Eat It, Damn It!

Reviews, raves, slams, and damns.

Monthly Archives: November 2011

Pasticerria Rocco

When I have dessert, I like the richest, creamiest, most-heart-attack-inducing pastries possible. I don’t get to have them often, so when I do, I make sure that they are the best available. My favorite: cannoli. My favorite place for cannoli: Rocco’s.

The first time I went to Rocco’s was purely by chance. I hadn’t heard of the place, I got no recommendation, it was just blind luck. I made the mistake of driving into lower Manhattan during the San Genero festival. Needless to say, after a few hours of stop and go, then finally finding a parking spot, I needed a bit of caffeine. My first time in Rocco’s, I didn’t have any form of pastry, I just had cappuccino… and it was excellent.

Cappuccino
The cappuccino is still excellent. Thankfully, that has not changed in the near fifteen years I have been a regular. If you are fan of coffee, I could not give it a higher recommendation. The espresso is also very nice.

Iced Tea
MG got an iced tea. It was fine.

Chocolate Cannoli
The chocolate cannoli is sin. The shell is crisp, despite being draped in a dark crust. The pastry cream is sweet and creamy beyond imagination. The chocolate chips and powdered sugar are just nice accoutrements.

Peanut Butter Pie
MG is a big fan of the Peanut Butter Pie. It is basically a pie of pastry cream mixed with peanut butter, then topped with Reeses Pieces, chocolate, and caramel. The pie crust is fresh and delicious, but it almost doesn’t matter when everything that tops it is laden with peanut buttery goodness. The piece you see in the picture is as big as it looks. MG could not finish, as few mortals could. Get a slice to share with another peanut butter lover.

Everything at Rocco’s is wonderful. Everything I have ever tried has been special.

Pasticerria Rocco
243 Bleecker Street
New York, NY 10014
212-242-6031
(Google Map)

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Racanelli’s Pizza & Brew

Pizza and Brew is a Westchester institution. They have multiple locations, and the family that owns the restaurant has a number of other eateries.

I don’t eat Italian food (outside of pizza) very often. It is very rare that when presented with the “What do you want for dinner?” question that I will say Italian. When I do make that rare venture for Italian, I generally stick with common and traditional options: penne vodka, chicken parmesan, etc… Pizza and Brew is characterized by large portions and hearty dishes. They pile the food high and give you plenty of sauce with whatever your option. It’s not family style, per se, but they do have a “For A Bunch” option for most of their menu items.

Garlic Knots
MG started with a small order of garlic knots. They were well buttered and heavy on the garlic. I would not be able to finish two of them without being doubled over in pain. Take that with a grain of salt as I do not use a lot of garlic. MG enjoyed them immensely.

Fried Calamari
I got a small order of fried calamari. Just so that we’re clear, yes, what you see pictured is a small order. I imagine that the large is carried out by a team of waiters. The calamari is OK. It was a little rubbery, but the accompanying sauce improved the flavor immensely. I was in the mood for the item, so I was satisfied. If I was not in the mood for them, I would probably be more harsh with my review.

Penne Ala Vodka
For an entree, MG got the penne ala vodka with grilled chicken. Again, the portion was huge. The sauce is creamy and rich, and a regular order is almost impossible to finish in a sitting. The grilled chicken was perfectly done and compliments the dish very nicely. I’ve had a number of grilled chicken items at Pizza and Brew over the years, and they always get it right, never overcooked or under-seasoned. Thumbs up.

Chicken Parm
I wanted a simple comfort item, so I got a Chicken Parmesan sandwich. I am still searching for the chick parm of my dreams, but this was still a nice dish. Unlike the grilled chicken, the chicken cutlet is a little thin and therefore becomes a little overdone and stringy. It is not bad, but it is not ideal. The sauce is on the sweet side, but provides a nice bit of moisture for the chicken. The mozzarella is good and pleasantly, sparingly applied. The sandwich got me through, but will not be haunting my dreams.

Side Salad
MG’s dish came with a choice of soup or salad. The salad is nice mix of leafy greens. She declared the house dressing, “OK”.

