettes, which proved to be nothing I would ever recommend ordering. Not cringe-worthy however, unless you consider how much money they cost, without returning to you an ounce of joy on your investment.

The kale salad came next and was painfully overrated. It’s like no one has ever had a kale salad before on the Il Buco review thread. Please people… go to The Fat Radish on the Lower East Side or to Yardbird in Miami. Both of their kale salads puts this one to shame.

The octopus was the only thing I would actually say was great. But if you truly want your eight-legged world rocked, try Pera near Grand Central, Gato in Noho or Pearl & Ash on Bowery.

As for entrees, the penne was overpowered by the cheese, so much so that you couldn’t even taste the other ingredients in the dish, such as Brussels sprouts, which aren’t exactly an easy flavor to drown.

The rabbit pappardelle was good. But a mere shadow compared to the glowing praise it receives on the Interwebs. And the homemade sorbets for dessert were so flavorless, we couldn’t even decipher what flavors they were, basically all tasting like balls of ice.

Fortunately the service was good. And the decor is quaint. But sadly, you can’t eat either of those. Unless you’re a cannibal, I suppose. Which might bode well for you, because the servers probably have more flavor than most of the dishes.

2 teeth

Terra Rustica

550 N State Rd. Briarcliff Manor, NY 10510 • (914) 923-8300terrarusticaristorante.com

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Looking for a change of pace from our usually places we go with the kids, we decided to roll the dice with Terra Rustica.

Upon entering, regret started creeping in fast as the decor is a bit dated, trying too hard to be nice, and by 1980’s standards no less.

My skepticism grew even further when it became clear that the staff was not Italian, but rather entirely Hispanic. Not that I have anything against Hispanics, it’s just that the odds tend to favor cuisine made by those who are indigenous to its origin. And yes, I’ve had  Japanese/Italian at Basta Pasta in NYC which only served to further prove said point.

And then came the first wave of food, the bread and olives and bruschetta. The bread was just eh. And the olives were pitted, which makes for convenience, but it also makes for dry olives. So not a great start. But then the tide started to turn, after all, this is a three knife review.

The bruschetta wasn’t half bad. And the frisee salad with apple was actually quite good.

The pizza was also pretty good. So were the pastas we had. Nothing was phenomenal mind you, but we weren’t expecting Fortina or The Cookery. So, all in all a successful venture.

And the service was friendly and attentive, which at the end of the day, is all that TRULY matters, not that they are Italian (nice save right?).

3 teeth

Restaurant North

386 Main St. Armonk, NY 10504 • (914) 273-8686restaurantnorth.com

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Having never been THAT impressed with this chef’s former stomping ground Union Square Café, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that I find North to also be considerably over-hyped.

And after having been there twice now, I’ve come to the conclusion that my biggest issue is that they would be much better suited as a bakery or as a casual haunt. But when held to the standards of fine dining, they simply don’t measure up. Blue Hill at Stone Barns and The Inn at Pound Ridge are both much, MUCH better. And for Italian it’s bested by both Fortina (just two blocks away) and The Cookery in Dobbs Ferry.

For me, the misses start the moment you enter the door. First with a decor that is notch or two past minimalist, trending toward unfinished. This is then followed up with a hostess who tried to seat us at the shittiest table by the bar, even though about 75% of the tables in the restaurant were empty. And this is with us having had a reservation for weeks mind you. The excuse, because one of the tables on the other half of the dining room was being reserved for a friend of the chef’s. But what about the other six open tables?!?!

After that, things improved, but never so much that they fell in line with the sterling reputation this place seems to enjoy.  This is not to say that what lies ahead was all bad, by any means, but if your are going to be a top restaurant in one of the wealthiest suburbs on the planet, you’d better be more than just “not bad.”

Not bad, however, was the story from top to bottom. Not one course the first time we went reached what I would call “excellent,” and we each had three. Yet each course lacked that little extra something that takes a dish from good to memorable. And with 6 different dishes and two proprietary cocktails, I’d say they had ample ways to impress, but failed at every one.

The only two dishes from that outing to rise above just a solid good were a pasta dish and the soft shell crabs. Both teetering on great. But sadly, not actually great.

Fortunately, while definitely ferocious, I also try to be fairocious, so I gave them a second chance before writing this review and upon revisiting it, this somewhat only served to solidified my opinions from the first experience.

That said, there were a few shining moments once again, and this time they were shining much brighter. For example, the focaccia they serve as the bread with your meal is phenomenal. It’s also an Ultimate.

Another thing worthy of note is the muffin they give you after the meal to take home. Moist, heavily seeded for a nice contrast in textures, and heavily awesome. So, it would appear that they bookend you well, between incredibly delicious baked goods, but if you just look past the bready smoke and mirrors, mediocrity was once again abound.

