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Rizzo’s Fine Pizza Bringing a Slice of Queens to LES

DSC00283Kavitha Team Rizzo’s

An Astoria favorite is aiming to expand into the space that held Frankies 17 and later Francesca’s. The Local spotted the owners of Rizzo’s Fine Pizza at 17 Clinton Street last night, drumming up signatures in support of a beer and wine license.

Rizzo’s is a popular family-run operation that specializes in thin-crust pies. The original location, opened in 1959, still stands at 30-13 Steinway Street and there’s an offshoot on the Upper East Side at 1426 Lexington Avenue.

When it opens in about two months, the 20-seat location will have a rustic vibe and be a bit more formal than the original. Read more…

Heart n’ Soul to Replace Mama’s Food Shop Next Week

UntitledDaniel Maurer

The mural that graced Mama’s Food Shop has been painted over and will be replaced when Heart n’ Soul opens on East Third Street next Thursday.

“We had mixed feelings about that,” said Richard Freedman, the landlord of Mama’s Food Shop who took over the space in July, to the chagrin of many East Villagers.

At the end of the day, the old artwork just didn’t click. “It’s a new place; it has a new identity,” he said.

That identity is “casual soul food with a chef,” said Mr. Freeman, and the chef is David Conn, who said his brand of “Southern coastal cuisine” aims to highlight the history of the Gullah population in the Lowcountry of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. The slave descendents were the first creators of soul food, he said. Read more…

Holy Smokes! Lucky Cheng’s Space Getting BBQ Joint, Beer Garden, Honky Tonk Bar

Pride and Joy FB Pic 1(1)Courtesy Pride and Joy A 5,000-pound smoker is lowered into the space.

From tiki to honky tonk: the space that once housed Waikiki Wally’s, adjacent Lucky Cheng’s, will become a “rock-n’-roll honky tonk bar” when Pride and Joy BBQ opens in late April or May, according to an employee. And that’s not all: the barbecue joint also aims to have a rooftop beer garden.

After Lucky Cheng’s moved to midtown last year, its three-story home on First Avenue was snatched up by Myron Mixon, a highly decorated competition-barbecue champ and star of the show “BBQ Pitmasters.”

Last month, team Mixon crane-lifted a pair of 5,000-pound custom smokers into the barbecue joint’s “show kitchen,” in what will be the main-level dining room.

“They’re created to smoke 400 pounds of meat each,” said Executive Coordinator Gabriela Stanciu of the gigantic boxes.
Read more…

Bad Burger Closed By Health Department Despite ‘A’ Grade

UntitledDaniel Maurer

Bad Burger was closed by the health department late last night.

Unlike Maharlika and Yaffa Café, which were forced to shutter earlier this month and have since reopened, the restaurant did pretty well during its recent inspections. In fact, it scored an A just last month.

So what happened? “Pee Wee” Masco, an owner, told The Local, “It’s nothing in terms of the code or anything, or any conditions in the restaurant; it’s in regards to a past due balance that fell through a crack and we were unaware. We’ll be taking care of that this afternoon and the restaurant will be back open in a few hours.”

A sticker on the door cites the restaurant for “operating without a permit.”

Is Christmas Finally Over at Royal Bangladesh Indian Restaurant?


Royal Bangladesh Indian Restaurant will be closed until March 4, according to a sign posted on its shutter. Of course, the BYOB spot on First Avenue and East Sixth Street shares an address with two other Indian restaurants that have been battling for over 20 years. When The Local stopped by earlier today, the ground-floor space was stripped of its trademark Christmas lights and there wasn’t a sidewalk barker in sight.

An electrician confirmed that the restaurant is undergoing renovations. Maybe so it can better compete with the light shows upstairs? Heck, maybe it has finally caught on to the filament bulb trend…

Breaking (Gluten-Free) Bread With Actress-Baker Jennifer Esposito

Jennifer Esposito BakingCourtesy Jennifer’s Way Jennifer Esposito baking.

Brooklyn-born actress Jennifer Esposito is no stranger to the East Village: the crime drama she starred in, “Blue Bloods,” has filmed in the neighborhood before. But she’ll become invested in a much bigger way when she opens Jennifer’s Way Bakery on East 10th Street this Friday. Ms. Esposito, who was diagnosed with celiac disease five years ago, plans to serve organic baked goods that are free of gluten, dairy, refined sugar, soy, and peanuts. Aside from offering gluten-free bagels on weekends, she’ll occasionally bring in a doctor to talk about celiac disease — “sort of like a support group for adults and kids,” said Ms. Esposito. “Because there are so many social elements that come along with this disease that having like-minded people come in and talk.”

