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Archive for the 'Food & Nightlife' Category

lutzina2

Source: Lutzina

Lutzina Bar & Lounge, a posh new hookah lounge, karaoke bar, and dining venue is celebrating its one-month anniversary in Bath Beach this week.

Nesting at 2031 Bath Avenue, the lounge resembles a classy, contemporary page out of a Martha Stewart Home and Garden catalog.

Stepping in, you feel as though you’ve been whisked straight out of Bensonhurst. The pale-white ceiling above the bar resembles a cracked hard-boiled egg. The faux diamond chandeliers revive a 1920s speakeasy. The elegant white lilacs at the bar seal this entirely bizarre package with a bow and question where Lutzina came from and how long it’s planning to stay.

It sticks out in Bath Beach like a sore thumb. It’s an anomaly. It doesn’t fit in.

But that’s also part of its charm.

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cheese-baked-rice

Food Stuffs is a column exploring the gastronomic landscape of Bensonhurst and the surrounding neighborhoods. Each entry will cover anything and everything even remotely related to food because here in Bensonhurst, food is always news.

For those willing to explore it, the bustling Chinese restaurant scene on 86th Street beneath the D train offers a tour of numerous provincial cuisines and styles of cooking. It ain’t the old-school American-style take-out joints; there’s seafood restaurants, dumpling shops and bakeries, Cantonese twists and Fujianese turns. While not every province of China is represented, with its own unique set of flavors and traditions, there are plenty of options to check out.

Among them, H.K. Tea & Sushi at 2033 86th Street stands out. Serving up street foods from Hong Kong (alongside sushi and Japanese for the less adventurous), the extensive menu is loaded with items you won’t find on in many other local shops. And after a face-lift following a devastating 2010 fire set by an arsonist, the place has a very welcoming, modern interior.

While some say a “guide” is needed at ethnic restaurants to help explain dishes, I find it more exciting to just wander in with little-to-no knowledge and point at other people’s food.

There’s plenty of adventure to be found in doing that at H.K. Tea. You might end up with Fok Kin rice, or fried pig intestines. Or perhaps some pan-fried instant noodles with spam and egg, or something with ox tongue.

On my visit, though I spotted a dish I hadn’t tried before - a cheesy casserole thing that my waiter explained was “cheese baked rice.” I ordered one up, with Portuguese chicken.

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Source: Lioni Italian Heroes

Source: Lioni Italian Heroes

Two Bensonhurst delis are slinging some of the best sandwiches in Brooklyn, according to CBS News’ latest “Best of” list.

John’s Deli (2033 Stillwell Avenue) and Lioni’s (7803 15th Avenue) both made the cut in the unranked list of eight best sandwiches in Brooklyn.

John’s is singled out for their Godfather, a meat and cheese heavy hero that pops with color. But the ambiance gets a nod, too:

Walking into John’s Deli is a bit of a throwback – a narrow area to stand on line, signs that say things like “If you’re in a rush, you’re in the wrong place” – and a menu that has plenty of personality to fit right in.

Lioni’s, meanwhile, scores high for their fresh mozzarella and old world charm:

The sandwiches at Lioni are named after various Italian and Italian-American heroes, with Frank Sinatra at the top of the list: salami, fresh mozzarella, and a bit of seasoning (olive oil, salt, pepper, oregano). Have fun eating your way through the extensive herolist, or try your hand at creating your own combination – there’s no wrong way to put together a sandwich.

While Bensonhurst accounts for two of the eight spots – meaning the neighborhood sells one quarter of the borough’s best sandwiches, right? – eateries south of Prospect Park are well represented, with nods for eateries in Sheepshead Bay, Sunset Park and Bay Ridge.

Mama mia, what a pizza!

We were looking for someplace new to grab a slice last week, so we turned to our Facebook and Twitter readers to find out what they thought the best pizzerias in the area are. We asked that they put aside L&B Spumoni Gardens, figuring the tried-and-true neighborhood staple was too easy a fall back. What we got back was scores of comments naming 18 pie-tossing locales as among the area’s best.

See the list.

There are many small Asian bakeries that populate 86th Street. These bakeries are full of hearty food, character and wonderfully cranky counter staff. I often find myself running through Bensonhurst trying to meet my Bean colleagues, interviewing oil recyclers and searching for Sandy Koufax – and in need of a quick and cheap bite.

The Yu King Bakery (2335 86th Street) is the spot for such a bite. I walked in and noticed a few older Asian women sitting at tables, drinking tea or coffee and holding court. I don’t know what they were holding court on, but I doubt it was about the Giants or Jets season, but you never know. They seemed content and at home as they offered a welcoming smile in my direction.

