Describing something as “grandmother’s cooking” brings to mind food that is humble and homey, perhaps not the most refined but made with a lot of heart. Rezdora, which is the word for grandmother in Modena, Italy, is the name of the new restaurant in Flatiron that is run by Stefano Secchi, who trained in the kitchen of Massimo Bottura’s Osteria Francescana, the world’s best restaurant in 2018. The grandmother in this kitchen, however, is no creaky old lady rolling meatballs by hand. She’s quite savvy and knows her way not only around the kitchen but also around the woods. As a result, the pasta at Rezdora is one of the best in New York City.
Middle Eastern food is experiencing a surge in popularity these days, particularly downtown. And like many new-wave ethnic restaurants, the food is more refined and inventive than what you might find in a more traditional restaurant. Two additions to this recent wave of modern Middle Eastern restaurants are 19 Cleveland and Shuka, both of which chose to set up shop in the Soho area. Expect to rub elbows with the trendy, fashion-y types who like their avocado toast with a little sprinkling of za’atar on top.
If you’re looking for a traditional bowl of pho or fried spring rolls at Van Da, a new Vietnamese restaurant in the East Village, then you’ve come to the wrong place. Van Da doesn’t like to state the obvious, it prefers to showcase the overlooked, and when it does take on a staple, it’s with a modern spin.
Where do we draw the line between calling something a pizza vs. a flatbread with toppings? This is the question I struggle with when I think about the pizzas at Violet, the new restaurant in the East Village run by Matt Hyland of Pizza Loves Emily fame. The specialty here is the Rhode Island style grilled pizza, but something about it feels so far removed from a traditional pie that the meal ends up being very unsatisfying. It’s the same type of feeling you get when you melt some cheese over a piece of bread in the microwave out of desperation to make a “pizza”, but despite the effort, the end result is anything but. The cheese is so subtle and scant that you can hardly taste it, and the crust lacks that bubbly, doughy chewiness that’s a trait in even the thinnest of New York crusts. You would do better with a box of Celeste frozen pizza than a slice of grilled pizza at Violet.
Going down a rabbit hole can be a real headache, but when it leads you to Rabbit House, a small and cozy Japanese speakeasy in LES, you won’t mind getting caught up in a meal of creative Japanese tapas.