Leffing New York: Pepe Roso To Go

Last summer (as in 2003, not 2004)–is that the summer before last?–I went through a huge Chowhound phase. I was living in LA at the time, working at a law firm, and many an hour was spent clicking through the huge message boards trying to discover new and interesting hole-in-the-wall places to eat. Along the way, I purchased Jonathan Gold’s “Counter Intelligence”–a book with a Chowhound-like ethos–and drove with my friend JC to strange, obscure locations to eat chili cheeseburgers and chicken mole.

At the end of that summer, I came to New York for 8 days to stay with my friend Lisa. (This was when I still lived in Atlanta.) Before I came, I went on Amazon and purchased this:

[NOTE: (1/9/04) Since posting this link, Jim Leff himself has contacted me and asked me to remove it. He says this book is way out of date and that no one should buy it. So don’t buy it! (I’ll do a larger post above on this…)]

What is it? It’s “The Eclectic Gourmet Guide to Greater New York City” by Jim Leff, founder of Chowhound. I flipped through its pages eagerly, excited to eat at obscure hole-in-the-wall New York eateries no one knew about it. Then for some reason, I don’t think we really used this book in those 8 days. I think we went to some pizza place in it and Lisa had an allergic reaction to the olive oil. I left the book at Lisa’s and forgot about it.

Fast forward two years, and I’m in Lisa’s apartment and I ask: “Hey! Remember that book I bought a few years ago? ‘The Eclectic Gourmet Guide to Greater New York City’?”

“By Jim Leff?”


“Founder of Chowhound?’


“I think it’s over here.”

Lisa dug under her bed. It was under there.

Now that I have my hands on this book, I’ve created a new category for this site: LEFFING NEW YORK. Meaning: I am going to let Jim Leff guide me through the city and then blog all about it. Fun fun fun!

I started on Monday, with Pepe Roso To Go. This place isn’t so obscure or strange–my classmate Ian always raves about this place. He says it’s the best Italian food in the city, hands down. Jim Leff says, “Pepe Roso does profound, unpretentious Italian homestyle cooking.”

I could hardly wait. So I went:


It’s basically on the corner of Sullivan and Houston in the Village. It’s right next to “Once Upon A Tart” (which I will blog about momentarily). There are four tables inside, and a kitchen with more people working than there are people eating in the restaurant. There’s a counter and a huge menu overhead. A sign says: “Do we look like your mama? Bus your own table!” (Or something like that.)

Most of the tables were already taken. A jovial man behind the counter asked for my order. I remembered Jim Leff’s recommendation: “a sandwich of air-cured beef (bresaola), goat cheese, arugula, and tuffle oil…. [it conveys] Deep Ideas via the extraordinary balance of these few ingredients.”

Sounds good!


And, indeed, this sandwich was perfect. Earthy, pungent, fresh-tasting. The bread was crusty, the goat cheese was goat cheesy and the bresaola was thin and savory without being obnoxious.

As I was eating, Chloe Sevigny walked in with a director. More people piled in. This place is popular. No longer a secret, I imagine.

But I’m definitely going back. I loved it! Let the Leffing begin!

3 thoughts on “Leffing New York: Pepe Roso To Go”

  1. I’ve known Jim (not Jeff) Leff since the days he hung out on CompuServe’s Wine Forum. He’s also had some essays published in various “Traveler’s Tales” compilations.

    Can’t go wrong with his reccos.

  2. Back in 1998, Eric Asimov of The New York Times declared this “a perfect sandwich: bresaola, or air-cured beef, with goat cheese, arugula and truffle oil on circular focaccia. It is ideally proportioned, allowing you to get your mouth around the sandwich without squeezing the life out of it. Each element of flavor and texture — the spiciness of the beef, the creaminess of the cheese, the bitter edge of the arugula, the pungency of the truffle oil, the oily bite of the focaccia — joins to form a perfectly balanced coherent unit.”

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