Travola

488 9th Ave. New York, NY 10018(212) 273-1181 • tavolahellskitchen.com

To review this place based on such a limited sampling feels wrong to me. However, I did eat here, and as a result of my highly tuned restaurant-dar, I do feel capable of ascertaining the quality of an establishment from a single dish.

In Travola’s case, it’s very much a run-of-the-mill NYC Italian. Nothing about it rising above noteworthy or sinking beneath crapsville. Decorated rustic style, the long, narrow dining room feels like so many other places in the city that if they blindfolded you before taking you here, you’d never guess where you were unless you looked at the menu or checked your smartphone’s GPS.

Servers are nice enough, but again, not enough to draw attention- perhaps they’re mafia? And as for the food, I went with the whole wheat penne made with mushrooms and asparagus. And as you can probably guess, it was also somewhat unmemorable. As is this review. Sorry. Then again, looking at that pizza in the picture above I’m guessing I just ordered wrong, because damn that looks good. Okay, let’s put an asterisk on the knives below and end this thing “to be continued” style…

2 teeth

Cotto

Laguardia Airport Terminal C • Gate C39 • East Elmhurst, NY 11371

11111428_625232287577061_797528779_n

Set apart from the rest of the iPad ordering lot, you will find one last hold out, closer to the end of Terminal C in LaGuardia. It’s still guilty of the same impersonal iPad-server interface, but at least the food is slightly better. And by slightly I mean the difference between The Hangover and The Hangover 2. In other words, virtually imperceptible.

The wine is served warm, for some strange reason, and so are the sweet, soft Marcona almonds, which are vastly different from regular almonds, or roasted for that matter, in case you’ve never had them. They are actually a touch chewy, more like fresh almonds, making them a novel treat that’s not all that easy to come by state-side, being that they are much more common in Europe.

The other slightly okay thing on the menu was the white pizza. A bit chewy (like the almonds- perhaps a theme is brewing?), but better than one might expect in terms of flavor. Granted those are the low expectations talking.

2 teeth

 

Lexington Square Cafe

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

thumb_275

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

Proper Brick Oven & Tap Room

139 7th St. Pittsburgh, PA 15222(412) 281-5700properpittsburgh.com

tumblr_inline_mvakugT9SR1r1nmmb

Proper indeed. I mean I knew they probably had game when I saw that a Brooklynite had given them five stars on Yelp, but I gotta give mad props to Proper for a slew of killer pies. Not to mention good salads and their candy bacon, which is to die both for and from. We only did take out though, so I can’t speak to the décor or service, but resounding praise is in order for the crust, sauce, toppings and sides.

Starting with the highs of the pies, I’d rank the prosciutto with Turkish figs and feta right at the tippy top, and that’s not just the honorary Turk in me talking. It really was harika (Turkish for “The Best”), so maybe it is the Turk in me talking.

A close second would be the Yelp revered Carnivore made with ample helpings of meat, obviously. But this pie is more about quality than quantity, which is why it was so good. Also, a pie with sausage and pepperoni is normally about as oily as the Exxon Valdez, but not this one. The Carnivore knows how to keep it under control. Respect.

In third I’d go with the Mediterranean pie, made with whole olives (not sliced), artichokes, arugula and feta. It’s like a Greek salad on top of a pizza and it’s, like very good.

And bringing up the rear for me would be the old staple, the Margherita. It’s good, but compared to the other pies, it’s a bit of a snooze. And I’m not just saying that because I’m incapable of appreciating the simple beauty of a Margherita. It’s just that when you distill a pizza down to just sauce, cheese and crust, all three have to be that much more impressive to impress.

But speaking of impressively simply things, Oh Lordy was the candy bacon that and then some. Two boxes of it disappeared no sooner than they hit the table, like dipping a cow in the piranha-infested Amazon River. Which will only make my next sentence laughable, because the salads were actually very good too, but after candy bacon, what are we talking about? Well, what we are talking about is an apple, walnut, dried cranberry and feta salad that far surpassed most pizza joint expectations. In fact, Proper did that handily across the board, and I’m not just saying that because it’s in Pittsburgh… Okay, that’s a flat out lie. I am TOTALLY saying that because it’s in Pittsburgh. Nicely done Proper. Consider me officially stupefied.

4 teeth

Mezzaluna

Palmarina Yalıkavak, TK, 48990 +90 252 385 4292 • mezzaluna.com.tr
 20110715-pizzeria-mezzaluna-1

I know it seems absolutely dreadful that I went all the way to Turkey to eat at a place I could have also dined at back home in New York, but we were in the Marina craving Italian and we weren’t about to throw down our life savings to eat at Cipriani (which I could also have in NY- just sayin’) , nor was it an option to sit anywhere near those obnoxious squawking parrots and macaws. So, that left us with Mezzaluna, which isn’t exactly the coolest place in the Marina, but that didn’t seem to be hurting their business any, because the place was packed. I recommend going on the earlier side if you want to sit on the roof and have the better view.

But the fact that they were so packed only made it that much more surprising how good the service was. Our waiter was friendly, calm, attentive and accommodating. I know this sounds rather basic, but to draw more attention as to just how accommodating, he moved our table to an area were there were no tables, just to shield us from all of the kids at nearby tables, since it was just wifey and I. Then, when the mosquitoes started to attack, he fetched us bug spray. And when my wife got cold, he cuddled with her. KIDDING. I was just seeing if you were paying attention.

As for the food, the panzanela salad was a bit of a miss. Pretty basic and not all that flavorful. Whereas both the pizza and the rigatoni proved to be pretty damn skippy for Turktalian. Perhaps that’s the upside of having roots back in good ole NYC.

