Minetta Tavern

Address: 113 MacDougal St., New York (Between Bleecker and West 3rd Street)


Phone: 212-475-3850

I doubt Keith McNally of Minetta Tavern really care that his restaurants were not awarded Three Stars Michelin or were not placed on the Top 50 San Pelligrino's World Best Restaurant list. His restaurants (yes - Odeon, Balthazaar, Pastis, Minetta Tavern, Pulino's etc) are extremely successful and most of the time, difficult to get reservation.

I still remember when Minetta Tavern first reopened in 2009, getting a table for two was almost impossible. Not only was the phone line eternally busy, you practically need to be a celebrity to eat there. Thankfully, the hype and craziness had died down somewhat one year later, and we the commoners are finally getting our chance to dine at this McNally revived institution. A legendary speakeasy and restaurant which started in the 1930s, Minetta Tavern had deteriorate over the years and lost its charm, when McNally bought it over one year ago and revamped it back to its glory days.

Although I did not particularly like the food at Balthazaar and Pastis, I have to admit that McNally is a genius restaurateur who truly understands his clients and what works in this city, building his own successful trademark restaurants. You know when you are in a McNally restaurant: old school and it's so bloody popular (with pretty people).

Since it was only the two of us, we decided to order Côte de Boeuf (for two), rather than their famous black label burger. Minetta's dry aged Côte de Boeuf was truly the best steak we have ever eaten in the city. Move over Peter Luger, I don't think I will be seeing you much after this!  We also had an order of Pasta Za Za, another of the restaurant's famous fettuccine with pancetta dish, supposedly named after legendary sexy siren Zsa Zsa Gabor. This simple runny egg, pancetta and al dante fettucine dish is so satisfying!

 Pasta Za Za
fresh pasta with pancetta, sage, Parmesan, and a fried egg

 Dry Aged Côte de Boeuf for two, with roasted marrow bones and sucrine lettuce salad

Minetta Tavern on Urbanspoon

Trattoria Gianni Franzi

Address: Piazza Marconi 5, 19018 Vernazza, Italy


Phone: 0187-821003
A lot of people chose to park their cars at La Spieza and take the train to the villages but we thought we would just drive to Vernazza, which is located 4 villages away from La Spieza. It turned out to be one of the scariest driving experience; the road was narrow and winding, and we had many heart-stopping moments driving our stick shift rented car especially when facing speeding cars (drivers love to speed in Italy, even on narrow-one-lane mountain roads). Once we arrived at Vernazza, we were dead tired and all we wanted is food. Since our hotel Gianni franzi is also a popular restaurant in the village, we just went there and not expecting much; but the food there turned out to be really good! From their classic spaghetti polmodoro, to Fritto misto to beef ragu, all the dishes were cooked perfect and very flavorful. House wine was delicious too. Needless to say we went back again on our second night!

Frito Misto

Ravioli Pesce (two thumbs up!)

Spaghetti Vongole

Trofie al Pesto - a Lingurian specialty

Il Refolo

Address: 1459 Santa Croce, Campo San Giacomo dall'Orio, Venice, Italy

Phone: 39-041-524-0016

Il Refolo is the sister restaurant of one michelin star restaurant Da Fiore, one of the most exclusive and successful restaurants in Venice by famous chef Mara Martin. While chef Mara runs the kitchen in Da Fiore, his son Damiano takes care of il Refolo near Santa Croce. Il Refolo markets itself as an upscale pizzeria and cicheteria rather than a restaurant, and its location by the canal, surrounded by old Venetian buildings, a bridge and a church, gives a whole new definition to outdoor seating with a view. It is as Venice as it can be.

The food is equally impressive. Their specialty fig and prosciutto pizza was truly amazing, a perfect pie with sweet and savory element combined to create one of the best pizza I've had. The pasta and salume were delicious as well. The excellent house wine also got my "wine shy" friends into drinking wine throughout the trip! Venice is famous for its seafood, but I assure you, you will not be disappointed by Il Refolo's non seafood menu!!

Prosciutto and fig pizza, classic Magherita pizza
                                                       Il Refolo Pasta dish