Forget Oprah, these are MY favorite things

Well, folks, we’ve almost made it through this giant dumpster fire of a year, but first we need to get through the holidays. :: Takes a giant breath ::

While I think it’s a little early to put up a Christmas tree (my personal rule is Thanksgiving weekend or December 1st), I don’t think it’s too early to start thinking about gift shopping. Holiday gift guides are one of my favorite things to read this time of year, and a couple of years ago I even made one (read it here, I still think it’s a pretty solid list), so I thought I’d put together another one for those of you who might need a little inspiration. (Links are in the titles, and let me know if you need my home address. Kidding… but not.)

A box of the best pop-tarts you’ll ever have

Lani Halliday‘s guava-passion fruit pop-tart was one of the best pastries I had this year and while I bought mine at Ursula in Crown Heights, you can now order a box of them from her online shop and have them shipped wherever you live. Those are my favorite but the maple chocolate cardamom are also great. (Her miso chocolate chip cookies are pretty awesome too, and also available online.)

Rainbow dumplings…because rainbow bagels are so 5 years ago

I can think of at least four tie-dyed items in my closet right now and especially when it comes to loungewear, I know I’m not alone because I see the stuff everywhere and on everyone. How about taking the trend one step further in a new and tastier direction with these rainbow dumplings from Sandy Ho, an Australian chef based out of LA? They come filled with either shrimp, vegetables (vegan option) or kimchi pork.

The chicest, coolest panettone

I’m a big panettone fan and after hearing David Chang rave about Panettone from Roy on his podcast last year, I immediately ordered one. Dave was right… it turned out to be the hands down BEST one I’d ever eaten and no joke, I’ve been thinking about it for the last year. This year, they’ve teamed up with Massimo Bottura’s Gucci Osteria in LA to sell a special edition panettone that comes in this beautiful pink tin. It’s the only designer thing I’ve ever really wanted.

A weighted blanket to get you through the rest of 2020

I heard about this on Eater’s Digest and actually laughed out loud when I saw it. If I didn’t already have a weighted blanked (from the same people that make this one, actually!) I would consider this Pizza Hut/ Gravity Blanket collab. These are anxious times. What better to wrap yourself in when you stress eat pizza on the couch?

A cider for Negroni lovers

They’re an acquired taste, but once you fall in love with Negronis you tend to fall hard. Ten thousand years ago when I lived in Italy, I could barely handle a sip of one, but over the years I’ve grown to thoroughly enjoy them, and because I also love ciders, I knew I had to have this Graft Cider and Collective Arts Brewing collaboration called Far Away From Home. It comes in a gorgeous can (Graft’s designs are always so beautiful) and has all these lovely flavors of juniper, blood orange, tea and “spruce-infused simple syrup” which makes it perfect to drink around a Christmas tree.

Pork buns to remind you of the Before Times

Since March, when we first went into quarantine, I’ve only eaten meat three times (and once was by accident). For the most part, I don’t really miss it, but if there’s one exception that has popped into my head several times over the last few months it’s pork buns, specifically the ones from the Momofuku restaurant group, where I’ve had so many great meals over the years. I could eat half a dozen of them and now thanks to Goldbelly, I can actually order a kit that brings everything I need to have them at home. (They also sell a Bo Ssäm dinner kit that looks amazing, and possibly worth falling off the vegetarian wagon for.)


Pumpkin mania continues

The annual pumpkin binge is upon us. It’s upon me. It’s. All. Up. On. ME.

During my usual autumn pumpkin binge, most of the things I eat are sweet. Pumpkin muffins, lattes, cakes, pie, ice cream. You name it, I eat it. But this year, one of the best pumpkin foods I’ve had wasn’t a sweet at all. It was a pizza! Yes, a pumpkin pizza! Talk about awesome worlds colliding!

Forcella’s Autunno Pizza, introducing pizza into the Great Pumpkin Binge

I was at Forcella, the super-freakin’-delicious Neapolitan pizzeria on the Bowery between NoHo and the East Village, having dinner with a friend, when she pointed it out on the menu. (I was probably staring at the word burrata and having cheese fantasies and hadn’t already noticed it.) I wasn’t sure what to make of pumpkin on a pizza, but the Autunno pizza, with it’s pumpkin puree base (instead of tomato sauce), smoked mozzarella and pancetta, inspired all sorts of confidence.

