When we think about Italian culture, two things come immediately to mind: those little scooters and pizza.
Last week, chef Mathieu Palombino merged the two icons to create a classic Neapolitan pizzeria, Motorino (“that little scooter”), at 319 Graham Ave., Brooklyn, which has Williamsburg looking at pizza in a whole new way. This Belgian-born, French-trained pizzaiolo (he’s been in BLT Fish’s and Cello’s kitchens before this) spent over a year perfecting pizzas and other menu items for his neighbors on the very Italian stretch of Graham Avenue.
Palombino’s menu offers 10 different varieties of pies—including “Pizze Margherita “and the spicier “Soppressata Piccante”—as well as local salami, simple salads and antipasti dishes. Motorino also entices diners with its gelato and sorbet, with flavors such as blood orange and chocolate, among others.
“The whole menu is very tied up together. Everything is very Italian and very simple,” Palombino says. “It’s much more Italian that I expected, but it’s pure in its simplicity and authenticity.”
Palombino even hopes to bring his slice of Neapolitan ingenuity to Manhattan someday, if enough of his neighbors find the same passion for the food as he does. “We’re very serious about Neapolitan pizza. It’s a cool and laid-back place, but I’m very serious about my product and I hope people want to check us out.” • These days, it’s hard to come across a coffee shop that not only feeds your caffeine addiction but also your soul. Community activist Michelle Cruz has found a way to nurture both in her newly opened East Harlem Café (1651 Lexington Ave. at E. 104th St.). After opening its doors earlier this month ago in a flavorful and festive reception, East Harlem Café is already hosting book signings, receptions for local artists and even a Mexican band. Cruz, who hopes to open two other cafés in the neighborhood, says the shop offers not only coffee but also culture, “one sip at a time.” The café has a wide selection of gourmet coffees from across Central and South America (her favorite is the “El Barrio” blend, a mix of cinnamon and pecan flavors) and a French press flavor with a unique Latin kick.The café also sells a selection of sandwiches, salads, soups and pastries (she recommends the almond croissant) made fresh daily by local vendors. “The coffee is excellent.
I think it’s the best in town. Plus, the pastries are fresh and delicious,” Cruz says. “The community has been waiting for a place like this.” • What do Pete Townsend, Jackie Kennedy and secret speakeasies have in common? More than we might ever know; but one of them, perhaps the tastiest, has got to be John’s of 12th Street, at 302 E. 12th St., the East Village Italian institution that turns 100 this week. In its century, John’s has hosted prohibition-era drinking (in espresso cups, of course) as well as many a celebrity dinner.
On Thursday, Oct. 23, the restaurant will celebrate from 11 a.m. to 4 by offering its signature dishes at 1908 prices. Stuffed mushrooms, usually $7.95, will go for 25 cents, the veal Parmesan, which goes for $18.95 any other day, will be 95 cents and glasses of wine will be available for 50 cents each to wash it all down. • If 1908 seems too antiquated for you, this week, in a very 2008 way, the West Village welcomed The Charles, another reservations-by-connections only boite, at 234 W 4th St. If you’re into the Skull and Bones world of secret phone numbers, hidden entrances and double-digit appetizers, sally forth.
Otherwise try a place that actually wants you to eat there. —Compiled by staff