Simit Sarayi

435 5th AveNew York, NY 10016 • (929) 374-3237 • simitsarayi.com

For all intensive purpose the name basically translates to Bagel Palace. And a palace it is not. In Turkey it is essentially a Panera, a local chain of decent baked goods and other dishes. And if I was in Turkey I’d probably only give this place 3 knives, but that’s in Turkey. To have this in New York City on my walk to work, it is a godsend!

About once a month I go butt-wild and buy a double Noah’s Ark- four of everything. The spinach rose borek might just be my favorite thing of all. Warm it up with a dollop of plain yogurt and sliced tomatoes on the side and you’ve got yourself one of the easiest, bestest meals you could wish for.

I also loves me some su boregi, which is sort of like a savory kugel or sauceless, meatless lasagna. It sounds awful the way I’m describing it, but I promise it’s delish. Granted it’s even better at Gulluoglu on the East Side, but since Gulluoglu isn’t on my walk to work, this one is plenty good enough.

Their dill and feta buns are terrific too, which are pseudo pogaça-like. For those of you who don’t find the poaça analogy helpful, it’s a small, savory pastry filled with herbs and cheese.

Ironically the top billing, the simit, can be a bit of a wild card. Sometimes it’s true to the motherland, thin and dense and seeded galore. Other times it tries to masquerade as a wannabe sesame bagel. I prefer the former.

On the sweet side, they also kick some serious ay çöreği, a crescent-shaped, semi-sweet dessert filled with ground hazelnuts that are so dense they almost taste like chocolate. Then, they top it off with sliced almonds.

All of the little cookies are money too. Perfect for çay sati (tea time). They have chocolate chip, Nutella filled, hazelnut and fig. You really can’t go wrong. And that’s what I love about this place. You could throw a dart anywhere in the joint and still be happy with what you got to eat, unless you hit the cashier, of course.

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.

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i Trulli

122 E 27th St. New York, NY 10016 • (212) 481-7372itrulli.com

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I have no idea how many Italian restaurants there are in New York City, but by my count there are about 500 too many. Too many places coasting by on the New York Italian reputation. Getting by with pasta and sauce on a plate and calling it authentic because they serve it up with an Italian accent. But last I checked, speaking Italian and cooking Italian are not the same thing.

And it’s places like these- places like I Trulli that really piss me off. I mean why does this restaurant continue to survive while a MUCH better spot like Ciano (RIP), closes down just a few blocks away? It’s criminal! And it’s our fault. All of us. For giving them business. For perpetuating the lie and buying into the expectations of what we think we are about to eat as opposed to the actual food we are chewing in our mouths.

Just start by ordering their mini calzones and you’ll see what I mean. In a blind taste test I guarantee you’d be hard pressed to tell them apart from the frozen supermarket variety.

The fawned over short rib on Yelp also fell short. And I can only explain the hype by referencing another critter with four legs, sheep. People who hear short rib and then assume that it automatically must be incredible. Well it’s not. It’s overcooked and underwhelming. The caprese salad, while not bad, was not exactly memorable either. And the octopus was so blah I nearly forgot to mention it (went back and just added it).

Even the best dish of the night, the duck ragu was nothing even close to the epic swooning that you’ll read online. It’s certainly good, but the only reason it stands out is because everything else is so mediocre around it.

The surprise of the night (primarily because of lowered expectations) was actually the lasagna of all things. Good sauce. Good balance. Nice contrast of textures with the ever-so slight char on top, the way mama used to make. Well, not my mama, but if I had an Italian mother, this is the way I’d imagine she’d make it.

And of the various desserts we tried, the highly recommend beignets were highly unworthy. Instead, go for the apple crumble. Not very Italian, but it was easily the best thing on the dessert menu.

So now you know what to get if you go. But please, please, please don’t go. I don’t care if it’s too hard to get into the truly great Italian spots. That’s because they’re worth it. Pick another genre of cuisine and try back another night. But let’s bring some Darwinism up in this bitch and truly weed out the weak ones. Sure accessibility and affordability are nice things to have… in Wichita. In New York we live and eat by a higher standard. But if we continue to compromise, we will turn this city into a giant outdoor mall filled with Starbucks and Gap on every corner… Oh no! It’s already starting to happen!!!

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Angelini Osteria

7313 Beverly Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90036 • (323) 297-0070 • angeliniosteria.com
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The best part of the meal, far and away was the fact that we sat next to Ed Norton and Flea.

The second best part was the service. Love the fact that these are real, authentic Italians. Every one of them. All shouting around the noisy cramped dining room. It’s chaos, but it’s a cozy chaos.

The food, unfortunately, was a major disappointment. I don’t know what the hell Giada was thinking when she named this the “best lasagna she ever ate.” My wife makes better lasagna and she’s Turkish!

As for the buratta caprese, the tomatoes were a bit on the mealy side. Capo’s is MUCH better.

And the dessert was just eh. Didn’t even bother to finish, and don’t even recall what it was, which is telling in and of itself.

There are SO many better Italian restaurants in LA from Capo and Piccolo to Valentino’s, Villa Blanca and Via Veneto. I’m not even sure why this place is still in business.

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