Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Lip-smacking Luzzo

Just when we were at a loss where to celebrate AJ's 40th (!!!) birthday, his Italian acquaintances recommended Luzzo's Restaurant in the East Village, serving authentic Neapolitan coal-oven pizza. According to them, this was the best place in the city - an honor that many establishments lay claim to.

It was a bustling Saturday night at Luzzo's even at 7pm. The cozy front seating area, flanked on one side by a brick wall with pots and pans hanging from it, led into a bigger dining room where the chefs prepared and tossed the pizzas into the huge coal ovens. We were hard-pressed to choose among the twenty different styles of pizza, but eventually opted for the Martha, topped with bufala mozzarella, fresh truffles and prosciutto. (I rooted hard for Martha, being a big lover of prociutto). Predictably enough, everyone loved it, and I found the soft chewy crust a pleasant surprise.

To wash down the delectable pizza, appetizers (calamari, potato crochettes, rice balls, mozarella sticks) and Trio di Carne (with leftover tomato sauce being mopped up, as shown), the staff in their charming Italian accents suggested their best wine, La Lumia Cadetto - made from Sicily's most popular red grape used in the region's bestselling wines, the Nero d'Avola. We then drank to AJ's milestone and health, cheered our good fortune in discovering Luzzo's, and agreed that a return visit to Luzzo's was in order to sample the other nineteen pizza varieties.

Luzzo's on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Wing or the Thigh...Yum!

I had passed by A.O.C. (L'Aile ou la Cuisse) a few times and had always wanted to eat there, more so recently given my increasing interest in la cuisine francaise. The restaurant resembled your classic neighborhood French bistro, the blue color maybe? Looking up the intriguing name in my French-English food dictionary yielded "The Wing or the Thigh", coincidentally my two favorite chicken parts. That settled it - I'm going in!

The front area of A.O.C. was fully occupied, and after a few minutes waiting at the bar and overhearing snippets of French conversation, our party was led into the spacious dining room at the back. The contrast was from the noisy, jampacked front area was a pleasant, if startling, surprise. There is also a seasonal outdoor garden ideal for peaceful summer dining. So, the place is huge! Couldn't have figured that one out just by casually walking past it on the street.

For starters, had the delectable escargots with garlic and parsley. Instantly reminded me of my trip to Paris, and I wish the order came with more than six escargots. Made up for it by mopping up the sauce with the bread, so much so that I became almost full from that alone. But wait! The main course is still coming - confit de canard or duck confit.

Doesn't that duck confit look mouth-watering? Well, trust me - I still remember the crunchy skin crackling as I chewed, and the moist, flavorful duck meat. It came garnished with frisee salad, cauliflower gratin, and sweet Grand Marnier sauce. Not really knowledgeable about wine pairings with duck (note to self: ask Kiki), but opted to treat myself to a glass of Rhone Valley syrah to finish off the superb lunch at A.O.C. in style.

For more information about A.O.C., check out their website.