And good God! It was delicious! The pumpkin puree had just enough subtle sweetness to play the perfect complement to the flavorful, salty pancetta sprinkled throughout. To round everything out was the smoked mozzarella which was just the right amount of smokey instead of the usual creamy, milkiness to make for a really delicious pizza.

As the great pumpkin binge of 2012 continues, I’m glad to know I have Forcella’s delicious autunno pizza to turn to when I need a break from the sweet stuff.

Deep dish pizza: death by cheese

If during my few days in Chicago I had eaten at just one more pizzeria serving Chicago style deep dish pizza, I’m pretty sure my gravestone would now read, “Angie De Angelis, 1984-2012, Death by cheese.”

In visiting the Windy City, the plan all along was to stuff my face full of deep dish pizza, and let me tell you, stuff it I did.  For the sake of comparison, we had it twice in the four days we were there. The city has a handful of big names in deep dish pizza, several of which claim to be the original and all of which claim to be the best. Had I been there for about a month, I might have tried them all, but then like I said, I probably would have come back to New York in a coffin, reeking of cheese.

Lou Malnati’s Classic Chicago

Our first pizza was at Lou Malnati’s (Gold Coast location) where we ordered the “Malnati Chicago Classic” in the over- ambitious 12″ size (meant to serve three people). It was already a behemoth of a pizza, made with the famed house buttercrust (hello, extra calories) and what seemed like at least a gallon of juicy, sweet tomato sauce, but in addition to the  several pounds of cheese that went into this bad boy, the

A fat slice of the Malnati Chicago Classic

Malnati Chicago Classic also had a layer of meaty, hearty sausage hiding just under the layer of tomato. It came out still in its pan, and we wolfed it down almost immediately, fighting through the layers of cheese and sausage to finish with chunky tomato sauce dripping from our mouths and hands like there’d been a pizza massacre at our table. Now, let me be clear about this: the pizza was delicious. Completely over the top, gluttonous and obscene, but delicious. However, I was in a complete haze after eating it. There wasn’t even room for dessert. No dessert! That’s insanity! I felt Thanksgiving-style full for hours and well into the night, waking up every few hours thinking, “When is this feeling going to ease up??”

The deep dish pizza at Giordano’s, anyone other than serious cheese lovers need not apply

So you’d think that would be the end of it, right? But no. Like a drug, I needed more. So for round two of Chicago’s famed pies, we tried Giordano’s (near the Willis/Sears tower, though there are a whopping 43 locations in Illinois and even Florida). This time we went for lunch, figuring it would give us the rest of the day to burn off some of the tens of thousands of calories. Instead of bringing a topping into

Oh you know, just a plain ol’ cheese pizza.

the mix, we kept it simple and had a cheese pizza. Not that there was anything simple or minimal about just cheese. As we lifted out the heavy slices of pizza, each at least a couple inches high, thick, gooey globs of creamy mozzarella slowly poured out. It was in-tense. Seriously. So. Much. Cheese. That night, we didn’t have dinner! That’s how intense it was. And those of you that know me, I don’t just skip meals.

Chicago pizza, you win. I held my own, but long term, I don’t think I could hang. You’re delicious yes, but you’d be the death of me.

Pizza worth praising from the mountaintop… or from this blog

I don’t blog about every single thing I eat, and contrary to what my friends might think, I don’t photograph every piece of food I put in my mouth either. When I went to Paulie Gee’s Pizza in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, for example, I had no intention of doing either. I was just having pizza. With friends. In Brooklyn. Nothing to write home about, right? Wrong. 

The Cherry Jones pizza at Paulie Gee's is so damn good that it's almost physically impossible to put down after one bite. I ate two slices before I was able to successfully pause the pizza-shoveling. (In the lower right hand corner, the very green and very tasty Arugula Shmoogula.)

