The Old Five Points Gets a Fresh New Look (and Taste) With Vic’s

Name: Vic’s

NGM Rating: B/B+

Restaurant Inspection Rating: A

Website: http://www.vicsnewyork.com/

Location: 31 Great Jones Street, NY, NY 10012 (formerly Five Points)

Cuisine: Italian

Owner/Chef: Victoria Freeman, Marc Meyer and Chris Paraskevaides (same people that bring us Hundred Acres and Cookshop). Chef: Hillary Sterling.

When did it open: October 2014

Ambiance: I have now been to Vic’s twice in the past two weeks and it was hoppin’ on both occasions. The bar area full of guests enjoying a drink before being seated while other couples just there to enjoy their meal bar side. The downtown chic, trendy and beautiful fill the dining room. … which, by the way, you barely recognize as the old Five Points. Vic’s is a step above in terms of its sophistication and I applaud the designer who reinvigorated the space Another difference between Vic’s and it’s predecessor: the focus away from brunch and toward dinner. New Yorkers far and wide knew Five Points for it’s vibrant brunch scene and hearty egg dishes (and churros), but Vic’s, while it serves a weekend brunch, is definitely more for the dinner crowd. Creative pastas, pizzas and meat dishes make up the majority of the menu. … and there’s a great cocktail list to go along with it.

Menu highlights: The garlic bread is a WOW here. I’ve never had such a thick slice of bread drenched in such a sinfully delicious garlic goat butter. Don’t come here if you’re trying to diet. Once you try that garlic bread, you’ll be coming back for more. As far as pasta goes, the Cacio e Pepe, “Card Driver,” and “Little Purse” are all great. All pastas can be ordered as half or full portions. The “Little Purse” is very rich, so either share a full portion or exercise some self-restraint and order the half. The pork shoulder, roasted squash and squid were also hits.

What I didn’t get to try: The pizzas (which look amazing), burrata appetizer, Rye Rigatoni and heirloom carrots. I didn’t really go for dessert either time either. Too full by the time I got through the pasta.

Constructive criticisms: So, I hate to have to talk about this because I enjoyed the ambiance, staff and food both times I was here, BUT the restaurant is clearly still trying to work out some of the kinks in terms of dining room operation. Either the service has been a little slow (friendly nonetheless) or, like my second time, the reservations get backed up and multiple tables are not seated on time. Luckily, the management at Vic’s is no team of first-timers. They definitely know how to make the best of a not-so-great situation. Two examples. Last week when I ate at the bar, the bartenders were jammed and slow on taking our orders. No big deal as I was enjoying my conversation, but instead of ignoring the problem the bartender instead took our drinks off the tab at the end of the night (without a single complaint from either of us). The second example comes from my most recent experience. As my friend and I walked in it was very clear there was a back up with the tables. Parties were paying, deciding they wanted another drink. … or two, and then lingering. The host staff was clearly concerned. After 40 minutes, we were greeted with sincere apologies and had drinks taken care of at the bar. We were seated an hour after our reservation time – which should really never happen – but the service was more than attentive and amicable during our meal. They took care of us more than even necessary. … and most of the bill basically evaporated into thin air as a further apology. I couldn’t even be annoyed or mad at that point, and left Vic’s (almost) forgetting about the slip up earlier in the night.

Best for: Date night, girls night out, celebratory occasion, groups, checking out NYC’s new hot spots, carb loading, dine & drink at the bar

Dress Code: City chic

Average Pricing: Appetizers: $10, Pizza: $15, Pasta: $12 (half)/ $18 (full), Entree: $26, Wine/Cocktails: $13, Dessert: $9

Reservations: Reservations are available on OpenTable. Vic’s is a hot spot right now, so I suggest booking a reservation in advance.

 

Modern Italian in a City of Southern Charm @ Indaco

Name: Indaco 

NGM Rating: A-

Restaurant Inspection Rating: A

Website: http://www.indacocharleston.com/

Location: 526 King Street, Charleston, SC 29403

Cuisine: Rustic Italian

Owner/Chef: Steve Palmer and Michael Perez

When did it open: August 2013

Ambiance: Rustic feel all around. Wooden floors, wooden tables, wood-top bar and wooden bar stools. Notice a theme? The restaurant is very warm in ambiance, and it all starts the moment you walk in the door. The host greets you with an abundance of southern hospitality and every server you encounter does the same. … even the ones not assigned to your table. There’s no air of pretension and the vibe is generally casual. All it needs is a wood-burning fire for those cooler winter nights. When the weather suits there is a great outdoor seating area that overlooks the lively nightlife on Charleston’s King Street.

