Marta

29 E 29th St. New York, NY 10016(212) 689-1900martamanhattan.com

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So, while Danny Meyer is busy reconstructing Madison Square Park to accommodate a bigger and badder Shake Shack, apparently he decided to take up thin crust pizza as a hobby in lieu of burgers.

Located in the Martha Washington Hotel lobby, hence the origin of the name, the restaurant feels a little homeless, not being its own thing. Granted it takes up about 95% of the lobby, so perhaps it’s the lobby that’s truly homeless? All of that aside, they do a nice job with décor. Open and contemporary with a sizeable amount of seating. But don’t let that fool you. You practically have to sell a kidney to get a table for dinner. Fortunately for my internal organs, lunch reservations come much easier.

A quick bite, however, it most certainly is not. The service runs at an escargot pace, so if you’re doing a business lunch, I recommend blocking a good two hours, because two Diet Cokes took over 30 minutes to hit our table. Lucky for me I went with a glass of Brunello, which only took about a third of that.

The pies also take quite a while, nearly 45 minutes, but I’m happy to report that most of them were worth the wait. Especially the Testa made with pig face and celery. It’s so inventive and just as scrumptious. A close second was the carbonara. Just as the name implies, it’s topped with bacon and egg and fontina. And it’s damn fine.

The least impressive of the three was also the least inventive, the funghi, made with hen of the woods mushrooms. It’s certainly good if you have your heart set on shrooms, but compared to the likes of the funghi at Oenotri in Napa, this tastes like something you can get in the freezer section at Whole Foods. And I mean that with all due respect.

Now, assuming you’ve cleared your calendar and venture on towards dessert, here’s what you should know- it’s nowhere near as great as other reviewers claim. The affagato was easily the better of the two, but be warned, it’s very untraditional, made with honey and kumquats as opposed to espresso. The ice cream is incredible, however, and truly makes the dish shine. On the other hand, the chocolate and pistachio ice cream sandwich with mascarpone ice cream was significantly less radiant. About as basic as it gets, tasting like something you could get at TGI Fridays… back in the 80’s.

All in all Marta is certainly good for lunch, I cannot tell a lie. But definitely don’t sell off any vital organs to get in. There are droves of better pies all over the city.

3 teeth

Fortina

17 Maple Ave. Armonk, NY 10504 • (914) 273-0900fortinapizza.com

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Fortina has a great vibe about it, especially in the Summer with its large outdoor seating area. And even the inside is so open that it’s basically like sitting outside as well. Unfortunately you aren’t overlooking much, unless parking lots and strip malls do it for you.

On the inside, it has some nice touches as well, including a well stocked bar. And service was very friendly and attentive, which is good when you have two small children in tow. They were a little slow the second time around, but compensated generously by comping both our glasses of wine as well as two desserts. Class act.

To start we’ve had the arugula salad with toasted pistachios and parmesan, which was good, but nothing you can’t make at home. As is the bibb lettuce with avocado.

The farfalle pasta with peas and mint was very good. Bright with lemon and perfectly al dente. In fact, the second time we went we had a different pasta and it too was impeccably prepared. These guys nail there pasta as well as anywhere I’ve eaten.

The only miss for me, and the entire reason we went, was the pizza. So many pies on the menu sounded great that we ultimately asked for a reco from our waitress, going with the second most popular, the funghi with bone marrow and black truffles. Like I said, sounds awesome, right? Well, I actually found it quite bland. Granted once you put red pepper flakes on it, and eat it with the salad, it helps bring it back from the dead, but I most certainly won’t get it when I return. And I will definitely return, because the crust is solid and everything else we had showed has some serious chops. But to those who call it the best pizza in Weschester, I would ask that they try The Parlor in Dobbs Ferry, Polpettina in Eastchester or Frankie & Fanucci’s in Mamaroneck and then let’s talk.

