Let’s Brunch at Lafayette

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My trip to New York started with a favorite brunch spot going down the tubes and ended with a brunch spot that I loved so much, I went twice. That spot is Lafayette and it’s located, as the name might suggest, on Lafayette Street just south of the Astor Place stop on the 6 train and north of the Broadway/Lafayette stop on every other train. My first visit was with my friend Alex who you can see above modeling a $14 basket of pastries so good, we pretty much devoured the whole thing. Going to Lafayette and not ordering the pastry basket is like going to Disneyland and not riding the rides. You just can’t avoid it.

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Honey Butter Biscuits

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Andrew Carmellini, in his new book American Flavor, shares a biscuit recipe that he calls “the world’s best biscuits.” This is a bold claim, even for a chef as revered as Carmellini, but in his defense, when he started serving biscuits (and fried chicken) at his pre-The Dutch Italian restaurant, Locanda Verde, the critics gushed. In fact, while working on a different book proposal, I called Carmellini to have him coach me through biscuit-making on the phone. The man knew his stuff.

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Locanda Verde

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My parents and I often get into a quibbling match over the Italian food that they like and the Italian food that I like. The Italian food that they like is the food found at what’s typically called “a red sauce joint” with dishes every American who’s been to EPCOT or an Olive Garden can rattle off: Chicken Parmesan, Chicken Scarpiello, Shrimp Scampi (a tautological phrase since scampi means shrimp), and so on. I’m not against this food–sometimes, I really enjoy it–but my parents LOVE this food and put it on a higher pedestal than the food you find at the Italian restaurants I love, restaurants like Babbo or A Voce. When I try to explain that the latter food is more authentic, my parents are incredulous: after all, their favorite Italian restaurants are owned and managed by Italians who moved here direct from Italy. So what is the difference? Maybe it’s not a question of authenticity, just a question of quality. Either way: the subject was ripe as we sat down this weekend for dinner at Andrew Carmellini’s brand new restaurant in TriBeCa, Locanda Verde.

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Gourmet Tuna Casserole

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I found it.

After my first attempt at tuna casserole, I finally found a worthy alternative. I was at the Community Book Store in Park Slope and there on the cookbook shelf was Andrew Carmellini’s Urban Italian, a pretty dazzling book of recipes from the former chef of A Voce. I took the book to the grimy couch and sat down next to a cat, a dog and an iguana (this store has pets) and began flipping through it and there it was: “Ziti with Tuna, Red Onions and Cannelini Beans.” Was it a casserole proper? Absolutely not. But it had many of the components of a tuna casserole–noodles, tuna, onions–and assembled them in a way that made much more sense to me. I quickly took out a pen and my secret little pad and copied down the recipe, hoping the iguana wouldn’t rat me out to the store owners. On my walk home I picked up the ingredients and cracked my knuckles, ready for Italy to conquer America in the battle of noodles and tuna.

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Rockin’ Ricotta

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When you’ve been blogging for almost five years and many people read your blog, you start to receive things in the mail. Cookbooks, for example. I get many cookbooks in the mail, also general food books like books about oysters. I have a book about oysters on my shelf that I’ve never read.

Sometimes, though, you get sent something that excites you. And such was the case when I received a preview of Andrew Carmellini’s new cookbook, Urban Italian.

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