For the last 40 years, it’s been all pasta all the time at Lamarca. Resting inconspicuously on 22nd street, a step inside to their simple interior and unassuming menu of perfect marinara, Bolognese, puttanesca, and arrabiatta accompanied by fresh pastas, caused us to want to sit down and devour a bowl. The concept is simple – select a pasta, be it tagliatelle, orecchiette, cavatappi, tortellini, bucatini, farfalle, linguini or ravioli, and then add one of the above sauces and enjoy. And on another day, come back and sample their many soups and cheeses, such as their homemade mozzarella. If you are in a hurry, check out the adjacent cafe filled with quicker grab-and-go-options (cash only). Could it get any better than a bowl of delicious pasta or soup? We don't think so.
The Azzollini family has been at the heart of Paul & Jimmy’s since Cosmo Azzollini waited tables at its 1950 incarnation on Irving Place. Back in 1968, when Cosmo purchased the restaurant, the Azzollini’s made it their own slice of southern Italy. Even today, Louis and his son, Greg, keep the focus on home: homemade cuisine, a home-style atmosphere, and the homey touches of Italian hospitality. Paul & Jimmy’s is truly a family-run, neighborhood business. Louise and Greg emphasized that “one of us is always here - we are the only ones with the keys. We open and close every night.” Greg has worked in the restaurant since 2005, and - after culinary school at the Institute of Culinary Education, working at Mario Batali’s Lupa Osteria in Manhattan, and furthering his culinary studies in Italy - is currently the head chef. Linda, Louis’s wife, is in charge of the accounting. Together, the whole Azzollini family works hard to ensure that everyone who walks through their doors feels like part of the family. They are proud that the majority of their customers are local, and are particularly pleased that they have “a lot of customers who have been coming forty, fifty, sixty years, and also a lot that come three, four, five times a week.” As for Paul & Jimmy’s younger clientele, they are often surprised when Louise is able to tell them what their parents or grandparents used to eat. Their secret is that their “food is phenomenal… we have great waitstaff, we have reasonable prices, a cozy atmosphere, and are extremely accommodating.” They try their best to fulfill non-menu food requests or change the dish to suit their customers’ needs, which is generally “very easy” since “everything is cooked to order.” Louise told us it does not surprise him that many of their customers come so often, since they have “fifty or sixty different dishes on their menu - not including specials.” With an emphasis on freshness, they are proud that they source their fish, produce, and meat from well-established New York businesses. Gregg makes their own mozzarella fresh every day, as well as many of their pastas, and Paul & Jimmy's offers their own line of sauces, both in the restaurant and at a few local shops in the city.
Giorgio's of Grammercy was far from Nick Grams' first prosperous restaurant venture. He understood early on that he had an instinct for business and eagerly awaited the opportunity to strike out as an entrepreneur. Having emigrated from Greece as a teenager, he bought his first small-town eatery in Iowa from a family friend at the tender age of nineteen. He proceeded to open another three places in the Midwest. When it was time to bring his gifts to New York, he found that he had grown tired of designing a restaurant, staying for only a few years, and then moving on to his next enterprise. "I wanted to start a place and see it as my home," Nick told us. Thus came Giorgio's, named after his brother. As for why he did not christen it with is own name, he explained, "I never considered myself the front person. I was always behind the scenes."To Nick, there are a number of key elements that go into running a successful restaurant. "My idea is to have a great product and a great experience at affordable pricing." As such, he works with local vendors of organic goods to ensure the quality of his dishes, which change seasonally. He maintains his desired prices by managing a popular catering business on the side. And, most importantly, he has full confidence in his longtime staff. "There are some employees here who I have grown old with. They've been with me for more than thirty years."Of course, there are some additional tricks of the trade that entice customers to visit Giorgio's. One is the pasta-making station by the window, where guests can observe an expert create the delicate homemade ravioli and thick strands of bucatini that are used for the daily specials. "People love it. Many requests a table near the window so they can watch and learn." Though there may be many moving parts behind Giorgio's, Nick emphasizes that the restaurant's true appeal is its sincerity. "We want people to feel comfrotable and well taken care of, and there is nothing we won't do to achieve that."
When I asked Alessandro Peluso, the owner of Bocca, if he had gone to culinary school or had a passion for cooking as a young man, he laughed and told me that he had initially studied accounting and then moved to London in 1997. He began working in restaurants then, but never envisioned himself owning one until he came to New York in 2000. His first place, Cacio E Pepe, opened in 2004 in the East Village, and then a year later he launched Spiga on the Upper West Side, and then sold it. In 2007, Bocca came to be - and it is here that chef and partner, Salvatore Corea, prepares traditional Roman cuisine. Esteban and I came in one afternoon for some photos and a bit of lunch and left an hour later totally satiated. We thought we would order a light meal that we could share, beginning with a roasted pepper and fennel soup, followed by the cow's milk mozzarella (made in-house) with fire-roasted marinated peppers, capers, and balsamic reduction, followed by a roasted vegetable panini with goat cheese. Little did we realize that next would arrive a large wheel of pecorino romano hollowed out and filled with house-made pasta and served tableside on warm plates with cheese, melted butter, and crushed black pepper. Perhaps it sounds simple, but the flavors of Bocca's signature dish, Tonnarelli Cacio E Pepe, were intense, incredible, and unforgettable. Thank you, Alessandro.
