Mercato was the perfect discovery as we were ending our walk across 39th Street. We found this spot to feel like a traditional trattoria that is relaxed with simple wood tables, upbeat music that does not overpower the room, exposed brick and touches of antique kitchen equipment, vintage posters and an impressive wine cellar. We easily settled ourselves down for some hearty, homemade pasta and a friendly conversation with Massimo, the manager and friend of owner, Fabio Camardi. Both from Puglia, a southern region in Italy, Massimo said that the menu reflects this cuisine - with "Tiella Pugliese" being their signature Puglia dish made with mussels and tomato in a rice and potato casserole - however, the chef also pays homage to Umbria, Sardinia and Sicily. When we first sat down, we were brought a basket of bread with a sauce for dipping that had lentils, garlic, capers and olive oil. Not a combination that we had experienced before, but we mopped every bit up. Another classic Puglia dish came next - pasta with broccoli rabe, breadcrumbs, garlic and olive oil. There is usually a touch of anchovies added, but in deference to the vegetarians, the chef was kind enough to leave them out. Despite this, the dish was extremely flavorful. Next up, we sampled Mercato's homemade ravioli filled with spinach and ricotta, butter and sage. So good, so rich and so filling. After being open for four years now, Massimo, was pleased to tell us that it is nice to recognize foreigners who are choosing to return, as well as the locals who are repeat customers. It is "consistency that has been our secret. We make sure that the flavors never change in our dishes - from the first plate that we served in 2010 - we are proud that those same recipes look and taste the same today. "
I have had two exceptional experiences at Etcetera Etcetera both within a few weeks of one another. The first was when a group of family and friends dined here on a Saturday evening. The wait staff entertained and enticed us as they guided us through each of our stupendous courses. The second time I visited, I was with Esteban, the photographer, and we had the pleasure of meeting Daniele Kucera, the charismatic owner. As he explained his philosophy behind creating Etcetera, he also took us into the immaculate kitchen where we observed Chef Marco Hernandez constructing numerous complicated dishes with great precision, artistry and confidence. Behind every terrific chef there must be a well-orchestrated team... and it appeared to us that at each station, people were performing their magic in perfect harmony. There were beautiful salads being put together... Portuguese octopus had been slowly simmering making it tender before it was then plated with red peppers, fingerling potatoes and topped with a saffron mayo... The sea bass was served in a tomato broth with chipotle onions, zucchini, olives and cherry tomatoes surrounding it... Beef tenderloin was sitting atop "pepperonate, " a mixture of peppers, olives, onions and served with polenta croutons. The splendid pastas and focaccia are made on a daily basis as are the decadent desserts including "grandma's chocolate pudding. " Daniele remembers his grandmother making this on a wood stove in Italy as he stood by her side beginning at age five. Having worked in the food industry for many years after his arrival in the States in 1992, Daniele with two other partners opened Vice Versa in 1999. In 2005, he decided to go it alone and launched Etcetera Etcetera. He explained to me that for the first five years, no one came. "I wasn't on the heavily populated avenues and this part of 44th did not attract the crowds. " But Daniele continued to cook impeccable food and eventually the word spread. As his reputation grew, people were also beginning to venture farther west. Today, the restaurant is filled with dining enthusiasts, many who are visiting the city and come based on a hotel concierge's recommendation. There are plenty of regulars, too, who initially came after reading the rave reviews but now continue to come back time and time again. Daniele's approach to his dining room is to make it feel like a home. He has created a warm ambiance with reds and grays, and almost ten years later, he continues to strive to make it the best it can possibly be every day.
Before discussing anything about Arno with the Manhattan Sideways team in the summer of 2017, the manager, Carlos Pereira, spoke like a true local. He lamented the state of New York’s transportation infrastructure, insurance, taxes, and cleanliness, only to then reveal that he commutes each day from his home in New Jersey. After receiving our education on the state of 38th Street, we learned a bit about this extraordinary man's career. Born in Portugal, where he was a bartender at age sixteen, he traveled to New York in 1989. He scored a position at the legendary Le Cirque (in its original location) - ”I received the best culinary education in America by owner Sirio Maccioni" - before becoming the manager of Arno in 2007. Carlos had plenty to share with us about Arno, which he did over meticulously prepared dishes, including a rare treat of risotto with shaved truffles. It was like a bowl of diamonds being set down before us. As we savored every single bite, Carlos gave us a lesson on the world of black and white truffles. The story of Arno traces back to Florence, near the Arno River from which the restaurant draws its name. There, the two founders met and discovered a mutual ambition. Managing partners Milan Licul and Branko Turcinovic emigrated to the U. S. as waiters, but soon opened a restaurant called Morano in 1984. Morano was later renamed Delmonico’s Kitchen, and was followed only a year later by Arno. While Delmonico’s Kitchen specializes in meats and steaks, Arno is known for its old-school, classic Italian cuisine. There were many challenges in the years between 1984 and the present that could not be shrugged off by restaurants in the Garment District. Carlos related that this particular swath of New York has seen countless restaurants come and go, and yet the owners held fast to Arno. Even in the 1980s, when the area was bad enough that Arno often had to close by 7pm, the restaurant remained "a true testament to who they were, " Carlos proudly stated. The staff wear the neighborhood as a badge of honor, subtly adorning the restaurant with buttons and thread inset into tables, a wall of colorful fabrics, fashion photos - "This is what keeps us sexy, " according to Carlos - and various other garment motifs. So how has Arno endured the trials of time? Carlos believes it is “because we treat clients like family. ” This approach certainly cultivates a comfortable atmosphere, as Carlos claimed that ninety percent of their dedicated clientele are regular customers. In addition to the lengthy list of fashion designers and celebrities that Carlos recited, he told us that many come into the city for Knicks games and other events at Madison Square Garden, and stop by Arno for a familiar meal of traditional homemade pastas, eggplant rollatini, grilled zucchini, tomato, mozzarella and peppers, veal parmigiana, numerous seafood options, and, of course, the Delmonico classic steak. Carlos even shared that they have over 150 "house accounts, " a rarity in the present day. What struck a particular chord with me was the dessert cart that strolls through the restaurant at every meal, as I have fond memories of this practice from when I dined out as a child. It is filled with some of the best classic desserts prepared by their French pastry chef and, like the restaurant itself, is animated by the spirit of the old country, but seasoned with the flavor of New York.