The rigatoni is Sicilian style with beef tenderloin and eggplant in a nice red sauce that is only made nicer by the addition of chili oil- so be sure to ask for some. And the pizza was the Salsiccia. Part veal sausage, part green peppers and caramelized onion, and 100% all right, all right (to be read like Matthew McConaughey).

So nothing epic, to be fair, but it held its own against the likes of Vespa, which is the only other pizza place I trust in the Bodrum area. And our server really did go above and beyond, pulling in one extra knife for Mezzaluna all by his big, bad self.

3 teeth

Moderne Barn

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

e1a5059006f94cfecb88d214e2a27f16

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

La Pizza Cresci

3 quai Saint-Pierre 06400 Cannes, France+33 4 93 39 22 56 • maison-cresci.fr

thumb_600

I’ve been going to Cannes for years and years and whenever I felt myself suffering from French food fatigue, which can be a debilitating condition, my go to was always Vesuvio. But over the years, Vesuvio has been letting itself go like some of the corpulent silverbacks on the beach. Enter La Pizza. On the opposite end of the Croisette, by the harbor, they are serving up a host of different pies, all of them great. Even the mussel pie, which sounds a bit odd, but I honestly still dug it. My favorite, however, was the pepperoni, but the veggie pies and even the regular ole margherita were all solid.

On the downside, the waiters are ginormous assholes. Almost to comedic end, trying to live up to the mythic reputation that the French are rude, which by and large I find to not be the case… Or at least no more than in New York where I live, which might speak to a larger problem, perhaps I have grown desensitized to rude service? But I don’t think so. After all, I most certainly noticed it here. Regardless, it’s still worth going. Just don’t be asking any waiters to take a photo of you and company at your table. He’s likely to chuck your camera in the marina.

3 teeth

Vespa

Neyzen Tevfik Cad. • Marina Yacht Club, 48400 Bodrum, Turkey • +90 252 3161228

Vespa-Restaurant

Regardless of how good the food is in Turkey, if you are spending any length of time there, eventually you are bound to suffer from meze and fish fatigue. This is when I like to mix it up with something like Ox Burger or Vespa.

Vespa is a very capable pizza joint (and night club) located right on the marina, like so many other restaurants in the greater Bodrum area, however in Bodrum proper it’s pretty rare to be on the boat side of the road West of the castle, which they are. And which is nice.

Service is usually a tad rushed because the place seems to be packed every night. Guess we’re not the only ones who get meze fatigue?

The food, as I intimated already is solid. And I mean that only by Turkish standards. I mean c’mon, it’s not like you can compare it to Roberta’s or Grimadli’s, but for the Bodrum area in Turkey it does quite well. Not that pizza is the most foreign of cuisines to Turks, after all, the Romans did in fact consider Turkey part of home once upon a time. And with dishes like lahamacun and pide, who are we kidding, they are basically pizza-like objects already. But I don’t want to discount anything here either. If making pizza was easy, everyone would do it. Yet only Vespa seems to get the important alchemy of sauce and crust.

And having had many a pie here I can confidently say that they are pretty consistent, so feel free to let your cravings guide you. Salads are also good, but a little more on the simple side. Nothing too inventive. Just the classics. In fact, the only twist I recall seeing on the menu is a pie with sucuk on it (spicy Turkish sausage). Not exactly revolutionary, but a nice local spin on a tried and true. And that right there sums Vespa up in a nutshell. Tried and true and never disappoints.

3 teeth

Mangia

22 W 23rd St. New York, NY 10010(212) 647-0200mangiatogo.com

AAtLTv5HqtuxcC-640m

There are a bazillion of these type of places in the city ranging from Essen to Dishes to those not even worth remembering. You know the kind. The ones with a sandwich station, a salad bar, a soup arena, a pizza pavilion, a patisserie nook and a juicing section all under one roof. And while most of these places are usually a jack of all trades at best, Mangia actually proves to be a queen. Not quite as good as Dishes, but definitely worth its salt if you know what to get.

Working our way around by station, let’s start with the sandwiches. This is where Mangia shines brightest. The Chicken Telera was named one of the Top 100 in Manhattan by New York Magazine and I concur. Served on telera bread, which is almost challah-like, then obviously topped with chicken, plus avocado, pepper jack cheese and chipotle aioli. Then, they stuff the whole thing in the pizza oven and warm it all up. Other worthy grabs are the short rib sciacca made with horseradish aioli. Might even be better than the Telera. And another go-to of mine is the smoked turkey on pumpernickel with cucumber, watrercress and herbed aioli. I could go through all of them, but these are the highlights. Most of them are good with only a few misses.

Next in rotation for me would be the salad bar. It might not be as large as most, but Mangia seems to focus on quality versus quantity. Hard for me to list too many highlights since it’s a bit of a roulette when it comes to what they stock it with, but some of my favorites when they have them are the pasta salads, the wild rice salad, the marinated mushrooms, the quiche/frittata and the sesame noodles. Again, most everything is good, so you can feel safe to explore.

Almost on par with the salad bar would be the bakery. They nail their cookies and most of the pastries hold up as well.

From there it’s a step down to Meh-ville, not to be confused with Melville, NY, where the pizza and the juice bar both reside in underwhelming harmony.

And last but not least, Soup town. A.K.A. The slums. For whatever reason, like Linguini in Ratatouille, Mangia just can’t seem to make a soup to save their souls. Case in point, Pret next door blows them away and Pret is a massive global chain.

My only other nit is that their fridge is always on the fritz, so it’s rare to be able to get a cold drink there. Not such a big deal in the winter, but come summer it’s a bummer. Hey, that rhymes!

3 teeth

Terra Rustica

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

 3

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