Tag Archives: pasta

Flour + Water: divine pasta in rustic romance

flour

FINALLY I made it to Flour + Water, and FINALLY I know what people mean when they say this place produces THE best pasta in the city. For fear of being turned down without a reservation, my sister Justyn and I waited patiently outside the door 15 minutes prior to the the 5:30pm opening time along with the other dedicated pasta-lovers, and were able to snag a prime table near the bar. We followed a tip from one of our friends to request bread, and thank the lord that we did because I shoveled each piece into my mouth like candy – the center was warm and soft, almost sticky-chewy  surrounded by a sturdy, crusty edge that made a lovely crackling sound with each bite, indicating its perfection. And despite loading on that, we made our way to carbo-coma, starting with the special: trenette (a long, fettucine-like noodle with a ribbon-ridge on each side) with a slow-roasted veal ragu, and moving onto the funghi pizza with hen of the woods mushrooms and fontina. Not only was our pasta melt-in-your-mouth delicious, but also every stuffed and long-noodle pasta that went by me looked incredible. My food envy was raging – especially over the teleme-stuffed scarpinocc that looked like little white angels on a plate. We also finished every last crumb of the pizza, whose salty charred crust and generous toppings did not go unnoticed, but next time I’d just focus on the pasta – there’s too many good ones to say no to.

mushroom pizza

mushroom pizza

Pasta with veal

Pasta with veal

look at that beautiful stuffed pasta!

look at that beautiful stuffed pasta!

To top off the influx of dense flour-full food, we finished with the most dense and chocolatey budino that was covered in fleur de sel (to my liking) and a coffee creme. The portion size was huge, so naturally, I left the restaurant feeling like I had enough food to last me for a week. Based on my meal and the food I saw others enjoying, Flour + Water has become one of my top recommendations for those dining in SF looking for a casual but memorable meal. It’s perfect for a date or a smaller group, especially if you come without a reservation (of which they offer very few).

chocolate budino

chocolate budino

 

Grade: A+
Location: 2401 Harrison Street @ 20th Street
Website

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Lafayette: neck and neck with Balthazar as my favorite brasserie

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Balthazar is one of the few restaurants that has remained one of my favorites since since moving to New York 5 years ago (I still can’t get over how long it’s been). I love it for the atmosphere – the hastiness of the waitstaff zooming by, the energy of the people in the room, the wide brasserie style seating, and I go back each time of course for the food and drink – the amazing bread and butter, the simple salads, the hot fudge covered profiteroles, and the shockingly strong French 75’s get me every time. Everything about this place screams New York brasserie, which Keith McNally seems to do so well.

Never did I ever imagine that a newcomer could one up such a longstanding New York staple, but after my epic experience at beautiful Lafayette last Tuesday, I think Balthazar may need to up its game to remain the king of the brasserie crop. Lafayette, which took over the massive Chinatown Brasserie space, is a beautifully spacious, well-lit and enchanting French brasserie that transports you from New York city to a fantasy land (think Great Gatsby) where there’s not a care in the world. I walked in and gasped – a delectable boulangerie with mounds of pastries welcomes you at the entrance, and with staircases and side-by-side booths to optimize the space, there really doesn’t seem to be a bad table in the house. And just like Balthazar, there’s this inescapable and addictive vibrancy – everyone is more alive than ever: happy, hungry and actively people watching.

lafayette bakery

grandiose bakery upfront

Service was humble and spot on. After a few slices of the rustic sourdough bread with salted butter and a delicious glass of champagne (cremant de Bourgogne), we were served Eggs Lafayette, essentially two stuffed hard boiled eggs with sable fish and trout caviar. Absolutely heaven on earth, and pretty much the best, most unique rendition of deviled eggs I’ve ever had. Next was the Pate Maison, which came with brown ceramic jars of unlimited cornichons (great touch) and brown mustard and grilled rustic bread. This paired well with the massive, lightly dressed butter lettuce salad with roquefort and country ham. RARELY am I impressed by a salad, but this was so fresh, light and stunning with the creamy blue cheese. I was dying for a pasta, but in an effort to eat lightly I went for the steamed trout, served with an utterly flavorful bean and tomato “mush” that I couldn’t get enough of.

