Pre-theater pizza at Lombardi’s on Spring Street with its unmissable mural of a pie-wielding “Mona Lisa,” whom manuscript experts at the University of Heidelberg have definitively identified as Florentine Lisa del Giocondo, putting all other theories to rest. (La Gioconda, inspiring artists everywhere.)
The “Pizza” episode of the History Channel’s “American Eats” series — set your TiVos for the next airing: Tuesday, April 29, 2008 — tells the story of Gennaro Lombardi, the “founding father of American pizza,” and his contribution to New York City pizza: locally grown tomatoes (instead of San Marzano), cow mozzarella (instead of water buffalo), and pies fired in coal ovens. To some extent, all the old school city pizzerias can be traced to Lombardi’s pioneering shop at 53½ Spring Street.
That first pizzeria was established in 1905, though in 1994, Lombardi’s grandson re-opened it at its current location at 32 Spring. For the pizzeria’s centennial on November 10, 2005, Lombardi’s sold whole pizza pies for 5 cents apiece.
We paid somewhat more for our pepperoni and mushroom pie, but it was still worth it.
At the Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural & Educational Center’s Milagro Theater on Suffolk for the premiere of playwright Carla Ching’s TBA. The 1898 building is a former public school (P.S. 160), but since the mid-1990s, has served as a multicultural center for contemporary arts and art-related community services. CSV has four theaters and exhibition spaces; 53 visual artists have studios in the building.
Enhancing the LES hipster vibe was a dimly lit bar/gallery through a beaded doorway on the ground floor with vibrantly colored paintings of female nudes and cans of PBR, which we were invited to bring inside the theater.
Through April 5, theater company Second Generation celebrated its eleventh anniversary of supporting Asian American dramatic literature with ELEVEN, a month-long festival of 11 plays: one full-length production, four developmental staged-readings, and an evening of six one-acts. The centerpiece was Ching’s drama, starring Lloyd Suh, Second Generation’s artistic director and a playwright in his own right. (Both he and Ching are members of the Ma-Yi Writers’ Lab.) Suh appeared as a last-minute replacement for Ken Leung, who was called back to the set of Lost, where he has a recurring role as Miles Straume.
From TBA’s press notes:
When Silas Park’s girlfriend leaves him, he becomes a shut-in, pumping out blistering autobiographical writings in his little East Village apartment. Just as Silas finds himself unexpectedly on the verge of literary stardom as the next Asian American wunderkind, his brother Finn shows up on his doorstep, accusing Silas of stealing his life. A play in two acts, in the crevice between fact and fiction.
An intriguing exploration of how impression and memory can form their own reality. Excellent work all around.
At the powerHouse Arena in DUMBO tonight to attend “Read & Drink Night,” a literary fundraiser to benefit the library of Brooklyn’s P.S. 107. Edible Brooklyn’s editor Gabrielle Langholtz hosted the readings and discussion by three Brooklyn-based authors of recently published books on food and drink.
It’s been years since I attended a bona-fide school bake sale; this one was organized by P.S. 107’s Parent Teacher Association. To accompany our (very good) slices of homemade banana bread, a server ladled out from a large, orange plastic paint bucket, cups of a lethal Cognac/10 Cane Rum/tea punch — mixed to 1690s Bombay government regulations by featured cocktail historian David Wondrich, who knows well of which he writes.
First up: Phoebe Damrosch, whose memoir Service Included: Four-Star Secrets of an Eavesdropping Waiter was released in September 2007. Damrosch read from portions of her book documenting her time as a server for Thomas Keller’s Per Se; her extensive months-long training involved memorizing wine pairings, receiving intricate movement instruction from an 18th-century dance specialist, and learning the provenance of menu ingredients down to “the names of the cows that produced the milk from which our butter was made.” The most entertaining bits were the gossipy snapshots of diners passing through the rarified restaurant; one priceless anecdote involved Damrosch gleefully bonding with one suburban banker over their mutual love of “pot”… before realizing that he in fact expressed a fondness for “pie.” (Uh, whoops.)
