Campo de Fiori

campo de fiori bread

perfect bread

So, we trekked all the way to Park Slope for Italian food.

We wanted to go to Frankie’s 457, but there was an hour wait. Lacking the dedication of New Yorker foodies, we set out for other cuisine in the neighborhood. We weren’t sure what we wanted–Thai, Chinese, something else entirely?

Finally, we settled on other Italian food from Campo de Fiori. I was intrigued by their pizza offerings, as the reviews posted in the window discussed their perfect dough. In fact, Campo de Fiori leavens their dough for 24 hours–a long time for pizza dough. Very interesting, so we tried it. The food was delicious; sadly, I can’t say the service was nearly as good as the food.

Campo de Fiori prides itself on being a pizzeria and an Osteria Romana, which, according to their website, has something do with Roman hospitality. They serve pizza, salads and various pasta dishes, and have a nice wine list (though the wines we ordered were not available that night).

I should begin by discussing my “thing” about Italian restaurants: I seldom go to them. Why? I am Italian-American, after all. Shouldn’t I like Italian food? Oh, I do, believe me. I make it all the time. That’s precisely why I don’t like going to Italian restaurants. My thinking is that if I can make it at home, it’s probably not worth trying out. Now, I’m no chef, but I am a pretty good cook, so if I can cook it up, it’s probably at least as good as what some restaurant is going to serve.

That may sound conceited. It’s just honest!

campo de fiori mozzarella di bufala with roasted peppers

mozzarella di bufala with roasted peppers

Once we ordered our food, a server brought us a little bag filled with bread. Now, this was no ordinary bread. It was at once chewy and crisp–exactly the way bread should be. You can see it in the above photo (click to view full size). Don’t drool too much all over your keyboard.

We opted for the roasted peppers with mozzarella di bufala for an appetizer. They way they plated it was interesting–the roasted peppers must have been put into a dish and then flipped onto the plate, with the thinly sliced mozzarella di bufala splaying out around the peppers. What I liked best about this dish was that the roasted peppers were hot. Most of the time, for an appetizer, roasted peppers will be served cold or at room temperature. I liked that they tasted like they were just out of the oven. And the mozzarella was perfect. Highly recommend this dish.

campo de fiori contadina pizza

contadina pizza alla pala

For our entrees, my dining partner ordered the Contadina pizza, which was served with very thinly sliced potatoes atop mozzarella and San Marzano tomatoes, while I ordered the Rigatoni Carbonara. I tried my dining partner’s pizza and the crust was truly spectacular. Like the bread, it was chewy and crisp at the same time. My dining partner said he would have liked for the potatoes to be a bit thicker, but he was overall satisfied with the pizza.

My Rigatoni Carbonara was pretty good, but not fantastic. The pasta was cooked perfectly al dente, which was nice and a surprise. Many times when you go to Italian restaurants, they actually don’t cook the pasta al dente–either too hard or too soft. This was just right. Carbonara involves bacon (or pancetta), egg yolks and cream. Instead of going with the pancetta, it seemed like they used regular bacon, which is worth noting since it was slightly fatty. The sauce itself was pretty good–not entirely flavorful, but not bland either–and shredded parmesan cheese was amply spread across the top of my dish. One thing ¬†that I didn’t find awesome about the pasta was that they used way too much black pepper on top. The pepper overrode the flavor of the Carbonara sauce.

campo de fiori rigatoni carbonara

rigatoni carbonara

After we finished our food, we must have waited 30 minutes for someone to finally take our plates away from us. When we arrived at the restaurant, it was nearly empty, but, over the course of about an hour, the place started to fill up. I guess they were too busy tending to other tables, but why does that make our plates less important to pick up? Finally, someone came over to our table and asked if we wanted dessert (yes, cannolis, which were fine but not made with the typical cannoli cream found in most cannolis). Then, our waiter mistakenly brought our check over (he clearly hadn’t communicated with the man who took our dessert order), and then we waited 10 more minutes until our cannolis were brought to us.

So, the food is pretty good at Campo de Fiori, but don’t expect to get out of there quickly. I would recommend this place if you’re in Park Slope and are in the mood for Italian food, but don’t feel like waiting an hour at Frankie’s

Campo de Fiori

187 5th Avenue

Park Slope, Brooklyn

Take the R to Union Street and walk a few blocks.

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Mexicana Mama Centro

Believe it or not, it’s hard to find good Mexican food in New York City. I’ve searched high and low–from ninth avenue all the way down to the Village–and have rarely come across delicious, reasonably priced Mexican food. But Mexicana Mama Centro has made me a believer that good Mexican food does exist in Manhattan.

mexicana mama centro queso fundido

queso fundido

My dining partner and I had been to Mexicana Mama Centro another time, when we serendipitously came across it on east 12th. Last night, as with our first night, we ordered the Queso Fundido as an appetizer and two classic margaritas to drink. The Queso Fundido was beyond delicious. Accompanied by six small round corn tortillas, it’s a casserole full of melted (chihuahua?) cheese with sauteed onion and bell pepper on top. Wow.

We put huge dollops of the cheese mixture onto our little tortillas and rolled them as we would burritos. Outstanding!

And the margaritas were pretty good, too. I asked for salt on the rim of mine (dining partner did as well) and the salt mixed nicely with the tang of the margarita.

For entrees, my dining partner ordered the special spicy fish tacos while I got the chicken burrito. I know, not taking any risk there, right?

The spicy fish tacos were incredible. I couldn’t tell what kind of fish it was (an expensive one, according to our bill), but the filet was chopped up and mixed with a handful of spices on thin tortillas. Delicious!

mexicana mama centro chicken burrito

chicken burrito

My chicken burrito was nicely plated and quite delectable, too. An interesting addition, the chicken burrito had Mexican potatoes which tasted somewhat sweet within the tortilla. The burrito also had chihuahua cheese and black beans inside. Originally, I was served an enchilada and started eating the Mexican rice that came with it, but found, just a few moments later, that the enchilada belonged to my dining neighbor. Good thing I took a moment to take a photo of the enchilada before diving in!

We didn’t get dessert this time around, but I trust that anything Mexicana Mama Centro serves up is nothing but top-notch.

Do try it if you’re in the area–or even if you’re not!

Mexicana Mama Centro

47 E. 12th Street (by Broadway)

New York, NY

Take the N/Q/R/4/5/6/L to 14th Street-Union Square and walk south two blocks. You can’t miss Mexicana Mama Centro’s high-flying flag outside its facade!

Recipe: Garden Harvest Cake

Lately, I’ve been using Cooking Light for many of the recipes I prepare for dinners. In an issue from long ago, I noticed a recipe for Garden Harvest Cake. ‘Tis the season for fresh vegetables, so I said, “Why the hell not. Let me make this.”

Though the recipe calls for vegetables that are not currently locally available (such as zucchini), I found some healthy options at our Met supermarket. In a few weeks, I’ll be able to pick up some carrots, zucchini and granny smith apples at our neighborhood farmer’s market. For now, try this recipe for Garden Harvest Cake ¬†with whatever vegetables your grocer carries.

And voila.

garden harvest cake

garden harvest cake