Dessert was insane too. Hot fried beignets with chocolate mousse fulfilled my craving for something classic, and the Sweet Cheese Cremant with blueberry sorbet proved that there’s more than just traditional dishes at this place. By the end of the meal, I was reluctant to leave our cozy booth for two, but I have every intention of coming back next week for a bowl of the gorgeous black fettuccine that was served to my neighbor.

pate maison (photo from seriouseats)

pate maison (photo from SeriousEats)

blueberry cremant (photo from SeriousEats)

blueberry cremant (photo from SeriousEats)

Compared to Balthazar, I think the standout difference of Lafayette is its slightly more elegant setting and menu (and a few more pastas) – Balthazar is just a touch more core to its rustic French brasserie roots. Either way, it’s going to be a real toss up the next time I’m in the mood for French food.

Grade: A+
Location: 380 Lafayette Street at the corner of Great Jones and Lafayette
Website:

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Filed under Brunch, Business Meal, Erin's Favorites, French, Fun Group Dinner, New American, Noho

Morandi: the consummate bustling brasserie-style Italian meal

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Keith McNally has his formula down right. No matter what the cuisine, his restaurants are jam-packed, lively, loud, wide open and all operated like well-oiled machines. His reservation line is centralized, his hosts are professionals at gauging wait times, and menus, drinks, bread baskets, and food comes out like clockwork. If you’re working here, there’s no room for friendly chit chat. It’s “here are the specials, I’ll be back, okay what would you like, is everything okay, here are the dessert menus, would you like anything else, here is the check,” and “thank you for dining with us.”

So, it may not be the most personal or intimate experience – his places are not for the volume sensitive – but damn his food is always straight forward and spot on. Last night at Morandi, after copious amounts of bread and olive oil, I enjoyed every (over-priced) dish that I tasted. The crispy fried artichokes, mozzarella with speck and figs, apple fennel salad with sheep’s milk cheese, broccoli rabe bruschetta, fettucine with shrimp, kale and squash, apple crepes with ice cream and the cookie plate were all hits. The standout however, was something sent out by the chef – hot, utterly crisp wedges of fried polenta with a ceramic dish of baccala covered in black truffles. Now, baccala never sounds good to me – salt cod mushed together with oil and a few other things – but this had huge flakes of fish and tasted like heaven atop the sensually smooth triangles of polenta. Buttery, salty, divine.

inside view (from Timeout NY)

inside view (from Timeout NY)

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fried artichokes

perfectly soft mozzarella with figues and speck

perfectly soft mozzarella with figues and speck

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bruscetta, salad, and wine in a basket (my favorite)

broccoli rabe close up

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decadent fried polenta with chunky baccala and truffles
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fettuccine – slightly overcooked noodles but subtly buttery and delicious

apple crepes with mascarpone ice cream

apple crepes with mascarpone ice cream

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absolutely unnecessary cookie plate, but dainty and tasty nonetheless

Prices are high for an Italian restaurant ($30+ entrees), but come for the energy, the unquestionably solid food, the variety, and the feeling of being alive (unless you ate as much as I did and have to hail a cab for a 3 block walk).

Grade: A
Location: 211 Waverly Place
Website

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Filed under Drinks & Apps, Fun Group Dinner, Italian, West Village

The Marrow: Herold’s take on elevated Eastern European

marrow

For some reason I’m turned off by words like “bratwurst” and “pickled herring” when I’m perusing a menu. It’s not that I don’t love German food (though never in my life will I eat herring again), I’m just a sucker for the standard mozzarella or crostini options that make my eyes light up when I find them. Fortunately, Herold Dieterle’s new restaurant in the West Village does a great job of marrying the best of both worlds – a little pasta or vitello tonato here, a little cold sausage and pretzel dumpling soup there. In fact, the menu is so diverse that some might interpret it as a restaurant identity crisis.  But if it’s ever difficult to understand the dominant cuisine of a place, just analyze the bread, and here, mini pretzel rolls with mustard make it clear that while there are a number of italian touches, German food reigns supreme.