We met Ms. Esposito at the bakery for a chat.


What made you choose the East Village to open Jennifer Way’s Bakery?


It seems to me the area is very health conscious. As you can see there are a lot of organic places around. I think being around like-minded individuals is important for this, so I thought this was a great area…it’s a great location. I have a lot of friends in the area, and a lot of friends who own restaurants in the area — and have been here for years. And my first apartment was over here on 11th Street, when I was 18 years old, so I really do like this area.  Read more…

Joe’s Pizza Opening On 14th Street This Week

photo (22)Paul-Benjamin Dousset

One of the city’s most celebrated slices is coming to East 14th Street — possibly by the end of the week.

Joe’s Pizza, the slice joint at 7 Carmine Street, has renovated the space that briefly held Naked Pizza and is aiming to open there by Friday.

“Everything is going to be the same. Same sauce, same memorabilia; nothing is going to change,” said owner Pino Pozzuoli.

Don’t expect Joe’s to join the $1 pizza wars: Mr. Pozzuoli hasn’t even thought about changing his prices. “Everything will be the same, so we’ll still have the same prices over on 14th Street that we do here on Carmine Street.” Read more…

Video: A Father and Son Chronicle Life at McSorley’s

Earlier this month, McSorley’s Old Ale House celebrated its 159th birthday. Geoffrey “Bart” Bartholomew has been a barman at the saloon for 40 of those years. His son has worked there on and off throughout most of his twenties.

Mr. Bartholomew moved to New York City from Ohio to pursue a writing career. After struggling to capture the essence of the history-clad, sawdust-covered tavern in form of short stories or novels, he found his voice in poetry. Last year, “The McSorley Poems Volume II — Light or Dark” was published by Charlton Street Press.

Now, his son Rafe —  a writer for the popular sports website Grantland — is trying to tell those kinds of stories in his own way. Having spent most of his childhood at McSorley’s, Rafe feels a special connection to the place. After a three-year absence, he moved back to New York from Los Angeles, and now works as a stand-in for his father every other week, or sometimes even side-by-side with him.

In our video, above, Rafe tells us more about the book he’s writing about the bar.

A Glimpse Inside The Fourth, The Hyatt Union Square’s Brasserie

UntitledDaniel Maurer

Here’s a peak inside the “all-day American brasserie” that the operators of Tocqueville and 15 East are opening on the ground floor of the long delayed Hyatt Union Square.

Named after Paris’s Fourth Arrondissement (and located on Fourth Avenue), The Fourth will occupy one of the city’s legendary nightlife spaces: 76 East 13th Street has held The Cat Club, The Grand, Spa, and Plaid. According to the Hyatt’s Website, the 100-seat room will boast “a café with a European style espresso and wine bar, a 24-seat communal bar and dining space, and a 45-seat full-service formal dining area.”

The menu will consist of “traditional brasserie fare with a modern American interpretation: upscale fare with a continental flair.” The wine program will be overseen by Roger Dagorn, the highly decorated Master Sommelier from Chanterelle, Tocqueville and 15 East, and the cafe will have its own private-label coffee. Read more…

Superstunner: Superdive Space to Become Animal Hospital


Superdive’s infamous Mad Dog Room has really gone to the dogs.

ABC Animal Hospital is leaving East 14th Street and aims to open at 200 Avenue A at the end of next month, said Shirley Yeo, the hospital’s marketing director.

That’s right: after three and a half years of outcry from neighbors, the former home of Superdive has gone superdry.

The animal hospital has been at 532 East 14th Street for about five of the 14-plus years it has been in the East Village, said Ms. Yeo. Its owners had hoped to stay longer, but the building was sold last year.

Ms. Yeo said it would “cost a lot to rebuild the place” at 200 Avenue A, but hoped it would be worth it. “The new space is larger so we’re hoping that will help us do more business,” she said, floating the idea of installing a coffee station, a more accessible pharmacy area and maybe even bookshelves.

