Little Italy Recipes to Try at Home

Like many of you (I hope),I’m staying home & I’ve been cooking a lot more than usual.   We’ve got nothing but time, so why not try making something new? Some of the restaurants in Little Italy have shared some recipes  you can try at home. Not much of a chef or simply tired of cooking? Here’s a link to restaurants offering take out.  Many Little Italy products are also available online via Amazon.

Recipes from the Belmont Business Improvement District:

 

Now more than ever, it’s important to support our local businesses. Check in on your faves’ social media accounts or go on Uber Eats to see who’s delivering or doing take out to help these businesses survive.

Dinner & Drinks with a View at Zona de Cuba

With the opening of Zona de Cuba coinciding with my birthday week, I decided to add it on the the week’s festivities. The much hyped rooftop bar and restaurant is the first of its kind here in the Bronx in that it is fully on the rooftop (as opposed to say, Pine, where the restaurant is on the lower level and there is a bar on the upper level). When I found the entrance (hint: it’s NOT on the Concourse, but on the other side of the building), there was a long line of people waiting to get in. The entrance isn’t super flashy or anything, but you can tell it’s upscale and they are serious about that dress code because a guy was definitely turned away.

A friend was already waiting upstairs for us and said the place wasn’t really crowded, so I’m not sure why the line took so long (they also didn’t fill the elevator up as much as it could have, without being too packed. There was only one elevator in use.). There was a line for people with reservations, but when we had called to make them the day before, the line was busy. The woman at the front said they would be revamping the reservation process soon. (Update! They have updated their website to allow reservations online.) The whole entry process could definitely be streamlined.

Once we finally made it upstairs, we loved the decor. Whoever designed this place deserves all the applause. There are comfortable couches (definitely a must) in the interior dining area, surrounded by an assortment of lush greenery, and chandeliers adorning the ceilings. The outside area offers up surprisingly gorgeous views of Harlem amid brightly colored couches and flags from various Latin American countries.

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My friend who had arrived before us had yet to receive her drink, after waiting over half an hour. The waitress who dropped it off, turned and walked away without acknowledging me or my other friend, so we had to flag someone else down who was as attentive as she could be given how hectic things seemed to be for the servers. She had mentioned that there was a back up at the interior bar and ended up taking our drink ticket to the bar outside. (I’m not sure why this was, there appeared to be only one bartender outside, while there seemed to be 4 inside.) My drink, the te picó  el burro de Tito was not my favorite. The flavors tasted watered down and overall wasn’t a strong drink, which was disappointing for a $15 cocktail. My friends did like their drinks, though – the tamarindo con tu Henny and the guava mojito.

Our food, however, did come out at a decent time. I ordered the como pollo con grano, which was essentially a fancy arroz con pollo. The portion size was huge, I ended up having leftovers for like two days afterward.

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Later in the evening, a live band started to play and people began to dance. The music was very loud throughout our visit, so Friday night is probably not the time to have any deep conversations here.

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Overall, it’s a gorgeous venue and I hope they’re able to work out some of the kinks to make it a really great place to hang out.

Pizza, Pizza

When it comes to pizza, I guess you’d say I’m a bit of a purist. I rarely ever get any toppings and if I do, it’s mushrooms. (Obv. seasonings are a must. Pass the garlic powder, oregano, and red pepper flakes.)  How exciting. But, on a recent trip to Kingsbridge Social Club, I was challenged to step out of my comfort zone. Okay, I’m lying, it was not challenging at all. There were honestly so many delicious options that it was hard to pick just one.

My friend and I opted to sit outside in their patio area. It’s only a few tables, but a cute space nonetheless. She ordered the brussel sprouts as an appetizer and they were fantastic. I’m not particularly drawn to brussel sprouts when I see them on a menu, but I’m really glad she ordered them because they delicious. They were slightly charred, which gave them a slight crunch. Do yourself a favor and try them.

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Now, to the pizza. I ordered The Wrecking Ball , which is topped with mozzarella, onions, garlic, and basil and served atop a large, tomato sauce can for an added touch. The crust had that excellent charred taste from the wood fire oven and all of the ingredients tasted so fresh. The crust was thin with the perfect balance between being appropriately crispy, but still soft enough that you can eat the crust and not worry about chipping a tooth.

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Paired with a chilled glass of wine, it was the perfect way to spend one of the last days of summer.

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Birthday Dinner at La Masa

After the crazy year I’ve had, when my birthday rolled around two weeks ago, I wanted everything to be really chill. What better way to celebrate than a laid back dinner at La Masa in Morris Park?

While I had gotten a taste of their food about a year ago at an event at Bronx Coworking Space, I had yet to actually visit in person.

With cute, modern decor with pops of red throughout the restaurant, La Masa has a vibrant and relaxed atmosphere, which is perfect for catching up with friends and family.

