Wednesday, October 12, 2011

BIts & Morsels

Margherita extra pizza at Olio Pizza e Più.
Three different Modern Italian Flavors
by Erin Frankel

Taking its cue from a classic Italian trattoria, the typical contemporary Italian New York City restaurant offers a fresh and simple approach to Modern Italian cuisine. With sleek interiors, open spaces, a sexy atmosphere, and a menu padded with creative antipasti, gourmet pizzas, inventive pastas, and a variety of wood roasted and grilled dishes, the Modern Italian appeals to a variety of diners seeking a casual, hip and upbeat venue with delicious and affordable fare.

Emporio's vibrant and high-energy dining room is where timeless and innovative dining intersect. The name “Emporio” means “Local Grocery Store” in Italian, which is exactly what this contemporary version of a rustic Roman restaurant is supposed to be. The vaulted skylight brings a modernized touch to the more traditional Italian provisions like the long, wooden, rustic communal tables and the classic blazing wood-burning oven. While signature Italian creations form the core of Emporio’s fare, its menu tempts with many inventive choices.
Strapazzate at Emporio.
On a recent Sunday afternoon, I was overwhelmed with the spectrum of seemingly delicious options, so I decided to go with the brunch special — a bellini and the strapazzate. It was a great choice as the strapazzate was a scrumptious medley of creamy scrambled eggs, smoked salmon & a goat cheese crostino.

Also, the variety of breakfast pizzas is not something to be missed. If you're looking to kick-start your day, opt for the spicy sopressata; a crunchy thin-crusted pizza with fresh San Marzano tomatoes and fior di latte mozzarella.

231 Mott St.

Spicy sopressata pizza at Emporio.
Olio Pizza e Più.

Smoked salmon bruschetta at Olio.
If you have an inclination to dine al fresco without the hassle of waiting for a table at Da Silvano or Bar Pitti, walk about five blocks uptown and you’ll find Olio, an expansive outdoor Modern Italian trattoria that is much quieter, more casual, and most likely has a seat waiting for you.

Once settled in, it's hard not to appreciate the comfortable and airy and rustic interior and, clearly, the outdoor seating.

While assagini of bruschetta with smoked salmon, red onions and capers, and insalate of fiorentina (a mixture of arugula, grilled zucchini, grilled eggplants, mozzarella, and grilled portabello) lend a light, contemporary approach to classic Italian dishes, Olio’s talent lies in its refreshingly simple approach to pizza, my favorite being the Margherita extra — a thin-crust pie topped with fresh cherry tomatoes and creamy buffalo mozzarella.

Olio Pizza e Più
3 Greenwich Ave.

Fiorentina salad at Oilo.
Margherita extra pizza at Oilo.
Centro Vinoteca.

Centro Vinoteca is the quintessential Modern Italian Restaurant. It is trendy, sleek, and minimalist in décor, but maintains a casual elegance at its core. The kitchen, originally guided by the controversial Food Network star, Anne Burrell, still retains its verve under chef Beau Houck’s influence. But, two years later, in a more unassuming manner. The well-rounded menu seamlessly combines Mediterranean and Northern Italian flavors.

Among the many delicate small plates, my favorites include the six oysters on the half shell accompanied by a light and flavorful prosecco mignonette sauce; the grilled Mediterranean octopus atop a tondini bean ragu and drizzled with a chili oil; the classic eggplant parmesan, modernized as a compact antipasti with rich flavors of fresh mozzarella and goat cheese; and the seafood brodetto, a large tomato-clam broth filled with a salt cod crostini, rock shrimp, mussels, and clams.
6 oysters on the half shell at Centro Vinoteca.
There are quite a few bar/restaurants in town that offer skillful choices of bar snacks during happy hour. The same can be said of Centro Vinoteca where a full repertoire of substantial small dishes (called “Piccoloni”) are perfect for noshing. Three of my faves: Rosario’s white truffled deviled eggs, Di Palo’s ricotta, grilled piadina, and tuscan olive oil, and the saffron arancini with smoked mozzarella.

Centro Vinoteca
74 Seventh Avenue
New York, NY
Eggplant Parmesan at Centro Vinoteca. Grilled octopus at Centro Vinoteca.
Seafood brodetto at Centro Vinoteca.
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