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Eataly Coming to New York: First Look

I WAS WALKING ALONG 24th Street last week and peeked in the window at Eataly, the 50,000-square-foot food hall Mario Batali is opening with partners Joe Bastianich, Lidia Bastianich and others.
Batali has described it as a “temple” to Italian food. It will have all sorts of food departments—butcher, fishmonger, greengrocer, bakery, cheese, dried goods, salumi—as well as restaurants and snack counters. A sign outside quotes Fellini: “Life is a combination of magic and pasta.” Sounds good to me.
The original Eataly, a Slow Food heaven in Turin, opened in 2007, followed by branches in other Italian cities and in Japan. We’ll all get to experience New York’s Eataly for ourselves on Tuesday, August 31 at 4 pm. To whet your appetite, here’s a preview from Eater.
See you there!
Fifth Avenue and 24th Street 

Best Med Diet Dish at...Taberna [closed]

I’VE ALWAYS BEEN A FAN of small plates and making a meal out of a succession of appetizers so it was good news when a new tapas bar—Taberna—opened on the Upper West Side this summer. Chef Jennifer Cole spent a dozen years or more working as a chef in Spain (including at Michelin-starred Balzac in Madrid) before returning to New York. Lucky us. The menu is full of little composed masterpieces of Mediterranean ingredients—seafood, vegetables, beans, olive oil. Specials change frequently, depending on what’s in season at the market. Earlier in July, I paid a visit.
Each of the four small dishes we ordered, which made a satisfying dinner for two, was full of complex flavors. As each plate was presented, I realized that what I like about this way of eating is that it is interesting—and I don’t mean that in the polite way we sometimes use the word when we really mean “less than great.” Each dish was an experience unto itself, an inducement to mindful eating that we could savor fully before going on to the next. A glass of Laxas Albariño 2009, a lovely crisp white wine with fruity aromas, from Galicia in northwestern Spain, was a perfect accompaniment.
The meal began with an amuse-bouche on two white ceramic spoons—salpicón de pulpo from Galicia, made from small dice of octopus, peppers, onions and tomatoes with a lemon vinaigrette. A promising start.
Next was marinated trout with white bean salad—what a wonderful contrast between the fish and the creamy white beans.
Pisto manchego (Spanish ratatouille) with quail egg, Serrano crisp, and parsley gel is a great example of the Mediterranean use of meat as condiment rather than plate-filler—in this case, a slice of dry-cured Spanish Serrano ham (similar to Italian prosciutto crudo or French jambon de Bayonne), sautéed briefly to make it crispy.
To finish up the meal….delicious baked goat cheese. 
Some other recent specials I’ve seen on the menu—mussel squid salad with heirloom tomatoes, Catalan croquetas with spinach, golden raisins and pine nuts—sound enticing. I’ll be back!
429 Amsterdam Avenue, nr. 81st St.
New York, NY 10024

Lunetta Chef Rides for Cancer—and You Get to Eat and Drink

Only 11 hours left to register for this deal over at Bloomspot. Lunetta, in Boerum Hill, with its great Italian-Mediterranean menu, will offer a Chef’s Selection: Formaggi and Salumi plate + 2 glasses of wine, for $21, instead of $41. All proceeds from the special offer will go to the Pan-Massachusetts Challenge, a bike-a-thon that Lunetta chef and owner Adam Shepard will ride in August to raise money for cancer research and treatment at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Lunch Karma—It Was Mine!