Our server was really friendly and provided us with some really great recommendations for drinks and entrees. [I ordered the sangria which was really refreshing and strong!]

First of all, everything on their menu sounds amazing, it was really hard to decide. Their empanada selection is crazy, with over 15 to choose from, they have savory and sweet selections as well as vegan and gluten free options. I tried the bacon mac and cheese, beef , and cilantro lime chicken. All of them were good, but the ground beef was my favorite. Can’t go wrong with a classic. I did get to try some of the Husband’s apple pie empanada and it was also really good. (I feel like there’s an innuendo lurking somewhere there. Oh well.)

For my main course, I got the mahi mahi a la parilla because I can’t think of another place in the Bronx that serves mahi mahi! (If you do, please let me know in the comments!) Both my sister and Husband ordered the bandeja paisa, which is this behemoth of a meal including steak, chicharron, chorizo, maduros, rice, beans, an arepa, salad, and a fried egg. So I picked off of my sister’s plate when I was finished with my own.

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It was a great way to wrap up my birthday and I can’t wait to return and try more empanadas.

 

Tacos & Margaritas at Cocina Chente

I don’t know about you all, but probably 75% of the pages I follow on Instagram are just restaurants I want to try out someday. Cocina Chente in Riverdale is no exception. Bright colors, a hanging bicycle, a cute outdoor eating area, and of course gorgeous (and tasty) food – these are the things Instagram foodies dream of.  My friend and I decided to check it out on one of the few and far between nice weather days we’ve been having.

The first thing I noticed was the decor – someone put a lot of thought into all of the little details here and it absolutely pays off. The ambience is fun and lively, with a million conversations going on at once (in a good way. Have you ever been to a quiet restaurant? It’s weird.)

It was super packed, but we were able to get a table pretty quickly. I ordered the carnitas tacos and my friend opted for the tequila-lime salmon. I wanted to try the chili tacos, but they don’t allow mixing and matching, so I’ll give them a try next time. Both were really good, but I think I liked the salmon even more than the tacos. Of course, we kept the margaritas flowing all night.

Their brunch menu also looks super legit so hopefully I’ll get try it out soon.

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Feasting at Fish N Ting

I haven’t spent a whole lot of time in Eastchester. Not having a car/ hating driving/hating  buses makes a bit difficult for me to get there, but there are definitely some gems up there. I was recently introduced to one – Fish N’ Ting. Located on bustling Boston Road, it’s easy to zoom right past it, but that would be a huge mistake.

The first thing you should do is request to sit outside. There’s a beautiful deck that’s enclosed during the winter and has heaters so you get the best of both worlds.

I ordered the rasta pasta with shrimp that was a massive portion and a henny colada. Usually I would side eye any place that has henny coladas, but they were very good. And very strong. I also had some of the rum punch, which was also delicious. My friends ordered the special which was a whole red snapper, which was amazing. I know I need to return soon to have one all to myself instead of just a bite. We also had absolutely no room for dessert, so I definitely need to come back and treat myself.

You can check them out on Yelp or Instagram.

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Brunch at Salsa con Fuego or, That Time I Ate So Much I Thought I was Going to Die

Ten years ago my husband and I decided to see where our new relationship would lead. Our actual anniversary was on Friday, but we were both so tired from work and life in general, we ended up knocking out. (#lifeafter25?) To make up for such misbehavior, we decided to celebrate on Sunday by going to Salsa con Fuego, whose brunch my sister recommended months ago.

To preface this, I had made my return to the gym after missing my Sunday class three weeks in a row (two of which were due to my trip to Shediac, the third was due to a mild hangover :/) so when I came back home I was not only drained, but starving.

Salsa con Fuego’s brunch is served buffet style with a free drink included (mimosas, bellinis, soda, or juice). We opted for bellinis, which were waiting for us on our table after we served ourselves.

I’m usually not a fan of all you can eat buffets because all I can eat in one sitting is really not a lot. But, like I said, I was famished. I piled my plate up with almost everything I saw – shrimp, pernil, rice, pasta – you name it.

After stuffing my face, I went up to partake in the fresh fruit and flan.   I had two servings of fruit and flan. “Why not?!” I said. “I’ll be fine!” I said.  I was not fine. I had definitely eaten away too much and moved at the pace of a sloth trying to make the under 30 min trip back home. Smh.

Besides an admission of my boundless gluttony, this is also a testament to how good the food was. Because it’s a buffet, you don’t have a lot of interaction with the staff, but our waitress made sure our water glasses were full and was generally very polite and friendly.

Salsa con Fuego itself is an expansive venue with lively portraits of Tito Puente and Celia Cruz adorning the walls. There were people of all ages there and several people celebrating birthdays and other special occasions. I didn’t take enough pictures, I was too busy stuffing my face.

Admittedly, I was a little nervous because of the mixed reviews on Yelp, but I am so happy we decided to go here for brunch. So worth it!

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