Elegant Italian

I’ve been waiting some time to visit Bowery Hotel’s Italian hot spot Gemma. But since they refuse to take reservations for less than six, and are always mobbed with eager foodies I just gave up. But when the opportunity arose to dine at Gemma during lunch, I knew it was meant to be.

Gemma’s decor is rustic but elegant. Glistening candelabra chandeliers hang from high ceilings surrounded by wooden tables and candles adorned with dripping wax. This dark but beautiful space comes alive at night when all of the candles are lit and the room is filled with chic diners. In the early afternoon Gemma was fairly quiet with few diners other than ourselves.

Gemma's MenuGemma’s menu is filled with wonderful Italian specialties such as Artichoke & Parmigiano Salad dressed with Truffle Vinaigrette, Papparadelle with Oxtail Ragu, and a vast selections of cheeses, charcuterie, and pizzettes. But having looked over their menu and read many reviews in preparation for my first goodbye lunch, I already knew I was ordering the Branzino Al Forno, which also happened to be the most expensive item on the menu. Oh, well!

My boss Andres suggested we begin our meal with the polenta fries and the calamari which were both delicious. The polenta fries were dusted with fresh parsley and served with a chipotle aioli that complimented the fries perfectly. And the calamari was cooked with garbonzo beans in a savory marinara sauce that I couldn’t stop eating.

Polenta Fries & Chipotle Aioli

Polenta Fries & Chipotle Aioli

Calamari with Garbanzo Beans sauteed in a Marinara Sauce

Calamari with Garbanzo Beans sauteed in a Marinara Sauce

For our main courses we ordered the Branzino, Goat Cheese Ravioli al Pomodoro,  Rigatoni, & a Margherita Pizza.

Gemma Branzino Al Forno; Roasted Mediterranean Sea bass on Cedar with sauteed green beans

Branzino Al Forno; Roasted Mediterranean Sea bass on Cedar with sauteed green beans

Goat Cheese Ravioli al Pomodoro

Goat Cheese Ravioli al Pomodoro

Margherita Pizza

Margherita Pizza

Rigatoni; Procuitto Cotto, Peas, and Cream

Rigatoni; Procuitto Cotto, Peas, and Cream

All of the dishes, aside from the pizza were wonderful, especially the Goat Cheese Ravioli. The plump fresh tomatoes in the marinara sauce were phenomenal and were a great pairing for the goat cheese.

Gemma is a great place to go for both lunch and dinner and is probably worth the wait during peak evening hours. Definitely try the Goat Cheese Ravioli and the Artichoke salad which I unfortunately did not order this time around.

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Porktacular!

Porchetta As my career at Nielsen comes to a close, I come to the realization that I will in fact be leaving the East Village lunch of luxury. I’m heading uptown with the suits where I can only hope expensed business lunches await my arrival. And though the 50’s have wonderful restaurants, I’m weary of their unaffordable and stuffy lunch options. So I’ve spent the last two weeks hopping here and there and thoroughly enjoying goodbye after goodbye lunch. Maybe I should change jobs more often?

Porchetta But all joking aside I’ve devoured some amazing meals, my favorite of the week being Porchetta. As a Jew raised to not eat pork, I’m pretty adverse to it being my meal’s main attraction. I’m totally cool with eating bacon, prosciutto, or even spare ribs. But ordering a pork chop at dinner is just going too far…until Porchetta!

Admittedly I had a few samplings of pulled pork at this year’s Choice Eats Awards, but I had never had a meal that was centered around pork. And since I’ll be starting a new chapter of my life in about a week, I decided that it was about time I Discovered Pork for myself.

Porchetta's Pork Roasts

Pork and more pork stared us in the face when we arrived at Porchetta. Porchetta makes 14 pork roasts every day that each take five hours to cook. Luckily they get their bread from the Sullivan Street Bakery, so they have one less thing to bake each day. Porchetta’s daily menu had only three main options:

  1. Porchetta, Sandwich
  2. Porchetta, Plate
  3. Mozzarella, Sandwich
Porchetta Sandwich

Porchetta Sandwich

I almost went for the Porchetta sandwich (along side Adam & Dave) when i saw the daily specials. With a mere 3 days left in the East Village,  I decided to try my luck on the Pork Ragu special. And was I glad I did!

