Forcella Grows With Third Location

When pizza master Giulio Adriani’s fried pie made the scene last year at the first two Forcella locations in Williamsburg and the NoHo, everyone was talking about it. Now, we aren’t so obsessed with fried dough, but that doesn’t make going to Forcella any less exciting.

Now, you can get their classic Neapolitan-style pizzas in Flatiron, where they opened up shop in October. At their official opening party on Wednesday, I got to experience the pies first hand, literally, and made my own pizza.

What kind of toppings can you get? Well I choose ricotta, pepperoni, black olive, and mozzarella. My companion proved more adventurous with his fig, spinach, and sausage pie. Of course, you can go for one of the menu options including the Salame Piccante with spicy salami, mozzarella, and basil; the Fuorigrotta with burrata, lemon, and arugula; or the Posillipo with butternut squash cream, smoked mozzarella, and speck.

But, if you like the idea of making your own pie, you won’t be able to step back with Adriani, but you can choose any toppings your want.

Korean Food With a Vintage Twist

At the second anniversary party at Mono + Mono, a Korean eatery in the East Village, owner M.J. Chung unveiled yet another old school twist to his restaurant—View-Masters.

If you are over the age of 30 you may remember the View-Master, which first hit the market in 1939, from your childhood. If not, well, it’s a handheld box that you put round, film-like disks with pictures on them inside.  For some, you hold them up to the light to see the images. Others, like the one Chung has procured, uses battery power to illuminate the seven 3D images of special dishes and drinks, like their twice-fried wings, spicy Lady’s Night cocktail, and soju flights.

For the 40-year-old Chung, who looks more like a 22-year-old, his goal is to take what is old and make it new again. He likes the nostalgia that the device brings, and he personally remembers the View-Master from his childhood in Korea. 

Today, only three companies make the film for the View-Master and it’s not cheap. Neither are the actual vintage machines, but, for Chung, it’s all about authenticity. Mono + Mono also boasts a collection of thousands of jazz records, which line the walls of Mono + Mono behind glass. Each evening, the music selected circles the main dining room overhead as guests eat.

Though using the View-Master to showcase menu items while listening to Glen Miller and downing a plate of sticky, crunchy wings walks the fine line of cheesy, the whole concept actually proved pretty neat. You can see for yourself starting December 1.

Gabe Thompson Moves East With L’Apicio

At the end of last week, chef and owner Gabe Thompson opened the doors to the long anticipated L’Apicio in the East Village. Like the other mini-chain of New York restaurants that Thompson co-owns with drink master Joe Campanale, this one has an Italian bent to the menu and a rustic vibe. Yet, it remains a separate entity from its sister eateries.

L’Apicio is the first restaurant we were able to build completely by ourselves, and I was able to design my kitchen, which is exciting for me,” said Thompson. “It is different from the other ventures purely in the fact that it is bigger, and on the Eastside, but we still feel it incorporates elements of dell’anima, L’Artusi, and Anfora that have made us the family we are.”

At L’Apicio, expect to find the family-style Polenta Alla Spianatora, which comes with an array of toppings including braised oxtail, broccoli rabe, and sausage with peppers. They also feature the Brussels sprout-laced Orecchiette Integrale with fontina and potatoes, a classic Bucatini Amatriciana, and their Mezzalune comes stuffed with cauliflower and capers Also on the menu is the award winning pork meatballs and a whole slew of desserts by pastry chef Katherine Thompson, which also includes a couple vegan options. 

But that’s not all, Thompson said another aspect to look forward to are the drinks. “Joe has thrown together an awesome beer, cocktail and wine list to augment the food,” the chef said, adding that overall, they are, “all pumped about the space, food, and L’Apicio team.”  Based on their other ventures, we are too.

New York Opening: Bait & Hook

Just as the name suggests, once you’re baited to this groovy new East Village seafood spot, you’ll be hooked. Div Patel’s cleverly-named Bait & Hook goes for  shellfish-heavy culinary comfort, with lobster mac & cheese, crab chorizo corn pizza, and their signature jalapeno-spiked scallop roll.

Hefty burgers sate those not inclined toward treasures of the sea. Reasonably priced craft beers wash it all down. The real genius is that this Cape Cod and seafaring-inspired restaurant site right on the frenetic corner of 14th Street and Second Avenue, making it a beachy retreat amid this concrete jungle.