For example, the swordfish entree while perfectly cooked was woefully blah. Their hazelnut encrusted variation of a Scotch egg was equally lacking in flavor, begging for some salt to bring out the flavor of the egg. And the “Super Awesome” chocolate chip cookie is “super overrated.” It’s the same typical half baked cookie in a skillet you’d expect to find at Applebee’s with a very mediocre scoop of vanilla on top. You want a truly “super awesome” chocolate chip cookie, head to Sherry B’s in Chappaqua and get the one with walnuts (even if you’re allergic, it’s worth it). Or if you’re in the city, there’s none better than the one at City Bakery.

Another inflated dish is the burger. And while it’s definitely more impressive than the aforementioned dishes, with its creamed kale topper, it also falls WAY short of places like Minetta Tavern, Father’s Office and Burger & Barrel, to which I’ve heard it compared. Blasphemy!

Back on the upside, because I like to end things on a positive note (not really, but I will), the mushroom flatbread was surprisingly good, well balanced between the heartiness of the mushrooms, the creaminess of the goat cheese and the fresh pepperiness of the greens.

And finally, the suckling pig. Definitely not the looker of the bunch. In fact, once shredded amongst the bed of spaetzle it looked more like a cat got a hold of a stuffed animal and ripped it to bits. But the taste was excellent. Accented with a nice touch of heat.

But even with the stronger showing my second time around, it’s still WAY too hit and miss to be playing at the level they claim to be. Especially when they pull shit like pawning us off on the busboy to take our dessert order. Classy North. Very classy.

2 teeth

 

Mario’s Pizza

Mount Kisco Train Station1 Kirby Plaza Mount Kisco, NY 10549 • (914) 666-6338mariospizzapastamtkisco.com

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Maybe I’m a pizza snob, but I don’t see it. And trust me, I wanted to see the shit out of it. I mean to have great pizza so close to my house would be a dream. But a dream it shall remain, because while the people are indeed great as many have stated and the wood-fired brick oven is nice, it doesn’t translate to the pies. I mean it’s not like the oven just magically makes pizzas great. You have to actually put something good into it first. And the sauce and the crust just aren’t special. They wind up disappearing in a haze of cheesy blah . Even the toppings/ingredients are nothing to boast. Not so fresh it will make you swoon or so inventive it will blow your mind.

So, now I’m sure the next question will be, well, what pizza places do you like in the Chester? Well, in Upper Westchester  I’d go with Fortina in Armonk hands down. But Village Social makes a decent pie too. So does Belizzi- if you only stick to The Belizzi (their special namesake pizza). And last but not least, Old Stone Trattoria deserves a bit of love as well.

In lower Westchester I really like Polpettina in Eastchester & Larchmont, The Cookery & The Parlor both in Dobb’s Ferry and Frankie & Louie’s in Port Chester. Any one of these places makes Mario’s taste like a box of frozen pizza bagels, not the pizza bagels, the box.

2 teeth

Mariani Gardens Café

Mariani Gardens • 45 Bedford Rd. Armonk, NY 10504(914) 273-3083 • marianigardens.com/about_cafe.asp

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The location is a touch odd, in the midst of a nursery and outdoor furniture store, but somehow it works, probably because it’s a VERY high end nursery and outdoor furniture store, and thus the setting, while casual, is very nice.

The high end-ness bites both ways, however, as the prices are even higher end, and I’m not just talking about the furniture.

For lunch, for four people, no appetizers, no dessert, no sides, and only three drinks (non-alcoholic) it was about $75. And we’re talking salads and hotdog/burger. No lobster salad. Just vegetables. No foie gras or veal burger (it was veggie). Drinks were nothing special either. No fresh squeezed juices or smoothies. Just Diet Coke and lemonades.

So, the big question is, was it worth the ridiculous price? Not even close! Everything was as mediocre as it gets. The best of the lot was the beet salad with goat cheese, but that’s not saying much. The worst of the lot was the French lentil salad with “spicy” walnuts. I’m not sure what passes as spicy these days, but whatever it is, they forgot to put it on those walnuts. At least the portions were big, but what good is it if those portions taste like balsa wood?

Now I can only imagine the place is trying to compensate for the rent. Or the fact that the only people buying plants and furniture from them are the .0001%. But I don’t think I should be the one subsidizing their lifestyle. Either up your game or I will be taking my business elsewhere from now on. For example right up the street, Melts crushes this place. Or Fortina. Hell, I’d rather grab a sandwich from the deli in DeCicco’s.

Sorry to be so harsh Mariani, but as a nursery, you of all places should know, you reap what you sow.

2 teeth