Riviera Sundays at Lavo, the Ban on Big Sodas, Sylvia Wood’s Passing

There will be no napkins safe this weekend as the serviette-tossing Rocco Ancarola returns to Lavo, July 29, for Riviera Sundays starting at 9:30pm. It is a joyous occasion. The event, called a "Celebration of Life," is a reference to Rocco’s long recovery from a heart attack that almost ended his life. In a Facebook post, he offered, "Thank you to all my friends for all your Love. You all helped me to recover very well and I THANK YOU ALL !!!!” Rocco is one of the great gentlemen in this business and we can’t wait to see him.

While at BINGO at Hotel Chantelle Monday, tablemate Michael Cavadias informed us that he was going to miss a week, something we never do, because he was heading to London. "For the Olympics," someone exclaimed, and I imagined him in a leotard, pole vaulting or weight lifting. Actually, he and our dear friend and inspiration Kembra Pfahler (Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black) are performing at Antony’s (of Antony and the Johnsons) Meltdown Festival. Other performers include Lou Reed, Hercules and Love Affair, Joey Arias, Marc Almond, Laurie Anderson, and Diamonda Galas. The festival runs from August 1st to the12th, basically at the same time Olympians (sans the banned Greek racist track star) are running for the gold.

So I was so-so when Mayor Bloomberg led the charge in banning cigarette smoking in places where I eat and drink and dance and play and walk in. The downside at the time was the encroachment by government into our rights…or freedom of choice. The arguments about second-hand smoke hurting those around those evil smokers won the day and, in retrospect, the trade-off was OK.

Now comes a proposed ban on large containers of sodas that contain dreaded sugar at any place regulated by the Board of Health. It’s easy to spot those: they have a letter grade in their front window. I am a strictly-diet-soda guy, but this ban reeks of Big Brother. If they can ban sugar in soda, then they can ban butter on popcorn or lollipops or cracker jacks or hot dogs or liverwurst. The foods we eat are often only acceptable in moderation. I didn’t trust the cigarette ban because it seemed like a step 1. Now that step 2 is on the brink of enactment, I fear for step 3. Is step 100 a requirement for sensible shoes? A ban on ankle-breaking Louboutins? If a person wants to buy fattening soda, educate them, don’t regulate them.

Will drink maximums be considered by our Mayor? This won’t end until Bloomberg is put out to his billionaire pasture. He is so out of touch with the life of the regular guy that he thinks this might actually stop someone from consuming massive amounts of whatever. If they can’t buy a 32-ounce bottle, they’ll buy two 16-ouncers. Will New Yorkers eventually be fined for not wearing sunglasses on a sunny day?

We have to mention the passing of Sylvia Woods at 86, the legendary proprietor of Sylvia’s, Harlem’s soul food mecca. She was buried this morning. Reverend Al Sharpton performed the eulogy. I never met Sylvia, but was touched by her. When I was designing the Cherry Lounge for Timbaland and DJ Clue in Harlem, me and mine would stroll over to Sylvia’s for lunch and comfort. The walk over and the meal and the company at her restaurant washed away a myriad of stupid misconceptions we had about Harlem. She was a true ambassador for the neighborhood. It was wonderful. She will be missed.

Where Celebs Go

1. Naomi Campbell @ Interview magazine’s 40th anniversary party: I don’t know. I don’t really live here so much anymore. In London? I don’t live in London. I live in Russia. Favorite restaurant in Russia? Pushkin’s. 2. Chloe Sevigny @ Interview‘s 40th anniversary party: Depends on what I’m in the mood for. I like Jack’s Luxury Oyster Bar in the East Village. I like Balthazar for oysters. I love Raoul’s. 3. Peter Brant @ Interview‘s 40th anniversary party: I would probably say the Four Seasons. I like that restaurant, but I have a lot of favorites. That’s, usually, a favorite of mine. There’s a lot of great things to eat there.

4. Linda Nyvltova @ Interview‘s 40th anniversary party: It’s going to be more restaurants. The pizza place, Vezzo, on 31st and Lexington. I love it. We go there all the time.

5. Brian Ermanski @ Interview‘s 40th anniversary party: Rose Bar. And I don’t really go out that much anymore. I love sitting outside Balthazar. And I don’t drink, so I don’t really like going out to drink a lot. I work a lot.

6. Sam Shipley @ Interview‘s 40th anniversary part: I really like Nancy Whiskey. That’s on the corner of 6th Avenue and Walker. We also love Lucky Strike. We also love Frank’s on 2nd Avenue and E. 6th Street.

7. Genevieve Jones @ Interview‘s 40th anniversary party: I like Café Select. I, usually, go anywhere I can walk downtown, so, like, Balthazar and coffee at Saturday Surf. I like N after work. What else? La Esquina.

8. Jessica Stam @ Interview‘s 40th anniversary party: Really, I just hang out at restaurants close to my house. I like to go to the new restaurant at the Jane Hotel [Café Gitane]. That’s really pretty because it overlooks the ocean. I like to go to Tompkins Square Park. The park itself? Yes.

