Tonight: Unleash Your Inner Feasting Beast At Isola Trattoria’s New “Family Meal”

Did you grow up with that Sunday family feast? Are you Italian? Did you sit through weekly screaming matches about the significance of ricotta cheese and marble entryways? Starting tonight and every Tuesday at Isola Trattoria in the Mondrian Soho hotel, you’ll be able to revisit these magical family moments in their chandelier-filled space with their new "Family Meal:" a weekly table-full of $12 rigatoni bolognese and Margherita, truffle artichoke-topped pizza, $30 carafes of wine from the village of Puglia in Italy, and $15 pitchers of Peroni. 

Bring your family, don’t bring your family. Whichever is the case, get ready to unleash your inner feasting beast at the 9pm start time. 

But do keep the screaming matches down – people are sleeping upstairs. 

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Miracolo On 34th Street: Fine Italian Comes to Macy’s

As long as you’re blowing a few hundred million on a renovation, you might as well class up your commissary. That’s the thinking at Macy’s, which is lifting the quality of life for shoppers with some serious Italian on the sixth floor. The Patina Restaurant Group (Summer Garden, La Fonda del Sol, et al) will lay out Neapolitan favorites at Stella 34 Trattoria, while Florentine gelato masters Vivoli will cover dessert.

Jonathan Benno of Lincoln Ristorante (another Patina property) has worked up a menu that leans on a trio of wood-burning ovens. There’s a Master Piazzaiolo Napoletano in the kitchen, turning out pies made with Caputo flour, San Marzano tomatoes, and water synched to natural springs in Naples. The Napoli focus carries through to the salumi starters, small-plate antipasti, and house-made pastas like the “priest strangler” (strozzapreti, named for its addictiveness, not any ecclesiastical scandal). The wine list is a hundred strong and Italian chauvinistic all the way. This being a trattoria, you’ll also find Negroni and Aperol cocktails. A “cibi ronda” does take-out, a major boon in the lunch wasteland that is Herald Square.

In this interminable winter, the hope of gelato seems more mirage than oasis, but frozen awesomeness is also coming to the same Macy’s space (both venues open next Monday, March 11th). Florence’s Vivoli Il Gelato is unveiling its first satellite location, Vivoli New York. The family business dates to 1929 and still follows the Italian way with top ingredients and an emphasis on craft. Gelati and sorbetti are made fresh daily. Old-country faves like Riso (arborio rice pudding) and Crema (cream custard) carry over, joining the likes of hazelnut and honey. Sorbets keep it pure, using only fruit, water, and sugar. The results will be more than ample reward for slogging through a One-Day Sale.

The modern interior of Stella 34, and its custom art by Robert Risko, will have plenty of competition from views of Broadway and the Empire State Building. This sixth-floor space was long relegated to storage, with windows blacked out to protect the goods. As Macy’s brings in more high-end brands, it’s fitting that they’re opening up to the glamour of the skyline, and adding fine dining. After all, a $400 million renovation should be good for something. 

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DIY Prosecco Bar, Truffle Pizza, & French Toast Sticks On Sotto 13’s New Brunch Menu

Given the choice to begin the day with French toast sticks, a truffle pizza pie, and DIY prosecco bar, would you take it? If only all decisions were this easy. Come Saturday, Feb. 16th, you can put these words into action, when acclaimed Italian spot Sotto 13 launches their new weekend brunch menu.

At Sotto, nothing is taken lightly; not the flavor, the décor, the alcohol content of the cocktails. This West Village restaurant welcomes you with its earthy green walls, atrium, creamy eggs benedict, and raspberry-white-peach-bellinis. I had the chance to preview the new brunch menu last night, and let’s just say I walked out tipsy, full, and – the morning after – still full but oddly craving their signature olive oil-salt chocolate ganache. This is so weird.

But I’m taking it in stride, because some meals are worth it. Where else can you have an all-you-can-drink $25 brunch and DIY prosecco bar? And where else can you feel nine-years-old again and dip French toast sticks into maple syrup and fresh berry compote?

So between now and the 16th, go ahead; while away this weekend’s brunch over another restaurant’s standard scrambled eggs and mimosas. But come next Saturday… it’s Sotto time.

Get the inside-info on Sotto 13, and follow Bonnie on Twitter here

Farmhouse-Chic Italian RivaBella Opens In L.A.’s WeHo

It translates roughly as "beautiful river," and while you won’t actually find any romantic waterways coursing through Los Angeles, Innovative Dining Group’s new RivaBella will at least transport you to somewhere more rustic. Ignoring the by-now-overdone trend toward more intimate dining venues, RivaBella is Italian grandiose, with 8,000-square-feet (2,800 of those being al fresco) of old world, Tuscan Farmhouse-inspired romanticism–as imagined by the award-winning Studio Collective. 