Having a personal guided tour by sales manager, Jason Sturtevant, made me aware of many details I might otherwise have never learned, as well as making my experience at The Archer a superb one. Since the hotel is located in what was once the thriving, garment district, the interior of the lobby is designed to be reminiscent of the 1940s, with large steel structures stylishly cutting through the room. The entrance features a small bar, Bugatti, named after the brand of restauranteur, David Burke’s beloved car. With a garage-style door that opens to the street in warmer weather, and a bright yellow decor, the atmosphere of the bar is charming and laid back. Viewing several different rooms, Jason explained that each one displays slight variations of beautiful designs and color schemes. Averaging 200 square feet, the rooms, as Jason put it, are “intimate in size, in true New York fashion. ” The use of the space has been done in an elegant fashion with the floor-to-ceiling windows working wonders to open up the rooms. Many have hardwood floors and exposed brick walls, creating a tasteful and stylish atmosphere throughout. While guests will not meet the eponymous Archer, who functions as “the personification of gracious hospitality, ” they are certain to feel his presence during their stay. Each room is made ready for arrival with a personalized note, bottled New York City water, his and her robes and slippers, and a selection of books, including Archer favorites Gift From The Sea and The Little Prince. There is a well-stocked minibar with one side of the fridge allowing for personal storage, and complimentary espresso and grab-and-go coffee are available in the lobby. Encouraging their guests to work out “with New Yorkers, like New Yorkers, ” Archer also offers passes to a nearby gym. Additionally, the Archer is environmentally conscious with sensors and efficient solutions for saving energy implemented throughout the building. The selection of art found in the hotel is remarkable. Curated by art consultant Deborah Davis Goodman, almost every piece on display in the Archer was created by New York artists. This commitment to supporting local artists and businesses is further established in the curated retail section at the front of the hotel where jewelry, trays, sea salt caramels, and pocket squares, all made by New York City artisans, are proudly on display. From the captivating art to the jar of homemade peanut brittle, it is the impressive attention to detail that makes the Archer stand out. The New York City Archer opened at the end of May 2014, and two more hotels are expected to open in Napa, California and Austin, Texas by 2016. Filled with personal touches, the hotel certainly comes across as welcoming, detail-oriented, and cohesively designed. Having gained four diamonds by AAA and in the process of getting its four star rating from TripAdvisor, the Archer seems to have already established itself amongst the favored New York City boutique hotels.
New to 38th Street in 2014, and without much competition surrounding it on the side street, District appears to be off and running. With flat screens in the booths, a mile long list of beers, and an American menu that includes appetizers of lobster sliders, buffalo quail wings and truffled cheese croquettes, people in the area seem to be ecstatic that this tap house has arrived on 38th.
Named after nonviolence, Ahimsa is kosher, vegan, and gluten free. The restaurant, whose first location opened in 2016, fulfils a teenage dream of Frank Shah, who owns Ahimsa along with his wife Maya. Growing up poor in Mumbai, Shah’s family could not even afford a biryani. Now, he serves biryani and more authentic North and South Indian dishes made fresh every day. Delicious Indian street-side dishes from Shah’s childhood like vada pav and bhel puri make Ahimsa unique among other Indian restaurants in the city. Being in New York is an important part of Ahimsa’s mission. Shah hopes to use the restaurant to expand non-Indian New Yorkers’ ideas about what Indian food is and to show non-vegan New Yorkers how many delicious meals can be made without meat or dairy.
Do not be fooled by the curiosities and vintage artifacts that cover the windows and walls of Hecht. Besides repairing industrial sewing machines, this company is in the business of buying and selling plants (the manufacturing kind). The vintage pieces scattered throughout the small space are absolutely not for sale, but rather a part of the owner’s personal collection. As I walked around and examined the curiosities, he insisted that he uses "every single one of them. "The owner bristled when I described the fascinating space as "small" and proceeded to show me that there was much more to Hecht than meets the eye. He opened a door in back, which gave way to a much larger, warehouse-like room, which was similarly jam-packed with vintage artifacts. He immediately walked over to a Howe sewing machine, which he proudly disclosed was the first of its kind in the world. He had just gotten it back from the Smithsonian, he said, showing me the official museum tags. While so much is continuously changing around them, the Hecht family is determined to remain a Garment District institution, having opened their doors between 1910 and 1920. The ambiguous establishment date is not because the owner does not care to remember, but rather because Hecht opened its doors as the building in which it still stands was being constructed. "They built around us as we worked, " the owner explained. They are the very definition of a neighborhood institution; As the owner says, "In the garment industry, we're a legend. "