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the sweet scoop
Chef Dave Martin knows how to play ball. As demonstrated when the Top Chef alum debuted his meatball-centric menu to an eager crowd during this weekend’s preview of The Meatball Factory, which officially opens on Tuesday, October 25th.
Commanding the corner of East 14th Street and 2nd Avenue, this warm, rustic bistro boasts a cozy interior with dark wooden tables, exposed brick walls, floor to ceiling windows and a sizable bar area. The menu of upscale comfort food centers around an extensive selection of house-ground gourmet meatballs, including flavorful rounds of braised pork, short ribs, chorizo, duck, lamb, turkey and veggie. Proteins pair up with eight savory sauces, such as green curry peanut, black truffle cream, spiced up vodka and fire roasted marinara, and fully customizable combos allow diners to curb any meaty craving—you can have your balls on a challah roll, over housemade pasta or crispy, thin-crust pizza, or poutine-style atop fresh cut Idaho fries coated in melted cheese.
So, what makes The Meatball Factory stand out? “Simple, high quality, fun food that’s affordable,” Martin shared. Nothing on the menu is over $15 and no bottle of wine is priced over $40. Yet, the quality and flavors are top notch. Take the Turducken meatball, made from a house blend of La Frieda turkey, Bell & Evans chicken, Hudson Valley Farms duck confit, sage & allspice. Martin prides himself on prime sourcing and uses his own line of handcrafted rubs, sauces and seasonings to tastefully elevate each dish.
While meatballs are the star here, you’ll also find dairy-free and gluten-free options, seasonal salads, vegetable sides, and a tempting array of sweet treats and ice cream sundaes to round out the menu. The ‘Thai This’ pizza—a mouthwatering medley of ground Turducken, luscious green curry peanut sauce, Thai chiles and Grana Padano sprinkled over delicate cracker dough—is a must-try. For the ultimate indulgence, order up Dave’s World Famous Black Truffle Mac ‘n’ Cheese—a decadent breadcrumb-topped infusion of slow cooked cream, shallots, brandy, sherry, truffles, fontina, thyme and oregano. And make sure not to overlook the shaker of red chili spiced agave on your table. When splashed onto entrées, it adds complexity, depth and quickly becomes addicting. To wash it all down, belly up to the bar for reasonably priced vino, along with 18 taps and 20 bottles of craft beer.
With an evident passion for his craft, chef Martin masterfully pairs new flavors with comfort food staples, creating dishes that you’ll want to savor again and again. And since The Meatball Factory rolls out endless choices and combinations aplenty, be sure to come hungry and prepare to have a ball.
The Meatball Factory, 231 Second Avenue at 14th Street, 212.260.8015
Experience a taste of the Hamptons without ever leaving the West Village. Executive Chef and partner Tim Bando (of Amagansett’s The Meeting House) has opened Tremont in the old La Foccacia space on Bank Street and West 4th. The airy, 45-seat interior will transport you to a sunny beachside inn with its crisp white walls, rich dark wood floors, cozy dining nooks and antique light fixtures.
Chef Bando prepares a cuisine of new American dishes accented with Mediterranean influence. You’ll find a selection of refined starters, such as zucchini crudo tossed with pine nuts, lemon oil and parmesan cheese ($12), crispy sweetbreads with veal cheek ragout, morel mushrooms and ramps ($17) and poached lobster over a polenta crouton and truffled corn salad ($19). Extending the menu are heartier entrées, including the grilled pork chop with almond risotto, peach basil compote and vin cotto ($26) and grilled halibut with giardiniera, chickpeas, lemon oil and basil ($28).
Named after Bando’s former Cleveland neighborhood, Tremont is an elegant, laid back spot for dinner, with lunch and weekend brunch service starting later this month. Now open daily and accepting reservations for parties of six or more.
Garlic crackling in olive oil, the smell of fresh picked basil, a pot of marinara simmering on the stove. If you crave the comforts of authentic Italian as often as I do, then feast your eyes on my feature for The Strong Buzz about Casa Nonna—a new Hell’s Kitchen trattoria that officially opened its doors today. Mangiamo!