It wouldn’t be the first time the storefront held coffee and books: from 2006 to 2008, the onetime Korova Milk Bar space held Rapture Cafe & Books. It was, of course, replaced by Superdive, a rowdy bar that incensed neighbors with its keg service, bottomless drink specials, and a Mad Dog Room that ran afoul of the Department of Buildings. The community board accused the bar’s owners of exploiting Rapture’s liquor license, which had been granted on the condition that it be used only for a bookstore and cafe. Read more…

First Look at Feast, Bringing a Stuffed Bobcat and Nose-to-Tail Dining

Nevada Smiths isn’t the only thing coming to Third Avenue early next month. A door down from the soccer pub, Feast will offer a menu that’s true to its name.

“We kind of want to change the way people eat,” said George Chiang, an owner. And so groups of diners will pick between three tasting menus priced at $35 to $45 per person. One will be a seasonal market feast based on ingredients from the Union Square Greenmarket; another will be a nose-to-tail feast featuring various parts of a whole lamb or pig. There will also be a limited number of la cart options nodding to “American regional food,” Mr. Chiang said last night as Chris Meenan, a former chef de cuisine at Veritas in Union Square, geared up in the kitchen.

“Everything will come out all at once and everyone eats family-style,” said Mr. Chiang. “We want to bring back communal dining.”

Mr. Chiang, whose family owns and manages hotel and motels, is opening the restaurant with Brian Ghaw, owner of Savoy Bakery in East Harlem. They had planned to open Feast uptown until the framing store below Mr. Chiang’s longtime apartment at 102 Third Avenue (his family owns the building) vacated the space after many years.

“We took a hard look at it,” he said of the East Village. “Traffic is… you know, this whole area has been changing the last couple of years. It’s a lot different than it was a couple of years ago.” Read more…

Nevada Smiths Aims to Open Early Next Month

UntitledDaniel Maurer

After a year’s delay, Nevada Smiths now plans to open its new space on Third Avenue in the first week of March.

“We’re 90 percent there, but we’re just waiting on the buildings department to approve everything,” said an employee of the popular soccer bar who didn’t want to be named.

The hope is that the bar will reopen in time for the first round of Union of European Football Associations knockouts, which start March 5. “March is a really big month for soccer,” said the employee, “so we definitely want to have people in to watch the games at our new location the first week of March. That’s what we’re hoping.”

Smiths is currently showing games at Webster Hall, but none appear on the online schedule there past March 7.

The bar closed in November of 2011 to make way for a nine-story building housing luxury rental apartments at 74-84 Third Avenue. (A photo of that construction is below.) It will reopen at 100 Third Avenue, a block away.

UntitledDaniel Maurer

First Look at Ichabod’s, Serving Oysters and Bacon Sazeracs Tomorrow

Ichabod's_Photo1Courtesy Ichabod’s

The space that held the hemp-happy Galaxy Global Eatery for 15 years will be reborn as Ichabod’s tomorrow. It’s the second establishment named after Washington Irving (it’s on Irving Place, see) that Eric Sherman and Brian Krawitz have opened in recent months.

At a private party last night, many of the guests were friends of the owners, who took over the space adjacent Irving Plaza last year. A couple of months ago they opened The Headless Horseman in the former home of Bar 119, around the corner on East 15th Street. It’s a woodsy speakeasy-type spot that looks like a dungeon from the outside.

So what’s with the “Legend of Sleepy Hollow” allusions?
See the menu…

Croxley Ales Adds Another Room, 13 Televisions

photo(87)Daniel Maurer

Just in time for March Madness, Croxley Ales, the popular suds spot at 28 Avenue B, opened its next-door annex on Monday. The narrow room has about a dozen dining booths and just about the same number of flat-screens. If you’re not a huge sports fan it feels a little like that t.v. box Marnie got trapped in on “Girls.”

The expansion has been in the works since at least last June.

Hot Shots: Which of These Baristas Are Crème de la Crème?

IMG_1063 copy copyKelsey Kudak

Sure, the East Village and Williamsburg have some of the highest concentrations of cafes and coffee shops in town, but who pulls the best shot?

This week, baristas from both neighborhoods and beyond will compete at the Northeast Regional Barista Competition in Long Island City.