9. Edward Droste @ Interview‘s 40th anniversary party: My apartment! I love Marlow & Sons. It’s a restaurant in Brooklyn. It’s one of my favorite places. I have friends that work there. I eat there all the time. And I love Mary’s Fish Camp restaurant in the West Village for seafood. But I don’t know anything about clubs, so … I’m good at food.

10. Mary-Kate Olsen @ Interview‘s 40th anniversary party: I’m not doing interviews tonight.

11. Pastor Joel Osteen @ Hezekiah Walker Presents: A Night of Hope and Prayer for Haiti: I ate at Rockefeller Center today, [near] the ice skating rink. In Houston, Texas, there’s a little Italian place that I love to eat at, not too far from my house. I don’t even know the official name of it. I like all kinds of different food.

12. Al Sharpton @ A Night of Hope and Prayer for Haiti: I have several favorite restaurants. I love, of course, Sylvia’s, but I also like to come downtown sometimes to Nello’s. I’m a salad eater now. I don’t eat meat anymore, so just salad and maybe good fish.

13. Congressman Eliot Engel @ AIPAC Northeast Regional Dinner: In the Bronx, when I was growing up, there were many, many, old, wonderful kosher delis, and they really all have disappeared, except for one in Riverdale, called Liebman’s, on W. 235th Street and Johnson Avenue. It’s an old-time New York kosher deli, and no matter where I’ve been around the United States – in Cleveland, in Pittsburgh, in Indianapolis, in Detroit – people say to me, ‘ Oh, you gotta go to this deli. It’s a real, authentic, Jewish-style deli.’ And I go there, and I always think, ‘Oh, my God, it’s so inferior to what we have in New York.!’ So that’s where I like to go.

14. Senator Chuck Schumer @ AIPAC Northeast Regional Dinner: My favorite places are in Brooklyn, and you’ll think this is funny, but Nathan’s is still one of my favorite restaurants for hot dogs and french fries. And go to the original Nathan’s in Coney Island — they taste better! But if you go to Fifth Avenue, and you go to Smith Street, you will have great, great restaurants. And we eat at a lot of them. Al Di La, we love very much. How do I pick my favorite? Best slice of pizza in Brooklyn is Roma Pizza on Seventh Avenue; I’ll tell you that. Here’s what I recommend: Po on Smith Street. It is just great!

15. Chris Blackwell @ Strawberry Hill, Jamaica: As I spend most of my time in Jamaica, when I go to New York, I love to check out wherever anybody is saying is a new place or is a great place. So, I’m not really a creature of habit, in going back to one restaurant, all the time. And in Jamaica? If you like the mountains, here is the best place, Strawberry Hill. If you like the sea and the beaches, there are three or four different places that are really good. There’s Port Antonio; and there’s a place called Frenchmen’s Cove, which is just stunningly beautiful. You can’t stay there; you can just visit and swim there. I have a property called Goldeneye, which is in Oracabessa. And then there’s a really nice hotel in Ocho Rios called Jamaica Inn. And Montego Bay is the other main area, and they have a couple of great hotels. One is Half Moon, and the other is Round Hill. And then there’s the South Coast, which has got a whole different feel. It’s, like as if you’ve gone to a different country. There’s a great place there called Jake’s. And Jake’s is, actually, a very casual type hotel, in a whole village area.

16. Daljit Dhaliwal @ History Makers conference: Right now I haven’t been doing an awful lot of entertaining, going out and being sociable. I just bought a new apartment and I’m learning how to use tools. I know how to use a screwdriver and I’m contemplating the electric drill. [There’s] some spackling, sanding and painting. I like to hang out in my neighborhood. Cafe Julienne, a bistro, serves wonderful French fare, nice hamburgers, great pate, nice cheeses, and good wine. In London, I love Notting Hill, Portabella Market — a fabulous place to hang out Saturday or any day of the week. Westborne Park, Grove and Road: West End. London is great for shopping.

New York: 5 Places to Stress-Eat After Seeing ‘Precious’

Look. I know Mo’Nique and I didn’t see eye-to-eye in the past, but that doesn’t mean I think less of her as an actress. In fact, I’m still pulling for her to pick up an Oscar win, possibly as a tasteful eff you to less-deserving victors of yore. Also as a bird-flip to the Academy who probably assume that with her unique body of work, she’d never get within spitting distance to even a Best Supporting Actress nomination. In fact, she and I celebrate our birthdays within a day of each other, so I could think of no one more fitting to uncork a bottle of champagne with. Another reason to pop the champy? Today, Precious opens everywhere (well, New York and Los Angeles anyway). Many of you are probably coordinating your happy hours accordingly. But somewhere in your post-movie regiment this evening, you may need to work in a restaurant conducive to eating your emotions, as the film is set to leave salt deposits on your face. Five suggestions after the jump.