Bring on the Meat: New Places to Pig Out

In the last month, it’s been a sausage fest in New York, and the latest joint to make the scene is San Francisco transplant Rosamunde in Williamsburg. This rustic shop just opened a week ago on the bustling Bedford Avenue, and already it’s become a hot spot. Maybe this is due to Rosamunde’s laidback staff and lack of hipster bartenders. Maybe they are stoned (they’re from California!). Or maybe the meat is so good that everyone is just high off of sausage. I like this option the best, but if you want to check it out for yourself, go to their official opening party on Saturday from 6 to 9 PM. There you can get sausages like the spicy pork Italian, wild boar with apple, or chicken habanero, which is smoked with tequila.

You can also fill up on sausage at the newly opened Die Koelner Bierhalle in Park Slope. This biergarten serves up some mean German fare, including a traditional bratwurst with sauerkraut, bauenwurst, currywurst, kielbasa, and the wurst of them all, wiesswurst, which comes pressed into a soft pretzel with sweet mustard. Also in the German sausage category, Radegast Hall & Biergarten has a whole griddle full of meat links, and, if you don’t know what they are, just point to what looks good. For a more high-class sausage, Daniel Boulud’s DBGB in the East Village offers excellent homemade ones.  Is there a missing link? Feel free to chime in on more great sausage spots?

Paprika Revamps Menu Northern Italian Style

For over a decade, Egidio Donagrandi has quietly run his quaint Italian restaurant Paprika in the East Village, dishing up solid provincial dishes to local fans and whoever happened to walk in. But after 12 years, Donagrandi has decided to shake things up and concentrate more foods from his homeland, Valtellina, a valley in the Lombardi region of Italy that is so North, it borders Switzerland.

“Over the past couple of years I have felt more and more connected to the simplicity of the cooking that I grew up with, and thought of Paprika’s new menu as a base for Valtellina’s cooking,” said Donagrandi. “It was recently that I decided to add dishes such as Polenta Taragna, Bresaola Carpaccio with Pickled Oyster Mushrooms, Carne Cruda, Buckwheat Lasagna, and Grilled Trout. Hence, building a menu that strongly reflects my heritage.”

The cuisine differs from your basic Italian fare with one obvious alteration—very few tomatoes. For example, the buckwheat lasagna doesn’t have a lick of the red fruit and instead, is a layered square of luscious, creamy noodles and leeks that surprisingly proves light and summer-friendly. This is probably due to the use of buckwheat, which is a staple in Valtellina. Of course as part of the menu change, Donagrandi also offers a light, tobacco-laced Nebbiolo and other vintages from the region, which has been making wine for over 2,000 years.

The change at Paprika comes at time when the Saint Marks Place seemingly has been taken over by cheap dumpling, frozen yogurt, and other college-friendly niche shops. “When we first opened you could walk down Avenue B and there was nothing but corner deli’s. In the past six or seven years, we have had some good little restaurants come in,” said Donagrandi. “This seems to be giving a different feeling to the neighborhood, which has become much more diverse in its residents and in its restaurants.”

Hence, Donagrandi’s push to showcase his heritage through the delicious new menu at Paprika. It’s a successful goal, plus, if you go in on Mondays he offers half-off bottles of wine and from 5 to 7pm on weekdays, he has an $18 prix fixe menu.

Dumps, Dives, and Holes: Manitoba’s Rocks the East Village

Iconic rock bar Manitoba’s has occupied the same two stories on Avenue B, just below Tompkins Square Park, for the past fourteen years. Handsome Dick Manitoba, roadie-turned-singer of the late seventies punk band The Dictators, opened Manitoba’s with simple intentions: a sub-culture clubhouse. Though it used to be known as the after-show hangout for the CBGB’s crowd, the bar has simmered to a nostalgic neighborhood staple, it’s still a fun place to get a drink. 

You wouldn’t know by passing its basic red and black façade, but the inside of Manitoba’s is a memorabilia goldmine. Upon entering you’re met by thousands of photographs from the past decades of every musician and star you can possibly imagine, many of them signed and taken at Manitoba’s. Blondie, The Ramones, Johnny Cash, Iggy Pop, David Bowie, Johnny Rotten—all the usual suspects are up there, plus some surprising guests. Other than the highly adorned walls, the bar floor is pretty simple. A jukebox and some round tables surrounded by stools take up the main room. Leather benches line the walls and there is a cool little nook area in the far corner to the left of the bar.

The bar has everything you’d ever need for great prices. Of course, the beer and shot deal, some funky house drinks tourists probably get, a good tap selection (Stella, Mother’s Milk, Coney Island, Blue Moon, Kilian’s, and a hard cider), and all the obvious domestics. Opening at two in the afternoon, happy hour runs until eight with $3 pints, well drinks, and import bottles.