So Mediterraneanista was into her second day of hard labor at The Storage Room, the extra room of our Manhattan apartment that we keep in Fort Lee, New Jersey. We were switching from a 10x10 to a 10x5—sorting, trashing, agonizing over (OMG, can you believe they actually wore this 8-inch-long shirt; read this poem, no really, he was only 6...) I was hot, hungry and had just done a face plant into a box, tripping over a cement pedestal for a garden statue (don’t ask) that I had put in my own way. It was definitely time for a lunch break, but where?
Well, miraculously, just a few steps down Main Street we see a sign: “Joeyness: All Natural Gourmet Mediterranean Foods.” Was my luck changing? Inside the small café and takeout place, we find three friendly people—chef/owner Joseph Ghazal and his mother and brother—serving made-from-scratch Lebanese specialities. We order falafel wrap sandwiches and tabouleh. While we wait, the Joeyness himself gives us a sample of the vegan lentil soup he’s just made. Delicious! Which is not surprising, since Ghazal, it turns out, is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. He opened the store three years ago, he tells us, after initially making Middle Eastern spreads for wholesale distribution. 
The falafel, made with chickpeas and favas, was fresh and soooo tasty; the tabouleh had just the right balance of green to grain and a wonderful lemony zest. I’m envious of the steady flow of customers who clearly come to Joeyness regularly. What a treat. There are so many other things on the menu I want to try: tabouleh made with lentils instead of bulgur, beef kafta, Mediterranean bean salad and, of course, the “old country hummus” and babaghanoush.
The café is that winning combination of high-quality ingredients, great cooking and, as you sit and eat at one of the small tables, the good company of the people who run the place. As one Yelp fan put it:
Joeyness is owned and run by the most delightful chef who is CIA trained, who has taken his love for his profession and combined it with his love for his mother’s home cooking.
Bike peeps: The café is only a mile from the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee so it’s the perfect place (and menu, including fair trade coffee) for refueling before heading up Route 9 or River Road, or at the end of your ride before you head back into NYC. That’s my plan, anyway.
515 Main Street
Fort Lee, NJ 07024

Fresh Fish for Dinner Sunday? Maybe

Tasting Table NY readers are invited for a fishing excursion with chef Sue Torres of West side bar Rusty Knot on June 6. You catch, she cooks. Sounds like fun but with my fishing skills I might just go hungry! 

Rioja Restaurant Week Ends May 27

You have nine more days to enjoy a $25 prix fixe lunch or $35 prix fixe dinner—including a glass of Rioja wine—at one of 25 great participating restaurants in Rioja Restaurant Week. Not all the restaurants are Spanish; the list includes Thai, Indian and American choices, too—a clue to the versatile pairings possible with a Rioja.

Mediterraneanista Goes Cycling

In a perfect alignment of the stars (at least for our household), May is both Mediterranean Month  and Bike Month. New York City’s outer boroughs are home to so many great Med ingredients and meals, from Greek Astoria to little Italy on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx—and I often get to them by bike. So a celebratory month of riding and eating it will be! 
Recently, I cycled out to Totonno’s Pizzeria Napolitano in Coney Island, where the coal-oven pizza was definitely “worth a special journey,” as the Michelin guide would have put it. We got a bit grumpy waiting for our pie (we were cycling, we were hungry!) but when the pizza came, all was forgiven—the freshest of fresh tomato sauces and mozzarella, and a crust that would be delicious just on its own. Hard to believe I’ve been in NYC all these years without trying it.
Totonno’s opened on Neptune Avenue in 1924—the little one-storey restaurant looks like the closed-in space between two real buildings—then a fire closed it in March 2009. Lamentations all around, but luckily, it’s back and looking just the same as it must have in the old days—painted tin ceiling, black and white tile floor, a few painted wooden booths, with owner Louise Ciminieri keeping everyone organized (wait outside! sit here!) 
Next up, time for another visit to Sahadis on Atlantic Avenue for hummus and olives. Then maybe I’ll follow the example of Anthos chef Michael Psilakis and head to Titan Foods in Queens to get me some real Greek feta (and more olives). Tanoreen, a Lebanese Mediterranean resto in Bay Ridge, is on my list, too. I’ll keep you posted. Maybe we’ll have to extend this into June…
Getting there (sans bicycle): D, F, N, Q train to Coney Island-Stillwell Av 
Totonno’s Pizzeria Napolitano
1524 Neptune Avenue
Brooklyn, NY
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