Got Those Empty Icebox Blues
In the 70 years I’ve lived a block away, the West End Superette has had many owners and differnt images.
Does anyone give dinner parties anymore? Well, they don’t invite me. That’s the bitch of being known as a restaurant critic. My friends do dinner parties and invite each other. Clearly, they don’t think of me in that context. It’s not that I mind eating out six nights a week. It gives me a chance to see my pals and maybe add their friends to my list of candidates for dinner.
I just recently discovered the bodega’s couturier sandwich department, good for evenings off from reviewing.
Sunday evening, by the time I finish editing BITE, organizing the photos and writing the captions, I’m ready to stay home. I want to collapse in the big red leather recliner Steven picked out for himself, long before he died and left it empty. I want to eat leftovers, or a moist, drippy, overstuffed sandwich from the corner bodega on 72nd Street and watch a movie on Netflix.
I discovered the soups and sandwiches of Giacomo first when a friend brought me a “Havana” on a hero.
I used to buy a toasted Havana on a hero and a pint of soup at Giacomo next door to the bicycle shop. But one day it was closed and I discovered sandwiches at the corner bodega, the West End Superette. I can pick a suggested combo from one of the signs posted over the counter or make up my own.
Russian dressing on my roast beef isn’t enough. I ask for mayo, mustard and vinegar. Vinegar is a fine addition.
I hope this isn’t depressing you. Readers who don’t know me think I dine out in grand style every night. I probably shouldn’t be revealing my Archie Bunkerness. At the moment my favorite is roast beef and horseradish with Russian dressing, lettuce and tomato, on a hero. It’s hugely stuffed and only $7.99. If I have two cubes of pineapple and some melon to start, I can only finish half. My earliest choice was ham and Genoa pepperoni with provolone cheese, peppers, lettuce, tomato, oil and vinegar. The vinegar is a master’s touch.
Like Sam Waterston in the movie “Anesthesia,” the men in my life over the decades have brought me flowers.
Recently my niece Dana and I watched Sam Waterston in the movie Anesthesia. We were thrilled to see it was shot on that NE corner of 72nd Street outside our Superette. Waterston buys a panhandler a sandwich from my bodega. He selects flowers from the bouquets standing outside for his wife, Glenn Close.
Steven used to bring home flowers too, usually freesia. I try to recapture that scent.
West End Superette 273 West 72nd Street on the NE corner of West End Avenue. 212 787 1874.
Cheap Is Not As Cheap As It Used To Be.
I ordered a collection of Parm starters: garlic bread, mozzarella sticks, meatballs and fried calamari.
It was my friend Lorraine’s first night out of the house after hip surgery. “Do you have any places in mind that you want to go?” I asked.
Her response? “It should be fun and cheap.”
Parm’s pork parmigiana was an excellent choice at my very first dinner when the kitchen seemed more inspired.
That pretty much eliminated all the usual neighborhood suspects I favor, where prices have been creeping up steadily. I Googled to refresh my brain. Google reminded me of Parm on Columbus Avenue. I hadn’t been back since stopping in for a chicken parm hero just after it opened in January of 2015.
The fried calamari had the essence of age and neglect but we finished it off anyway.
The hostess seems tentative as she leads us to the empty back room. I choose a particular booth for no reason at all and ask my friends if it’s okay for me to order a bunch of appetizers. The garlic bread is singed and not very garlicky. Once cooled a bit, the mozzarella sticks are safe enough, actually cheesy and good. Neither the meatball nor its red sauce warrent much attention. And the fried calamari arrives at room temperature with a whiff that suggests refrying.
The tri-color layer cake was a memorable pleasure five years later.
The folks at Parm had definitely been trying harder the first time I came. Cheap and fun and close enough to walk, I decided. We had to have dessert: the three-color layer cake. “It looks like the Italian flag,” I tell my friends tonight. “What do you think? Should we?”
Gary looks at Lorraine and she gestures to him. “Hmm…?” None of us speak. I ask for the check. (Not quite as cheap anymore.) It’s pouring and we want to get home.
235 Columbus Avenue between 70th and 71st streets. 212 776 4921. Sunday through Thursday 11:30 am to 10 pm. Friday and Saturday 11:30 am to 11 pm.
Escaping the Weather at Fiorello
The antipasto server Kleber has been dishing up mostly vegetables testings at Fiorello with a wink and a smile.
I had dinner at Fiorello three times last week. It’s not just that I’m lazy and don’t want to travel far in the cold. I choose Fiorello because I know I’ll get a booth, and first-timer companions will be impressed by the antipasto show. I look for Cleber, my favorite antipasto wrangler in the straw hat, and slip him a few dollars to remind him it’s me.
Fiorello’s Caesar has evolved over the years and it is especially rich and aristocratic now.
I discovered the pizza at Fiorello in 1974, the year it opened. The pie is thinner and crackling now. Sometimes I’ll share a super-rich Little Gem lettuce Caesar. These cold wintry nights are perfect for the Italian wedding soup with its giant meatball and a thick slice of toasted country bread. I’ve written about Fiorello often lately. Click here to read For It’s a Jolly Good Fiorello.
One day we discovered the Italian wedding soup with its meatballs and chicken. There was no going back.
I hate that the place has given up serving their marvelous crisps. They have developed some kind of obsession with bread, going from serving it in abundance to offering a stingy few slices of focaccia. What ever happened to the bread sticks? I guess they were throwing out too much uneaten bread. A bread boy passing with all the options would be my idea of a homey welcome. I figure they make up for the frugality when one of the captains comes by with chocolate chip cookies on a baking sheet, still warm from the oven.
Fiorello serves breakfast with sugary temptations at the counter now. Given my lack of self-control, it’s best I don’t pass by in the morning.
1900 Broadway between West 63rd and 64th streets. 212 595 5331. Breakfast Monday to Friday 7:30 am to 11:30 am. Lunch Monday to Friday 11:30 am to 4 pm. Dinner Monday to Thursday 4 pm to midnight, Friday 4pm to 12:30 am, Saturday and Sunday brunch 9 am to 3 pm, Dinner, Saturday 3 pm to 12:30 am, Sunday 3 pm to 11 pm.
I’ve always loved Cobb salad since I discovered it in Los Angeles. Epicerie Boulud does theirs to go.
Dana sometimes brings dinner from Épicerie Boulud after a day at the Art Students League, She buys the Cobb salad for me. Then she chooses a creamy goat cheese and bread. It might be pretzel bread. Daniel’s baking équipe does a stylish epi loaf. Or she’ll arrive with the classic baguette. Occasionally she’ll surprise me with a bag of cookies.
Daniel’s Epicerie on the corner of West 64th Street between restaurants is a great addition to the neighborhood.
When I pass by myself I will stop for the Banh Mi: Thai sausage, jambon de Paris, jalapeño mayo, herbs, and carrot-radish slaw. on a roll.
I keep this photograph of an Epicerie pecan pie but I wish it came small as a tart so I could take one home.
I keep this photograph of a pecan tart on my desktop thinking I may need to order it someday.
1900 Broadway at 64th Street. 212 595 9606. Monday 7 am to 10 pm. Tuesday through Saturday 7 am to 11 pm. Sunday 8 am to 10 pm.