Mario by Mary

2 Pennsylvania Plaza New York, NY 10121 (917) 475-1830thepennsy.nyc/mario-by-mary

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I have to admit I’ve become a bit of a Pennsy groupie, eating from there roughly three or more times a week. But as life-saving as it is to have this treasure trove just a stone’s throw away from my office, the Pennsy is unfortunately not the Solla Sollew I once thought it to be.

But shockers of all shockers, the weak link isn’t either of the two “healthy” options, as Cinnamon Snail and Little Beet both carry their weight like a champion sumo wrestler. No, the disappointment comes from the prodigal son, Mario Batali and his partner in blah, Mary.

Having now had not one, but two different grilled cheeses there, I walked away very unsatisfied both times. The first time going with the honey and truffle sandwich and the second time rolling the dice on the eggplant. As a backhanded compliment, I will say that the pickled veggie salad they give you on the side is actually pretty nice though. But not good enough to make up for the fact that you’d be better off heading a few blocks over to No. 7 Sub. So be warned Mario and Mary, I’m gonna give you one last shot, because I have my eye on that Cubano (pictured), but this is make it or break it time, so if you don’t bring it like a cheerleader on Adderall,  you could very easily slide to a one.

2 teeth

Felix

340 W Broadway New York, NY 10013(212) 431-0021felixnyc.com/soho

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The fact that even a Yelp Elite would dock two stars just because the place only excepts cash or American Express is everything wrong with Yelp in one sentence. And while I am technically friends with said “Elitist,” they should be boiled in oil for such shenanigans, the very same “crack oil” they use on their French fries, which she swoons about in the very same review. In fact, she gave nothing but rave reviews about the food across the board and then coughed up an anemic two star rating. Not cool.

What’s also not cool is that places like Pastis (RIP), Morandi and Balthazar all get crazy over-inflated praise only to fall miserably short, whereas Felix actually manages to deliver where it counts, on the plate. I mean, who gives two shits that Mario Batali or Woody Allen eat there? Last I checked you can’t eat them Hannibal!

But even beyond the food, the are so many other things to love about Felix. First, I much prefer the more intimate-sized dining room, not to mention the amazing sun-lit corner location, especially in the summer, when they open up the glass sides and it’s like you’re sitting outside even when you’re inside. It’s the closest thing to a real Parisian Bistro in Manhattan, if you ask me. And with all of the shoppers strutting up and down West Broadway, the people watching is bar none.

As for the food, I’ve never had a bad meal, but the things I love the most are the eggs. They do such an amazing job with everything from omelets to benny, and as noted above, the fries on the side are pretty killer too, in both the slang and literal sense. Lunch is also pretty money, but I’ve actually never had dinner here. Not sure why, especially after seeing that picture above. Mmmm….

4 teeth

Pizzology

608 Massachusetts Ave. Indianapolis, IN 46204(317) 685-2550 • pizzologyindy.com

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Having just been to Libertine and lovin’ it, we decided to double down on the sibling – sadly, like something out of the movie Twins, Pizzology is the Danny Devito to Libertine’s Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Not aesthetically speaking, however, the décor was spot on with an industrial, clean vibe that didn’t try too hard to be cool. It just was.

And service was actually far superior to Libertine, surprisingly enough, although you’ll have to read my Libertine review to understand why.

But as for the food, this is where Pizzology needs to spend a little more time in the lab, because there was really only one dish that managed to impress me, the roasted kale salad. Topped with fried chickpeas, grilled zucchini and goat cheese. Simple you say? Simply awesome!

Sadly, things were all downhill from here. The grilled octopus starter, while also good, was extremely garlicky, so if you think this review stinks, it’s probably that.

The other starter we shared was the warm spinach salad, which proved to be relatively pedestrian compared to others I’ve had. Same bacon. Same poached egg. Bacon was a touch over-cooked and salad under-yummy.

And then came the pies of which we did four. The best for me was the tallegio, fig and prosciutto. Now you know, I get weak in the knees at the mere mention of tallegio, so if you’re not a fan, buyer beware. I do recommend it with a healthy dose of red pepper flakes though, so as to play off of the sweetness of the figs, which in turn play off of the saltiness of the prosciutto. It’s a very playful pie.

Next up for me would be the Romano, topped with cremini mushrooms. It was nothing revolutionary, but sometimes you need a fastball down the middle.

Then there’s the brussell sprout pie, which sounds SO much more interesting than it actually tastes. Not sure what got lost in translation, but flavor was among them.

And bringing up the rear was the fennel sausage pie, assumingly influenced by Batali’s pizza joint, Mozza in LA. The difference is that Mozza makes it 10 times better. One of the best pies, if not THE best pie in the joint. Here, not so much.