Kara Zuaro’s book I Like Food, Food Tastes Good: In the Kitchen with Your Favorite Bands is a collection of recipes gathered from touring rock musicians. Zuaro read from the book’s introduction, and from one of the stories that precede each band’s recipe. I was impressed by the breadth and high profile of her musical subjects: recipes ranged from simple sandwiches (Death Cab for Cutie’s vegan sausage and peanut butter creation) to a wild boar ragù from The Violent Femmes’ bass player Brian Ritchie. (Surprisingly, however, not a single pot brownie in the bunch.)
Finally, former Classics professor, current contributing editor Esquire Wondrich read from Imbibe!, his biography of 19th-century mixologist Jerry Thomas, author of the first known bartending guide, How to Mix Drinks or The Bon Vivant’s Companion (1862). Wondrich made an amusing argument about how the cocktail was America’s first great export, and the country’s introductory contribution to world gastronomic culture.
The audience Q&A was mercifully brief, and spawned a brief discussion over the use of the term “foodie” vs. “foodist” to describe a certain type of food-obsessed individual. Afterwards, the authors (Zuaro and Damrosch pictured below) made themselves available for book-signings:
At Pinch & S’MAC on Columbus – a punny collaboration between the now-closed Pizza by the Inch and the East Village Sarita’s Macaroni & Cheese, the mac n’ cheese emporium which last year earned the Oprah stamp of approval on “Gayle’s New York Minute.”
Just as it had at its former Park Avenue South location, Pinch offers thin pies in four-inch widths, sold by length in four-inch increments, with choice of toppings. Personally I couldn’t say how their product stacks up against the offerings in a city full of superlative pizza, though they did seem to have a following. (Incidentally, Arthur Avenue’s Zero Otto Nove, which we visited a couple of weeks ago, was just named best in the Bronx by New York magazine.) The joining of these two cheese and carb forces is a coup, though, and last month’s opening of the Pinch & S’MAC joint venture, minutes’ walk from the Amsterdam Avenue frat bar scene, was met with considerable anticipation.
S’MAC offers variations on the cheesy pasta classic: from the “All American” (American and Cheddar – add seasoned ground beef to make it a “Cheeseburger” or sauced chicken pieces for the “Buffalo Chicken”) to more complicated, gourmet versions like the “Parisienne” (Brie, Figs, Roasted Shiitake Mushrooms and Fresh Rosemary) and the “Masala” (Cheddar and American cheeses, Tomatoes, Ginger, Onions, Cilantro, Cumin & Indian Spices.) Alternatively, you can pick any combination of offered toppings to customize your own dish. The elbow macaroni is served in cast-iron skillets of varying sizes — Nosh, Major Munch, Mongo and Partay! – with decent crust on top, but overall a bit soupy for my tastes. Breadcrumb topping optional.
The “Napoletana” (Fresh Mozzarella, Roasted Tomatoes, Roasted Garlic and Fresh Basil) — better in theory, perhaps, than in execution:
And the classic “All American”:
To me, mac n’ cheese is one of those comfort dishes that doesn’t require a lot of tinkering, so I would be partial to S’MAC’s American and Cheddar-based versions. In 2006, The Times’s Julia Moskin went in search of the ultimate home cook’s recipe, eventually foregoing the temptation towards fancier cheeses (Swiss Gruyère, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Italian fontina and Welsh Caerphilly) in favor of two straightforward cheddar-based recipes, divided into creamy and crusty preferences.
More wordplay across the street at West Side Wine. (No milkshake reference? I guess it’s over already.) The 80th Annual Academy Awards broadcast later that night, and would become the first since 1964 that all four main acting awards were won by non-Americans. That year, “Sexy Rexy” Harrison took home the Best Actor Oscar for his career-defining role as “Henry Higgins” in George Cukor’s screen adaptation of My Fair Lady. (The classic Lerner and Loewe musical is playing this week at MoMA as part of Sir Harrison’s “Centenary Tribute.”)
What a charming sentiment!
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