Here’s how it’ll go down: each of the 43 competitors has 15 minutes to offer each of the four judges an espresso, a cappuccino, and a signature beverage that might include ingredients like truffles or mascarpone or walnut ganache. Judges grade on quality, technical competency, consistency, flavor and body, milk, cleanliness — even style and poise. The top six frothmasters advance to the nationals, which take place in Boston in April.

Here’s what seven local contenders are planning, and how they’re fighting the showtime jitters.

Zoey Thorson, 31 (photo above)
Gimme! CoffeeWilliamsburg
Origin of competition coffee: Santa Barbara, Honduras
Presentation: “I’m all about red. I have my great grandma’s silverware and I have some linen napkins and table runners from her. I wanted to give the geeky coffee awesomeness of now to the 1950s.”
Failed experiments: “I spent one day with every ingredient I thought might be interesting and a very unhappy stomach. I love spicy things, so I tried to use some chilies because they looked so pretty and fresh. Bad idea.”
Pre-competition ritual: “Besides my hair? I’m going to eat a lot of bananas and avocados and peanut butter in the morning, because these are all things to balance out your system.” Read more…

Samurai-Stocked Ramen Joint Has Fighting Words For Competition

Maybe you saw the samurai in the window of 141 First Avenue this past weekend?

The manager of Ippin is hoping the metal coat of arms – imported from Japan at a cost of $2,200 – lures customers into the “upscale, high-end noodle bar” when it opens this week, possibly as early as tonight.

“People were so surprised,” said Eddie Kito of the samurai’s unveiling a couple of days ago. “They’d walk past and say, ‘Hey, look — something different.’ In other restaurants, no one has this.”

Mr. Kito believes Ippin’s ramen will also distinguish it from places like, say, Ramen Setagaya. “The soup base, I don’t think it’s good,” he said of his competitor. “They have a lot of MSG down there.” (Setagaya’s menu claims it serves “100 percent natural ramen with no MSG.”)
Read more…

2 Bros. Starts Slinging On First Avenue

2 BROSRoni Jacobson

It’s on! 2 Bros. Pizza opened next to Vinny Vincenz on First Avenue today. Last month, The Local reported that the incoming dollar-slice joint had forced the neighborhood long-timer to lower its prices, to the chagrin of the owner.

Around 3 p.m., 2 Bros. was mostly empty. Meanwhile Vinny Vincenz maintained a brisk business, as did Joey Pepperoni across the street. 2 Bros. has not yet set its hours, but expects to be open from 10 a.m. until 2 a.m.

Asked about the competition, owner Oren Halali replied, “We’re not worried about competition. They should be worried about us; we have the best pizza and the best deal.”

Health Department Temporarily Shutters Yaffa Cafe

UntitledDaniel Maurer

Yaffa Cafe, the late-night standby on St. Marks Place, has been closed by the Department of Health.

A sign on the door says the restaurant is closed for “minor renovations” and redirects customers to Simone Martini Bar, a sister establishment.

Health department records indicate the semi-vegetarian institution was hit with 64 demerit points during a Jan. 25 inspection. (That’s the same number Maharlika racked up before it was closed.) Violations included evidence of rats and mice, and incorrect food temperatures.

With Sweet Chick, Restaurateur Expands From East 8th to North 8th

cafecito 2Samantha Balaban Sam Saleh, John Seymour, and chef

He already owns a restaurant on East Eighth Street in Manhattan; now John Seymour is opening a spot at North Eighth Street in Brooklyn.

Next Tuesday, Mr. Seymour will open Sweet Chick, named for the restaurant’s signature dish: fried chicken and your choice of bacon and cheddar, or rosemary and mushroom waffles. (See the dinner, dessert and cocktail menus below.)

Mr. Seymour opened Pop’s of Brooklyn a year ago, on East Eighth Street, between Greene Street and University Place. He met his partner in Sweet Chick, Sam Saleh, after Mr. Saleh opened Organic Planet around the corner from the original Pop’s, in Williamsburg. (Mr. Saleh also owns Swallow Coffee).

Born and bred in Brooklyn, Mr. Seymour and Mr. Saleh say they are committed to friendly, family-run businesses, especially as chain pharmacies and banks take over retail space in the East Village and Williamsburg. “This neighborhood is cool,” said Mr. Saleh. “But it’s about to be ruined by franchises.” Read more…

Street Scenes | Japadog Adds Outdoor Seats

UntitledDaniel Maurer