I wanted to order something light, and I approached the counter staff cautiously. Pork buns and thousand-year egg cookies stared back at me. I asked the staff if they had any food without meat, and the staff responded, “Meat?” Then, they scooped some meat from the steam ovens onto a nice plate and showed it to me.

I told them I wanted something with no meat and they put the plate into the steam ovens. When the oven was open, I noticed the familiar shape of a dim sum prize, the golden glove winner: Rice flour rolls.

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Source: Lioni Italian Heroes

Fan favorite and local deli Lioni’s Heroes (7803 15th Avenue) has decided to name a sandwich after Senator Martin Golden.

According to a Brooklyn News story, “The tribute was in celebration of Mr. Golden’s commitment to the community, the city and state.

“The Marty Golden” consists of breaded chicken cutlets, roasted red peppers, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper and Lioni’s homemade fresh mozzarella. How’s that for chewing your senator’s ear off? Wait, that might be a gross image.

Either way, it’s reported that Golden stopped by the eatery and enjoyed his namesake sandwich.

Screenshot from Vice’s video, showing Pinello serving a fresh white pie. Click to go to video.

In a new entry for Vice Magazine’s online show “Munchies,” Williamsburg “Best Pizza” owner and Bensonhurst native, Frank Pinello takes a tour of what he considers the best pizza shops in Bensonhurst on a nostalgic and delicious trip down memory lane.

The short film begins with Frank surrounded by his large and loving Italian family as they prepare to feast on his grandmother’s authentic Sicilian cooking which he cites as a major inspiration for his own pizza shop.

Action then shifts to Frank’s own “Best Pizza” in Williamsburg, a lively and fast growing hot spot for top notch pizza, made with fresh, high quality ingredients all cooked in a 100-year-old brick oven.

It is at this point when we meet Bill, Frank’s free-spirited, yet dedicated delivery man who joins Frank on his journey to Bensonhurst.  Both are determined to cram as much authentic Brooklyn pizza as possible, and they start at 6322 18th Avenue with J&V’s.

Frank lauds J&V’s square slice, for its “crispy bottom, a nice fluffy middle, [and] saucy, cheesy top to it.”

For round slices, Frank heads to 6514 18th Avenue for Da Vinci Pizzeria, which Frank describes as “Classic, these guys know how to do it right.” Bill giggles in approval.

For dessert, Frank and Bill head to 7001 18th Avenue for “Villa Bate Alba Bakery,” to pick up some world class espressos and cannoli. “Amazing,” is the response from a near speechless Frank.

Just when you think Frank and Bill have eaten themselves to death, they head back to Frank’s grandmother’s place for a huge Italian dinner featuring country style stuffed pizza, sausages, and Sicilian pasta.

Frank’s enthusiasm for cooking and food is best summed up by his father Steve.

“He loved to eat … he’d actually advice us on what spice to use every now and then, he’d put his own two cents in,” he said.

Correction (10/25/2012 @ 10:40 a.m.): The original version of this article incorrectly spelled Frank Pinello’s name as Pinelli. It has been corrected, and we offer our sincerest apologies to Pinello and our readers for the confusion.

Entering this maze of produce on a weekend feels like a whole different kind of Great Adventure. Viccuria Market (2275 86th Street) is an amusement park in its own right. The excitement begins with the smell of fresh vegetables, sawdust, meat and bleach as you enter the store. This produce park is like a roller coaster filled with fancy dates, Irish Soda Bread (with an English and Russian label) and a top-shelf pickle bar.

When rolling up to Viccuria’s pickle bar, one pickle that shouts out to you is the hot peppers stuffed with bread crumbs. Resting on the top row of the olive and pickle bar, the stuffed hot peppers gives the impression that it is meant for a higher class of customer. At $7.49 a pound, this isn’t your grandma’s shtetle pickle, this is a 21st Century pickle. This marinated pepper would be the choice of royalty, diplomats and anyone with a Lexus SUV.

The great ball of greasiness clearly comes from another planet. It stares at all customers with an alien, foreign-like shape that reminds this reviewer of baby gremlins. The pepper could have made an appearance with the Star Trek: The Next Generation crew, manifesting itself on the top of Captain Jean Luc Picard’s clean and shiny head. It would be eaten during times of great duress, like when the Klingons try to take over L&B’s.