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pretzel roll – could have been slightly softer.

Marrow 75

Marrow 75 (photo from SeriousEats)

For such a new restaurant, the service was noticeably remarkable throughout – I couldn’t believe I was permitted to sit at the table before my boyfriend arrived and that I was able to taste so many wines before selecting.  I started out by sipping a stiff Marrow 75 cocktail with gin, sage, lemon, and sparkling wine, and was soon tipsy enough to order with absolutely no inhibitions – meaning, we got a lot of food. We started with an amazingly fresh, lightly acidic dungeness crab salad, baccala gnudi with pine nuts and raisins, and a skillet braised cuttlefish with guanciale and white wine. The refreshing crab salad balanced out the hearty buttery-ness of the cuttle fish and gnudi, but all three dishes were beautifully plated and well-seasoned. The soft, melt in your moth fish-ricotta dumplings were my favorite – and while I generally don’t like fruit in my savory food, the plump sweet raisins totally complemented the subtle seafood flavors in the dish.

Then came round 2. The stone bass “vitello tonato” was beautifully cooked – tender white fish, crisp white skin, and a luscious veal-tuna sauce on the base of the plate. We also made an adventurous choice of the $30 roasted hen of the woods mushrooms, which essentially looked like a massive shrub with a bounty of other vegetables, but tasted as good as a mass of hearty, crispy and juicy mushroom could. I think if I ate the entire thing I would have exploded – who knew mushrooms could be so rich? The cotechino with lentils
was meaty, salty and dense – an interesting take on sausage and lentils but apparently an italian tradition. We ended the meal with a decadent portion of chocolate budino, which was served with whipped mascarpone cream and a salty hazelnut brittle that I took it upon myself to use as a spoon.

baccala gnudi

baccala gnudi

cuttlefish

cuttlefish

cotechino - photo from SeriousEats

cotechino – photo from SeriousEats

The food had a few things in common: all very savory and flavorful (only 1 or 2 of the dishes were a tad too salty), never before seen (in my life time), and all very delicious. But while food is generally why we go out to restaurants, ambience is a huge factor in my love for a place as well. The space here fits the food – daring wall paper, bold colors, warm lighting – but let’s just say I wouldn’t be happy to be seated in the long narrow expanse that leads to the bathroom. Unfortunately the massive windows look onto a deserted street and add a coldness to an otherwise charming, intimate space. Either way, the food is enough to bring me back, but it’s easy to rack up a bill here so it’ll likely be for a special occasion.

Grade: A-
Location: 99 Bank Street @ Greenwich Street
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Filed under Business Meal, Drinks & Apps, German, Italian, West Village

Kitchen Adventures: Pre Thanksgiving Grub

In light of the biggest food (and absolute best) holiday of the year, I feel compelled to report on the wonderful pre-Thanksgiving, stomach-expansion carb and wine fest I took part in last evening. This year, I decided to take a breather from my bi-weekly cross-country flights and spend Turkey Day with Sonia at her beautiful beach side home in Black Point, CT. And I wouldn’t just spend it with any of my “families away from family” – Sonia’s family just happens to have some of the best home chefs around, and the entire clan loves to feast as much as I do. So, thousands of miles away from my west-coast parents in beautiful Black Point, Connecticut, I feel right at my food-loving home.

After arriving from Grand Central yesterday afternoon, stopping by a local cheese shop, settling in and sipping chugging wine, Sonia’s brother Austin whipped up a fresh pasta of charcoal-grilled kale, leeks, and asparagus for dinner. By 8:30pm we were stuffed to the brim with pasta, warm asiago focaccia, and the pumpkin chocolate chip cookies I had transported from my Manhattan Kitchen. The cookies were a hit, but that didn’t stop Austin from slathering them with sweet cream butter to give them that extra “za-za-zoom.”

gearing up for the big day

the usual activity of…waiting for dinner time

Editor in Action

sunset at Old Black Point

Chef Austin (Sonia’s bro) tossing pasta

pre-sauce

Final product: farfalle with barbecued leeks, asparagus and kale

butter slathered cookie

I woke up with my usual “I ate too much” stomach and “what was I thinking the night before Thanksgiving” feeling, but after a morning seaside run and a coffee, I am ready to conquer another day of feasting. Obviously. Stuffing and sweet potato cheesecake, here I come!!