Pork Ragu on Garlic Toast

Pork Ragu on Garlic Toast

This mouth watering ragu is one of the BEST I’ve ever tasted. The pork was succulent and moist; glistening on top of  a buttery toasted baguette. This harmonious pairing has a wonderful warming effect that warms the heart and soul. Porchetta’s Pork Ragu lifts the spirits. Oh how I love reminiscing about this sandwich! Adam and Dave were eyeing my pork ragu in hopes that I wouldn’t finish. Clearly they don’t know my appetite, as I nearly licked the bowl clean.

I only wish that I chose Porchetta as my last East Village meal. But even more reason for me to return…

Porchetta Store Window

Lunching at Prune

Prune

PRUNE

I must admit that eating out all the time becomes exhausting! I usually cook at least two times a week, but I’m sure you’ve figured out, by my lack of recipe posts, that I wasn’t doing much of that this week. Wednesday afternoon I was actually taken out to lunch by a business associate that happened to ask me where I preferred to eat. Since these “business” lunches come far and few in between, I decided to take advantage of the opportunity and suggest Prune, a restaurant in the East Village that I’ve been wanting to visit for quite some time.

Prune is a quaint small eatery on East 1st Street that seems to blend in with the rest of the small neighborhood shops. It’s likely that you’d walk right past it, dismissing it as a boutique, if you hadn’t heard of it. Prune dishes out an eclectic mix of American cuisine and entertains a limited lunch menu consisting of about eleven “main courses”. Prune also houses a small bar that I hear serves up a mean Bloody Mary.

It seemed that my business associate and I were the only ones that were potentially doing business in what now appeared to be a 26-seater hang out. The other patrons were adorned in their street clothes and having leisurely lunches over coffees, newspapers, and political conversations.

Though we weren’t all business, we certainly knew what we wanted to order as soon as we sat down. I ordered a tap water and my colleague ordered an Iced Tea. The Iced Tea was served with a small shot-like glass of simple syrup, which I had never seen before. Apparently Bobby Flay’s Bar Americain serves their Iced Tea in the same manner. Our drinks were brought out with what I’d consider an amuse-bouche of celery, olives, and a side of sea salt. According to Wikipedia, an amuse-bouche is a single, bite-sized hors d’œuvre. Amuse-bouche are different from appetizers in that they are not ordered from a menu by patrons, but, when served, are according to the chef’s selection alone. These, often accompanied by a complementing wine, are served as an excitement of taste buds to both prepare the guest for the meal and to offer a glimpse into the chef’s approach to cooking.

We started with the Empress Crab Claws that were served with tabasco butter. Although I felt the tabasco butter was a bit overwhelming for the delicate meat of the crab, a sprinkle of lemon greatly enhance its flavor. I happened to like the way they were served, as the flesh of the Crab Claw seemed to slide right off its cartilage. Though I don’t think my colleague had as easy a time with them.

For our “main courses” we ordered the Grilled Tuna Club and the Beef Brisket. The Tuna Club was good, though it lacked an appropriate portion of Tuna. It also seemed that the Tuna Club was served on two different pieces of bread, one being sourdough and the other white toast. Though this didn’t bother me too much, the sandwich was good. But Prune’s french fries were probably the highlight of the meal for me. The french fries were perfectly crisp and salty, similar in style to McDonald’s french fries. My colleague’s beef brisket was good, though I found its flavoring somewhat overpowering. But the meat was certainly moist and falling off the bone as a good brisket should be.

Overall, I enjoyed lunch at Prune, though from what I hear, Brunch is what they are best suited for. I initially heard of Prune because of their rave Brunch reviews. Although I hear there is a long line for Brunch, I’m sure it’s worth the wait.

PRUNE

54 East 1st Street

(between 1st and 2nd Avenue)

Amuse Bouche?

Amuse Bouche?

Empress Crab Claws with tabasco butter

Empress Crab Claws with tabasco butter

Grilled Tuna Club On Sourdough with aioli and arugula

Grilled Tuna Club On Sourdough with aioli and arugula

Beef Brisket, Braised with Spanish paprika & rosemary

Beef Brisket, Braised with Spanish paprika & rosemary

Crystalized Ginger

Crystalized Ginger

Le Check

Le Check

Prune's Bar

Prune’s Bar

Prune's Kitchen

Prune’s Kitchen