Last week Alli and I spent 5 glorious days in NYC eating everything we possibly could with my best friend Mike. Thankfully Mike was very generous and we stayed at his apartment in the East Village for the entire trip, which means we were able to spend all of our money on eating and drinking (but mostly eating).
This week we’ll have posts about all of the food we ate during our stay, they’ll be broken up into a few parts for easier reading and to break up the photo galleries. If you’d like to just see the pictures, check out our gallery on facebook here. Today we are going to be talking about our pizza and bagel adventures from last week, we’ll also have later posts on Desserts, Peter Luger’s and the various Asian cuisines we tried.
Pizza. One of the first cuisines that Alli and I added to our “to do list” was a true VPN Certified Wood Fire Pizza. Just a couple years ago I didn’t know such a thing existed, what the big deal was, or what VPN even stood for. We have to say thanks to Alan Bedenko and his various pizza trips/expertise that we’ve seen on twitter. We ended up eating pizza at three different restaurants on our trip, a pretty significant percentage of our food considering we had such a long diverse list to start with.
Our first pizza stop was Mario Batali’s amazing grocery store Eataly. Originally, we planned on just looking around and maybe grabbing a couple bites to eat, but once Alli saw Cacio E Pepe on the menu we realized it would turn into a sit down meal. I decided to try their special pizza of the day (pictured directly above), a white pizza with ramps, pecorino and Buffalo mozzarella. At the time I thought it was the best pizza crust I had ever had (that would change within a day) and the ramps gave the pizza a nice bitter flavor that worked wonderfully against the sweet buffalo mozzarella. I devoured the entire thing by myself. Eataly is a must visit for anyone who loves Italian food. There are stands everywhere with different types of food (pasta, meats, cheeses, sweets, coffee), so there is really something for everyone (just be careful, its very crowded with tourists).
We then visited Keste, Mike’s go-to wood fire pizza place in his old neighborhood (the West Village). We tried two of their pizzas for lunch, their Regina Margherita and Prosciutto Di Parma (both pictured in gallery). The location itself was nice, prominently featuring their brick oven in the rear of the restaurant. But it was also very narrow and luckily we visited while the place wasn’t packed. The crust on both pizzas was delicious and had a wonderful texture but the sauce and cheese on the Regina Margherita was a little bland. The Prosciutto Di Parma had a better flavor, however the prosciutto was thick and the texture was a little off and too chewy for my liking.
Our final visit was a last minute find by Alli and a true VPN Certified pizzeria (and according to her google searches, one of the best in Manhattan), La Pizza Fresca. This spur of the moment dinner was one of the best meals we had on our entire trip. After being a little disappointed with our pizza at Keste, Alli was on a mission to find something better and this place did not disappoint. We ordered their Margherita pizza (pictured top). The pizza was perfect, literally every single part of the dish (crust, tomato sauce, mozzarella) was incredible and in retrospect I wish I had ordered a second entire pizza just by myself. The crust had a smokey “rustic” flavor and was slightly crispy but still easily to manipulate and fold. When the pizza came out to our table it was still fairly hot and the cheese was gooey and the San Marzano tomato sauce was both sweet and savory. Literally, it was the perfect pizza. The interior of La Pizza Fresca was very similar to Keste; more upscale and classy and very narrow, but their pizza oven was hidden in the kitchen instead of out on display. After eating this pizza, Alli and I decided that we were going to up our visit to Toronto by a couple weeks just so we can get more Neapolitan pizza.
Bagels. High on my to do list was visiting Russ & Daughters, a small deli located in the Lower East Side within sight of the famous Katz Deli (I’ve been there in the past, IMO it’s overrated). The deli opened in 1914 and over the years the deli has gotten some great press, Anthony Bourdain has said that their bagel with nova and cream cheese is his favorite meal in NYC. So on our second day we walked down to the deli and ordered a couple bagels to go. I was shocked by the size of the deli, it’s incredibly narrow with counters on both sides. There is also no seating inside, so plan on taking your order to go or hope that you can grab one of two benches outside. I ordered an everything bagel with cream cheese, tomatoes, onions, lox and capers (pictured above). While the bagel and the toppings were definitely good (although the bagel was a bit hard for my liking), it was the lox that was absolutely fantastic. They slice your salmon to order and it’s sliced so thin that it’s basically transparent, which means that when your eating the smoked salmon is melts in your mouth.
After sharing our visit on twitter, Alan (whose food advice is always fantastic) suggested going to Ess-A-Bagel for another great breakfast/lunch option. A couple days later we found out they had a location near the apartment we were staying at so we took a walk over. Unlike Russ & Daughters, Ess-A-Bagel is definitely geared towards dining in. We ordered the exact same meal (pictured in gallery) and walked to a bench outside to eat since it was so nice out. Their lox was not as impressive as Russ & Daughers and was pre-sliced, but their bagel was awesome. As we were waiting in line we had a great view of them making bagels in the back and you could definitely taste the freshness. If I could combine the bagel from Ess-A-Bagel with the lox from Russ & Daughters it would be perfect.
While I’ll miss the Neapolitan style pizza, what I’ll really dream about is having a really awesome bagel with delicious lox everyday for breakfast. Nosh Cafe’s version wasn’t horrible but neither the bagel nor the lox were as flavorful and fresh as either Russ & Daughters or Ess-A-Bagel, and while I sometimes enjoy Bagel Jay’s, I’m not a fan of their lox spread. So, unless there is a hidden gem in WNY that I don’t know about, I will have to wait until my next trip to NYC to enjoy a proper bagel with lox again.
Check back tomorrow for more of our NYC food fest!