Since 1994, this clean-lined, white-walled restaurant has been serving upscale Southern Italian fare to Gramercy locals who come for the romantic atmosphere and chef Marco Fregonese's excellent menu. Grilled and roasted mushrooms with shaved Parmesan, Kobe beef carpaccio with rucola and black truffles, homemade white tagliolini with lobster ragu, and fingerling potato gnocchi with fresh tomato sauce and aged ricotta are just some of the appetite-whetting dishes that have made this such a neighborhood evening staple. Novita offers an extensive Italian wine list, organized by region, and a wide variety of traditional desserts.
This Swedish Lutheran church is celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2015. The church, organized by two missionaries, was named for Gustavus II Adolphus, who was King of Sweden from 1611-1632. Though the church opened in 1865, it was not until the early 1900s that English services began on a regular basis and electricity was installed in the building. The membership fluctuated over the years that followed, as the church introduced attractions such as the Sewing Club, Help Our Neighbors Eat Year-Round, and the Basement Coffeehouse Program for college students and young adults. In 1961, the church had the honor of hosting a memorial service for the Secretary General of the United Nations, Dag Hammarskjöld.In celebration of this milestone anniversary, Gustavus Adolphus is renovating its interior, and replacing the chandeliers and stained glass windows in preparation for a festival in the fall of 2015.
“We come together on the common ground of arts, letters, and women owning their own destinies,” stated Executive Director Dawn Delikat.For well over a century, Pen and Brush has been dedicated to supporting women in the visual arts and literature. The organization was founded by two sisters and painters, Janet and Mimi Lewis, who were frustrated with being barred from art societies solely on the basis of their gender. Knowing of so many talented women suffering a similar fate, the siblings decided to create Pen and Brush to “stop asking for permission and forge their own way in the city.”Though the group was nomadic for thirty years, it was able to purchase its first location in 1923. Decades later in the early 1960s, the ladies celebrated paying off their mortgage by dressing in their finest ballgowns and burning the contract in the fireplace. “Women persevering is as much of our understory as anything else.” The organization carries the torch passed down by these remarkable women, whose members include First Lady Ellen Axson Wilson, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, and a number of Nobel laureates.Today, Pen and Brush’s goal remains the same, albeit adapted to twenty-first-century circumstances. As such, it makes space for both women and non-binary voices — better reflecting our evolving conceptions of the gender spectrum — and works to bring in the diversity that has been kept out of the canon “not for lack of talent, but for lack of access.” To this end, Pen and Brush functions as an art gallery and a book publisher, where visual artists and writers from across the world can submit their work.The group evaluates submissions, seeking pieces “that need to be supported,” either for expressing something that has not been said before or for demonstrating an incredibly high skill level. This has meant giving career-making opportunities to veteran artists looking to break the glass ceiling of their field, gifted students just out of an MFA program, and self-taught artists who received no formal introduction to the art world.Achieving true equality in the arts and letters may seem a daunting task, but Pen and Brush is tireless in its mission to give a platform to brilliant women and non-binary creators. “We can’t give up on them. We have to build into the future so that we can keep passing that torch, so maybe someday, it won’t be needed.”
Living Fresh Men’s Spa was the first men-only spa in New York when it opened in the early 2000s. Here, men can relax and enjoy luxurious spa treatments in the privacy of this serene, dark wood and stone-paneled space. The store’s entrance is small, so most people are unaware of its existence. Once we walked inside, we were both enchanted and impressed by how extensive and comprehensive it is – a contemporary, warmly lit seating area leads back to a well-appointed bar, manicure and pedicure room, and a long hallway of private spa rooms dedicated separately to facial, body, and hair removal treatments and services. Living Fresh Men’s Spa also works with botox and filler treatments, laser hair removal, ReFirm skin tightening, and acne laser therapy. Each thoughtfully-appointed treatment room has its own sauna and shower. We found Living Fresh to be a luxurious setting for busy, stressed, or simply hygiene-obsessed men to take care of their bodies and release some of the tensions brought on by the daily cacophony of New York. From Tuesday through Saturday, after 6pm, men can enjoy 20% off single service massages.
We stumbled into BXL on a blisteringly hot day and were met by their refreshing air conditioning -- reason enough to stay. But even more, BXL is a splendid space, with warm wooden floors, banquette seating indoors and tables set up outside when the weather cooperates...and a very kind European owner. We spoke to Klaas about his restaurant and learned that having grown up in Belgium, and completing his training, he became the private chef for their ambassador. He was disarmingly charismatic and kind as he told us about BXL’s menu – he emphasized the "all you can eat" mussel pots that come with a cold Stella for $22.00 and the array of different sauces to choose from: white wine shallot broth, white wine and cream, endive and cream, wheat beer, cream with bacon and onions, coconut milk with lemon grass and curry. Mussels are not the only food choice. There are other great Belgian dishes, plus simple burgers, pasta and salads. Without a doubt, stopping by BXL for a cold beer and some friendly conversation was exactly what our team needed.