I received a call the other day from our very own Count James de Szigethy, letting me know about this incredible Italian, nay, Ligurian inn ensconced in the West Village. A quick look at the wall map found Liguria located up in the north of Italy, home to the city of Genoa. A “must try” he said. Who am I to argue with a Count? A quick call to owner Elsie Cardia and our trip to Beatrice Inn was set in Italian marble.
Our trio arrived a few nights later. We wended our way down the flower-banked steps from the sidewalk to enter the comfortably elegant dining room billing itself as a stronghold of the Bohemian Greenwich Village mystique. Well spaced, lightly starched, white-clothed tables in a casual brick-walled, wine bottle embellished dining room beckoned us to sit. The inn has drawn many a famed face, from Sinclair Lewis, Dorothy Parker and F. Scott Fitzgerald to Woody and Mia – a scene from Another Woman was even shot in the dining room.
We started our repast with a decent-sized cold antipasto platter laden with olives, roasted peppers, anchovies, prosciutto and other northern Italian delicacies, while we contemplated the menu. As Ms. Cardia’s suggestion, she took over the selection process and, after a suitable wait, presented us with a sampling of her favorite pastas. I must admit, the pesto sauce was good, though not a cut above the average. On the other hand, her putanesca sauce, brimming with anchovies and olives, was out of this world, and to top it off, her intensely savory tomato vodka sauce with fresh peas, ladled over perfectly cooked penne, may just be the best I’ve ever had.
We progressed on to a triad of plates loaded with delightfully tangy veal piccata, melt-in-your-mouth Chicken Francaise, and the Beatrice’s own specialty, Seafood Beatrice, a cornucopia of clams, mussels, octopus and fish in a rich, piquant tomato sauce. A bottle of 1986 Ruffino Chianti Classico, rich with the essences of berries and just a hint of fresh tobacco, was the perfect accompaniment to this profusion of flavors. Sighing with contentment, for dessert we chose to split a house specialty. We were rewarded with an absolutely delicious tiramisu – initially nibbling, and finally devouring each crumb of coffee-chocolate creaminess.
Needless to say, there turned out to be no reason to argue with our Count, and we seconded his “must try” opinion.
Beatrice Inn, 285 West 12th Street (8th Avenue), 929-6165. Open Monday through Saturday for lunch and dinner. Reservations recommended. All major credit cards accepted. Dinner $25-35.
It was a brunch Sunday. Not all Sundays are brunch Sundays of course. Some of them are reserved for toast and coffee over a paper and heavy repasts in mid-afternoon. Others are spent at beaches, parks, museums or theaters. But this one was definitely a brunch Sunday. We promptly headed for one of our favorite brunch spots, 103. Depending on whom you talk to, this place is also known as Jerry’s 103 and 103 Second – we’ve opted for brevity.
If I were going to design a restaurant, I think this is the one I’d design. Expansive windows look out onto Second Avenue and East 6th Street. We sit in the simple white, black and grey decor, surrounded by formica tables and banquettes, each with a simple flower display. A cute mural spans the wall next to the well-designed and even better stocked bar. Cute waiters with tight T-shirts and just a modicum of attitude (though, watch out at night when energy and attitude levels get raised) drop by for a bit of a chat and offer coffee. We worked our way down through the list of cappucinos, cafe-au-laits, and espressos, and settled on one of each, combined and administered intravenously. Our waiter smiles with understanding, but demurs, and fetches a cappucino and a cafe-au-lait.
Brunch is an a la carte affair. The menu begins with juices and other appropriate mid-day drinks containing champagne and vitamin C. We sample the fresh squeezed orange juice and move on to our main selections. Delightfully crispy waffles topped with pecans and warm syrup adorn one plate, poached eggs on a bed of fresh ratatouille another. When one of us is in the mood for more lunch-ish fare, the 103 Club, piled high with a selection of proper club sandwich delicacies is a favorite choice. Specials are always available, usually an omelette of the day, sometimes a pasta. My own preference is the Eggs Benedict, with zesty jalapeno mayo and thick slices of fresh tomato.
If you still have room, and we try to make sure we do, the dessert special of the day is always a good choice. On this recent venture a mouth-watering warm blackberry and peach deep dish pie arrived, with vanilla ice cream melting slowly down the sides. For those who want something a little lighter, the sorbet plate is always an enjoyable choice. Drop in on this place on your next brunch Sunday and drop over to the table and say hi.
103, 103 Second Avenue (at 6th Street), 777-4120. Open for lunch, brunch and dinner seven days a week. Visa, Mastercard, American Express accepted. Brunch, $10-20.
CaB magazine was one of the first publications I ever wrote for. Published by my dear friend Andrew Martin, it covered the Cabaret, Theater, Music and Dining scene in New York City, long before slick publications like Time Out NY and Where NY became popular. We had great fun writing it, and some wonderful writers contributed to its pages. When the magazine folded in the mid-90s, Andrew disappeared from the scene, and rumors had it that he departed from this existence not long after. I was thrilled to find out in mid-October 2005, a decade later, that the rumors were just that. Andrew contacted me after finding my site via that omnipresent force, Google. He’s alive and well and a member of a comedy troupe called Meet the Mistake. Somehow quite fitting!