Tag Archives: Pizza

New York City – five ways

Warning #1: all lists are subjective.

Warning #2: lists about New York City are more subjective than most.

So, unless you’re a 37-year-old Irishman with a MetroCard, good walking shoes, an empty stomach and a day to fill, what follows seem a little subjective.

But whatever. Here’s five ways into New York, five standout experiences among the dozens I encountered on a short visit to the city last week. And, helpfully, five photographs.

And no, there’s no particular order (though I’d leave the pizza until after the run).

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New York1

A dawn run in Central Park

Get out of bed and get to one of the West 59th Street entrances just before the sun rises over the Upper East Side. Join the other early birds and start heading north. After seven or eight minutes you’ll come upon the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir. It might be oddly-named but its 2.2km add up to one of the world’s finest urban runs – pure shuffling, sweating tranquility in the midst of Manhattan. You may never live in a West Side mansion but you will see the dawn break over one.

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NewYork2

Grab some crab 

Done with the run? This is your breakfast. Get it from Artichoke Basille’s on East 14th Street, a tiny pizzeria which offers just four types of pie. Ignore (if you can) the sicilian or the artichoke and go for the crab. I’m not sure how they make it and, once I bite in, I don’t care. It’s the best slice I’ve had in the city, and best eaten standing shoulder-to-shoulder with other punters on the street outside. Can’t handle pizza at 10am? You’re in the wrong town.

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NewYork3

Browse a (very, very large) bookstore

Yes, booksellers still exist – even in Manhattan. Strand Book Store, two blocks south of Union Square, is a bibliophile’s heaven; or hell, as you’ll amass a dozen books in an hour’s browsing, only to leave half of them because your suitcase isn’t big enough. That said, they had me at ’18 miles of books’.

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NewYork4

‘A mug or two of your finest’

Famous for its policy of ‘Good Ale, Raw Onions and No Ladies’ (until the 1970s at least) McSorley’s is what you expect of an old-school New York boozer – sawdust on the floor, exposed pipes, beer-rings on wooden tables and Irish barmen. Packed at nights (must be the onion-loving ladies) it’s best hit in the early afternoon, when the bar’s half-empty and the sun is shining through the tobacco-stained glass doors. Why does the ale come in two mugs? Who knows? Who cares?

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NewYork5

The meating place of the world

New York’s famous for its steakhouses, and Keens is famous among them. This is the land of dark wood, low lights, chest-bursting T-bones, mutton chops and creamed spinach. Time slows, the city (and the world) outside the pipe-strewn roof and picture-clad walls ceases to exist. Your New York day ends with you, 16ozs of striploin and a huge cab sav. If you can finish it there, you’ll finish it anywhere.

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Taste another little pizza my heart

Clogherhead. It's all about the seafood. Pic: Clare Kleinedler

Clogherhead. More fishing than flatbread.
Pic: Clare Kleinedler

How far would you go for a slice of pizza?

Eighteen miles across pot-holed country roads in a taxi to a small fishing village perched on the edge of the Irish Sea?

That’s where I found myself last Saturday night, clinging to my seatbelt, en route to La Pizzeria in Clogherhead, Co Louth.

Clogherhead’s more renowned for fishing that flatbread. It’s also the home of Captain RedMan, a headless sea captain’s ghost who reputedly spends his time wandering the area.

If it’s primo Italian cuisine he’s after the RedMan’s in luck – a chef named Jian Carlo has set up there. A local legend on foot of his erstwhile trattoria of the same name in nearby Drogheda (and, er, ‘direct’ customer manner) Jian Carlo opened his new operation in Clogherhead a few months back.

His previous oven produced some of the best pizza I’ve had in Ireland. Eighteen months had passed since we last had a slice there, so my wife and I undertook a pizza pilgrimage last weekend.

My frutti di mare – with added anchovies – was very good. Thin, dry crust, less rather than more mozzarella, just enough tuna.

Bon anchovy! Jian Carlo's finest.

Bon anchovy! Jian Carlo’s finest.
Pic: Clare Kleinedler

It wasn’t as I remembered it, though. But that may have had nothing to do with the dish itself.

Thinking about it afterwards it occurred to me that memory – the context of place, time, company, weather – influences my palate as much as my tastebuds themselves.

A madeleine-dipping Frenchman realised this long before I did, of course.

Swapping French biscuits for Italian flatbreads I asked myself: what were my most memorable slices?

Here’s my top five, in no order and with taste just one of the ingredients:

La Pizzeria (the original): the punch is the base and the crust, which could be eaten with just a slather of sauce. Thankfully Jian Carlos added that tuna, prawns and those anchovies (if you asked). For two years we couldn’t visit Drogheda without eating it.

Pizza Stop: a go-to staple in my single days this alleyway bistro boasted a seafood pizza with the saltiest anchovies (detect a trend here?) of any I’ve had in Dublin. Calamari a go-go too.

Capri - no salad. Frutti di mare at Verginiello. (Pic: Clare Kleinedler)

Capri – no salad. Frutti di mare at Verginiello.
Pic: Clare Kleinedler

Steps of Rome: back in my 20s this Chatham Street joint sold €2 slices to go, which often fortified my buddies and I on trips from Neary’s to gigs in Whelan’s. I can still taste the crumbly base – I suspect semolina.

Ristorante Verginiello: Capri’s overpriced and blinged up. This pizza was neither – I can still taste the mussel juice mixed with the melting cheese. The fact that we tasted it on our honeymoon made it even better. Jackie O, you missed out.

Artichoke Basille’s: on a 2010 work trip to NYC I hit their original East 14th Street outlet. Eschewing meat I opted for a crab slice. Perfect seafood, incredible mozzarella, this was the best pizza I’d ever had. The following day I wrapped up my morning run by breakfasting on another couple of slices. Next time I’m in town it’s a taxi direct from JFK to 14th Street.

Now that's a pizza crustacean - Artichoke Basille's crab slice.

Now that’s a pizza crustacean – Artichoke Basille’s crab slice.

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