El Centro – One excellent way to sublimate sorrow is to indulge in sour cream and cheese. I mean, you have your option of chicken, beef, or beans; you also have a choice between side salad and paella. But really, you should skip to the saturated fats and empty calories. ● Momofuku Bakery Milk Bar – Dessert for dinner is acceptable if your pick-me-up needs to be quick. Two words: Pork buns. ● Sylvia’s – Carboload at this iconic Harlem staple on mac & cheese, fried chicken, and mashed potatoes without judgment. ● Foodswings – If you can’t bear to maul through dead flesh no matter how hysterical you are, this South Williamsburg cafe offers a platter of vegan-friendly junk food. ● Shake Shack – And if you have no qualms about tearing through dead flesh, queue up for a burger. Skip the single, go with the double.

Sienna Miller & Peter Sarsgaard’s Favorite NYC Spots: Sylvia’s, Marlow & Sons

You’d think that when Sienna Miller was in New York, she’d take a meal at a Meatpacking mecca like Bagatelle, or a blinged-out celebrity trap like Nobu. Nope. The globetrotting actress recently told us that her favorite place to dine in the Big Apple is Harlem’s historic soul food institution Sylvia’s. “Collard greens and fried chicken is my idea of heaven,” she says.

As for Peter Sarsgaard, her Mysteries of Pittsburgh costar, he prefers to dine within walking distance of the home he shares with wife Maggie Gyllenhaal. The Brooklyn resident chose Park Slope trattoria Al di Là as his go-to spot. “It’s incredible Italian food. They don’t take reservations so you have to stand in line, but it’s really, really good,” he said, as Miller made a mental note to write the name of the restaurant down. “I also like going Marlow & Sons for a beer. You know, it’s a hip, happening crowd. It’s very sexy and cool, and always crowded. I like to sit at the bar and just babe watch.”

The Restaurant Life of Barack and Michelle Obama

Now that Barack’s been elected to office, not only does he not have to pay for food anymore, but he can order whatever he wants, whenever he wants it, and deploy an armored motorcade to pick it up. Such is the gastronomical gift bestowed upon the most powerful man in the world. There are already rumors that President-Elect Obama will starve Oprah by stealing her preferred chef, Art Smith, and bringing him along to the White House. But a mere one man will not be able to satisfy Obama’s presidential cravings, and since he can longer casually slip into his favorite spots for some pancakes, he’ll be sending Secret Service agents to restaurants across the country to pick up his favorite grub. Here’s a rundown of some of the spots that Obama might order takeout from on a late night of saving the planet.

1. Topolobampo (Chicago) Celebrity chef has lured Bam to this froufrou Mexican eatery with his sopa azteca (pictured above) — a dark broth flavored with pasilla chiles and stocked with grilled chicken, avocado, Meadow Valley Farm hand-made jack cheese, thick cream, and crisp tortilla strips. Favorite dish, favorite restaurant.

2. Spiaggia (Chicago) The Obamas’ special occasion spot. What better way to celebrate a wedding anniversary (October 3) or a McCain ass-whipping (November 8) than with heart-stopping views of Lake Michigan at this four-star Italian gem. Last Valentine’s Day, the couple dropped a measly $700 on an eight-course meal.

3. Sylvia’s (New York) Barack once chatted up the Reverend Al Sharpton over some fried chicken (we presume) at this Harlem soul food institution. Also the site of one of election night’s biggest celebrations.

4. Sepia (Chicago) Michelle Obama, environmental crusader that she is, often dines at this West Loop hit, whose menu is replete with contemporary American cuisine using organic and sustainable ingredients whenever possible.

5. The Source (Washington DC) One of Obama’s favorite DC spots is a pillar of Wolfgang Puck’s fusion empire. Prime beef sliders with smoked onion marmalade and white cheddar to 1600 Pennsylvania, stat.

6. Casa Oaxaca (Washington DC) No word yet on whether the future Prez is yet aware of this authentic Mexican bistro, but he’s been known to nosh on the occasional roasted grasshopper. Oaxaca fries their bugs, but good grasshopper is good grasshopper.

7 Ben’s Chili Bowl (Washington DC) Chili will undoubtedly be an integral part in shaping how the Obama administration governs. Michelle says her husband makes a “mean chili” and follows a family recipe to get it done. But U Street residents will tell you that the meanest chili in town belongs to Ben’s, a vintage chrome diner, jukebox and all. Night-hawk drunkards should not be surprised to find a man in sunglasses and dark suit, asking his boss if he’d like chili cheese fries with that.

8. Rainbow Drive-In (Honolulu) On a recent visit back home, Obama said that he “might” go to this local fave from a bygone era. And why not? Chili rice and BBQ beef sandwiches come in presidential portions, and prices are stock market low, because someone needs to save up for a new puppy.

9. Cosi (Everywhere) Leave it to McDonald’s addict Bill Clinton to assault Obama’s refined palette with generic flatbreads and pizza. The two dined on takeout from this chain restaurant specializing in sandwiches and salads. But, it is sort of comforting that two of the most influential men in the world, with the greatest restaurants in the world at their fingertips, chose to eat food for the people. Respect.