Today is our 19th wedding anniversary. I've been with my husband half my life. It's hard to believe really but it's true...I guess the calendar doesn't lie. Today we are going to take our time getting around so we can have a stress free day and enjoy this great city and each other. We start by making breakfast from our leftover chicken from Sambuca. We had eggs and goat cheese in our little fridge so we made goat cheese and chicken scrambled eggs which were excellent! We also split a hearty bagel from Everybody Eats and had some fruit.
After we'd planned this vacation, I was notified by a trade group I belong to, that they would host a large National trade show in NYC at the Javits Center during the time we'd be there. After much consideration I decided not to attend the show. This is our main vacation of the year and taking two days out of it for work just didn't feel right. However, as part of the show package (which is free to members) we were able to get free tickets to the musical 'Hairspray'. The only downside was we had to go all the way to the Javits Center in person to pick them up. The tickets were given out on a first come, first serve basis so we allowed Tuesday morning to get there and pick them up, before heading to a very special spot for lunch.
Though Trip Advisor I knew which bus to take straight to Javits. We took the subway to Columbus Circle and headed to the bus stop and promptly got on the M34 bus - going the wrong way. Of course we figured this out the first stop and hopped off, crossed the street and waited for the M34 but going towards Javits. While waiting for the correct bus, I wandered into 'The Sunglass Hut' and was surprised to see several beefy security guards there. Then I realized there is not a pair of sunglasses in there for less than $150 and many ran over $300! Fearing that I might drop a pair and be held liable for payment, I decided not to try anything in there on. Maybe they should change the name of the Manhattan location to 'The Sunglass Boutique'. We exited the store just in time to hop the correct M34 bus which let us off at the Javits Center about 10 minutes later.
Over the years, I've been to many trade shows in Las Vegas, Orlando and Chicago but none of those convention centers holds a candle to Javits regarding size. It's simply massive and there were something like four huge shows there and our group was the smallest of them all. But we were on a mission and didn't dilly dally around. We went downstairs to the registration for our show and quickly exchanged e-tickets for show badges and then went to the attraction booth to pick up our 'Hairspray' tickets. It was barely 11 am by the time we got back on the bus, but I was ready to head to Greenwich Village for lunch. Can you guess where we're going yet?
On the tour bus yesterday, we went through a part of the Village and I really wanted to hop off the bus, hop into a cab and demand to be taken to the mecca for all gluten free visitors to NYC - Risotteria. But I restrained myself - I would get there soon enough and I could only hope it was as good as the hype I'd read about it on every gluten free blog from here to tin-buck-two. And I'd prepared myself that it might not be, and that would be okay. I am after all a very picky gluten free patron.
When we got off the subway we decided to stop into a few stores and check out the tourist goods along the way. Then we spotted a used record store and I knew my husband would love checking it out and so we went in and were amazed by the massive collection of albums. Many of them were collectors' items and surprisingly, many were very well priced. We have a record player (yes, we're getting old....er) and love collecting music from our youth on vinyl. For me that's The Bee Gees, Billy Joel, Dan Fogelberg, Rod Stewart and even Bread and The Love Story Soundtrack. For my husband it's Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Allman Brothers, Credence Clearwater Revival and Clapton. How have we remained married for 19 years? Just kidding! Though we left without making a purchase, we loved experiencing this place - such gems are far and few between these days. If you're ever on Bleeker St. in the Village, look for the record store and enjoy! Oh and you might see the largest cat you've ever seen in there as well - there are two of them in fact. I took photos of them but those pictures were the only ones that did not come out...the cats looked like large dark grey blobs...it was really odd. They must have had some security device in the store that interfered with my camera.
OK - the most anticipated restaurant visit of the trip was about to become a reality. There it was. The world famous (or at least US famous) Risotteria. I felt like I was in a dream but I was wide awake...the sun was shining so brightly it was blinding. I was about to have pizza (that I didn't have to make) for lunch....again. This is the third day in a row I've had pizza. I wanted to make myself get sick of it so I would not miss it when I returned home. This didn't happen, of course. Since we'd spent a fair amount of time lolly gagging on the way here, it was not peak lunch time when we arrived, but 1:30 pm. We entered and there were many open tables which was great. I was told not to come here during peak meal times because it's crazy busy and they don't take reservations. This would be the only leisurely lunch we'd have on vacation and I didn't want to feel rushed in any way.