My pickle partner and I were not in search of the final frontier, but more so a final snack of summer. A tribute to all the great tastes of July and August. Since this reviewer does his best to reduce, reuse, recycle, and rebuff, we brought our own plastic containers for the pickles and the staff at Viccuria was very receptive and helpful. The pickles needed to be weighed by the fancy deli staff. Our helper, decked out in black chef’s jacket and black chef’s hat that would allow him to fit in with Parisian literati, the prospect park drum circle crowd or an old school Black Panther Party party, was super friendly. He measured the pickles and even subtracted an estimated weight of the containers from the price.

The stuffed hot peppers were the first pickles we sampled. We let our hands explore the oily goodness of the pepper. My taste buds opened to spicy blend of salt and sour that brought up images of an old world grandma with a new pickle stand at the Barclay’s Center. Whoever she is, she sure knows her bread crumbs. The filling was sweet, salty and bready – like a pierogi from heaven.

We licked our fingers clean of the greasy, oily and beautiful taste. We silently thanked grandmas everywhere for their breadcrumbin’ and picklin’ skills. We hopped into the Lexus SUV and drove off into the end of our salty summer frontier.

The hot pepper made me feel safe and loved. It helped heal my lost kid trauma suffered in the husky section of the Alexander’s Department store in Kings Plaza, 1986. If only I had been lost with these Grandma Stuffed Peppers, with their top shelf of the old world quality, I may have turned out okay.

Viccuria, 2275 86th Street, (718) 331-0100.

Is there a restaurant or specific dish you think we should check out? Let us know!

Olive bread. Source: www.salandjerrysbakery.com

Cousins Sabastiano “Sal” Buzzetta and Rosolino “Jerry” Cracchiolo launched a modest bread bakery business in 1983. Now, after almost 30 years, they’ve decided to expand.

What started as a two-person retail bakery at 6817 20th Avenue became well known for their Italian breads and pastries. They plan on bringing that same expertise to their new commercial bakery in West Babylon, according to News LI.

Customers have been coming back for the cannolis and sfogliatelle for years and the new bakery will deliver the baked goods to parts of the metropolitan and tri-state areas.

“We’re expanding by demand,” said Gianni Cracchiolo, president of Sal and Jerry’s Inc. “We have a few distributors and through the years they have pushed us and pushed us to produce more. They want to come in with trucks and buy by the pallet.”

The family business has a long tradition of baking. When Jerry and his family came to America from  Carini, a small providence of Palermo, Sicily, the men worked in a downtown Brooklyn bakery called Mazzola.  Later, cousin Buzzetta got in on the mix and helped the family buy a bakery named Realmuto on 20th Avenue. They renovated and renamed the place and the rest was history.

The bakery’s legacy continues as Gianni’s brother Robert, a culinary school graduate, joins the team. He wants to modernize the menu with  mousses and sculpted cakes while maintaining the recipes that made the cousins successful.

Also, Sal & Jerry’s Bakery jumped on the eco-bandwagon by cutting the onsite carbon emissions from their baking to zero.

Good luck to the modern bakery with an old world feel, just don’t forget the neighborhood that made you.

The Daily News ran their  “Best of NY” food mentions. This time around, it was the best arancini in New York.

Famous Sicilian eaters, Joe’s of Avenue U at 287 Avenue U got an honorable mention, as did their off-shoot in Great Kills, Staten Island.

Here’s what the Daily News wrote:

You can’t talk about arancini in New York City without mentioning Joe’s of Avenue U, a venerable institution of Sicilian specialties in Gravesend for more than 50 years. While the Brooklyn location of this Focacceria Palermitana is steeped in history, it is also changing with the times. Two years ago, Joe’s opened up a second location in Staten Island that not only offers the traditional cheese-smothered arancini ($4.29-$6.99), but also makes gluten-free rice balls ($7.99-$10.99, Tuesday through Saturday) that taste just as good. Topped with tomato sauce, ricotta and parmesan, these fist-sized rice balls filled with meat and peas are as gratifying and authentic as the real deal. The crust holds the rice ball together without being too heavy or oily. Even the name “arancina,” which means “little orange” in Italian, still accurately describes this flour-free rice ball. It’s a great combination of rich, Old World flavors and healthier, new world sensibilities.

 Joe’s of Avenue U has been a family business for over 50 years. They describe their food as not only a culinary treat, but “an institution where people come not only to eat, but to smell the air of Sicily they had left behind, to taste the food like their grandma made and to link the taste of a specialty to a distant past.”

That sounds deliciously poetic. Nice job Joe’s of Avenue U.

After 50 years in Brooklyn on Avenue U we have recently opened a Joe’s on Staten Island & urge you to stop in!

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