How much do you love Da Silvano? A lot? Really, really a lot? If so, you're in luck, because the enterprising restauranteur Silvano Marchetto has effectively colonized Sixth Avenue between Houston and Bleecker: first Da Silvano, then Da Silvano Bistecca, and now Scuderia.

Sure, officially, Scuderia is the brainchild of his daughter, Leyla Marchetto, who was once a fashion publicist--the perfect qualification for running a restaurant, since you know how those fashion people love to chow down. We don't know Marchetto junior by sight, but Silvano was definitely in the house, looking befuddled.

"I looked around, and I didn't see anyone I knew," he said, to someone he eventually realized he knew. He was even wearing the infamous $895 custom-designed Scuderia sneakers, which was molto Silvano of him.

It may be to early to tell how the food will shape up--at this point it's different on different nights. On the first night we went, everything was underseasoned--undersalted or underdressed, like this otherwise appealing-looking insalata di rucola, with baby rucola, tomatoes and shaved parmesan. The next time we tried it, it weighed in at "fine." The same goes for the beet salad, below, which was disappointing because it looked delicious. When we returned another night, someone seemed to have rediscovered the salt shaker.

One must-order on any snacky Italian menu is usually the arancini (fried rice balls). Scuderia's are served with a very tasty traditional ragu, in which meat is cooked slowly in tomatoes, then removed from the final sauce before serving. But--horror of horrors--the balls themselves were made of brown rice! This is highly unorthodox, and not in a good way. Please, please, do not let the insidious creep of brown rice into rice balls be the legacy of fashion affecting food. (For proper arancini that will rock your world, go to Manganaro's.)

The polpette, meatballs with fresh tomato, fared better, since there was nothing unorthodox about them, just a crunchy exterior, mildly seasoned interior, and a nice sauce. And the specials are usually good, like a bruschetta with tomatoes and olives.

On both nights, at this interlude between courses, we looked up and noticed that the entire room was full of women. The ratio of women to men was at least 3 to 1, and most of the men there had been dragged by women, cavewoman-style. "It's like a chick factory," J.Marciano quipped. "I'm suddenly getting my period...and so is everyone else in the room."

It was hard to have this conversation sotto voce, however, since you had to scream to make yourself heard. (J.Marciano actually lost her voice after dining here.) I've been in German beer halls that were quieter than Scuderia, and that's with an oompah band.

At least we were distracted by the food. Pizza is supposed to be the star player here, and expectations were running high because of the ecstatic ravings of commenters who attended sneak preview dinners. On the nights we went, the pizza ranked as good but not spectacular. Where was the crispy, thin, slightly charred crust we had dreamed of? Not to get all Gael Greene on you, but the ideal slice of pizza should stand up in your hand, not get all limp and floppy.

Scuderia deserves points for putting an egg on the yummy occhio di bue (eye of the ox) pizza, above, along with spinach, pancetta, and pecorino, but there was little crunch to the crust. The bianca al pesto, right, was quite good, however, somehow crispier and made with an addictive pesto dotted amid the ricotta.

(Side note: a surprisingly excellent pizza was discovered at the relatively touristy joint Three of Cups in the E.Vill--the Sicilia, with mozzarella, tomato and "a hint of anchovy"--look at the char below!)

Back to Scuderia, where they can make a mean fish sauce, as evidenced in the seafood stew and the squid ink pasta with seafood. Both had a fresh, intense seafood flavor that made us crave summer.

Raffetto's Pepper Pappardelle, served with a beef cheek ragu, was underwhelming. As at Da Silvano across the street, the actual beef trumped the pasta: the skirt steak was a better way to go.

If you get nothing else here, get the dessert pizza with Nutella and mascarpone--it's insane. Sure, it already exists in alternate form at Gemma, but this one isn't folded into an overwhelming calzone of oozing Nutella. It has just the right chocolate-to-bread ratio, and the slightly sour mascarpone cuts the sweetness nicely.

The prices are a lot gentler than Da Silvano--with wine, and they have several nice ones by the glass, the tab at Scuderia came to about $60 per person. The staff is great--fast and attentive. We loved our waitress Sorida.

So who's the market here, other than an overwhelming majority of women? Scuderia is more of a challenge to Bar Pitti than Da Silvano proper. The old people (read: over 40) and celebrities who frequent Da Silvano will probably have no patience for Scuderia--at least at nighttime. Why? At Da Silvano, food is obviously beside the point, but if I know old people--and I do, from personal experience--they like to hear themselves talk. Also, the intimate upstairs area at Scuderia, supposedly for celebs, can feel more Siberia than special, if Siberia were a deafeningly loud expanse of white tundra.

But there's one crucial factor here, as at Da Silvano: summer sidewalk seating. Will Scuderia have it? Because a bianca al pesto eaten al fresco would be a very nice thing indeed.

10 Downing Street, entrance on Sixth Avenue
New York, NY


Minetta Tavern

Finally! Minetta Tavern is open. Yes, that one, the place that's been around for 72 years.

