Once upon a time, this building was a decrepit old church populated by prostitutes and addicts. It took a woman with a vision to recognize that she could make No. 260 into something spectacular. When Madeline Castelloti visited this location in the 1990s, she knew immediately that she had stumbled upon the perfect home for her dream pizzeria. After two years of demolition and construction, while still preserving some of the charm of the church, John's Pizzeria was opened. In 1997, John's was the self-proclaimed largest pizzeria in the United States. Each pizza is made to order in coal-fired brick ovens that retain residual matter like cast-iron pots and pans - meaning that the weight of history flavors each pizza now made. The Manhattan Sideways team can attest to the fact that the results are superb having sampled several of them. Madeline passed away in 2004, however, her daughter, Lisa, has kept her dream alive and extended it to Jersey City and the Bronx. It is rare, today, that at almost any hour there isn't a line extended to the door, but the wait is always worth it.
Partners Roberto Caporuscio and Antonio Starita have stellar reputations in the world of pizza. Antonio's family has owned a well-loved pizzeria in Naples since 1901 and it was in this restaurant that Sophia Loren filmed a scene in Vittorio De Sica's 1954 movie, L'Oro di Napoli. Having studied the art of pizza making in Italy, including under the watchful eye of Antonio, Roberto came to the US to open his own restaurants - in New York, Keste's on Bleecker Street has been serving some of the city's best-rated pizza since 2009 and then with his friend, Antonio, the two opened Don Antonio by Starita in 2012. The Manhattan Sideways team had a seat at the bar one afternoon and after finishing every bite of our perfectly prepared pizza, we agreed that the Burrata Roberto was superb. The thin crust was slightly charred, the way we love it, and topped with fresh burrata cheese, grape tomatoes, basil and olive oil - simple yet scrumptious.
Initially serving as a resting stop for Scandinavian sailors when they disembarked in lower Manhattan, the Swedish Seaman's Church opened its doors on Water Street in 1873. The neo-Gothic building in which the Church currently resides was constructed in 1921 for "The Bible House" before being sold to the Church of Sweden in 1978. The Church's nautical past is evidenced in the model boats placed among the large collection of Swedish books. With a chapel, a library, and a coffee shop, the Church's doors are always open to Swedes. While tasting their delicious Swedish buns, I chatted with the staff who spoke enthusiastically about the function that the center plays in people's lives. For families, it provides a "wind" of Sweden whenever they miss their homeland. There are also multiple weddings conducted in the chapel each week, and people come from all over to celebrate holidays and shop at their Christmas Bazaar.
Clinton Garden is a striking testament to the power of residential communities in New York. One of the earliest examples of urban agricultural reclamation, the garden was created in 1979 in a lot that had been abandoned for twenty-eight years. Seeing potential in the space and hoping to improve the area around the neighborhood, residents (with the help of Operation Green Thumb, which leased the lot from the city) transformed the VACANT property into a garden using reclaimed and salvaged bricks, concrete, and slate. Finding the gates open on a beautiful spring Saturday, I wandered in and strolled down the paths filled with magnificent flowers and shrubs. I also met committed people tending to their small plots of land, of which there are now over one hundred. I have since been back many times, as I think this is a magnificent retreat on those days that I am in a need of a place to rest while walking the side streets of Manhattan.
Tucked between a Swiss and an Italian restaurant, Scent Elate brings Eastern spirituality to the neighborhood. With the doors swung open, the aromas were an enticing trail that led me into this tiny boutique packed with an array of incense, candles, soaps, oils and lotions. Scent Elate also has books on meditation and yoga scattered among crystals, jewelry, chimes and hanging ornaments. In fact, it might just be "the" place to go when searching for sticks of incense - not only is there a vast selection, but Mo, the owner, makes a special effort to find the perfect scent to enhance each individual customer's environment.
Named after Bible verses in Isaiah (the wolf and the lamb shall feed together), this restaurant opened in Manhattan in 1998, and expanded to Brooklyn the following year. Initially a traditional kosher deli, it later reinvented itself as a steakhouse. The extensive menu ranges from matzo ball soup to salmon burgers, veal Bolognese gnocchi and, of course, includes a variety of steaks and chops. Drawing on influences as diverse as Vietnamese, Tex-Mex, and French-country, Wolf and Lamb adapts its more customary function to a cosmopolitan venue. "Just because you're keeping kosher doesn't mean you have to sacrifice on quality, " shared a waitress. And while we were told that the majority of customers keep kosher regularly, the crowded space was testament to Wolf and Lamb's broad culinary appeal.