If you are going to make a trip to Pizza and Brew, I highly recommend the Gnocchi Profumati. It is gnocchi in a cream/vodka sauce with grilled chicken. It might be the heaviest dish I’ve ever eaten, but it is decadent deliciousness. Definitely share it with someone.

Racanelli’s Pizza & Brew
851 Central Park Ave
Scarsdale, NY 10583
914-472-1032
(Google Map)

The Sitting Duck Tavern

The Sitting Duck is one of the new restaurants in Stratford, CT. It is a subsidiary of Southport Brewing Company, a relatively well know chain in the Eastern CT region. The Sitting Duck is more bistro than brewpub. I guess the idea is to appeal to a different clientele. Thus, there are fewer televisions, a smaller bar, and intimate wood tables. It looks very nice. Looks are all well and good, but how’s the food?

Pork Chop
I went with MG and her parents. Her father and I got the pork chop. It is listed as Cider brined, pan seared and glazed with a local cider shallot pan sauce. The pan sauce tastes like a barbeque sauce mixed with apple juice. The long and short: it works. The sauce tasted great with the thick cut pork chop. The chop could have done with a little more sear or perhaps a bit of fresh peppercorn on the crust, but nevertheless, it was very tasty. The accompanying white beans and wilted spinach complimented the chop fantastically.

Chicken Bomb
MG got the Chicken Bomb sandwich. It is a nice piece of grilled chicken served with a garlic mayo, bacon, and greens. It is nice, but not a must have. A “must have” are the french fries that accompanied the sandwich. The fries have some form of garlic oil on them, and they are deliciously addictive. I could not stop myself from grazing.

Penne Rustica
MG’s mother got the Penne Rustica, listed as having chicken, artichoke hearts, roasted peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic and white wine. I did not try it, but she said it was nice.

SBC Beer
I got one of SBC’s brews to go with my meal. It was very nice, a full, rich beer.

The service was nice, and the décor is pleasant. The only complaint we had was with the noise level of the restaurant. We were seated on the second floor where they also placed speakers to pump music through the restaurant. Thus, it was loud where we sat, not obnoxiously, but enough to necessitate a louder than normal speaking voice. Other than that, I say get to Sitting Duck sometime before dinner hour when it can get a little crowded.

The Sitting Duck Tavern
3694 Main Street
Stratford, CT 06614
203-873-0871
(Google Map)

Veselka

“What is the quintessential American food?” I asked that question of friends and family at one point (to their annoyance). The usual suspects were meatloaf and hamburgers. I guess the USA loves chopped beef.

There are a number of sites dedicated to finding good burgers. New York, it seems, has undergone a burger Renaissance over the past decade. One of the most notable additions to the Manhattan landscape is Danny Meyer’s Shake Shack. Five Guys Burgers and Fries have migrated north to open locations in Manhattan, Queens, and Westchester. Midtown will soon have a Steak N’ Shake. However, in all the Big Apple’s Best Burger lists, there is an entry that keeps popping up, and it’s a Ukranian diner.

Veselka has been an East Village staple for years. Some menu favorites include borscht and stuffed cabbage, but the burger is what MG and I crave. It is an all chuck burger. There are cross char marks that indicate a nice stop on a griddle. Every burger is fresh and delicious. I read that Veselka gets their bread from Amy’s Bread. It is a brioche bun that absorbs all the delicious juice perfectly. The bun is seeded, airy, and substantial enough to hold the patty, condiments, cheese, and whatever toppings are nestled alongside your slice of red meat nirvana.

Bacon Cheeseburger
I got my burger with cheddar and bacon ($9 for plain burger; $1 for cheese; ??? for bacon). Veselka does not skimp on the bacon. It is thick cut, crisp, and they pile it high.

Bacon Cheeseburger with Onion
MG went with bacon, cheddar, and grilled onion. She declared, “These must be sweet Vidalia.” In her estimation, they made an excellent addition.