Menu highlights: The pizza is great. Awesome crust and inventive creations that lead you to consume every last bite (at least I did). I thoroughly enjoyed the brussels sprouts pizza, which was a white pizza topped with Fontina, brussels sprouts, honey crisp apples and Pecorino Romano. You may be like my little sister and think the combination sounds strange – particularly the apple bit – but the flavor truly impressed. You’re supposed to explore different flavors in food-centric cities like Charleston, so try this one out. The Cerignola Olives pizza was another table favorite in the pizza department. Our starters were great too. Definitely check out the burrata. The cheese gets two thumbs up and the dish is served with over-sized green olives and house-made flatbread. Really good. The simple Bibb lettuce salad didn’t disappoint as well. Fresh greens done right.

What I didn’t get to try: I was too full for dessert, so I missed the signature toasted almond budino. I could have probably tried each of the other pizzas as well. Pastas were enticing as well. I also missed out on the cocktails. They have quite the list and I probably should have sampled at least one of them.

Constructive criticisms: Not much to criticize here. Very pleasant experience, particularly considering the terrible Thanksgiving-holiday travel endured prior to our arrival at Indaco.

Best for: Date night, dinner with friends, casual occasion, thin-crust pizza fiends

Dress Code: Smart casual

Average Pricing: Cocktails: $10, Appetizers: $13 , Pizza: $15, Entrees: $25 , Dessert: $8 .

Reservations: Reservations are available on OpenTable.

 

A Happy Birthday Review For Maialino

**Today is Maialino’s 5th birthday. Happy birthday and congratulations to the team there! Coincidentally, I went to the restaurant two weeks ago for my sister’s birthday, so it seems a fitting day to write this review.**

Name: Maialino

NGM Rating: A

Restaurant Inspection Rating: A

Website: http://maialinonyc.com/

Location: 2 Lexington Avenue, NY, NY 10010

Cuisine: Italian

Owner/Chef: Danny Meyer and Nick Anderer

When did it open: November 2009

Ambiance: Rustic trattoria bustling with business types and the City’s chic enjoying the Roman-inspired menu. You can smell Danny Meyer’s influence from a mile away. … a fine dining establishment in a more subdued, casual setting that doesn’t lose its classy touch. This one reminded me of the Italian rendition of Union Square Cafe. The other tell-tale sign of a Meyer restaurant – and it was true of Marta as well – is amicable and knowledgable service. Our server at Maialino was very friendly, happy to offer up suggestions and was attentive throughout the meal.

Menu highlights: There was so much on this menu I wanted to try. … and many recommendations I received beforehand. For starters, the Carciofini Fritti were delicious – lightly fried artichokes with a hint of lemon. I also enjoyed the fluke crudo as well as a selection of the house meats and cheeses. I suggest keeping it light on the appetizers because the rest of your meal will be sure to fill you up quickly. On the entrees, I veered in the pasta direction. Upon the wise guidance of my server I ordered the Malfatti, and it was delicious. Thick noodles – similar almost to a Papardelle – in a rich sauce of braised suckling pig and garnished with arugula. The Fettuccine alla Bolognese was also a table favorite. Lastly, the Tartufo won the dessert award. Shaved chocolate shavings encased the rich chocolate ice cream and a sour cherry surprise to top it off.

What I didn’t get to try:  I was slightly disappointed to hear the chocolate bread pudding had been taken off the menu. Numerous people told me it was not to be missed and unfortunately it is no longer a Maialino staple. New pastry chef, new desserts. Oh well! There were plenty of pastas I will need to go back to sample: Tonnarelli Cacio e Pepe, Spaghetti alla Carbonara and Bucatini all’Amatriciana. Scottadita is a Meyer classic from Union Square Cafe and would have been a treat, as well as the suckling pig special and Pollo alla Diavola from the entree section. There’s also a family-style tasting menu for $75 per person.

Constructive criticisms: You already heard my dessert woes. It’s definitely a lively restaurant, so expect noise and, with that, comes difficulty in getting a table in the first place. Plan in advance and make the reservation early. Other than that it was a really lovely experience.