We chose a table where I'd have a view of the whole place. It's quite small but did not feel cramped at all. The extensive gluten free menu chioces were overwhelming to say the least....pizzas, pastas, risottos, panini sandwiches and desserts. I ordered a Redbridge beer before noticing they had my favorite gluten free brand - Bard's Tale - so I had two beers during our long lunch. I'm not even a big beer drinker but I can't order Bard's Tale out at home so I wasn't passing this opportunity up. My husband wanted to try a gluten free panini but I didn't care what he had as long as I had pizza. I settled on the goat cheese, pesto and arugula personal pizza and enjoyed a gluten free bread stick with my beer. The bread sticks weren't hot but I didn't mind since I needed to save room for pizza, another beer and dessert! I'm not a big bread stick person anyway, but even at room temperature these were pretty good!
As we waited for our food, the place started getting busy which I thought was odd, considering the time of day. When my pizza arrived it sort of looked like a salad - there was so much lovely arugula on it! But underneath those greens,
pesto sauce and goat cheese was the thinnest, crispiest gluten free pizza crust I'd ever had. I've been trying to make this type of crust for over two years without success. The pizza was not good by gluten free standards - it was excellent by pizza standards, regardless of ingredients. It was some of the best pizza I've EVER had and I've had gluten pizza in Italy. Since it was so bright inside (two walls of windows) I had my sunglasses on and I was glad I did. Though many of my gluten free friends have told me of this happening to them, I had never experienced it personally. I started crying. They were tears of joy obviously, but it felt odd to be crying over something like food. Then I remembered that it wasn't about food at all. It was about being able to enjoy something as simple as pizza in a restaurant. Just like every other American can do any time they please. I have not been able to do do this in over two years and I felt like I was walking on cloud nine! Oh and my husband's sandwich (above left) was one of the best panini's he's ever had - and it was the only one he's had gluten free. He shared a bite with me and I could NOT believe it was gluten free!
After we finished our lunch (all but one piece of my pizza which I took with me) it was time for dessert. I went up to look at the pre-packaged gluten free treats and spotted a black-and-white cookie. Since it was warm out, I knew the icing would melt if we didn't eat it there so we split it (it's huge) and took two pieces of pound cake to go. The cookie was very good and soft, something hard to find in a gluten free cookie unless you bake them at home. We also bought two bags of their pizza crust/bread stick mix as well. As we left I realized the place was totally full of people and it's 3 pm on a week day. Nothing else in the area was busy at that time. Risotteria RULES! Thanks to owner Josheph Pace who runs the place and developed so many great gluten free recipes! He's a true hero in our community and now he just needs to franchise!
After lunch, we headed back to the UWS to hop on the Gray Line bus tour for the loop that goes through Harlem and the UES. Unfortunately, the tour guide on this bus was not only not any good, he was bad for NYC tourism. He said some less than kind things about the public school system in NYC which was bad enough, but then he broke out in song for no reason, during lulls in his spiel. And he could not sing at all so he best not quit his day job. I ignored him and focused on the scenery and was shocked to see the Guggenheim Museum with scaffolding all around it. There went my money shot....I wanted to take a really good photo of it but that didn't happen this trip. Before this loop was over, we started running out of time and had to hop a cab to the Inn so we could get ready for dinner.
Based on Debra's recommendation (from Sunday) we'd made reservations at Tini's Ristorante Italiano on the UES for our anniversary dinner. We decided to treat ourselves to a cab since there is no subway line that runs from Central Park West to Central Park East. We'd have to take a train south and then another north. We arrived slightly early and were seated immediately by the window. Tuesday is the slowest night for most restaurants and they were n ot too busy. Even though they offered gluten free pasta, the rosted pork loin infused with apple reduction, served
with garlic mashed potatoes sounded so tempting that I ordered that instead. Luckily, I can get gluten free pasta at several places in Atlanta. Both our meals were delicious and even the salad was one of the best we'd had on vacation. But what was just as great was dealing with the highly educated staff at Tini's. How refreshing it was to order from a menu with interesting and extensive gluten free offerings, and know that the everyone there was dedicated to doing everything humanly possible to feed you safely. The staff at Tini's knows how to court the gluten free set and that's exactly what I'm looking for these days.
After dinner, I asked Enzo (the host who I think is also part owner) for permission to post the photos I took on my blog. He was thrilled to oblige me and promptly sent over complimentary after dinner drinks. Enzo's brother Giuseppe is the very talented Chef here. Oh yeah, I had one of the best chocolate mousse desserts of my life - so thick the spoon stood up in it. The only place I've ever had anything like this before was Paris. It's a truly remarkable treat but my husband couldn't taste it, due to the dark chocolate thing. And so I took some of it with me to go. We had a lovely anniversary and I highly recommend Tini's for a romantic dinner for two, or for a great dinner with good friends! But hurry, the building they're in is being torn down so they will close on June 30th. They will re-open at 1574 2nd Avenue under the new name of 'Opus', in mid to late July. They plan to make gluten free bread and pizza in the new space. Good luck guys and we'll definitely return on our next visit to check out Opus!