There’s a new way to eat at Grandma’s house. Just head to Hell’s Kitchen, where recently opened Casa Nonna attempts to recreate the home cooked Italian experience. Following the success of their DC-based outpost of the same name (which pays homage to the Italian matriarch), ESquared Hospitality, the parent company of BLT Restaurant Group, introduces the Tuscan- and Roman-inspired trattoria to their rapidly growing portfolio.
Casa Nonna is far from a quaint cucina, but a sprawling 200-seat space boasting a generous bar area and two main dining rooms filled with brown leather banquettes, terra cotta floors, and walls adorned with vintage artwork and antique mirrors. At the center of it all is a sleek marble counter Pizza Bar, where you can enjoy a full view of the open kitchen and mosaic-tiled pizza oven.
Chef de Cuisine David Amorelli (formerly of davidburke & donatella) executes an accessible menu of seasonal specialties. Expect a selection of hot and cold antipasti, such as Sicilian sweet & sour eggplant ($6) and braised mini meatballs in marinara ($11), and daily house made pastas including orecchiette with broccoli raab and fennel sausage ($18) and gnocchi with lobster, chanterelles, pancetta and garlic greens ($28). Entrées of pan fried veal chop ($38) and whole grilled Mediterranean sea bass ($24) reflect traditional Italian favorites, yet Casa Nonna’s savory star seems to be the Neapolitan-style pizzas ($13-16) made from high quality ingredients and wood-fire cooked until piping hot, with a bubbly, charred crust.
For dolci, get sweet on Bomboloni sugar doughnuts soaked in Limoncello, white chocolate Affogato sprinkled with espresso, and an assortment of sorbetti (all $7). The wine list is exclusively Italian and includes 60 selections available by the quartino or bottle ($13-$135), while the cocktail menu offers classics with a twist, such as the CasaNova with Finlandia grapefruit vodka, Aperol, clover honey syrup and fresh orange and lemon juices ($13).
And if granny still hasn’t filled you up, sharing the space next door will be NYC’s second GO Burger location, serving burgers, hot dogs and shakes from a dedicated kiosk.
Casa Nonna is located at 310 W. 38th Street (between Eighth and Ninth Aves), 212-736-3000
Before a few years ago, I admittedly didn’t know too much about Astoria. Sure, I had ventured outside Manhattan a few times to guzzle down steins at the Bohemian Hall Beer Garden and sought out authentic Greek cuisine on 30th Avenue once, but that was the extent of my experience in the Queens neighborhood.
Oh, how the times have changed, and my horizons—both cultural and geographical—have expanded tenfold over the past several years. Astoria is easily one of my five borough favorites now. Just a stone’s throw East of Manhattan, this accessible culture-rich community is known for its lively restaurant scene and decades of deep historical roots.
The recent buzz surrounding last week’s much anticipated opening of The Astor Room gave New Yorkers a true taste of Astoria’s abundant history. Located beneath legendary Kaufman Astoria Studios (previously Paramount Studios, known in the early 1920′s as the epi-center of the glamorous motion picture industry), this speakeasy-style supper club was formerly a commissary for silver screen actors. Famous faces of film, such as the Marx Brothers, Rudolph Valentino, the Gish sisters and W.C. Fields, dined in the very same spot decades ago.
One of New York’s most anticipated new restaurants, Ciano, has officially opened its doors.
There has been quite a buzz surrounding Chef Shea Gallante‘s next move ever since he left the esteemed Cru about a year ago. His recent rustic Italian venture features a still-under-wraps menu, which focuses on seasonal ingredients and farm to table preparations (think dishes like veal meatballs filled with creamy white polenta and sprinkled with rich black truffles). Residing in the former space occupied by Beppe at 45 E. 22nd Street, Ciano appears to be an intimate Tuscan gem with a dedicated wine room, fresh bread-baking hearth and the warmth of a wood burning fireplace.
Given Chef Shea’s regarded reputation and already acclaimed reviews in the New York Times and Vogue, I certainly plan on saying ciao to Ciano soon. If anyone goes in the meantime, let me know how it is!