Executive chef Gino Angelini (of the eponymous Angelini Osteria on Beverly) plays to his strengths, rejecting anything over-mannered, in favor of creative takes on Italian classics. Tagliatelle allo Zafferano Con Ragu di Prosciutto and Seppiolini Con Melograno appear aside his signature Lasagne Nonna Elvira, and an extensive wine cave assures the wine-obsessed are well tended to. For those seeking a more cosseted experience, the latter can be booked for private dinners. 

The Marrow Arrives, Bringing German-Italian Fare to the West Village

Chef Harold Dieterle has done Thai at Kin Shop, and seasonal American at Perilla, and this time, he brings contemporary German and Italian flavors their latest West Village eatery, The Marrow.

“I’m really excited to cook food that ties back to my family’s heritage,” said the chef, noting that this restaurant doesn’t have any Asian influence like his other ones do.

Dieterle and his co-owner Alicia Nosenzo also mentioned they had always wanted to cater to the neighborhood since those local customers have been an important part of their business ever since opening their first shop, Perilla.

The restaurant opened up right before Christmas, and there, Dieterle dishes out skillet braised cuttlefish, pickled herring salad, brisket “braciole” with house ground polenta, and pan-fried duck schnitzel.

To drink, beverage director Jill Roberts, formally of The Harrison, has created a menu with around 400 wines, seasonal cocktails, and craft beer. All which can be downed at your table, or at the large, L-shaped granite-topped bar.

Inside, designer Glen Coben warmed the 70-person space with homey, butcher-block tables, red leather banquettes, and patterned wall coverings. Large, wrap-around windows let in plenty of light during the day, which, once they start lunch and brunch, diners can take full advantage of. Until then, you have a lovely view of Bank Street by night.

The Marrow Arrives, Bringing German-Italian Fare to the West Village

Chef Harold Dieterle has done Thai at Kin Shop, and seasonal American at Perilla, and this time, he brings contemporary German and Italian flavors their latest West Village eatery, The Marrow“I’m really excited to cook food that ties back to my family’s heritage,” said the chef, noting that this restaurant doesn’t have any Asian influence like his other ones do. Dieterle and his co-owner Alicia Nosenzo also mentioned they had always wanted to cater to the neighborhood since those local customers have been an important part of their business ever since opening their first shop, Perilla. 

The restaurant opened up right before Christmas, and there, Dieterle dishes out skillet braised cuttlefish, pickled herring salad, brisket “braciole” with house ground polenta, and pan-fried duck schnitzel. To drink, beverage director Jill Roberts, formally of The Harrison, has created a menu with around 400 wines, seasonal cocktails, and craft beer. All which can be downed at your table, or at the large, L-shaped granite-topped bar.

Inside, designer Glen Coben warmed the 70-person space with homey, butcher-block tables, red leather banquettes, and patterned wall coverings. Large, wrap-around windows let in plenty of light during the day, which, once they start lunch and brunch, diners can take full advantage of. Until then, you have a lovely view of Bank Street by night. 

Q&A With Kristin Sollenne, the Young Chef Taking Charge of Bocca Di Bacco

With only 26 years under her belt, chef Kristin Sollenne has undertaken a big job. As executive chef, she oversees all three locations of Bocca Di Bacco, including their just-opened location in Chelsea. Sollenne brings her love of healthy Italian fare to the table, as well as a bright approach to using season ingredients to whip up dishes of braised quail and polenta, port wine-poached pears, and her signature pasta dish, Cavatelli di Grano Arso. I got a hold of Sollenne to find out what she is cooking with, where she hopes to take the restaurant, and her future, which, she said, hopefully involves being on the Food Network. 

What do you hope to do at the new Bocca Di Bacco?
I hope to create a warm and intimate atmosphere where people come to experience delicious food and exclusive wines any night of the week. This is why so many customers at our Hell’s Kitchen and Theater District locations love about us, and what we are excited to bring to Chelsea.

What seasonal ingredients are you working with right now?
This is my favorite time of year! Seasonal ingredients that I’m using right now are chestnuts, artichokes, beets, winter squash, pomegranates, and Brussels sprouts.

I heard you helped your parents lose weight, any tips for keeping off the pounds during the holidays?
The holidays are definitely a time when it’s easy to indulge because we’re surrounded by friends and family and enjoying this time of year. I recommend moderating your portion sizes. Don’t deprive yourself, because that can sometimes lead to over indulgence later on. Satisfy your craving with a small taste.

