We visited The East Harlem Bottling Company — owned by the husband-and-wife team, Darcie Siciliano and Leo Lauer — when they were celebrating their seven-year anniversary in August 2023. The neighborhood bar is on the corner of Lexington Avenue and East 107th Street — and although the majority of customers are local, they are a popular drop-in for visitors to nearby attractions like the Conservatory Garden in Central Park, Museum of the City of New York and El Museo Del Barrio. We were attracted by the choice of outdoor dining, cozy tables and a sunny bar. We chose the bar! There’s a wide menu selection, with everything from fluffy Blueberry Ricotta Pancakes and Dos Waffles to the classic Bottling Co Burger and Buffalo-style Wings. They serve Schaller & Weber's pretzels and a selection of Mac & Cheese for those looking for comfort food. They’ve also found time to open a second venture, Perch — a cocktail and small bites bar, just a few doors down Lexington Avenue. The pandemic put the couple and their business to the test. In the midst of trying to open Perch in Spring of 2020, they were forced to adapt. "So everything got closed down, " Leo recalls. They innovatively sold growlers and worked tirelessly with organizations like Chef José Andrés’s World Central Kitchen, providing meals to those in need. "We spent a lot of time in the community, going to people that were having a tougher time than us, " Leo said. The Bottling Company is situated between major New York hospitals — Mount Sinai, Montefiore and Metropolitan. This connection with staff from those medical centers fostered a sense of camaraderie and support during the pandemic, as they provided meals and a place for healthcare workers to unwind. "It's been a roller coaster, but there was a lot of help from the community, " Leo said, expressing gratitude for the support from East Harlem. The couple not only adapted but thrived — from delivering meals to hospitals to turning their dishwashers into delivery guys and buying bikes for their staff, they navigated the storm. "We bought bikes for the dishwasher guys who had no work. We did family meals for all the staff. It was crazy, " Leo shared, reminiscing about the unexpected turns they faced. As Darcie Siciliano and Leo Lauer celebrate seven years in business, the East Harlem Bottling Co has become more than just a bar to the community… and their colorful draft beer chalkboard is cool too!
E 101st Street’s Lexington Pizza Parlour may sound like your typical New York slice shop, but all it takes is one meal at the family-run, intimate Italian bistro to see that the popular neighborhood eatery is anything but. Operated by local restaurateur Charles Devigne, the Lexington Pizza Parlour offers a wide variety of traditional Italian fare — from their signature Roman Artichokes to a six-layer Lasagna, Veal Saltimbocca to freshly made desserts from their in-house Harlem Baking Company — and of course, a comprehensive selection of hand-crafted, brick oven pizzas. “My wife can’t stand the name, ” Charles laughed, referencing the leftover moniker from its previous owners. While the “pizza parlour” denomination may belie the cafe’s full assortment of fine dining entrees, it’s a callback to 2015, when Charles first walked by the space on the way to drop his son off at school and noticed a previously undiscovered slice shop. “I came to this restaurant with my son for a slice of pizza, and I was really shocked to see the menu — the previous owners were Italian guys who had been in the restaurant business in Queens importing Italian products, ” he told us. “We started chatting and it was at that point that he told me he was looking to sell the place. We bought it from them, and I kept the name as it was. ” Building a restaurant from the ground up, Lexington Pizza Parlour quickly garnered attention — and some confusion — from New York diners, said Charles. “I really started to think about changing the name in 2019 — I was even sending out surveys for people to make a list of names, because it just was killing us, ” he added. But when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and overwhelmed the city’s hospitals, they shifted focus to support healthcare workers in need. Raising over $50, 000 for New York hospitals and delivering more than 18, 000 meals to field hospitals and overfull emergency wings alike, “we started getting a lot of press as Lexington Pizza Parlour, ” said Charles, who spent the early days of COVID-19 personally delivering pies citywide. “It was a really great thing to be a part of, and now it’s almost that we can’t change the name, ” he told Manhattan Sideways. “I’ve decided that we’re sort of a ‘culinary speakeasy’ — you have to come find us because somebody recommended it to you. ” Those who do find Lexington Pizza Parlour, however, keep coming back. “Our clientele is very loyal, ” said Charles. “Once they find us, get to know the space and my staff and enjoy the food, they become very special, loyal customers. One thing I know is that ‘Mom and Pop’ businesses are dying, unfortunately, and while we’re never going to get wealthy doing this, we have a great product and I’d rather make two slow nickels than a fast dime. ” He added, “It’s really become a family tree — there are different seeds of people, from the first customer base of a dozen people to everyone who they’ve brought since. I’ve come to make peace with the name Lexington Pizza Parlour! ”
In the heart of Spanish Harlem, known to locals as El Barrio, is the Puerto Rican tapas bar, La Fonda. “We put Puerto Rican food on the map, ” said James Gonzalez, who became a partner in 2017 after having spent “forever” as a loyal customer. “With my background, I should have been anything except for an entrepreneur, but here I am. ”Puerto Rican immigrant Jorge Ayala had spent decades living next door to George & Gina’s, a small eatery named after the husband and wife team that owned it. When the couple decided to sell, Jorge worked out a deal to take over the lease and create a “restaurant of the people” that celebrated the Latinx heritage that was so meaningful to him and other transplants in the neighborhood. Fittingly, La Fonda’s dishes are “Nuyorican fusion, ” melding elements from the Boricua, Spanish, African, and indigenous Taíno cultures. “Our food is all made the way a grandma would make it, but it’s not just the basic rice and beans that she would put on the table. ” Yes, La Fonda may make its sofrito fresh every day, and it is of course known for its chicharrón and slow-roasted pernil, but these hearty Latin staples take on an elegant new life under James and Jorge’s direction.
