Restaurant Loi

Greek food how I love you, let me count the ways. I love you for your tomatoes and your olives; I love you for your feta and I love you for your lamb and seafood. So many of my favorite foods so often incorporated in to your dishes, how could I not love you?

We do Mother’s Day dinner on Saturday night instead of brunch on Sunday at a restaurant of her choosing. This year she chose Restaurant Loi, which we’d been talking about trying for a while.

Maria Loi, chef and owner of Loi, is considered the Martha Stewart of Greece having a successful television show and many cookbooks. About a year and a half ago Maria decided to take on the big apple and opened a restaurant two blocks from my apartment –  score!

I called ahead, as always, to let the restaurant know about my food allergies. The hostess who answered had several food allergies herself. We joked that we should compete to see who has more and she assured me she’d make sure the chef and waiter knew. This is exactly how every hostess should deal with calls about food allergies; take it seriously, but be warm and put me at ease. When we arrived at the restaurant and checked in the hostess informed me that she was the person I’d spoken to and I’d be well taken care of.

Stuffed grape leaves

 As an amuse bouche we were served Maria’s award winning stuffed grape leaves with yogurt dipping sauce. The amuse bouche and the complimentary bread are usually where restaurants fail on food allergic dinners. As is common, the amuse and bread were put on the table without anyone reassuring me that they were safe for me. I could’ve asked our waiter to check, but I didn’t bother. My parents said these were amazing though. 

Spanikopita

For my appetizer I had the Spanakopita, spinach pie, which is one of my favorite Greek dishes. It was probably the best Spanikopita I’ve ever had between the perfectly crisp , buttery phylo and the soft, flavorful spinach and feta filling. I could’ve eaten a pan of this. My mom raved about her Phylo Wrapped Shrimp with Pomegranate Sauce and my dad loved his baked Gigante Beans.

Seafood orzo

 Since I’d started out with one of my Greek favorites, I decided to continue the theme and my dad and I both order one of my go-to Greek dishes, Seafood Orzo. Again, this was probably the best version of this dish I’ve ever had. It was a mor subtle and refined version of a Greek comfort food classic. The spices were slightly differnt and so delicious and all of the seafood was super fresh and perfectly cooked. My dad loved his too and my mom said her Lamb with Lemon Potatoes was fantastic.

Mom’s lamb dish

When it was time for dessert the waiter told me that the kitchen thought the flourless chocolate cake would be the only dessert safe for me. I really don’t like flourless chocolate cake (way too chocolatey for someone like me who isn’t a big chocolate eater) and I was stuffed already so I just had a cup of tea. The service was lovely and showed true Greek hospitality (most of the staff is in fact Greek) and the best part is that at some point in the night Maria Loi herself came out of the kitchen to greet each table. I had met her once before when I had a drink at the bar and both times I was struck by how warm and accessible she is. I will definitely be returning to Loi! 

Greek wine

The verdict:
Food rating: A
Service/food allergy accommodations: A-
Overall rating: Made me want to lick my plate in public!

Otto Enoteca Pizzeria

Full disclosure, this is probably the 15th time I’ve eaten at Otto so I already knew what to expect.

Otto is owned by my number one most favorite celebrity chef, Mario Batali. I mean I really love Mario Batali, like I’d say I love him like I love a Kardashian and, trust me, that is the truest form I love  thatI have to offer. In case you’re wondering how Mario Batali feels about me (and really how could you not be wondering that), sadly we haven’t met yet, but I feel 100% certain that if we did he would love me as much as I love him and invite me over to his place to share a delicious meal with his family. Obv.

I’ve had the pleasure of eating at two of Mario Batali’s very expensive restaurants, Babbo and Del Posto, as well as two of the more moderately restaurants inside his fabulous Italian food market, Eataly. Otto, however, is my favorite go-to spot and I was back there again this past Friday.

The food at Otto is always great, they are fabulous with food allergies and the prices are super reasonable.  Otto was the first restaurant that started keeping my allergies on file in their computer system. These days many restaurants do that, but I’ll still never forgot that second time I ever made a reservation at Otto 3 or 4 years ago and, after typing in my last name,  the reservationist calmly said, “and I see you have the following allergies,” and proceeded to read all of my allergies back to me! Now whenever I walk in my server and the kitchen have already been prepped. How awesome is that!?

I often start out a meal at Otto by sharing a cheese plate with my dinner companions. Since there were 5 of us on Friday we went with 5 cheeses. Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of it, but I assure you it was great. The best part of the cheese plate though is that you get the most awesome bonus accompaniment of truffle honey. Nope you didn’t read that wrong; Truffle Freaking Honey!

I make you want to lick the plate, but you can't because you're in public and you're mother raised you better than that.

