A Year In Food

From New York to Costa Rica to Europe to California: 365 Days of Dining Out

Sunday, May 08, 2005

May. 8.

Dinner -

Paprika - 110 St. Mark's Pl., East Village
Lobster ravioli with shrimp and zucchini ragout in a white wine reduction, a side of haricot vert, a glass of Chianti
$27 (if I were paying)

I shouldn’t complain. Hercules had to endure twelve challenges while I only had one. Still, mine was at least as formidable as cleaning the Augean stables or slaying the Hydra. For my grandfather’s birthday, I was enlisted to pick a restaurant for my picky relatives. It couldn’t be expensive, quiet, adventurous or crowded, reservations had to be accepted, the food had to be very good, and the menu had to accommodate a large variety of tastes including my vegan cousin’s. So far, it’s a tricky task but nothing I felt I couldn’t handle.

Of course, there had to be a twist. The birthday party in question was to be held on Mother’s Day, which is the single biggest day of the year for dining out, and my aunt didn’t tell me until a few days earlier. If I pulled this off, my place in the foodie pantheon would be assured. If I failed, the shame would be insurmountable.

It took some brainstorming, but I decided on Paprika, if partly because it was on the same block as my apartment. If the lunch turned out to be painful (as any event with my family inevitably does), at least I wouldn’t have far to trek home. Also, Vince had eaten there before with good results, making me jealous by talking up the lobster ravioli.

Thankfully for my reputation, Paprika turned out to be the perfect choice. The food was amazingly well-priced, the menu had a wide array of options (we were even offered both the brunch and lunch menus), the service was casual and accommodating, and the room was homey and simple. Because it was a neighborhood restaurant rather than a well-known hotspot, there was also plenty of space.

Unfortunately, Egrino Donagrandi’s intriguing Northern Italian menu made me want to sample a lot. But because I wasn’t paying and my relatives weren’t ordering much, I had to restrict myself. I was disappointed but happy to go with the lobster ravioli and to sneak in a side order of haricot vert.

The ravioli was delicious and very cleanly prepared. There wasn’t an excess of sauce or oil, the white wine a wonderfully light reduction to complement the fresh, fat pasta. The added touch of the shrimp and zucchini topping only added to the greatness of the dish. Similarly, the haricot vert were also quite good though more standard. Buttery and mildly garlicky, these French beans confirmed the promise the remainder of the menu held.

Again, I wished I could have tried more, but my family was very happy with my choice. Because we were easily the loudest party in the place, I’m not sure Paprika felt the same, but my new challenge is making it back on my own to give the restaurant a full taste. 7/10

A review by Allyson Giard from About.com


Sullivan St. Bakery - 73 Sullivan St., Soho
Pizza Zucchini (Green squash, gruyere cheese, salt, extra virgin olive oil, breadcrumbs), Pizza Bianca con Pecorino (Pecorino cheese, extra virgin olive oil, salt, breadcrumbs)

Somewhere in its transfer from Italy to America, pizza got wacky. The simplicity of a Neapolitan pie became complicated with tiers of toppings. Pineapples and ham were invited to the party. Pizza became a dessert option. Thai and Mexican varieties sprang up. And that’s just the tip of the pepperoni.

Sullivan St. Bakery offers yet another derivation, one which seems particularly interesting. A small Soho bakery specializing in breads and tasty desserts, they also have several selections of what they call pizza. But with only one containing tomato sauce, many not even containing cheese and all of them room temperature, the definition is loose-fitting. It’s something closer to very good bread with pizza touches. But with options like the Carciofi (artichokes, breadcrumbs, salt, extra virgin olive oil, garlic) and the Schiacciata D’uva (champagne grapes, raisins, extra virgin olive oil, anise seed, sugar), my mouth’s too full to stress too much about classifications.

I chose the Pizza Zucchini and the Pizza Bianca con Pecorino (some of the options on the web site are only available seasonally), both also far from traditional pizza but delicious on their own merits. The breadcrumbs on the zucchini gave it a nice crispy texture that offset the softness of the vegetable. Similarly, the soft cheese inside the Bianca bread highlighted the great contrast between the two ingredients. The top-quality ingredients and the spareness of the preparations rightly emphasized the greatness of Sullivan St. Bakery’s bread.

Biting into both of my squares, I even decided it might be worth abiding all the marshmallow fluff-topped pizzas and Pizza Hut gimmicks if something as original and tasty as Sullivan St. can result from opening up our borders. 7/10

Named best pizza by NY Metro in 2000


Blogger Robyn said...

I LOVE SULLIVAN STREET BAKERY! Generally, I'm not really into pizza so I go for bread. Mmmmm. The pizza bianco without the cheese is SO GOOD. HOLY CRAP. And the one with cheese is also good. And everything is good. The end.

9:33 PM  
Blogger Lonesome Hero said...

So it sounds like you like Sullivan St. Bakery. Is the bianca the best then or is there something even better?

1:30 PM  
Blogger Robyn said...

I haven't had enough to say what's the best thing there (I have yet to try the crostatas) but the pizza bianca made me think "Whoa...this is delicious. Whoaaa." I say that a lot, but I really meant it. It probably helped that it costed a dollar, resulting in a high cost to delicious-ness ratio. ;)

1:00 AM  

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