Where'd ya eat?

It was over twenty years ago, and I told Martha that I was planning a trip to Manhattan.  “Bobo, you have to go to Carnegie Deli and get the hot pastrami sandwich.  I swear the pastrami is piled on this [her thumb and index finger formed a big ‘C’ with about a four-inch gap] thick!  And please get me a hot pastrami sandwich to go and bring it back to me!”

Maybe you’ve had this experience: You tell someone that you’re going to New York (or San Francisco, or Little Rock for that matter) and their eyes glaze over and they start reciting a list of restaurants that you simply “have to” go to.  I have been on both ends of this conversation, so today we’re going to pretend that you’ve just told me that you’re planning a trip to New York City.

I want to send you to two places.  Piadina Ristorante (www.piadinanyc.com) and Fairway Market Café (www.fairwaymarket.com/cafe) .

Piadina (at 57 West 10th Street, near 6th Avenue) is named for the thin Italian flatbread from the Romagna region of Italy.  We went to Piadina because Mr. Beers had read about it somewhere.  In all of his magazine and/or internet perusal, Wayne had been enticed by some celebrity or designer or somebody who lives in New York City who said that whenever he travels, the minute he gets back home to Manhattan, he heads for Piadina for the wonderful, warm atmosphere and incredible homestyle Italian food.  We saved our Piadina experience for our last night in the city.

Small oil lamps in mason jars on the kraft paper covered tables, antique rusted tractor seats nailed to the walls, and shelves of old colorful enameled pots and pans created an atmosphere that was at once country and continental. The wait staff was a small crew of young Italian men who were attentive but unobtrusive. But the food.  The food!  Everything on the menu sounded so good. We ordered wine.  We ordered appetizers, salads, entrees - and every single thing was incredible.  I won’t try to describe each dish, but I will tell you the highlight for me was the polenta.  A fluffy rectangle of polenta smothered in melted Gorgonzola cheese. Just typing that makes me wonder how long we will have to wait to go back to Piadina. Oh. My. I’m pretty sure Mr. Beers will be searching for polenta recipes and trying to recreate this tasty treat for us here in San Antonio.

The Fairway Market Café on the Upper West Side (on Broadway at 74th Street) is always on our must-do list whenever we plan a trip to New York. Several years ago our friend Lisa Marie Benavides introduced us to Fairway.  We wanted to get together with dear Lisa, and at the time she lived in a beautiful apartment on Riverside, just a couple of blocks from there.  She suggested we meet for breakfast.  Lisa has left the neighborhood, but we still make a point to try to have breakfast (at least once each trip) in the Café that is located upstairs from the grocery store.  It’s a far cry from the chain restaurants that seem to have taken over Midtown.  The place is full of a great cast of characters who live in the neighborhood, so the people watching is usually good.  Mr.  Beers and I usually order the same thing - The Big Boy Breakfast.  The Big Boy Breakfast.  There, I’ve said it again.  Eggs, bacon, toast, and A STACK OF THE BEST PANCAKES. It’s a great way to start the day. Great food in a relaxed atmosphere.

Okay.  Go to New York City.  I will not ask you to bring me a hot pastrami sandwich, I won’t even ask you to bring me some of that heavenly polenta.  I will, however, ask that you try one or both of these fine establishments and get back to me on how much you loved them. Go!


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