Immediately after biting into the Cherry Jones pizza I ordered, I knew I’d have to get my camera out because I just had to show you this crazy-good pizza. Well, it wasn’t quite immediate though, because once I bit into that first slice and got hit with the insane flavors of creamy, pungent gorgonzola, milky fior di latte mozzarella, perfectly salty prosciutto, tart dried cherries and a drizzle of sweet orange blossom honey, I literally couldn’t pry it away from my mouth. I was about two slices in when I forced myself to put down the pizza just long enough to get one decent picture before there was nothing left but crumbs.

I had heard (or read I should say), from a pretty reliable source, that Paulie Gee’s was good, that it was creative and unusual, but I was in no way prepared for just how much I would love the Cherry Jones. I mean, it was outrageously good. It was mind-blowingly good. It was glaaaadly-take-the-stupid-G-train-all-the-way-to-Greenpoint good.

So while I had no intention of getting into all of this with you, the Cherry Jones left me no choice. If you didn’t already know, then it’s my absolute duty as a relatively decent human being to tell you about the deliciousness that is Paulie Gee’s. Be it by train, plane or automobile, or the wretched G train even, get yourself to Paulie Gee’s, cause it’s definitely something to write home about. (Just make sure to snap your pictures before you dig in.)

Paulie Gee's on Urbanspoon

When the blogging world and real life cross paths

From reading about it on the computer to eating there in person

Blogging is a strange thing sometimes. Like many people who write their own blogs, and also many who don’t, I follow several people’s blogs. Some of these people, these other bloggers, are people I know— people I’ve met, people I hang out with, people I’m friends with. When they write about their travel adventures through Asia, the trials and tribulations of single life in New York, their jobs as librarians or vegan cooks, I know who they are. I know the people they reference or the places they’re talking about, or sometimes I can just picture them clearly in the situations they write about.

But with other blogs it’s different. I don’t know people at all. I find out about their blogs through friends, or linked on blogs I already follow, or mentioned in magazines, or through random searches.  I read about their babies, their lives in other countries, the meals they eat in different cities around the world. But I don’t know them. I might never meet them. I’ll probably never stand in the exact spot of something personal they’ve written about.

Except I did. This past weekend in Seattle.

Continue reading

Recommendations from a crazy cabbie

Combination pizza from Golden Boy

To me there’s nothing new about crazy cab drivers. After growing up with a dad who once worked as one and then spending the last year of my life in New York, the world capital of lunatic cabbies, I’m hardly fazed by them. But taking food recommendations from one? Well that was new for me. Continue reading

A new slice

I wasn’t always a pizza snob. I actually grew up on a pretty unhealthy diet of Domino’s and Pizza Hut, frozen pizzas of all kinds, and periodic food pilgrimages to a place my parents loved called Pizza Loft. In college, I subsisted on Five Star Pizza, which made big greasy pies, big enough to feed a pack of drunk college students for just five bucks. (God I wish I was still in college.) Two years in Italy changed that though. I came back a pizza snob. I’ve found my two reliable spots in New York (Motorino in the east village and Keste in the west village) and not a lot else speaks to me. People joke about this and bring it up all the time but it’s true. I take my pizza consumption seriously.

Huge slice of artichoke and spinach pizza

Last night though, I decided to try something else. Something I heard was really good but not because of any attempts to be like the stuff from the old world. Artichoke Basilles was definitely not like anything I ever ate in Italy but I have to say it was pretty good. The humongous slice of artichoke and spinach pizza I ate had a thick, crunchy crust and an even, gooey layer of cheese and toppings with the artichoke lending some of its creamy, buttery flavor to it. With all the NYU students crammed into the small space, it was almost like being in college again. (Except for the price of a whole pizza in Gainesville, I got just one slice.)

Pizza perfection

Now that’s a pizza party!

After eating at Motorino in the East Village, I thought I had found the one. I would have to look for real Neapolitan pizza no more in New York. Motorino was the one for me, and that’s all I needed.

Then I found Kestè, a small, bustling pizzeria in the West Village, and now I know: I’m not a one-pizzeria kind of girl. In this city, my heart and stomach are divided between east and west, Motorino and Kestè.