How do describe the taste of this burger? Imagine the best backyard barbeque burger you’ve ever had, make it thicker, cook it perfectly, and leave all the juices intact. It’s not complex. It’s just right. It’s not my favorite burger (I’ll review that later), but it is hard to go wrong with this little gem. My medium was pink the middle without being raw. MG’s “little past medium” was exactly so. I didn’t taste any complex seasonings, there are no beef blends to speak of, so the result is just a burger. Just a burger. Just a well-cooked, properly made, nicely seasoned (not overly seasoned) burger. I can’t imagine any burger lover hating this, unless they are in need of something more complex. At the least, I believe the Veselka burger sets an appropriate bar. Burgers should be at least as good as their offering.

Perogi Insides
Fries? We don’t need no stinking fries. This is where having a burger at a Ukranian diner comes in handy. What to have in place of deep fried potato sticks? How about deep fried potato perogies? Yeah… that’ll work.

Deep Fried Perogi
MG and I got a large order of perogies ($10.95) in a combination of potato and sweet potato. Each order comes with applesauce, sour cream, and grilled onions. You could get your perogies boiled instead of fried, but if you’re having a burger, are you really going to start worrying about cholesterol and calories now? The potato perogies were awesome. I don’t know what seasoning they use, or if it’s just a result of deep frying, but they made me emit a groan of pleasure. MG was more fond of the sweet potato variety which I found nice, but not on the level of the plain potato. Other flavors include meat, spinach, cheese, and more.

Numerous reviews have describe Veselka’s service as brisk, bordering and sometimes crossing into rude. Our waitress could not have been nicer. She was attentive, pleasant, and prompt. When she brought the bill, she apologized for the establishments tip suggestions on the bottom of the bill. “They put it there, not me.”

Veselka is open 24 hours, so there is no excuse not to stop in when the urge for a burger strikes. They have opened a second location just a few blocks away.

Veselka
144 2nd Avenue
New York, NY 10003-8305
212-228-9682
(Google Map)

My Gryo

My Gyro Front
In New York City, shops that have falafel and hummus don’t require much effort to find. In Stratford Connecticut, or “God’s Country” as I like to call it, such culinary delights are a little harder to stumble upon.

MG told me about My Gyro, but I was skeptical and worried. Falafel in a pita can run between $2 and $7 in NYC. In areas where such food is not common, I’ve seen people charge as much as $12. I’ll pay a premium for some items, but I can also recognize when you’re just gouging. At My Gyro, the falafel in pita is $5. I can live with that.

Bitten Falafel
The falafel was not the tastiest I ever had, but it was very nice. It wasn’t exceptionally crunchy or airy, but the texture was good and the flavor was nice. They are not oversized balls, but they didn’t skimp either. As you can gather, they were not the greatest I’ve ever had, but they were worthwhile. After eating, I found myself rubbing my tongue along the roof of my mouth as if savoring the experience. That has to count for something. The pita is loaded with lettuce, tomato, onions, and on some days, diced pickles.

Bitten Gyro
Their namesake, the gyro ($5.75) is also good. They get a nice char on the outside of the meat and fill it with the same toppings as the falafel. Again, the meat did not strike me as exceptional while eating, but I was licking my chops afterwards.

Hummus
The hummus ($4.50) is awesome. It is not especially creamy, but has wonderful notes of lemon and delicate chickpea flavor. The adjoining warm pita basket is fresh. The hummus is a must order.

All the sandwiches are available on pita or wrap. Wrap? Yeah, wrap. I can’t imagine what any of these dishes would taste like with a wrap. I wonder if they offer the standard tortilla style wrap or something more exotic. I’m not sure I want to find out.

Juices
They have a cool assortment of juices and soda available in exotic flavors. MG and I got the guava and papaya respectively. Nice!

In the area, there aren’t many Turkish cuisine options, so My Gyro is a welcome addition. Their space is small, so don’t expect to stay there with a party of six. This is mostly a pick up and go operation, but there are a few stools and one table available for the occasional dine-in customer. I’m looking forward to trying other items on the menu, but the hummus is definitely something I’ve got to order again.

My Gryo
1030 Stratford Avenue
Stratford, CT 06615
203-873-0831
(Google Map)