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Hearth: high priced, elevated comfort food

I had a whirlwind work week in San Francisco but the second I landed, I shot over to just-opened, paper-covered-windowed Jeepney for an apaerol and guava cocktail before joining my friends Michelle and Ashley on one of Ashley’s “last weeks in NYC food tour” meals across the street at Hearth. Though everyone in passing boasts about the food here,  I can’t say much about their marketing – the website needs a serious cosmetic uplift (cheesy images – see below, confused theme description, and even the font of the name bothers me), and I don’t recall reading much about it in my daily publications. Still, after hearing stories of their decadent pastas, I was super excited to have a relaxed Friday night over a good meal with friends.

After getting a 15 minute rundown on cider from our overly eager and frantic waitress (definitely a starving stage actress), we placed our order and downed a shot of delicious, body-warming roasted vegetable puree, compliments of the chef. We then launched into the lettuces and vegetables salad with an assortment of cucumbers, tomatoes, roasted carrots, beets and a crunchy, nutritious puffed quinoa, and the smoked Spanish mackerel with grilled radicchio and golden raisins. The salad perfectly combined interesting and simple with local ingredients and multiple textures. The fish itself was earthy, smokey and perfectly soft; I only wish the chef had preserved the bitterness and bite that I traditionally love about radicchio.

“lettuces and vegetables”

smoked spanish mackeral

For our mains, we unanimously agreed on the Spatchcock Roasted Poulet Rouge Chicken and the Veal and Ricotta Meatballs with spinach cannelloni. Apparently, “poulet rouge” is an older breed, free-range bird that is commonly known for its flavorful meatThe chicken was indeed flavorful, juicy, well seasoned, and simple – just as a roast chicken should be, though I always prefer the skin a little crispier. The mini-saucepan of hot, creamy polenta was really what caught my attention. The main character of the pasta dish didn’t wow me either – the meatballs, though large, were too dense and overly salted, but I loved the beautiful pasta-wrapped spinach on the side.

meatballs & chicken

Our chocolate peanut butter sundae unfortunately was the most disappointing. What seemed like a dream come true turned out to be a melted mess of what was pitched as ice cream but turned out to be chocolate pudding (I swear it) with a small dollop of peanut butter nestled at the bottom. This type of dessert has the potential to be incredible – chefs should not mess with the simplicity of  a delicious ice cream sundae – but our waitress was nice enough to take it off the bill after we expressed our confusion. Apple sauce donuts were none other than delicious, so that helped make up for it.

apple sauce donuts

peanut butter sundae

I love the atmosphere of Hearth. Everything about it screams Fall: the amber lighting, the brick and red walls, the candles, the open kitchen, the long cider menu, even the name . But when reviewing the dishes, despite the focus on local, high-quality ingredients, I just can’t ignore the prices that are over the top for the area – it would probably soar as a restaurant in midtown. Pastas are north of $29 and our chicken, the same sized portion as the “poulet rouge” roast chicken at Barbuto, was $60 – tough to stomach when $15 pastas at Lil Frankies are just down the street.  Price aside, Hearth is a great place for a date with well thought out yet approachable, comforting food – just make sure you’re with someone who’s paying or who’s worth spending a few extra dollars.