Flaneur, Vanessa and I went on a recent Thursday and after a 45-minute wait (because they don’t take reservations) we shuffled through the busy restaurant to our table on the other side of the flour covered pizza-making area and hot ovens. In addition to the mouth-watering aroma of fresh-from-the-oven pizzas and the fact that the whole place was packed, with even more hungry people waiting outside, there was another sign that this was going to be a good spot, and something that I look for in situations like these: Italians. One of the girls next to us, the family a few tables down, the old couple outside, even our waiter.

White pizza with burrata and tomatoes

With ingredients like buffalo mozzarella, soppressata, and pecorino romano, everything on the menu sounded delicious and by the looks of the pizzas getting served all around us, these were the real deal. Because none of us could decide on just one pizza, we decided to each get a different one and share.

Not long after we ordered (thankfully), our pizzas showed up and we hungrily set about dividing them up. They looked beautiful, just as perfect as their most perfect Italian counterparts, and after the first bite I was just as in love as I had been in Italy.

Pizza del re: fresh mozzarella, prosciutto, mushrooms and truffle

The first pizza I tried was one we decided on at the last minute when our waiter announced it as the special of the night. Although I don’t usually like white pizzas (meaning no sauce), when he said it had burrata, one of my favorite Italian cheeses made from mozzarella and cream, I was totally sold. Big, white blobs of the creamy cheese topped the thick, doughy crust. Little cherry tomatoes added a little color and a hint of that familiar taste to this amazing pizza. I almost felt like I was cheating on my love, Motorino. Kestè and I were getting into something serious here.

Kestè pizza: prosciutto, buffalo mozzarella, gran cru and arugulaNext up, I tore a slice of the pizza del re (king’s pizza) which Flaneur and Vanessa had already started on and were ooohing and aaahhing about between mouthfuls. The same thick crust was covered with tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, mushrooms, prosciutto and one of my favorite ingredients of all time: truffle spread. I tend to like my pizzas more on the simple side, with just one or two ingredients but on the pizza del re, all the toppings worked together perfectly so that if even just one was missing it wouldn’t of been half as good. As soon as all those flavors hit my tongue and seemingly swirled around my head, I was hooked. As if the pizza itself weren’t delicious enough, it left a mix of truffle and olive oil on the plate, perfect for dragging pizza crust through.

Last on my Kestè tour de force was the pizzeria’s self-titled pie, a lush leafy pizza with arugula, buffalo mozzarella, tomatoes, prosciutto, and gran cru, a hard pecorino cheese. No ingredient dominated the other. The entire surface was done almost in layers instead of one single blanket of mixed parts. The arugula mixed with the thick cheese shavings contrasted nicely in their dry textures to the gooey cheese underneath and the soft chewiness of the dough.

When every last bit of pizza was done, I debated with myself. Could this be better than Motorino, what I had previously named the best pizza on this side of the pond? As I sat and reminisced about pizzas past, I decided, nope, not better, not less delicious, just perfectly equal in my pizza loving heart…and stomach.

*Photography by the multi-talented Vanessa Garcia. Woot woot.

I beat the NY Times to saying it first…

A couple of weeks ago I sang the praises of the best pizza on this side of the Atlantic, and now it looks like I’m not the only one that thinks Motorino is awesome! A restaurant review in today’s New York Times has nothing but great things to say about the East Village and Brooklyn pizzerias. (Although, they do prefer the Brooklyn location because of it’s bigger space.)

“Motorino is having a moment. That seems fair. It serves the city’s best pizza,” writes Sam Sifton, whose job I’m insanely jealous of. (He got paid to eat there and then write about it. Ugh, color me envious.)

You heard that? The city’s BEST pizza. Who knows how many pizzerias are packed into this city and Motorino is the best. I said it, the New York Times said it, God himself probably agrees.

To really complete this, I think a trip to Brooklyn is in order.

Read what the Times and I have to say about this most delicious of New York pizzas. Try not to drool.

The best pizza on this side of the pond

Take note, all you nasty pizzas out there, THIS is what you should look like.

After saying arrivederci to my friends and boyfriend, the hardest thing about leaving Italy was parting ways with the food. Goodbye chicken liver crostini. So long burrata. See you later frittelle di riso. Until we meet again, dear friends.

Well, at least going to New York I’ll have good pizza, I reassured myself. Pizza is universal but New York’s is supposed to be great, right?