Best for: Group dining, business dining, special occasion, hotel dining and dates

Dress Code: Business Casual

Average Pricing: Wine/Cocktails: $15 , Appetizers: $14, Pasta: $19 , Entrees: $35 , Dessert: $10

Reservations: Reservations are available on OpenTable 30 days in advance. Again, book early because it’s a tough table to get at peak times.

 

What’s New In Pizza @ Marta

Name: Marta

NGM Rating: A-/B+

Restaurant Inspection Rating: A

Website: http://martamanhattan.com/

Location: 29 E. 29th Street, NY, NY 10016

Cuisine: Trendy Pizza Joint

Owner/Chef: Danny Meyer and Nick Anderer (also the chef from Maialino)

When did it open: September 2014

Ambiance: Cool, trendy and bustling with fun. The restaurant fits very well with the sleek look of the boutique Martha Washington Hotel. The restaurant’s dining room is very open when you walk into the lobby and all the tables are filled with the NYC chic enjoying their wood-oven pies. Simple and yet clearly all the rage.

Menu highlights: Tartufato pizza…wow! ‘Tis the season for white truffles after all. Typically, I  am opposed to spending $60 for pizza – and yes, I still realize how obscene it sounds – but Marta really did this one right. …and I was out for a celebratory occasion.  Melts in the mouth, not too overpowering and a great combination of ricotta, fontina and, of course, those delectable truffles. The chef actually comes out and shaves the truffles table side. That must be where the extra $30 goes! The “pasta” meatballs were also a cool, new concept – fried balls of pasta topped with Marta’s house made tomato sauce and parmesan. Other menu highlights include: the Bruschetta Strappata, Capricciosa Pizza, Mized Autumn Squash and Ice Cream Panino.

What I didn’t get to try: Coppa Cotta Pizza, Patate all Carbonara Pizza and Abbacchio Misto.

Constructive criticisms: It gets really noisy in the dining room. A great sign for a new restaurant, but difficult to hear when you’re trying to have an engaging conversation at your table. The bar area is a little cramped, so I wouldn’t suggest waiting for a table and expecting to have an easy-going drink at the bar while you wait. There is, however, another bar in the hotel’s ground floor so the key may be to put your name down and chill there. Lastly, Marta could also up the dessert game. … not enough optionality in that department.

Best for: A fun night out, checking out a new hot spot, hotel dining, group occasion or you’re in the mood for food as simple as pizza in an environment where you still feel chic and “in the scene.”

Dress Code: The best version of your trendy self. It’s a pizza joint, but it’s an upscale one, and one where patrons dress to impress.

Average Pricing: Cocktails: $11, Appetizers: $13, Pizza: $17 , Entrees:  $28, Dessert: $7

Reservations: Marta accepts reservations on OpenTable but it’s already a hard seat to get. If you look online right now through the next 30 days you’ll see a lot of 5 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. slots available. A tell-tale sign that this place has taken off very quickly. Book early or show up and brave the wait times.

 

Brooklyn Does Pizza Right @ Roberta’s

If your mission was not to find Roberta’s walking down Moore Street in Bushwick, Brooklyn you would not think twice when walking by the facade of an abandoned old garage building. For those on the look out, however, you’ll know you’ve reached the destination when you take the chance to glance up and see the discreet sign reading “Roberta’s” above the entrance. Here’s where you might take pause. Could this really be THE Roberta’s? How could this hole in the wall really be the pizza utopia I have heard so much about? Then you take the first step inside and suddenly the world makes sense again.

Being a Friday night at 8 p.m. I definitely expected a long wait time at Roberta’s. I had heard anywhere between 30 minutes and four hours from people I know who already made the trip. Anything under two hours was fine for me. … everyone said it was worth it, so why not! When we walked in the restaurant was bustling, but the entrance was not overcrowded by pizza-craving customers waiting for tables to open up. The scene was very pleasant. The hostess took our name and told us it would be approximately one hour and fifteen minutes. That was within the two hour threshold. … DONE! She instructed us to go out to the garden bar where we could sit, have a drink and even order some appetizers. This already sounded like the best one hour wait time I have ever had.

