For our final trip, the 4x4 team chose to travel to Brooklyn and indulge in a New York City specialty- pizza. With approximately 32,000 pizzerias throughout the city, it is safe to say there is great competition for the best slice. This week the 4x4 team put Fornino’s artisanal, wood-fired pie to the test.
Fornino is a pizzeria located in DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass), Brooklyn. The restaurant sits along Pier 6 and offers outdoor, rooftop seating with a breath-taking view of Lower Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge. We chose to have dinner as the sun was setting, making everything around us glow. Fornino was packed, creating a light and summery vibe on their rooftop.
To start, we shared the “Smashed Fried Potatoes” appetizer. The dish consisted of individual small potatoes that were boiled, literally smashed with a mallet, fried, and topped with truffle oil and shaved Parmesan cheese. The potatoes were served with an addicting tartar sauce that helped enhanced their flavor. This appetizer is tasty and great to share, as it comes with many individual pieces and toothpicks for handling.
Fornino’s menu has nearly fifteen specialty pies such as “4 Stagioni” (tomato, mozzarella, prosciutto, olive, shiitake mushroom, eggplant) and “Petescia” (mozzarella, brussels sprouts, fennel sausage, fontina, spicy honey).
For our main course, we ordered two pizzas- one “Margherita Classica” (tomato, mozzarella, basil, olive oil, parmesan) and one “Monzese” (tomato, mozzarella, fennel sausage, parmesan). Our pizzas arrived fresh out of the over after a long wait (understandable considering how busy it was).
Fornino’s crust is almost ideal. The dough is rolled to be thin, however, the crust is still served slightly chewy. The crust’s only weakness was that it was a bit overdone and, as a result, had a mild burnt flavor. Regardless, the Margherita pie had a solid sauce-to-cheese ratio and was topped with fresh basil. The sausage provided a delicious, strong flavor to the Monzese pizza and the fennel in the sausage added another level of complexity to the pie.
In DUMBO, Fornino is raved about by locals and has become a favorite spot. After enjoying delicious smashed potatoes and pizza on the restaurant’s rooftop at sunset, I now understand Fornino’s hype.
After dinner, we walked around the local neighborhood and stopped at Emack and Bolio’s ice cream shop for dessert. There, we enjoyed crazy flavors such as “Cappuccino Express” and “S’mores.”
Often characterized by its luxury shops and affluent residents, New York City’s Upper East Side is full of famous restaurants such as Daniel, Café Boulud, Sarabeth’s, and J.G. Melon. After enjoying the wonderful “Heavenly Bodies” and “Golden Kingdoms” exhibits at the MET, the 4x4 team wandered through central park, observing gorgeous greenery now in full bloom from the recent rainstorms. By the time we reached 75th Street we were all ravenous and quickly agreed that we were craving burgers.
J.G. Melon is a classic Upper East Side restaurant, located at the corner of 74th Street and 3rd Ave. Outside, the restaurant’s name glows in red fluorescent lights, creating a casual, dive-like vibe. Inside, J.G. Melon was packed. The four of us were seated in a tight corner, with other parties in every direction. The menus at J.G. Melon are simple paper cards, listing no more than five burger entrees and a few salads.
Between the four of us, we ordered five burgers— one plain, three with cheese, and one with bacon and cheese. The burgers were served on lightly toasted, soft buns with lettuce, tomato, onion, and pickles. Each burger was prepared perfectly, meeting our individual requests of medium rare, medium, and medium well. The medium rare was especially juicy, however, the medium well was by no means dry. To accompany our burgers, we each ordered J.G. Melon’s signature fries. Prepared “chip style,” the potatoes are sliced before being fried, imitating the shape of Ruffle potato chips. The fries were slightly crisp on the outside, yet fluffy on the inside, creating a very pleasing texture that we all enjoyed. The only complaint we had about the fries was the absence of salt, which we added generously.