Wrong. So wrong.

To say that I was disappointed the first time I encountered this so-called “great pizza” would be putting it nicely. My roommate took me to a pizzeria around the corner from our Murray Hill apartment and while it smelled mildly enticing from outside, the second I walked in I knew it would never work out between us.

Glass countertop cases were filled with pizzas: flimsy, sad ones, covered in beige layers of cheese, and crumbly looking bits of sausage, and red pepperoni slices whose orange grease bled through the off-white cheese in unappetizing swirls of nastiness.

Ohmygod. Is that a heat lamp? How long has this depressing specimen of a pizza been sitting here? Is it too late to make a run for the door?

It was only my first or second week in the city, so I cut it a break and wrote off the bad experience as just that: one bad experience at one of a million pizza places in New York. It’s not like every single pizza made in Italy was perfect either.

Time passed and I had slices at other places, in other neighborhoods, with other toppings, and still nothing. If I passed a pizza parlor, I looked in the window and quickly inspected their product. Always the same sad pizzas, sitting under heat lamps like iguanas at the pet shop.

Some places weren’t horrible. They were just ok. But it was only the beer that went with them that got them even that far. Numbing my senses and probably my tastebuds, the beer helped me forget.

I was sad. Losing pizza made me nostalgic and whiney. I didn’t want to be a pizza snob but how could I not be? Il Pizzaiuolo, my favorite in Florence, had been directly below my apartment. Caffé Italiano, just down the street, had made heart-shaped pizzas when I went with girlfriends. Gusta Pizza, across the river, had been a regular gathering place for friends. Each offered pizzas from dough that had been kneaded right there in front of me, with bright white chunks of fresh mozzarella and other delicious ingredients, all before being slid into a giant wood-fired brick oven. Not a heat lamp in sight.

But I wasn’t giving up that easily.

Good pizza has to be around here somewhere! New York is crawling with Italians, real Italian-speaking, born-in-Italy Italians. I hear them everywhere I go and can pick them out in crowds. I doubt they’re settling for this cheapy, iguana pizza, so where are they eating, dammit??

I polled friends and coworkers, pored over blogs and reviews, scrutinized menus and inspected photos. And then I found it.

Motorino, a Neapolitan-style pizzeria in the East Village. Their menu had just a few pizzas, featuring classic ingredients like buffalo mozzarella and fresh basil, and even toppings reminiscent of my Italy days like soppressata and scamorza.

This was going to be good. I could feel it in my bones.

Flaneur and I showed up late on a Friday night and the small restaurant was packed. After a 30-minute wait, we were squeezed into a small table for two. I scanned the room and besides amazing looking pizza remains on people’s plates, I saw another sign that put me at ease: a table of Italians, chatting away and lounging around at the table where they had probably finished eating some two hours earlier. These were real Italians.

We ordered and thankfully not long after, our pizzas arrived.

Flaneur, ever the traditionalist Italian, ordered a margherita, which of course I tried. It was perfect, like it had somehow magically been teleported from a pizzeria in Napoli somewhere. Bright red tomato sauce, creamy white splotches of mozzarella and bright green basil leaves. And it wasn’t just good looking. This pizza was the real deal. It. Was. Awesome. Soft, doughy crust. Not too thick, not to thin. None of that weird, even coating of artificial cheese. No orange, acidic tomato gunk. Just simple, delicious perfection.

Oh pizza, how I missed you so.

I, on the other hand, ordered the cremini and spicy sausage pizza. Same soft, wonderful crust as the margherita but topped with scamorza (a Southern Italian cheese similar to mozzarella) AND pecorino, cremini (small, brown mushrooms), spicy little chunks of sausage, and swirls of olive oil (the good stuff), with just a few black olives, some garlic, and a bit of thyme.

After just the first bite, Motorino and its pizzas quickly won a place on my hands-down-all-time-favorite-insanely-delicious-pizzerias list. Anyone watching me wolf down that pizza might have thought I was having some sort of religious experience.

At the end of the night, as I walked home with my New York-transplanted Italian boyfriend and a belly full of authentic Italian pizza, I thought, ah, now this is la dolce vita. Thanks for pulling through, New York.