Confessions of an Italophile – Eatalian Eats at La Pizza & La Pasta

So in case you haven’t picked up on it already, I am a serious Italophile. God’s greatest gift to me (besides my family, fiancé and amazing friends) is having me be born an Italian-American. I am not one of these hardcore, wannabe muscle head Italian Americans, though. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Italian, a Master’s degree in Teaching Italian, am a high school public school teacher of Italian, and a frequently traveler to Italy. I’m not one of those people that requests a cappuccino after dinner.

But anyway – Italian, Italian American, or not – let’s face it – you have to have a pretty messed up palate (or none at all) to not crave, live, and die for Italian food.

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Eataly’s pasta with braised short rib ragù (left) and Cacio e Pepe (right)

My Italian American family barely ever took me to restaurants when I was younger. Why go out to eat when your grandmother can cook you a huge, delicious feast that could last for hours and hours? Restaurant meals would diminish their pride.

Shortly after my grandmother died in 2009, I began my graduate degree at NYU. That is when my soul (food) searching began. I began to search for food that I could no longer have, food that tasted like my grandmother’s.

I remember when Eataly opened in 2010. I just started my graduate degree at NYU. Eataly is ginormous – they have everything that you could ever imagine all in one huge space (Italian butcher, pastry stand, sandwich stand, caffè, fresh pasta, una piazza (where you stand an have antipasti), a vegetable restaurant, a pizza and pasta restaurant, and even a birreria on the rooftop – the list can go on and on. They also have classes at La Scuola di Eataly (there are now two scuole). Some classes can be pricey, but there are some reasonable ones as well. I have taken the Baci Perugina class along with a wine tasting class with Joe Bastianich himself (and Oscar Farinetti, the head honcho of  all Eatalys in the WORLD, even attended). I have even taken my students to Eataly two years in a row, where they were given the amazing opportunity to take a cooking class, tour of Eataly, and have an Eatalian scavenger hunt.

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The Verace Pizza at Eataly

I am just going to write about the basics today, though. No matter how picky you are with food, pizza and pasta seem to please everyone.

If you want pizza or pasta at Eataly (or both, if you are like my fiancé and I), you will find yourself at La Pizza & La Pasta. Eataly’s pizza is good and very consistent. You can sit at a table (the setting is like that of a food court – but it’s at Eataly, so it’s a bit more than that), or where I like to sit – at the pizza bar. You go there for the Eatalian experience after all, right?

Eataly takes pride in their high quality ingredients. Prices can be a bit steep, but everybody deserves to treat themselves. My favorite Eatalian pizza is the Verace. The difference between the Verace and the Margherita is the cheese – the Verace uses Mozzarella di Bufala. There is no competition when it comes to Mozzarella di Bufala. Any other cheese on a pizza will just lose.

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A delicious close up of pasta with short rib ragù


Cacio e Pepe at Roma Sparita in Rome, served in a crispy, edible cheese bowl.

The pastas are also great. If you want something meaty, you can get a pasta with a delicious ragù, like braised short rib. My favorite is the Cacio e Pepe. Cacio e Pepe, or “cheese and pepper,” is Rome’s REAL version of macaroni and cheese. But whether I am at Eataly or not, if Cacio e Pepe is on the menu, I always order it. I didn’t study or live in Rome, but the one thing that I must have when in Rome is Cacio e Pepe, over and over again. It’s like OCD. I can’t get enough of it. I’m afraid to never have it again. Served with dry pasta (not fresh), with cheese and pepper, and a bit of the starchy water that you cook the pasta in. You would never believe the flavors that are possible with just these ingredients. If you attempt to go all out and make it at home, make sure that you use dry pasta. The dry pasta absorbs the sauce that the starchy water, cheese, and pepper create. You should try this at home, kids. 

