01/09/14 9:45am
CASSGANG

Behold, the Sicilian dessert empanada!

At first I thought the small battalion of golden crusted treats were empanadas, but then I remembered I was in an Italian bakery. Then again this Italian bakery, Russo’s, also sells Irish soda bread. I soon found out that cassatine ($2.20) are Sicilian and delicious. The puffy crecent shaped pastry had a lovely fried dough crust filled with ricotta cream. It was denser, but less sweet than a certain more familiar tubular Italian pastry and quite lovely with a cup of coffee. As I was leaving I discovered that the gal seated at a table taking five is from father’s hometown, Castellamare del Golfo. Ma che fortuna!

Russo Bakery, 61-04 Grand Ave., Maspeth, 718-894-4919

10/29/13 12:22pm
BUNKERMEAT

Bo kho, beef braised in Coffeed beer with Brooklyn Grange baby carrots.

On a dark, drizzly winter’s night I took the bus to a bleak stretch of Metropolitan Avenue in Ridgewood to meet my friend Max Falkowitz for dinner at Bún-ker then a new Vietnamese spot in a neighborhood better known for junkyards than Southeast Asian fare. I got lost, really lost, cursing in the freezing rain lost.

“Man, I don’t know where this damn place is!”, I bellowed to Max. “Look, just start without me.” Eventually I made it to the funky little dining room. At the time I found the food to be good, but not great. I am of course fully aware that perhaps my opinion was skewed by my blowing a gasket in an attempt to find the joint. (more…)

09/02/13 12:39pm
MIKEPASTA

Maspeth’s most decadent veal ravioli sings with the flavors of sage and speck.

My buddy Josh Ozersky likes to say I’ve forsaken my Italian heritage to eat weird Chinese food in dodgy Flushing basements. He’s only partially right. I grew up in a home where soy sauce and hoisin were as common as Sunday gravy and the hunk of Pecorino we called “grating cheese.” Now and then I am turned on to a dish that makes me proud of my Italian heritage. Most recently it was the pasta—specifically the ravioli di vitello burro, salvia e speck ($13.95)—at the newish Osteria Italiana in Maspeth, a neighborhood that’s more Polish than Italian. Of all people it was my adopted Jewish mother, Times Ledger food critic Suzanne Parker, who turned me on to this lovely dish. Perfectly al dente triangles are filled with veal and sauced with butter and sage. Salty, smoky bits of speck top it all off. Buttery and decadent, it’s nothing like my Italian mother’s pillowy red sauce ravioli, but every bit as good.

Osteria Italiana, 57-57 61st St., Maspeth, 718-894-4391