Down a wooden staircase by the front windows is the basement game floor. The windowless red room offers all the best bar games at your disposal: air hockey, Big Buck Hunter, pinball, you name it. On the weekends this floor can become suffocatingly testosteroned, so if you’re going for the games, keep it early week. 

Manitoba’s has always been and continues to be a great bar. It works to remind an area that has been gentrified to the point of no return what it once was and why people think it’s cool. No matter what happens outside its doors, Manitoba’s stays true to its gritty punk roots, and has no plans of changing that anytime soon. 

Dumps, Dives, & Holes: Moaning and Groaning at Mona’s

Mona’s on Ave B is a great bar for depressed locals to groan about depressing local issues. The last time I was there, a dark and misty Tuesday afternoon, I slouched by a lonely guy slouching next to me who ordered a glass of red wine and a soda with no ice. Down the way, old people debated the merits of local sock vendors. A toothless guy with a small glass of whiskey was telling the bartender he "has a good feeling about things this time." Two guys, one with a top hat walking a Jack Russell, the other with a cane, stumbled in both wearing beaded Mardi Gras necklaces. They began loudly complaining about their "goddamn rich" tenants and let the dog off the leash. Mona’s does its own thing, whether you like it or not.

From the outside, it’s not much: a newer brick facade, low-key sign, the darkened windows filled with neon beer ads. You would never know how big the inside is from just walking by, but it ‘s actually quite large for Alphabet City, with two full rooms and not terribly low ceilings. Just through the door is a cool little pillow seat where you can sit at the windows and watch people mill down Ave B, which is always entertaining, especially if it’s early enough in the day or late enough at night.
The bar stretches the right side of the front room, with a nice wooden bar top and cushioned stools. Behind the liquor are mirrors and a modest amount of chalk signs with pricing info. There isn’t a lot of kitsch going on, but this is not at all that kind of place. Besides the Christmas lights that zigzag the red ceiling to the backroom’s far wall, Mona’s sticks to the general dive bar colors, those certain few that so perfectly hide grime: maroon, black, grey, brown and exposed brick. The tap selection is standard, good. Prices exist on the better side of average: Guinness, Stella etc. for $6 a pint ($2.75 a mug) down to $4 for a pint of Yuengling ($2.15 mug). Cans of PBR are $3. Liquor runs around $5, wine the same, and you can get a dark and stormy for $7.
On the exposed brick left wall, pictures of dead rockstars hang. A small drink shelf stretches back to the same safari edition of  Big Buck Hunter that seems to inhabit every dive south of Fourteenth and east of First. It separates the bar from the sprawling back area.The backroom begins narrow, then expands cubicly outward to the large back wall. The walls are lined with mismatched benches, handmade mosaic table tops tucked in the corners. Some very mediocre, semi-impressionist art sits on walls that vary between red stucco and old exposed brick. Interesting lamps hang, each different from the one before it.
The backroom at Mona’s is mainly a game area and is never totally full. The first available activity back there, one of those multi-game boxes (cannon, pool, trivia…) that were popular for a while and now can only be found in places like Double Down Saloon and Duff’s, sits just on the other side of Big Buck Hunter. In the far left corner is a secret hidden booth, and that game that frequents Chuck E. Cheese’s where you roll a weighty brown ball up a ramp and try to get it into one of the target rungs, with the center and those on the top back sides being the most points. I’ve never known what it’s called, but it’s fun, kind of.
The jukebox is pretty good, and not too expensive. With two plays for $1, five for $2, and 15 for $5, it offers bands like New York Dolls, Devo, Buzzcocks, The B-52’s, Pixies, Sonic Youth, Built to Spill, Stooges… everything you’d expect and some new hit stuff. One of my favorite things about the backroom is its large periodic windows where the outside view is incorporated into the room’s aesthetic. The window to the right of the jukebox has a big poem on the wall outside the window (kind of lame, I know. But hey, cool concept and at least they’re trying). The right wall’s window offers a much cooler view of an abandoned fire escape backlit with an eerie green light creeping from below, Christmas lights reflect.
A pool table sits in the center of the room below a super cool seventies stained glass pool light. Mona’s is a place you could actually play pool without getting hassled off the table by young pushy assholes, something that seems to happen every single time I try to play. The patrons here aren’t in a hurry, even the younger ones (who definitely don’t fall into the East Village college crowd) have come to let time pass them by, let life wash over them quietly and warmly. They’ve come to sip on a beer or cup of liquor, to listen to the problems of those left behind, those complaining hypothetical problems no matter how trivial. The people are funny or nice and they always want to talk in a refreshingly uncreepy way. If you’re bummed, go in the day. If you aren’t, go at night. Take a friend, or make some new ones. Either way, Mona’s leaves no regrets.