Nizza

nizza eggplant involtini

eggplant involtini

As you may know by now, I’m not a fan of Italian restaurants. But it’s only because there are so few good ones around New York–if you can believe it. Well, my friends, I’ve found a delicious Italian restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen. It’s Nizza.

Cozy with swelling ambient lighting, Nizza has a small bar and about 15 tables around the restaurant. When we arrived, which was on the early side for a Friday night, we were told we had to wait 30 minutes for a table for two. MDP and I sat at the bar, sipping Maker’s Mark and a house white, respectively. The drinks weren’t exorbitantly priced, as they were last weekend at Blue Smoke, and my wine was very good.

The couple sitting next to us–the male half had a staring problem–at the bar was ahead of us on the seating list, but declined their table, and opened up the opportunity for MDP and I to sit down, about 15 minutes ahead of time.

We were seated at a busy intersection, near the bathroom, but we were comfortable. For an appetizer, we ordered the eggplant involtini, which was eggplant stuffed with ricotta and then topped with a light marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese. Rolled into little loaves, the eggplant was mild and soft, and the gooey mozzarella cheese was amply spread across the three eggplant loaves. The dish was delicious, and I’m very glad we ordered it.

nizza chicken milanese

chicken milanese

For his entree, MDP opted for the the picante pizza, which featured hot peppers, smoked mozzarella and spicy sausage. The crust was slightly more bloated than your typical thin-crust pizza, but it was delicious.

I ordered the chicken milanese, which came with a caprese salad on top of a large breast of crisp, thin chicken. I had tried this dish at Nizza on another occasion, and I liked it as much this time around as I did last time.

For dessert, we got the tortoni, which is, according to the menu, Italian frozen custard with crumbled biscotti and rhubarb composta, but the composta tasted of strawberry, not rhubarb. I also tried the cappuccino, while MDP got an espresso. Like the other two courses, dessert was fantastic.

I highly recommend Nizza, especially if you’re in the Hell’s Kitchen area and have some time to kill before a theatre engagement. Oh, and Nizza has a gluten-free menu, so you and your GF friends can enjoy it!

Nizza

630 9th Avenue, between 44th and 45th streets

Hell’s Kitchen, New York

Take the A/C/E to 42nd Street and walk east one avenue and north about two blocks. 

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Resto

resto burger

burger w/ frites

It took me a long time, but I finally made it to Resto.

Situated just inside Park Avenue on 29th Street, Resto is a beautiful thing. Many tables for two line the wall and tables for four or more are spread around the restaurant. Tucked inside a novel, the beer list features a number of interesting selections, including a cherry-inflected, bubbly beer that my lady dining partner ordered. (It was filled with vim and vigor, and filled me with the same.)

Resto is known for their meat, but especially for their burger. (Vegetarians, look elsewhere.) And it’s clear why. Topped with a fried egg, the Resto burger (a hefty lunch price of $15) has gruyere cheese, red onion, pickle and mayonnaise on a potato roll. It’s accompanied by cubic frites, which lack flavor and are definitely not the highlight of the dish. No, that would be the burger. With one of the juiciest patties I’ve had in a long time, Resto’s burger sits among the very top of my best burgers of all time–right up there with the Shake Shack. So, is it better than the Shake Shack? Well, the two burgers are not in the same category. It’s apples and oranges, really. Resto’s is a good restaurant burger that can be compared to Saxon + Parole¬†(whose burger is, incidentally, also topped with a fried egg), while the Shake Shack’s burger can only be compared to Burger Joint or the likes of Five Guys.

resto drink

cherry beer

My lady dining partner ordered the Tete de Cochon Po’ Boy, which she said was delightfully delicious. It boasted no adornments or sides, but instead came positioned in the center of a large plate with two homemade toothpicks piercing each half of the sandwich.

We didn’t try dessert, but I’m sure I’ll go back to Resto sometime soon to try their dinner menu on for size.

Even if you’re not in the neighborhood, I recommend making the trip to Resto–especially for that burger (which may or may not be served at dinnertime).

Resto

29th Street and Park Avenue

Take the 6 to 28th Street and walk north one block.

Hurricane Sandy – How Lucky Am I?

It’s 4 am and I can’t sleep. I scrolled through Facebook–the usual sleep-inducer–and found myself inspired more than tired. The typical political divisiveness from my friends on both sides of the aisle had been replaced by acts of kindness and pleas for help.

Hurricane Sandy devastated the East Coast this week. I was lucky enough to preserve power, water, gas, Internet and cable (theoretically, since I don’t have a TV–but I’m not one of those “no-TV” snobs, don’t worry)–and it’s taken me all this time to express my gratitude to the universe. How privileged am I without knowing? Hordes of people that I follow on Facebook were just getting their power turned on today. I can’t imagine what they must have been going through this week.

My friends are incredible. Hannah, who I’ve known since my first days at college, has been volunteering and encouraging others to volunteer with various organizations across the city to clean up the mess the hurricane left behind. Others are getting involved, too, and I am so touched to see this.

And, one of the more startling realities presented by Sandy, the gas situation blows my mind. On Friday night, MDP and I saw a line of 50+ people waiting with gas cans outside of the local Hess station. Tonight, the lights of Hess were out. Cars seemed to be abandoned in the gas lines. I suppose Hess ran out and so did customers, so they left their cars there and took the (now working) subway home. I wondered how any of the cars on Queens Boulevard were even operating, given the gas shortage that we’re facing. My darling friend Amy told me about the gas rationing system New Jersey has employed, and how her one car (with an even number on the license plate) can get gas one day and the other car (with an odd number) can get gas the other day (but then, on Facebook, people were talking about license plates ending in letters and this sounded like something the good people who run New Jersey didn’t consider). What decade are we in? The 70s?

So, really, how lucky am I? My mother lost power, my friend Kristina’s parents won’t have power until next Friday, people I don’t know and never will know have lost the homes they poured their life savings into, the boardwalks of my most beloved shore towns have disappeared, and here I am, conveniently sitting at my computer at 4 am, typing away in my neat, unscathed apartment. I am incredibly lucky.

To everyone who lost power, water, everything in the hurricane: my thoughts are with you. I am sincerely sorry that so many have suffered so greatly during this past week. If I can help, I will.