The Islamic Cultural Center of New York started in the 1960s with a vision of housing a mosque, school, library, lecture hall, and museum in one institution. Thanks to over ten million dollars donated by the Saudi, Libyan, and Malaysian governments as well as dedicated fundraising efforts by the Center’s board, the plans came to fruition in 1991. The completed Center, which spans a block on Third Avenue with an entrance on 96th Street, brought traditional Islamic architecture into New York’s modern landscape and created a safe space for the city’s Muslim population to worship.
Through the power of music, Daniel's Music Foundation (DMF) has been helping individuals with disabilities to learn, socialize, and, simply, have a great time. In the words of Daniel Trush, the brave inspiration and force behind the foundation, DMF is all about music and "letting people shine. " In 1997, when Daniel was twelve years old, he experienced a brain aneurism that left him in a coma for 30 days, and then in a wheelchair for two years. Prior to the incident, Daniel was a music enthusiast having played both the guitar and the trumpet. Daniel's parents, Ken and Nancy Trush, said that while Daniel was in a coma they would play him his favorite artists as a form of communication. Thankfully, he eventually recovered. While in college as a non-matriculated student, he took a music history class and began to experiment with music as a form of therapy. Inspired by this concept and noticing the lack of music programs available to people with disabilities, Daniel and his parents founded DMF. Their hope was to use music as a means of empowerment bonding between people with disabilities. DMF had humble beginnings. The Trush family started by offering a keyboard class with five members in a basement that they would rent by the hour. Gradually, though, their purpose began to resonate with others, and their membership and funding grew. In 2011, DMF was chosen by the New York Yankees as the honored organization in their annual Hope Week - DMF members were invited to sing the national anthem in Yankee Stadium. This momentous event provided DMF with the coverage they were seeking. Within three weeks, the number of students in their programs increased from 150 to 200. Fast forward a few years later to 2013 when DMF was able to move into a state-of-the-art 8, 700-square-foot facility that is entirely wheelchair accessible and "barrier free. " Equipped with five studios and a plethora of instruments including keyboards, percussion, and guitars, DMF also offers private lessons. Members have gone on to perform at Giants Stadium and Madison Square Garden. In addition, they host some of their own special events including an annual festival with forty performances, dinner dances, and the "DMF underground" composed of artist performances and an open mic. Today, thanks to the dedication of everyone involved, DMF boasts over 300 students and 10, 000 annual visits to its facilities from members of other organizations that support people with disabilities. The foundation gauges its success based on a metric created by Daniel that it takes very seriously: "the smile-o-meter, " meant to measure the "changes in attitudes and outlook" reported by its members. For the Trush family, however, it is equally important to build a bridge between the students and the greater community. "We're about music, but also about awareness. "
Designed by Charles B. J. Snyder in 1898, PS 109 stopped functioning as a public school in the 1990s. A number of years later, it took a community-driven team to convince the city to take over the building and turn it into affordable housing. In 2015, the eighty-nine spaces became available to artists and their families to both live and work. On the main floor, there is a gallery for residents to showcase their art, as well as plenty of room for other cultural activities. El Barrio's Artspace represents a beautiful example of how the history of New York can be recycled and turned into something new.
Tucked between just a few other small businesses on 97th I discovered a casual, yet festive restaurant. El Paso Taqueria - one of three of a small Upper East Side chain that began in the early 2000s - offers a variety of Mexican food and drinks, including tacos, enchiladas, huevos rancheros, and, of course, margaritas.