Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Bits & Morsels goes to Brio

Whole wheat pasta with vegetables and pasta with mixed seafood at Brio.

Brio. Everyone has a favorite neighborhood restaurant. For me it’s Brio and I am there sometimes as much as four times a week. When I am not physically at Brio, I am most likely ordering in from them. Not many Italian restaurants offer a full delivery menu with speedy service. Brio, located at 137 East 61st Street, is owned by the Scoditti Family and has been in business for eighteen years. In New York restaurant years, that's an eternity. Many restaurants of that age tend to feel ancient and crusty; Brio's guts were recently renovated and it feels fresh and new. There are two distinct dining rooms at Brio. The café side is casual with outdoor seating and a pizza oven in the corner of the room. The pizza oven gives the room that cozy fireplace warmth and scent.

Brio is located near Bloomingdales and between all the shoppers and New Yorkers who work in the area, they have a very busy lunch scene. The other dining room is more formal or less casual to be more exact, but both rooms offer the same menu. I usually sit on the café side at the corner table. Brio has a lot of regulars and they know where they want to sit.

There is usually at least one family member in the restaurant to make you feel at home. My dining partner was Damien Scoditti who is a good friend and one of the owners of Brio. The food at Brio is straightforward and consistently solid. The tender baby artichokes, pan fried with garlic (crispy and fragrant), is outstanding. If you like artichokes like I do, don't pass on this appetizer. If you're not too hungry, a satisfying dinner combination is the Paesana salad, the artichokes, and a square or two of focaccia bread to mop everything up. Brio will substitiute any pasta dish with whole wheat pasta, and their whole wheat pasta with vegetables truly leaves you satisfied. There really is no dress code at Brio and you can go there with your family for a celebration or with your friends to grab a pizza. Although Brio is a neighborhood restaurant for me, all of my friends who live downtown or in the 90s always choose to meet there for dinner. The consistent quality and accomodating nature of Brio has earned it a deserved reputation as a neighborhood fixture and favorite. [Brio]
Pizza, pizza, pizza and the pizza oven at Brio.
Paesana salad -- radicchio, belgium endive, arugula lettuce, roasted peppers, asparagus tips. Pan-fried baby artichokes with roasted garlic.
Clockwise from top left: Inside Brio; A basket of Focaccia bread; Salmon Tartar; Trout with capers; My dinner partner, Damien Scoditti.
Spaghetti with tomato sauce and cheese. Spaghetti with eggplant and ricotta salata.
Clockwise from top left: My favorite white wine, Messapia; Tiramisu; Iced cappuccino; Panna Cotta with a balsamic glaze.
Halloween is the best reason to go off your diet and eat lots (but not lots and lots) of candy. This NY Times article talks about the bevy of international alternatives to the typical candy bar. This year, in addition to Halloween cupcakes I will be giving out baklava from Alfanoose. Located at 8 Maiden Lane in the Financial District, Alfanoose serves authentic Middle Eastern food. I go there often for a falafel and pita but have only recently discovered their dessert menu.
Baklava from Alfanoose.
Turns out they make their baklava fresh everyday from an age-old Lebanese recipe, using rosewater which cuts through the sweetness, which gives the baklava a floral palette. In place of Mounds and Bounty I will also be giving out Namora from Alfanoose. Namora is a dense coconut cornmeal cake. Trick or Treat!
[The New York Times]
[Halloween Cupcakes]
Falafel sandwich from Alfanoose. Namora (dense coconut cornmeal cake) from Alfanoose.
Halloween cupcakes from burgers&cupcakes.
For the first time in a while, lobster is cheaper than hamburger meat. Due to the faltering economy, there is less demand for lobster and restaurants and retailers are ordering less. This is distressing the lobster industry and the lobstermen are really hurting. Check out this video from NBC nightly news. [NBC]

Something to think about
next time you eat oysters. In order to filter out the sewage from the Charles River, The Massachusetts Oyster project dumped 150,000 oysters into the river. Oysters used to be plentiful (even here in New York) but due to pollution and the changing salinity levels in the water, the oyster population has dwindled. []

If you want a unique dining
experience, try out one of these farm to table dinners. Some chefs are serving dinner outside in the actual farm where the food is grown. Not only is this fun but it is an opportunity to really learn about where your food comes from. [USA Today]

Until we eat again,
Jordana Z.

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