Amid all the buzz about Keith McNally's new venture, there was always one thing that wasn't clear. Why had he chosen this crusty old place as the next incarnation of McNallyism? If you've lived in New York long enough, you know the Minetta Tavern because you've walked by it--often solely for the purpose of getting away, fast. Once the intersection of cool and the setting for Serpico, MacDougal Street and Minetta Lane is now only the home of Cafe Wha? (and the underrated Bellavitae) and has gotten as touristy as it once was cool.

Of course, there are exceptions. 124 Rabbit Club opened up across the street, and before that, underground jazz den Bar Next Door. So maybe the writing was on the wall.

But as soon as you walk into Minetta Tavern, the answer is apparent. There's an old school bar, murals and caricatures on the wall, the decor harkens back to an earlier age of the Village, and gorgeous Ralph Fiennes is sitting across from you. Is Minetta Tavern McNally's answer to the Waverly Inn? Certainly McNally had an unlikely rival in Graydon Carter, who never so much as dabbled in restaurants before, then came in to gather up the celebs in one fell swoop.

If Minetta Tavern is the next chapter, McNally has come up on top. He's wisely gotten away from Italian and back to his bistro roots, installing Riad Nasr of Balthazaar in the kitchen. The Pat LaFrieda burger (called the "Black Label Burger" on the menu) that has inspired so much worship appears here, and, as steak meat ground into burger form, it's exactly right for the times. If we like to have our steak and eat it to, this is it - and yes, it's all it's cracked up to be.

The Dodd cocktail - a tasty mix of bourbon and absinthe. Also - the wines. There's a great $9 Malbec that goes perfectly with the Black Label burger.

Mesclun salad with goat cheese.

This was quite tasty - and owed something to Jodi Williams, I thought. Stuffed calamari with salt cod, like a brandade. Delicious sauce and olives, too.

Comfort food alert: the Pommes Aligot.

The Minetta Burger - pretty darn good for a regular old cheeseburger.

Choux Farcis - stuffed cabbage.

The supposed Holy Grail of burgers, the Pat LaFrieda patty, was excellent. Really more like a ground steak than a burger, but we're not complaining. For God's sake, don't you dare put ketchup on it.

The back dining room, definitely a little more chill and quiet than the front.

The bustling front room. It's really hard to get in - literally - because of the log jam at the door. But the front of the house staff is very quick.

Caricatures on the wall.

Beautiful old bar (totally packed). There are lots of interesting little details like the mural of boxers (?) on top.

Looks quiet outside but wait until you get inside.

Old meets new? Minetta Tavern and Cafe Wha, two Village standbys.

Minetta Tavern
113 MacDougal Street, at Minetta Lane
New York, NY


The John Dory

The problem with seafood is that it's become another word for "diet." Just as diners have their "diet plate" section with the cottage cheese and fruit plate, nearly every restaurant now offsets decadent meat dishes with an obligatory light seafood dish. The ploy is so obvious that they might as well have an asterisk after these neglected fish entrees - "for the ladies!" And because a plain fillet of fish can't put up much of a fight against meatballs or pork belly, most non-dieters have been ignoring fish altogether.

Well, no longer. There's nothing remotely "diet" about the seafood at The John Dory. Chef April Bloomfield of the Spotted Pig has found the fat in fish, or when it's not there, added it in the form of butter aplenty. How unladylike! But if her goal is to bring hearty, pub-style seafood to New York, she has certainly exceeded it. The most exciting fish dish I remember eating in London would be the excellent fish and chips at Geales in Notting Hill.

The whole aesthetic of the place is very appealing: old school nautical, like a seaside restaurant you'd stumble upon in a tiny resort town. What makes it citified is the obvious expense that went into it, plus lots of visual puns like the lures "swimming" in the resin countertop of the bar, and the lighted tank of real fish doomed to watch their brethren being consumed - which may be why it's also the site of an infamous eel suicide incident.

The most difficult thing about the menu is deciding what to order, since there are so many appealing things on it. Marie Fromage and I started from square one, a mix of East and West Coast oysters, which were fresh, clean, alternately salty and sweet, and accompanied by an interesting mignonette made of peppers instead of the usual shallots.

If there were one dish that summed up the direction of the food, it would be the fantastic oyster pan roast with sea urchin butter crostini. First you have excellent quality ingredients - huge, plump oysters, salty-fatty sea urchin, and fabulous butter - then you have the technique. The oysters are submerged in a buttery sauce with a slight vinegar/lemon edge to cut it, like a hollandaise laced with fresh tarragon. It gives another meaning to "slow food" - the only way to eat it is slowly.

For the seafood equivalent of foie gras, look no further than this monkfish liver dish. This was seriously decadent and should only be attempted by true liver fans.