While Eataly’s Cacio e Pepe is good, it’s not go to all ends of the Earth good. If you have the time, energy, and money to go to all ends of the Earth to get the best Cacio e Pepe of your life, head to Roma Sparita in Rome. You will eat the most gooey, decadent Cacio e Pepe of your life, in a crispy pecorino romano cheese bowl. You will morire, or die, in the best way possible.

I like to keep it simple. Usually I get Cacio e Pepe or Pasta al Pomodoro. At any restaurant. Because it all comes back to grandma.

If you want good and consistent food with the best quality of ingredients you can find, head to Eataly NYC.

Eataly NYC, 200 5th Avenue, New York, NY 10010

Roma Sparita, Piazza di Santa Cecilia, 24 – Trastevere (00153 – Roma)


A (Gelato) Tree Grows in Brooklyn – L’Albero dei Gelati

During one of my trips to Italy a few years ago, my fiancé and I decided that we wanted a break from museums. So we went on a serious (but fun) guided food tour of the best food spots in Rome. We ended up in Testaccio, Rome’s well known food district.

One of my life long “food lessons” came from that trip: what gelato should look and taste like. Italians, whether in Italy or in the United States, value and pride themselves on slow, local, unprocessed foods.

So, gelato should not have any of the following characteristics:


Sad gelato 😦 Everything that could ever be wrong with gelato. Psychedelic colors and a mile high. Credit:

1. A weird, unnatural color. Be more vigilant when it comes to the fruity flavors. If it’s glowing, run away. (Unless your want the inside of your body to glow in the dark).2. Gelato that is highly mounded/tall when on display. This means the gelato is hard. It isn’t supposed to be. It is supposed to be soft and creamy. This is a sign of chemical usage to preserve the gelato.

Gelato should be: 1. Soft and creamy, 2. BELOW the top of the gelato bin (never piled up), 3. Natural looking colors.


Happy Gelato 🙂 Credit:

Enter L’Albero dei Gelati in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Originally from Lombardia (Northern Italy – Milan is the capital), this gelateria serves you gelato over the counter, just like in Italy.  It also has a sit down area for brunch, pastries and coffee.

Flavors range seasonally, but classics are aways on hand: stracciatella, cioccolato, gianduia, nocciola, and zuppa inglese. Seasonal flavors have included pesto and basil. For me, though, cioccolato is always right, no matter the season.

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L’Albero dei Gelati, 341 5th Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11215

What is your favorite flavor gelato? Favorite gelateria? Leave it in the comments section!

Kesté Pizza e Vino – One of New York’s Best Pizzas

Notice how I didn’t say “New York’s Best Pizza” in the title. I don’t want to make enemies with my first blog post. In my opinion, Kesté Pizza e Vino has New York’s BEST pizza. Not the best New York pizza. Best “Italian” pizza. I feel silly for wanting to clarify, being that “Italian” pizza is the one and only – the granddaddy of pizzas, since pizza was born in Naples.

Kesté in Neapolitan dialect means “this is it.” My favorite pie is the “Pizza Del Re,” or “The King’s Pizza.” This pie is good enough for your hipster friends, Italian grandfather, first date, or needy tourist friend. Trust the name. If it’s good enough for a king, it’s good enough for them. Talk about versatile.

Kesté's Pizza del Re

Kesté’s Pizza del Re

Ingredients include homemade mozzarella,mushrooms, prosciutto di parma, truffle spread, and extra virgin olive oil. The texture of the dough is fluffy and light but still substantial and filling.

One bite takes me back to Pizzeria Trianon in Naples. It will take you there, even if you have never been.

So if you don’t have over $1,000 to dish out to go to Naples, go to Kesté. Now. It’s the closest to the real thing that you will get in New York. The owner, Roberto Caporuscio, is even the US President of the Association of Neapolitan Pizzaiuoli. You really can’t get any more authentic than that.

Please feel free to share your favorite pizza or pizza place, whether it is in NYC or not, in the comments below. And don’t forget the jazzy poll, too!

Kesté Pizza e Vino, 271 Bleecker Street, New York, NY 10014