The main menu at Otto consists of pizza and pasta only and I have to sheepishly admit that I’ve gotten the same pizza all but two of the times I’ve eaten there. Both times I’ve strayed my choices have been delicious and I’ve taken enough bites of other people’s dishes to know that the Otto kitchen rarely misses, but I still hate to stray from my Romana pizza.

All the pizzas at Otto are thin crust roman style, topped with  variety of fresh, and often seasonal, ingredients. The Romana, aka my perfect pizza, is topped with tomato sauce, anchovies, capers, chilies and mozzarella. The chilies are nice and spicy which pairs perfectly with the tang of the capers and the brineyness of the anchovies while the creamy richness of the mozzarella cuts right through those strong flavors and keeps them right in check.

Table for five.

I am the perfect pizza and I'm drunk with power; all other pizzas must bow to me.

When dining at Otto for the first time, I always warn everyone that it’s imperative that they save room for dessert. Otto is famous for their gelato, especially their Olive Oil Gelato. I know that Olive Oil Gelato sounds weird at first, but once people try it they’re usually converted. Think about really good olive oil you’ve had in the past. I don’t mean the bottle of Filippo Berio you have in your pantry for every day use, I mean the kind they give you at a great restaurant to dip your bread in. The kind that is light, floral and a tiny bit sweet. At Otto they’re using the good stuff in their gelato.

I must admit though that the Olive Oil is only my second favorite flavor. My favorite gelato at Otto is the Caramel which is not overly sweet, but has more of a complex burnt sweetness to it, similar to the top of Creme Brule. Per a past suggestion from a waiter, I usually ask for a side of sea salt to sprinkle on top to make it Salted Caramel Gelato!

Of course I had already started eating by the time I remembered to take a picture.

As always the meal at Otto was great. We only had two glasses of wine between the five of us and the meal cost $40 each. $40 at a celebrity chef owned retaurant in Manhattan is like giving the food away.

One other awesome thing to note about Otto is that if you’re gluten free for any reason they can do all pizza and pasta’s gluten free.

The verdict:
Food rating: B+
Service/food allergy accommodations: A
Overall rating: Super Yummy

Restaurant Marc Forgione

Last night my parents and I went out to celebrate my mom’s birthday. At the birthday girl’s request we dined at Restaurant Marc Forgione. I had already set my mind to blogging about the experience and so took pictures of every course however, I didn’t pull out a pad and take notes instead choosing to enjoy the meal and my parents company.

To that end I’m realizing that my restaurant reviews are going to be mostly lots of pictures and one or two sentences about my overall experience because I’d rather enjoy my meal while I’m eating it.

Our meal at Restaurant Marc Forgione was amazing from start to finish. When we sat down our waitress simply offered us ice water which leads me to believe that they only offer bottled water upon special request. As I am fiercely opposed to bottled water so this immediately scored points in my book.

I’d called ahead, as anyone with food allergies should do, and told them about my dietary restrictions so the waitress was already aware of my needs when we walked in and assured me that the kitchen would take good care of me.

Perfect dinner roll type bread; crunchy on the outside, soft and doughy on the inside served with caramelized onion butter.

After we placed our order we were given an amuse bouche. Mine was different from what my parents were offered since there’s had something in it that was unsafe or me (it looked like maybe poppy). I was given a ceramic spoon with a “One Bite Caesar Salad,” which involved molecular gastronomy too complicated to explain and literally burst in your mouth, next to a bite sized burnt orange square that was some heavenly spicy/sweet carrot creation. unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture.

Before the appetizers were served the waitress came to ask me if I could have soy sauce. I told her that I couldn’t, but I’d happily choose another appetizer. The waitress told me not to worry, the kitchen was happy to leave the soy sauce out and this was my reward:

Chili Lobster. Chunks of perfectly cooked lobster in spicy broth with buttery toased bread to soak it all up.

I ordered the filet mignon and short rib combo for my entrée. The picture came out a bit dark, but it was cooked to a perfect medium rare which is the most cooked that I will ever eat my meat. My theory is if it’s not mooing it’s time to eat.

Filet mignon, short ribs, bread pudding. The steak just melted in your mouth.

Along with our meal we sipped on a delicious Syrah.

2009 Domaine Yves Cuilleron St. Joseph Les Pierres Seches

I’m not usually that much of a dessert eater. I mean I like a sweet now and then, but I’m more of a savory kinda gal. Sometimes though, I have a dessert that makes me rethink my position on sweets and this was one of those times.

In addition to not having much of a sweet tooth, desserts can be difficult with my food allergies so I was thrilled when the waitress brought us our dessert menus and told me she’d already checked with the pastry chef and listed which desserts would be safe for me. Of the desserts she named, she recommended the S’mores tart telling me it was her favorite. I took her advice and man am I glad I did because it was amazing!

S’mores Tart with Toasted Marshmallow ice cream. Chewy/gooey/sticky texture. Pretty much perfect.

The verdict:
Food rating: A+
Service/food allergy accommodations: A
Overall rating: OMG