Of course we had to spring for the signature dish, the John Dory. The only problem is, you have to choose whether you want them to filet this fish for you ahead of time or if you want to do it yourself. This presented a sort of quandary, since I actually like to see (and photograph) the whole fish before I eat it. The alternative is rather disappointing, like carving a Thanksgiving turkey in the kitchen instead of at the table. And perhaps because the majority of the seating is at the bar, they don't offer to filet it tableside. When the waiter disappeared, leaving us with a whole fish staring back at us from the plate, I felt like a flailing "Top Chef" contestant, racking my brain for some memory of fish fileting technique.

When we did manage to hack it to pieces, it was quite good. The exterior had a wonderful char and the interior was light with an herbal perfume to it. The salsa verde was perhaps a little too acidic for the fish, but overall it was an excellent.

We visited the John Dory right after Bruni's review and were surprised he gave it two stars instead of three. The casual decor and open kitchen do seem at odds with the prices (our dinner cost $100 each including tip), but surely Bloomfield and Ken Friedman deserve points for the inventiveness mentioned in the lede. The best American seaside restaurants and London fish spots (including Geales) are also casually decorated - the prices match the fish.

The John Dory
85 10th Avenue, between 15th and 16th Streets
New York, NY
(212) 929-4948



Saw UK band Tindersticks this weekend, compliments of D., at the Brooklyn Masonic Temple in Fort Greene, which is a great place to see a show. It has the intimacy of a high school auditorium,


if your high school were cool. Lead singer Stuart Staples has a haunting, hypnotic voice and moody, Smiths-like melodies, though the multi-layered sounds of the huge band are thoroughly modern. They got two standing ovations from the crowd.

If you missed them this time around, you can hear a few of their songs on My Space.


Marc Jacobs FS09

Nowhere was the radical change in NY Fashion Week more apparent than at the Marc Jacobs show. Where last season Posh and JLo walked the red carpet hand in hand amid a crush of paparazzi, now there were just gates, strict warnings about invitations, a small group of editors and buyers going in, and one very disappointed paparazzo standing next to me. But the end result isn't that different from a (not much) earlier time before celebrities discovered fashion week, when it was actually all about the clothes.

Melissa Ventosa-Martin of T Magazine, right, in a fabulous feather (?) coat.

Anna Wintour arrived 25 minutes ahead of time, though she is even harder to photograph now that she comes with two very large bodyguards blocking the way. A result of the fact that 60 Minutes may be doing a story on her? P.S. This may be the only time that you'll ever see Anna Wintour and Ray's Pizza in the same frame.

Carine Roitfeld. She wore this coat several times during fashion weeks here and in Europe. It's a myth that the fashionably dressed "never wear the same outfit twice." In fact, it seems that when they're really in love with a piece, they'll wear it over and over. Certainly a more sensible (and economical) approach.

Cropped trousers like these will soon be everywhere for spring.

Brightly striped cardigan.

This mix of lurid colors looked quite jarring as this woman was going into the Marc Jacobs show; after it was over, however, it seemed prescient. Marc Jacobs showed a lot of loud '80s colors that injected a note of optimism for fall - photo below from Style.com.

Love the slash of bright red lips against the neutral gray of her trench.

A quirky haircut and funky blazer.

The fur flies as this woman runs to get to the show in time. Ever since the complaints about his show starting hours late a couple years back, Jacobs has been almost sadistically punctual.

An excellent menswear look.

More menswear style, this time on Roberta Myers, editor in chief of Elle.

Joe Zee in a Barbour jacket.

Her rolled up shorts fall into that "boyfriend"-anything trend. Also watch for camouflage and any army-navy-store type clothing - very recession-friendly.

A fellow photographer who looked to be a model-turned-photographer - very pretty and chic.

Love, love the dilapidated chic of this outfit. The scuffed loafers and Burberry trench look like relics of wealthier times.

It's true - bowl cuts are appearing on women. It doesn't seem like such a bad thing to try right now, but if you wait 30 seconds, it may get annoying.

Chanel bags are another totem of dilapidated chic. Since they're classic, you could have bought it years ago, or even got it from Mummy. Either way, it looks right.

A great mix of high-low with the fur jacket and jeans, plus the sparkly headband.

Glenda Bailey of Harper's Bazaar steppin' out in some hot shoes.

Kate Lanphear of Elle joking around with some guy friends. She was captured in a similar outfit by TopShop, which featured her in their newsletter - a fashion coup!

More colored fur.
Nina Garcia in all black.

Cecilia Dean in a striking black-and-white coat.

Meredith Melling Burke carrying a still-fab Chloe handbag.

Lynn Yaeger's mash-up vintagey style seems particularly a propos this year.

A detail shot of her amazing embellished Gucci bag - rabbits! - and knit scarf - cartoon characters!

Grace Coddington carrying a Stephen Sprouse Louis Vuitton bag.

The leopard print is great, but this model has amazing hair! Wavy-haired girls, this is your moment.

A model after the show, proudly sporting the '80s hair and makeup from the runway.

Another model in outrageous '80s hair and makeup. Where to go to show it off? Too bad Area is no longer.