Grade: B+
Location: 403 East 12th @ 1st Ave
Website

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Filed under American, East Village, Family Style, Romantic Date, Special Occasion

Lupa

inside*

I love Lupa not because it’s a baby of Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich, but because it meets many of my quick-hit top priorities for a last minute restaurant choice: walk-in friendly, central down-town location (Greenwich Village), cozy, plentiful bar seating, a full bar, and a wide variety of traditional, simple Roman trattoria food. Last week, after a long flight home and a quick stop at my friend Sara’s house-warming / birthday (also serving Italian food, but from Gigino, the epitome of traditional (think Mafia) New York Italian food), I sat at the bar for a lovely date with New York City. In perfect viewing perspective of  the diverse cluster of pasta-eaters – either alone at the bar, across their lover, or in a big group at the communal table,  I realized Lupa is the perfect place to sit and dwell on three things I love about this city – food, people watching and anonymity.

After a glass of wine my stomach turns into a vacuum and I can consume pretty much anything in sight. The painfully-full feeling was worth it though – the tangy farro and wild mushroom salad, the charred mackeral with grapefruit, the bucatini all’Amatriciana, and the spaghetti alla carbonara all brought me back to the rustic plates of food I devoured for a month in Italy so long ago. But the biggest standout for me, as it usually is, was dessert. The Lupa Tartufo isn’t just any old Italian tartufo. It’s a huge heap of ice cream contained in a thick, hard, bittersweet chocolate shell on a bed of warm melted chocolate, which makes a traditionally boring dessert incredibly beautiful and decadent. The salted caramel ice cream was to die for as well.

carbonara*

Amatriciana*

Tartufo

Lupa. Total classic. Casual, unpretentious, tres New York Italian (launched circa 1999). Love it!

Grade: A
Location: 170 Thompson Street off of East Houston
Website
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photos from NYTimes

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Filed under Erin's Favorites, Fun Group Dinner, Greenwich Village, Italian, Parents in Town, West Village

Rosemary’s

I walked into Rosemary’s in disbelief of its size, grandeur, and beauty. Considering the tiny, awkwardly-shaped restaurants in the village and the hideous Party Store it replaced, the restaurant’s aesthetic is seriously astounding. Everything from the hanging lights, the rooftop garden, the spacious dining room, huge windows, and the light wooden furniture is beautiful. I would be so proud to call this restaurant my own, but an inside source tells me it was an incredibly expensive investment. I can see why. Fortunately, after having a wonderful italian meal in a setting that brought me back to Napa, I truly think this place is going to kill it. Brunches will no doubt incur the long waits seen around dinner.

Because I went with my bf who seems to have had a working relationship with everyone in the industry, we were given a great corner table and were totally overfed. Definitely no complaints here! One of the coolest things about the menu is the wine list – all glasses are $10, and all bottles are $40. How simple? While this leads me to believe that probably at least 80% of the wines retail at far less than $40 to help their profit margin, I welcome the minimized distractions while making my wine choice. Rosemary’s classifies itself as a wine bar, but its menu shows that “wine bar” is by far an underestimate. Yes, the food is priced affordably just like a wine bar, but the selection, which includes meats, cheeses, pastas, focaccia and mains, is much more varied. I got overly excited after seeing the list of homemade focaccia and house mozzarella, my absolute favorite thing in the world. We ordered those right away. The focaccia was soft on the inside, crispy with coarse salt on the outside, with the perfect stretch of melted cheese in the middle. I could have happily demolished this myself and forgotten about the rest.

focaccia and homemade cheese

Then came a selection of verdure, including a tangy eggplant caponata, raw zucchini, and an over-salted cauliflower. The octopus panelle was the most original thing we tried – very thinly sliced salami-style octopus with a pickled vegetable (forgetting which one because at this point I had chugged my prosecco considering the 95 degree weather). For our main, we were served two simple pastas: a lemon linguine and a cavatelli with ricotta and sweat peas. Though I much prefer long pasta to cavatelli, the lemon linguine was a little too reminiscent to lemon meringue pie for my taste. The cavatelli, however, was perfect – dense, creamy, and brightened with fresh summer peas. Absolutely delicious!

cavatelli

The food was great, with some misses due to over-seasoning. But to be honest, even if the food had been horrible, I’d give it a second chance purely because of this places undeniable beauty. It is the quintessential, naturally lit summer spot that will cozy up perfectly in the winter. Good thing it’s only steps from my apartment!