How did you get on the professional cooking path?
I’ve always had a passion for healthy cooking. After helping my parents achieve their goals and set them on a healthy sustainable lifestyle, I set my eyes on the Big Apple to launch my culinary career. After working on the Upper West Side, and re-developing menus by introducing my farm-to-table philosophy, it was quickly noticed that customers were drawn towards my fresh and light Italian fare.

Did you ever think you would be an executive chef at 26-years-old?
I’m the first to say that hard work and determination go a long way. I don’t think age has anything to do with it, I just let the food speak for itself.

What chefs and/or restaurants influence you the most? 
I love Giada De Laurentis because she has such passion and personality with her cooking. I hope one day to be on the Food Network and introduce my cooking to the world. Mario Batali and his empire is another great inspiration and influence for me since dining at a restaurant should be an experience. 

What is your favorite place to eat after you are done working?
I love sushi, NOBU, Haru and Blue Ribbon are my favorites. I also enjoy Arte Café on the Upper West Side, which also happens to be the first restaurant I worked at in the city.

A Night Out In DUMBO

With legends like the River Café and Grimaldi’s still packed, the closing of family-favorite Bubby’s, and the arrival of bakery One Girl Cookies and a massive carousel, DUMBO is a neighborhood transformed. Its age is found in its cobblestone streets, its youth in the people it attracts, and its timelessness in its brilliant views. As a former DUMBO resident myself, I’ve watched it evolve from an area without a Starbucks, to the arts and beauty capital of Brooklyn, with stars like Anne Hathaway and Uma Thurman moving in. So it is with much love that I recommend this week’s neighborhood itinerary: a night out in DUMBO.

Stop 1: Have a homemade pasta dinner at Bevacco.

Skip nearby Noodle Pudding and come here. This classy and romantic Italian spot nestled in Brooklyn Heights does one thing better than any other place in New York: it makes it so you don’t have to go to Italy. Every pasta dish at Bevacco has a texture that’s thick, homemade, fresh, and riddled with garlic, seafood, and marinara in a light, yet indulgent way. Hit signature dishes include the asparagus avocado salad with hard-boiled egg, the branzino with spinach and pink peppercorn sauce, and the crispy and sensational bucatini aglio e oglio with toasted garlic and thick al fresco, homemade pasta. Complete the Bevacco experience with their cream-filled Il Bombolone doughnut, and you’ll be back for brunch the next day – guaranteed.

Stop 2: See Mies Julie  at St. Ann’s Warehouse.

Have you ever been quieted and invigorated at the same time? Have you ever seen a show, and thought to yourself, “Did I really just see what I just saw?” This coming Sunday, the off-Broadway play Mies Julie – a post-apartheid drama about a night-in-the-life of a black farm laborer and his “master’s” daughter –  performs its last show at St. Ann’s Warehouse, which means you have only seven opportunities left to have a theatrical experience in Brooklyn that rivals anything in midtown.

Stop 3. Grab a drink at reBar.

This neighboring indie and intimate gastropub theatre is home to a savory French toast bursting with brie cheese batter and egg, over a dozen beers on tap, and an award-winning cinema that presents new indie movies and panels every weekend. And reBar’s theatre, known as reRun, serves homemade, hot pretzels you can eat while you’re watching the movie. I know, it’s like heaven. In Brooklyn. 

Follow Bonnie on Twitter here.

Miami: Dignified Retro Openings on the Art Basel Trail

If you, too, have been looking for a stylish reprieve from the madness that is Collins Avenue during Art Basel, Gale South Beach will have your sullen heart skip a beat. Outfitted in the finest Italian details and light-washed interiors, the newly-opened hotel to the growing portfolio of Keith Menin ( who brought  swagger to West Ave. with the Mondrian Hotel), Gale breathes fresh air into a historic property big on old-school charm. Should some shut-eye in one of the rooms that boast the ’40s glamorous stylings not be in your future, Gale’s open to the public wine-and-dine ‘em offerings will make you a believer in the rebirth of cool, even if the lingering artsy-fartsy types make you feel like grandma Suzie.

At soon-to-open Dolce Italian, the menu reads like a wet dream of any gluttonous creature (baby spinach and pumpkin ravioli with smoked ricotta or shortrib cannelloni with porcini cream, anyone?) and The Regent Cocktail Club, a mega-civilized alternative to the drunken ruckus that abounds beyond Gale’s stylish gates, would make the Rat Pack proud. 

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