*Okay, crow eating time. I may be ferocious, but I’m big enough to admit when I’m wrong. Well, not that I was wrong about the funghi per se, just wrong to judge the place by one pie. Upon returning, both the Margherita pizza and the Tenderoni were excellent. The former simply being a dimension of incredibly fresh tomatoes and basil. The latter being the result, most likely, of emulating one of my favorite pies on Earth, Roberta’s Bee Sting. Spicy soppressata, honey and chili oil.

But let’s get back to those serious chops. Especially when it comes to dessert. We shared two the first time; the ciocolata with amaretto cookies and the affagato with espresso poured over it. Both were delish. But I don’t think you can fully appreciate how monumental it is for me to say such a thing until you’ve had a little deeper insight into the Ferocious Foodie. I actually hate the taste of coffee. It is in fact the ONLY thing in the world of food I don’t consume. And it’s pretty categorical. I don’t like it as ice cream, in desserts like tiramisu, as sweet drinks like Cappuccino. With a fox in a box. You name it. That is until now. Yes, after 44 years of hating everything I’ve ever tried that has to do with coffee, an espresso smothered dessert finally showed me the light. So praised be Fortina! I can see!

P.S. Their bread pudding is damn tasty too!

P.P.S. Having been back now over a dozen times a few other shout outs worthy of note would be the Bisteca (rib eye), the Totes Ma Goats pizza and the sweet corn polenta. Three of my favorite things on the menu and the rib eye is probably the best steak I’ve had since the French Laundry, and that’s some insanely high praise right there.

4 teeth

Oenotri

1425 1st St. Napa, CA 94559 • (707) 252-1022 • oenotri.com

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Not sure if you saw it, but there was a recent article in Food & Wine Magazine about Thomas Keller’s favorite restaurants in Napa, apart from his own, of course. And on said list just happened to be the one and only Oenotri.

And as foodie recommendations go, it’s pretty hard to beat Thomas Keller so we went guns blazing, ordering every single antipasta, every single pasta pasta. Two of the three pizzas. A salami plate. A side of potatoes (of course). And every single dessert. Obnoxious? Undoubtably. But there were six of us, so it’s slightly less obnoxious than it sounds, because it basically broke down to one dish per person, per course.

Now, prepare for a ride on the Bipolar Express… The first thing to hit the table was the salami plate which was a solid good. And one particular salami was quite special, made yellowish by the saffron within it.

Then an Ultimate arrived on the scene. The best funghi pizza I’ve ever had. Even the other pie (meatball) was pretty awesome, with a terrific crust and buttery cheese that worked harmoniously together like edible Olympic synchronized swimmers.

But alas the perfection was not to last. On the antipasta course Oenotri went an abysmal 1 for 5. The only one rising above an “eh” would be the wax beans with meatballs and quail egg. So right about then I started to question ole Tommy. That is until the short rib pappardelle came around. So good I wish we would’ve gotten six of them. Not that the others were bad, but the only other pasta dish worthy of a shout out would be the paccheri ragu.

Similarly, the desserts fared about the same. The almond panna cotta was the winner and easily the best panna cotta I’ve ever had, even thought I’m normally not a panna cotta person. Also, an honorable mention goes to the sour cherry tart.

Service was very good. The Amarone wine went wonderfully with everything. And apart from the antipastas, the only other big miss is that the setting is a bit tragic, especially if you sit outside, locsted in the courtyard of a strip mall. But Keller never was big on décor, so I guess it didn’t bother him as much as me.

Oh, almost forgot the all important side of potatoes! They were actually excellent. Packing some nice heat. I would’ve eaten more of them had my stomach not lit up the “no vacancy” sign.

So, all in all, in terms of knives, I am very conflicted. I mean on the one hand when a restaurant has two Ultimates in the same meal, it’s pretty hard to go below 4 knives. But on the other hand, when a restaurant serves up over 10 misses it’s hard to justify going over the 3 knives. Now obviously half knives would solve this kerfuffle quite handily, but that’s a cop out. So, being that I am a “ferocious” foodie, I am going to have to go with harsher sentence.

3 teeth