Walking through the main dining area I took note of the quirky and very random decor, which included long strands of Christmas lights strung along the walls. It almost looked like an assortment of mismatched tag sale gems that somehow came together, worked in the space and were able to create a hip but very warm environment. The seating arrangement is nothing fancy either. Simple picnic tables with benches, no table cloths, paper napkins and sodas served in recycled jam jars (Note: There are no backs on the benches so be prepared to engage those muscles in your back. … and test your posture). The patio area with the bar is very cool. The bar set up and decor is as creative as the main restaurant’s interior. Cocktail menus written on the walls on colorful chalkboards that are illuminated by more obscure neon lighting. There were even a few token pumpkins atop the bar as an added festive touch. Everybody out there seemed to be enjoying themselves – no matter how long they had been waiting for a table – and it was a completely different vibe from the hustle-and-bustle of inside. Also, over the fencing is a full garden where Roberta’s grows some of its vegetables, herbs, etc. There was a private event back there on Friday so I did not get to sneak a peak for myself, but it’s no wonder the greens tasted so fresh

We were able to snag a picnic table for our group so we could kick back, enjoy a drink and get right on ordering a couple apps to satiate our hunger for the ensuing hour. There’s a good selection of charcuterie and cheeses to nosh on that come with bread in addition to other nibbles. The fried cauliflower dish was pretty tasty. After getting through our snacks and two rounds of drinks our wait was up and we were called for a table. The greatest part about Roberta’s whole system is that the hostess actually comes to the back and finds you once a table is ready. This totally beats walking back and forth to the front of the restaurant and periodically asking how many more parties of six would be seated before we did. I was perfectly content at this point and anxiously anticipating the pizza to come.

When it comes to the menu you would be cheating yourself if you did not order pizza. Nearly every table I saw had at least one pizza on it. That being said, there are other things to try that make great supplements to your carb-loaded meal. The broccoli was the most impressive non-pizza item on our table. My cousin put it perfectly: “How did they make something this simple taste so delicious.” Great question. The menu reads: “Broccoli: Kale, kohlrabi and anchovy.” Ok, maybe the addition of kohlrobi makes the idea of a simple broccoli dish sound intriguing, but trust me this combination of flavors does even more to surprise you to the upside. The anchovy in the dressing is subtle but gives the dish a great flavor, and the crunchy kale complements the marinated broccoli quite well. A very simple vegetable medley that perked up all our taste buds. When it came to pizza the decision was not easy. Luckily there were six of us so we were able to get a nice sampling. As an aside, I recommend asking your server for suggestions. Ours was very friendly, happy to help and also let us know about a couple “off-the-menu” pizzas.

We ordered quite the assortment, but general consensus at the table was that the simple Margherita classic ironically took first place. The tomato sauce was faintly sweet with bubbling fresh mozzarella and a near-perfect crust. Simply delicious. The Amatriciana with pecorino, guanciale, onion and chile was a close second with its spicier tomato sauce that gave it just the right kick. Importantly, all the pizzas came out piping hot and all the ingredients were clearly fresh. My only minor complaint was how not all the pizzas came to the table at the same time. The staggering was a little off since our server brought one pizza, and then there was a good five minute lag before anything else came to the table. It’s great that the pizza arrives hot right out of the oven, but it was a tad awkward only having one pizza on the table for all of us (Note: these pies are individual-sized). I was sufficiently stuffed after the pizza and while intrigued by the dessert offerings could not get myself to take the plunge this time.

Are you convinced yet? Roberta’s has the food, the service, a hip atmosphere and constant buzz. Yes, you will have to wait but get over it. Every good thing in life is worth a little wait time. Manhattanites may be reading this and thinking, “Is she serious? Why would I need to go all the way to Bushwick to get a good slice?” And yes, there are plenty of great pizza joints, but Roberta’s has a special spark that makes this trip worth it. So if you’re feeling up to a foodie adventure and are seeking a great night full of fun and great people I would suggest hopping on the L-Train ASAP. Those in Brooklyn are the more fortuitous as they have a great neighbor in Roberta’s.

Roberta’s, 261 Moore Street, Brooklyn, NY, 11206. Phone: (718) 417-1118. 

When To Book: Roberta’s does not take reservations so you just show up and prepare to wait. Wait times vary and will obviously be longer at peak times such as Friday and Saturday night. If you are a group of 10-16 people, however, the restaurant will try to accommodate a reservation so call a week in advance. 

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