Saturday, March 27, 2010

New York Winterlude 3

Sadly, day 3 of New York Winterlude 2009 was only a half day. For a good reason, though. We had plans to make it to the Catskills by mid-afternoon, so that we could relax and have dinner and an overnight with friends in the country. So we got up early, picked up our car, and made our way down to Greenwich Village.

There we paid quick visits to two Greenwich Village classics for the very first time. Both had been part of our constellation of New York pilgrimage destinations for years, but "our constellation of New York pilgrimage destinations" looks a little like the Milky Way--it could keep us busy for years. Plus, it's always changing.

ottomanelli & sons fig. a: two little birds

Anyway, first on our itinerary was the legendary O. Ottomanelli & Sons on Bleecker Street, a true neighborhood butcher famed for their meat-cutting prowess and the superior quality of their meats (including free-range, organic, and pastured). We were on the lookout for osso buco, and osso buco was what we found. They weren't cheap, but these were big, meaty shanks, and our butcher was all too happy to talk technique with us. We gazed longingly at O. Ottomanelli & Sons' famous aged steaks, but the only cooler we'd brought along was our Igloo Playmate, so we had to limit ourselves to those shanks.

murray's fig. b: we know cheese!

Next stop: Murray's. We'd visited Murray's Grand Central location, but this was our very first time visiting the flagship store, and it was just as mind-blowing as we expected. The selection was unreal--including dozens of artisanal American cheeses from the mid-Atlantic and the Northeast that we'd never heard of--but even better was the service. These people knew their cheeses. These people were passionate. They also knew their pairings. And they were generous. We sampled so many cheeses, and so many wonderfully complex cheeses, that our tongues were positively tingling afterwards. We picked out a couple of New York cheeses and a heady Basque number, scribbled down some wine notes, and somehow we managed to pull ourselves away... Brooklyn. There we'd decided to finish our pizza tour with a visit to a (then) recently opened pizzeria that had been highly recommended to us by some of our readers (you know who you are). Now, Motorino has since climbed to the upper echelons of New York's pizza world--hell, they even took over Una Pizza Napoletana's fabled East Village location when Anthony Mangieri decided to leave New York for sunnier climes--but at the time they were still relatively under the radar (i.e., all the hardcore NY pizzaheads had at least heard about them, Pete Wells had written a "dining brief" about them for the New York Times, but Frank Bruni had yet to put them at the top of his list of New York's best "New-Generation Pizzerias," and Sam Sifton's review was still a year away).

motorino 1 fig. c: mmmmotorino

We had two stunning pizzas there, including the Margherita DOC you see pictured above, and we couldn't believe our eyes when we saw their insanely generous lunchtime prix fixe menu, but what really impressed us was the single-minded determination of Motorino's chef and chief pizzaiolo, Mathieu Palombino. He was busy training a couple of new hires that day and all I'm going to say is that he knew exactly what characterized a Motorino pizza and he was absolutely unwilling to accept anything less. No wonder our pies were so damn perfect.

motorino 2 fig. d: sage advice

We left Brooklyn totally satisfied and utterly convinced that, if anything, New York's Pizza Revival was picking up steam, and we made our way onto the Palisades Parkway and headed north.

winter wonderland fig. e: winterlude's end

O. Ottomanelli & Sons, 285 Bleecker Street, New York, (212) 675-4217

Murray's Cheese, 254 Bleecker St., New York, 888.MY.CHEEZ or (212) 243-3289

Motorino, 319 Graham Avenue, Brooklyn, (718) 599-8899 & 349 East 12th Street, East Village, Manhattan, (212) 777-2644

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