2 teeth

 

Tarry Lodge

18 Mill St. Port Chester, NY10573 • (914) 939-3111tarrylodge.com

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I have been here thrice and I have to say, other than Eataly I think I might like it the best of Batali’s restaurants. And I’ve been to all of them except Po. Granted, Batali isn’t actually the chef at Tarry Lodge, and that may be a good thing, considering it doesn’t seem like he has the time to stay on top of any of them. Perhaps that’s why Eataly works so well?

Some of the highs at Tarry are the Bellinis for brunch, the grilled corn antipasti, the strawberry and fennel antipasti, the pepper antipasti- okay fine, all of the antipastis were pretty damn good.

For the pastas the trio funghi pasta was very good and dessert was also quite toothsome, I believe it was the chocolate cake with bitter orange and pistachio. Pizzas are just okay IMO. Much better “Batali” pies to be had at Mozza and Eataly.

The location is just about the only thing I could flat out do without. It’s in a less than desirable area of Port Chester. But once inside, you’ll forget where you are as you immerse yourself in good service and great food.

4 teeth

Del Posto

85 10th AveNew York, NY 10011(212) 497-8090 delposto.com

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Having been to a gaggle of Batali restaurants I have to say he is all over the map for me, his record being 5-2. Del Posto just barely making it among the 5, as opposed to the 2. The 2 are Osteria Mozza in LA and Babbo in NYC. I found both to be highly inflated and mediocre at best, especially in light of the money you’ll be throwing down. The other 4 wins, all more handily than Del Posto, are Eataly, Lupa, Pizzeria Mozza and Tarry Lodge.

But I digress. Back to Del Posto. I find the décor to be very stuffy, particularly when you consider the neighborhood it’s in. It feels like it belongs in midtown or on Wall St., not the trendy Meat Packing District. But it is far from bad. Just out of place, if you ask me.

Now for the food. I was certain to do a little Yelping research before I arrived, and we did in fact do the lunch prix fixe adding one extra course and wine parings. So, we “did it right.”

The first thing to come was the amuse bouche, which definitely got things off on the right foot. It was in three parts, a gazpacho that was quite good, a fritter of sorts, that was excellent, and a crab puff pastry, that was a little salty, but I liked it.

For my anitpasti I started with the lobster, based upon a few Yelp recos and I have to say it was just eh.

For my primi, I also went with the Yelpster hype and chose the garganelle, which was definitely good, but not 5 star good.

For my secondi, I had the duck and shared some lamb both based, once again, on Yelp acclaim. The duck was just okay. But the lamb was fantastic.

And finally, for my dolci, I had the chocolate tortino- and yes, I Yelped that too. And that also, was just okay (further confirming why I left Yelp). HOWEVER, it was all of the other little desserts they brought that were incredible. There were these mini ice cream bar things that were a wonderful surprise as they exploded in your mouth. White chocolate oat clusters that made me wish I had just ordered a vat of those, and macadamia nuts rolled in chocolate and other goodness that I can’t seem to recall either, but keep in mind I was pretty tipsy by that point from all of the wine, which was well paired and quite good.

So, the final tally for me on Del Posto is that I liked it. Would I rush to go back? No. But I’m glad I went. I had a great time with great people. And the service was excellent.

3 teeth

Babbo

110 Waverly Pl. New York, NY 10011(212) 777-0303babbonyc.com

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I know I’m going to start losing people soon if I keep dropping deuces (double entendre intended) on icons like Eleven Madison Park, Union Square Cafe, Gramercy Tavern and now Babbo, but the fact remains, these places are so inflated by a reputation long gone by, coasting so hard they aren’t just resting on their laurels, they’ve fallen asleep there. And I’m not just saying this based on a myopic sampling of one-offs visits either.  I’ve been to Babbo three times. Once it was good and the other two times were just “eh” at best. In fact, I had one dish, a ravioli in balsamic sauce (pictured), that was so inedible it made me wince and cough my way through it. Not the normal reaction you’re going for in the fine dining category.

I am truly baffled on this one Mario. I fail to see, or taste, what is so great about this place. It is far from your best restaurant. I would put Tarry Lodge in Port Chester or Pizzeria Mozza in LA way above this place. Or any one of the seven restaurants in Eataly. Or Lupa. Okay, the horse is officially tenderized, so I’ll drop it. But just one last dig before I part, Babbo’s coat check also  lost my cashmere scarf. The only place to have done so in my entire life. Granted they reimbursed me for it, but only after a healthy dose of bitching and moaning.

2 teeth

Manzo

200 5th Ave. New York, NY 10010 • (212) 229-2180 • eatalyny.com

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Having eaten at literally every other restaurant in Eataly, it was time to bite the bullet. And by bullet I mean absurd amounts of meat.