Eating at J.G. Melon was fun. Amidst all the other burger-lovers, the green and white checkered tablecloths, and the delicious aroma of burgers and fries, J.G. Melon makes you feel like you are dining at an upscale burger joint. The 4x4 team has been dreaming of burgers ever since…
After dinner, we walked to catch the E train back to Penn Station. Before departing, we made a pit-stop for ice cream at Milk Bar Midtown. Milk Bar is an offshoot of the NYC restaurant, Momofuku. The dessert shop has various locations throughout the city and specializes in their "cereal milk" flavored soft-serve ice cream. We all indulged in this unique ice cream and also sampled a few of Milk Bar's double-chocolate homemade cookies. Milk Bar is definitely a must-have for any NYC foodie looking for a trendy, Instagram-able dessert spot.
This week the 4x4 NYC team visited Harlem, one of New York City's most vibrant neighborhoods. Harlem is notorious for its hearty soul food and traditional Caribbean and African cuisine restaurants.
Amy Ruth's, voted #2 for the best chicken and waffles in the country, is located in the heart of Harlem on West 116th Street. Although the atmosphere at Amy Ruth's is a bit ramshackle and run-down, there is no reason to be hesitant- their service and dishes do not disappoint.
We began our meal enjoying the complimentary homemade cornbread. The bread was soft, warm, and fresh out of the oven.
For our main course, we ordered the classic Fried Chicken & Waffles. The chicken was crisp on the outside, yet perfectly moist on the inside. It was Ali's first time having chicken and waffles together, but after trying Amy Ruth's dish she exclaimed, "now I get it! This combination is great." I would recommend this dish to any first time visitor Amy Ruth's!
We also sampled one side dish- Mac & Cheese. The mac was prepared "Caribbean style," layered with cheese, seasoned, and then baked. Soooo yummy!
Amy Ruth's is most definitely a perfect fix for anyone craving soul food! Delicious Chicken & Waffles, fantastic Mac & Cheese.
"Seriously, sooooo delicious!"
"You have to try this."
"Busy, loud, hearty, tasty, friendly."
These are just a few of the many positive Yelp reviews of Cuba that lured the 4x4 team to select it from the plethora of dining options in Greenwich Village.
Cuba Restaurant is nestled among countless small restaurants and shops on historic Thompson Street in Greenwich Village. At Cuba, live music, fantastic latin food, and welcoming waiters and waitresses are the norm. The restaurant prides itself on its dedication to creating an authentic Cuban atmosphere and serving quality food. As we walked the streets of the village and admired Washington Square Arch, the 4x4 team was eagerly counting down the minutes until our 7:30 PM reservation, somewhat impatiently waiting to dine at Cuba.
When we arrived, we were immediately enamored by Cuba's large windows and outdoor seating. Inside, the restaurant was adorned with countless plants and beautiful shades of red and yellow. The lights were dimmed low, creating an intimate atmosphere and Spanish music and a delicious aroma filled the air. Upon sitting down at our table, the 4x4 team felt completely immersed in the culture and light ambiance of a traditional Cuban restaurant.
While dancing to Latin music, the four of us enjoyed our first course: traditional empanadas. The appetizer consisted of three empanadas: savory beef, chicken, and spinach. Personally, I enjoyed each filling so much that I could not pick a favorite. We all agreed that the light, flaky dough was delicious.
For our main courses, we ordered two traditional chicken dishes: Arroz con Pollo Criollo (grilled chicken served on top of rice with avocado and plantains) and Pollo Manguia (chicken breast served with watercress, avocado, scallions, and a tomato salad). The chicken dishes were cooked to perfection and seasoned plentifully. We also sampled two steak entrees: the classic Bistec de Palomilla (sirloin steak and sautéed onions with rice and beans) and Vaca Frita (skirt steak with garlic potatoes, onions, parsley, and lime). Similarly, the steak entrées did not disappoint.
By dessert-time, the four of us were stuffed from our delicious meal and couldn’t even bear to glance at Cuba’s enticing dessert menu.
The satisfaction we received from the Latin vibe and cuisine at Cuba was only amplified by their wonderful, fun staff. Cuba is a restaurant that I would recommend to anyone craving a delicious meal, an inviting atmosphere, and high spirits. We plan to return soon!