Grade: A
Location: 18 Greenwich Ave 
Website: not yet listed

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Filed under Affordable Date, Italian, West Village

Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria

*picture from NY Times

Today my friend Ashley (formerly introduced and pictured in Alta post) and I went on a mission to eat at Ippudo, something I’ve been trying to do since the day I moved to New York. But when she and her boyfriend called me to announce the 2.5 hour wait for a table, we all knew that today was not our day for ramen. We wandered the neighborhood, and after seeing a crowd outside of Peels and Five Points, we decided to sit at the wooden high top tables inside Il Buco Alimentari, an italian eatery that recently earned a NY Times’ three star review.

I was of course thrilled to have an opportunity to eat somewhere new and on my list, but I have to admit pasta and panini are not my meal of choice after a night of a few too many cocktails. But once we sat down and were served a bountiful basket of the soft, chewy, perfectly tearable housemade italian bread, I was sold.

Despite sighting Tara Reid in a blue trucker hat alternating between smoking a cigarette and kissing a boy (also in trucker hat) right outside our table, we were able to focus on the array of meats, bread, cheeses, and baked sweets at the counter to prevent us from losing our appetites. We started with the fresh ricotta, beautifully prepared with pea-green fava beans, fresh oil, oregano, black pepper, and anchovies, as well as the crispy artichokes, which looked like one luscious bouquet of green roses. With the soft bread, these two appetizers could have been the perfect vegetarian meal, but they only encouraged us to order more.

ricotta

amazing crispy artichokes

After seeing the fried soft shell crab sandwich special, Ash and I knew we were set to order. With layers of meaty fried crab, fresh greens and basil aioli between a soft italian hoagie, the sandwich was fit for a king. We also couldn’t resist the grilled sausage with lentils the zuppa with kale, farro, and chickpeas – both which were intensely flavorful and again, wonderful complements to the incredible bread.

crab sandwich

zuppa

sausage with lentils

Typically if I am impressed with my meal, I can’t resist seeing what’s in store for dessert. Glancing at a dessert menu like Il Buco’s, I knew there was no turning back. We shared the polenta orange cake with amaretto gelato and the chocolate budino with espresso mousse, whipped cream, and a crispy chocolate wafer. Both were to die for but I couldn’t keep my spoon out of the pudding, which was light but intensely chocolatey and subtly sweet.

best part as always

Considering the casual setting, friendly service, and minimal wait time, I can’t imagine that I won’t return here this month. The food is straight forward and simple but perfectly executed. And next time, I’ll try the pasta.

Grade: A+
Location: 53 Great Jones between Lafayette and Bowery
Website:
http://www.ilbucovineria.com

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Filed under Brunch, Erin's Favorites, Fun Group Dinner, Italian, Nolita

Lupa

I never thought I’d say this, but I was severely disappointed by Mario Batali’s food last night at Lupa. Considering the constant wait times at this place, and my love for Eataly, Babbo, and Otto, I was expecting to be wowed by the delicious-sounding homemade pastas and fish. Sadly, despite the warm and rustic ambiance, the food was not very soothing to the soul – in fact, I could hardly eat my entree of steamed red snapper. It was tough, dry, and the flavors of the peppers and potato just weren’t pleasant. Lauren’s bucatini amatriciana required a ton of pecorino to bring out the flavors, despite looking delicious. And in addition to being dull, it was served to us warm. The best part of the meal was by far the prosciutto and the special of farro risotto with butternut squash. I wanted to love the ricotta with honey, but considering it was served with three measly slices of stale white bread, it was hardly pleasant. Still, for being such a longstanding, highly acclaimed italian restaurant, I was really surprised by the mediocrity of everything I tasted.

Amatriciana

Sadly, I don’t think I’ll ever return to Lupa considering Bar Pitti and L’Artusi are much better options in the area. But Mario, don’t worry. I still love you.

Grade: C+

Location: 170 Thompson Street

Website: http://www.luparestaurant.com

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