To start, just a quick nod to the excellent service. As for decor, it’s Eataly. So, unless you are prepared to sit amongst the chaos, you will not find this particularly nice or romantic. That said, it is offset in its own little corner, so it’s not quite as chaotic as the rest of the restaurants there.

Okay, now for the food… First, the the wine by the glass, the Montepulciano was excellent and went perfect with our meal. Gotta give a huge thumbs up to Eataly as a whole for offering solid “by the glass” options. So few places do. Also, the bread and olive oil were excellent. And the best part, you can go buy both in the market right after your meal.

Now for the main event: The Carne Crudo is a very solid good. So buttery and creamy. But I actually found that the crostinis competed with its flavor and that it went much better with the house bread, which allowed the quality of the dish to shine even brighter.

Next we had the Agnolotti and I practically melted in my seat along with the pasta as it exploded with beefy goodness in my mouth.

And for entrees, we split the pork belly and the NY strip. And while the strip was perfectly cooked with wonderful compliments, the pork belly was sheer artistry.

And last but not least, for dessert we had the bambolinos (beignets) and the chocolato. Both are great, but I’m a sucker for beignets, so they won as far as I’m concerned.

The only downside was that I was so full after lunch I didn’t eat again for the rest of the day. Or maybe that’s a good thing, because I’m not sure my arteries could’ve handle much more.

5 teeth

Union Square Café

21 E 16th St. New York, NY 10003(212) 243-4020unionsquarecafe.com

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While I am definitely a fan of Danny Meyer, Union Square Café is my least favorite of his restaurants. Sort of like Batali, I find that he is better suited to more casual dining such as Smoke, or even more casual, Shake Shack. Granted it’s not like Union Square is particularly fancy. I honestly think it’s pretty modestly appointed as well. I know a lot of people swoon over the decor, but it’s definitely not swoon-worthy in my book. But I suppose that’s moot, because it would appear they are on the move. Guess the rent was too high for $$$ and he didn’t want to up it to $$$$. That said, when I ate there it tasted more like $$.

I was literally unimpressed by every last bite. Maybe it was all the hype. Maybe it was the fact that I went for lunch as opposed to dinner. But if you are truly a great restaurant, should any of that matter? I’m sure I will go again sometime down the road and perhaps eat some crow along with a fabulous meal, so until then, I stand by my knives.

2 teeth

Eataly

200 5th Ave. New York, NY 10010(212) 229-2560 • eataly.com

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I see a lot of people struggling with their expectations for this place, hence the lower than normal reviews on Yelp for a Batali restaurant. That said, this isn’t a restaurant. It is more of a “market,” or as I like to call it, an Italian gourmet food bazaar. And personally, I think it’s the best thing Batali has ever done. By a wide margin. And I’ve eaten at 6 of his restaurants prior to this (Babbo, Del Posto, Lupa, Tarry Lodge, Mozza & Mozza Pizzeria).

Sure, the place is chaotic and noisy. But if you leave your preconceived notions back at your apartment and go with an open mind, you will see that chefs can be creative in other ways besides what’s on your plate.

That said, the food is excellent, and I have fully completed the rounds, eating at all seven (La Pizza, La Pasta, Verdure, Pesce, Manzo, La Piazza & Birreria) of the restaurants within Eataly, plus the sandwich counters, the fresh pasta counter, cheese case, patisserie, gelato shop and bakery. And this place never ceases to amaze. I mean just think about how difficult it must be to serve this kind of quality at that kind of scale- it’s a feat unlike any other and they pull it off day in and day out. I literally defy anyone to name a place that compares on both scale and quality. It just doesn’t happen. Because normally big means bad. So hats off to Eataly for being a delicious anomaly.

But most of all, I applaud Eataly for not making this place feel like a gimmick or theme restaurant. Granted, the name is quite tragic, but nobody’s perfect.

P.S. A few tips: 1) If you don’t know which olive oil to pick in the section toward the left rear corner, just lean over the aisle and ask someone coming out of  Manzo’s kitchen (their top of the line meat restaurant) which oil they are currently using. They are always kind to point it out, and it’s WAY better than what you’d get at O & CO, but for half the price. 2) Pawlet in the cheese case is incredible. As are many of their cheeses, including the taleggio, fresh ricotta, fresh mozzarella and grana. If you get the ricotta, I highly recommend the almond honey (antipasta case right side of main hall) and a loaf of rustica from the bakery. 3) At the stand up restaurant in the center, do NOT get the fish sandwich written up in New York Magazine. I have no idea what that critic was thinking, but it is literally the ONLY thing I have ever hated at Eataly and Ive easily eaten here over 50 times.

5 teeth