Eating East 53rd Street

Let me first begin this post by extending my deepest apologies to my readers for my lack of blogging the last few days. It’s been a busy week, but I just want to assure Tom O’Keefe, creator of What’s Minnella Eating Now, that I am indeed still feeding Matt. Here’s the evidence:

Goat Cheese Stuffed Chicken
Chili "Lasagna"

Ok, now on to the rest of the post. Seven months ago, I moved to the greatest city in the world, with the greatest boy in world, to one of the cutest blocks in the world (minus the dirty video store…hey, it gives it character.) After seeing dozens of apartments that would be considered sub-par in a third world country, Matt and I found our way to sunny 53rd street. We had just come from looking at apartments on 11th avenue in a part of Manhattan that slightly resembled Bosnia. So when we got to the tree lined, restaurant studded haven we now call home, it was like the clouds had parted and then angels had started to sing. Then we went inside and despite the bathroom built for ants, it was perfect and I knew instantly that I was home. We were signing the lease within minutes. We then went out to celebrate a few doors down at La Giocanda. It was a small, warmly lit Italian restaurant with big fresh flower boxes on the windowsill and some of the best lasagna I’ve ever had. On that night we made a pact that we would try to hit up nearly every dining establishment on 53rd street between 2nd and 3rd before the time we moved to another apartment. This is no small task, considering I took a count this afternoon and there are 28 restaurants in the tenth-of-a-mile stretch of our block. So I thought I’d take this opportunity to highlight some of the fantastic eating establishments just steps from our humble abode.

Vero – One of my favorite wine bars even before we moved in. We went here to celebrate our first night in Manhattan and now it’s become a favorite spot to have a glass of wine and a Panini (which are free on Monday nights!) The overall vibe is very chic and trendy, the food is delicious and the wine, well even though I’ve rarely met a glass of wine I didn’t like, it’s really fantastic. Whether it’s date night, girl’s night, or I’ve had a terrible day and desperately need a glass of Chardonnay night, Vero fits the bill perfectly.

Oh and the antipasto platter is crave-worthy

Primavera Pizza – We live dangerously close to this popular late night pizza spot. Even though it’s technically one door in on 2nd Ave., I’m still counting it as a 53rd street eatery. I could go on and on about the perfect crust, the millions of toppings, or the fact that they don’t judge us for getting delivery when we’re literally 45 steps away; but do yourself a favor the next time you have a 2 a.m. pizza craving, hop in a cab and high tail it to 53rd and 2nd.

Redemption – Two words. Mimosa brunch. Two more words. Breakfast pizza. Now put those four words together and you have a pretty fantastic Sunday on your hands. For eighteen bucks you get a breakfast entree, coffee, juice, and not one but TWO drinks. Not only do you get to get boozy at brunch, but the entrees are off the charts. Thin crust pizza, four different kinds of cheese, bacon, sausage, and fried eggs. Besides being delicious, it looked AMAZING. I ordered this a few weeks ago on a warm Sunday when it was nice enough to sit outside and I kid you not, the pizza was causing people on the street to slow down and stare. My pizza was so good it was eliciting envious looks from strangers and you know I was brimming with pride over my top notch order selection.

Peking Duck House – While I have yet to hit up this traditional Chinese restaurant, I hear that when you order the peeking duck they literally carve the entire duck tableside, needless to say it’s on my to do list.

Little Thai Kitchen – Teeny tiny inside, but an awesome takeout spot. They make the best Pad See Ew I’ve had since I lived in Australia.

Social Eatz – The site of the BEST celebrity sighting (and meeting) I’ve ever had. A few weeks ago as I was stepping out one rainy afternoon, a tall, dashing, very familiar looking man passed by me. “Angelo?,” I called after him. As he turned around and flashed that signature smile, I knew it was him. Oh yes it was none other than Top Chef All-Star and restaurateur Angelo Sosa. After some Twitter stalking I ascertained that he was opening a new Asian infused comfort food restaurant right on my block! The second it opened we were there. The first time we went we had great service, awesome food, but unfortunately no Angelo. So when my friend Michelle spotted him on the street on St. Patrick’s Day on the way to my apartment, we basically dropped everything we were doing and parked it at Social Eatz in hopes of a little meet and greet with the chef. There were five of us there that night and we basically ordered everything on the menu and everything I mean EVERYTHING was outrageous. It was comfort food on steroids. The layers and layers of flavor just didn’t quit and with options like curried creamed spinach, Korean beef tacos, and organic chicken hot dogs, your taste buds have a serious party in your mouth. The amazing food was topped off with a visit from Angelo. Needless to say as a die-hard fan of Top Chef, I was completely star-struck. We chatted with him for a good ten minutes and he was so nice and humble and really down to earth. He dished about preparing for the competition, his favorite chefs, and his love for Padma in a hot pair of Balenciaga heels. We gushed about how much we love the show, how much we loved the food, and let’s be honest how much we love him.  Then he thanked us for coming and got back to the kitchen, as he walked away we all gave each other the “did that really just happen look.” I’d go back a million times, not just for the sighting of handsome Angelo, but for inventive, surprising, and flavor packed cuisine.

Cello – A few of my friends had been here before and they told me I must must must try this adorable little wine bar. “But Vero is my local wine bar!” I’d protest. Finally I conceded and decided that I’d cheat on Vero and give this tapas style wine bar a try. The place is very very small, maybe ten tables, and the kitchen it basically a little stall with a window cut out, stocked with sink, an oven, two stand alone flames and a single chef pumping out all the food. We sat in the back, inches away from the kitchen window. At first I was a little off put, but when the chef leaned out and asked us if we’d like balsamic reduction on our bufala mozzarella, I started to warm up to our table location. After a few more courses and lots of chatting with Chef Chris I started to feel like we had a private chef cooking us our own dinner. For dessert, he asked if we’d like to try an off-the menu apple and rhubarb crisp that he’d invented that afternoon. I still have daydreams about that thing and I’m not even a big fruit in my dessert kind of person. We walked out feeling super cool for our VIP chef’s table and super full from the 8 different tapas dishes we couldn’t keep our hands off of.

Radicchio – BYOB Italian with fantastic food, very romantic ambiance, and great service. The best part? Well, besides the calamari that was marinated and grilled to perfection? Having a check dropped at our table that’s under $50. Which prompted me to realize how much bigger my savings account would be if we were non-drinkers, because good God I spend a lot of money on wine.

Solera – Another tapas spot near the end of the block. We had a nice enough meal here but given that Cello has better wine, better food, and is a half of a block closer, I don’t think we’ll be back.

So there you have it, a small taste of the plethora of restaurant options in our little slice of the city. While I love our local restaurants, I must say that my favorite place to eat on 53rd street is still my dining room table. 🙂 So come back soon because I promise this week will be full of lots of home cooked blog posts.

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