Tag Archives: new york

Brooklyn Biscuit Tortoni: Born in Brooklyn, based in Florida, available at many fine dining establishments!

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tortoni When the chefs behind Brooklyn Biscuit Tortoni asked me if I would help them out by taste testing a few different versions of their product, I rolled up my sleeves, took a deep breath, and decided that out of the goodness and generosity of my heart, that I would grant them that favor. It is precisely moments like these that remind me of that cliche, “Do what you love and the money will follow.” While there isn’t paper money involved here per se, delicious tastes of dessert are worth way more than dollars as far as I’m concerned.

I grew up in New York, where it was common to see tortoni on just about every pizza place or Italian restaurant menu. The choice was usually tortoni, spumoni, or cannoli, and given the option of dried, candied fruit and nuts in spumoni (yuck) or ricotta cheese filling of a cannoli (Um, ew. Why would I want cheese and carbs for dessert after presumably eating cheese and carbs for dinner?), the choice was always clear to me. Add a single-serve sized paper cup that meant I didn’t have to share, a maraschino cherry and almond cookie crunchies on top and well, who could pass that up?

I didn’t realize until many years later that at some point I stopped seeing these delightful treats on menus. I didn’t even realize how much I missed them until this dessert duo brought it to my attention by offering me a taste of their version of this classic.

The first sample I had was creamy, cold, sweet, and sparked so many memories for me that I simply forgot to slow down and savor each bite. It was gone before I knew it and I was clearly NOT wearing my culinary taste-tester hat that day. I would definitely require another one to be able to give helpful feedback.

The second sample was a different story. I was mentally prepared to take small bites and really let all five senses tune in. The crisp cookie crumbles on top were my favorite part. They are blended throughout the cup giving a slightly granular feel and keeping that almondy flavor consistent from top to bottom. I saved the cherry for last, as I always do with any cherry-topped dessert, and it was a wonderful last juicy bite.

The taste is very similar to ice cream, but more like frozen custard with a slightly eggier quality to it. It’s sort of like someone melted one of those yummy, toasted almond, Good Humor popsicles, re-constituted it, used better quality ingredients, and then perfected that concept in a cup version. It was *almost* the perfect tortoni, but for me, someone who has a serious sweet tooth by the way, it was actually too sweet overall. Now that did not for one second mean that I left even one drop uneaten, it just meant that I actually had something other than a full rave to come back to the creators with.

And so, that brings me to the final version. The chefs tweaked the original recipe that they used by reducing the amount of sugar and the amount of crumbled almond cookies by nearly half. They brought me my third and final sample. The moment of truth. I used a small spoon so as better to slow my bites down and to allow me to savor every delectable taste. Now this is perfection. Creamy, sweet but not-too-sweet, crispy, almondy, cold, and just the right portion size (although I could admittedly eat 2 or 3 of these easily- I really shouldn’t).

This is a memory in a paper cup. A great memory…and now one that can live on in the present instead of only a distant past. Bravo!

You can have your own “creamy, dreamy, taste embrace” too! Find them at Mozzarella Fella, Solorzano, Don Giovanni’s and MANY more restaurants coming soon! Follow their Facebook page to see where they are going to pop up next! https://www.facebook.com/brooklynbiscuittortoni

And if YOU want to carry them in your restaurant, contact the chefs via their website for wholesale information:

http://www.brooklynbiscuittortoni.com/

Sal’s Pizzeria & Pasta House: 6582 Gateway Ave Sarasota, FL

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saladsals pizzaEither I’ve lived in Florida for long enough that I’ve forgotten what real NY pizza tastes like, or I just found a GREAT place for a slice here! Given that it’s still less than 2 years since my big relocation, and factoring in the total number of slices I ate while living in NYC for 5 years, I’m pretty sure that I can still consider myself a fair pizza critic, and this passed with flying colors. This is not a gourmet, fancy, brick-oven slice, this is a true, NY style, fold-over, crispy crusted, melty cheese slice. Just a good, no-frills, plain, classic cheese slice- and exactly what I wanted.

The salad was nothing particularly exciting, but did include a fresh veggies (carrots, lettuce, tomatoes)  and olive slices, and my side of blue cheese dressing was above average with decent sized chunks.

For $4.99 to get a slice of pizza, a soda and a salad for a quick lunch was a great deal.

I will absolutely be back! Thanks Sal’s!

UPDATE August 1 , 2017!

I’ve been continuing to go to Sal’s whenever I’m in the area for the last few years and was SO excited to find out that they are now making cauliflower crust pizza. It’s a real pain in the ass to make at home, and I don’t have a pizza oven to really give it the perfect texture. Well, this did NOT disappoint. At around $13 for a small/personal size, I wasn’t even able to finish half on my own so I would say, for the amount of effort that has to go into making it, it is WELL worth the price.

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State Street Eating House: 1533 State St, Sarasota FL

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I was excited to finally visit State Street Eating House with my dad for lunch last week. I’ve walked past it a bunch of times and am always intrigued by the menu, the minimalist/industrial atmosphere and the young, hip crowd dines and drinks there. When we met on a Wednesday at 1:30, we were greeted by the owner- who I was sure (and turned out to be wrong) must be from Williamsburg, Brooklyn. It felt so familiar in a New York-y way, and everything about him from his persona to his plaid shirt and bow tie made me think of the Brooklyn hipsters I left behind when I moved to Sarasota last year.

We sat at a table and were brought menus and asked if we wanted tap or bottled water. We asked for tap, which we quickly realized was not going to cut it. The water was notably bad, as it often is in Florida, and we ordered a ($6!!) bottle of Evian instead. This turned out to be the ONLY thing about our experience here that we didn’t both love. We did, in fact, chat with the owner about it after our lunch and he was very open to hearing the criticism. He explained that they were expanding into the space next door and planned to add a filtration system. We also discussed his ideas about charging for bread and filtered water, which my father and I cautioned him against. We both agreed that we’d rather see price increases on the menu items to cover his costs there rather than charging extra for things that our society definitely expects to be included.

Anyway, back to the meal. We decided to order a bowl of soup, a salad, and a sandwich. We asked the waiter if he would ask the chef if he would split our three choices for us to share. When our food arrived, we were both pleased to see that the splits had been made. The portion sizes were STILL so large that I was surprised it was only ‘half’ on my plate and in my bowl. I liked the simplicity of the presentation and felt that it coordinated well with the decor of the restaurant. The way the ambiance, menu, staff and food all went together showed clear attention to detail and sophistication.

Our clam chowder had whole clams, chunks of potato, celery, little puffed crackers, and a creamy, smooth, not-too-thick base. It had a wonderful flavor that could only come from the fresh clams. The semi-thin consistency made it a lovely first course instead of the heavy, filling, appetizer that most chowders are.

Our salad and sandwich came out next, looking amazing. The salad was wonderful; Grilled lettuce hearts topped with ricotta salata and fried hearts of palm. It came with a side of bread, but I chose to leave it behind since the bread on the grilled cheese was already carb-indulgent enough. Well, ok. I did have one little bite of it, but it wasn’t different enough from the sandwich bread that I could justify it. The salad was tossed in a grainy mustard dressing that added texture and a little sharp bite to this creative salad. It was my own fault that I didn’t ask for the dressing on the side. I almost always do, but forgot this time. It was overdressed for my taste, but I still ate every bite and really enjoyed it. The classic grilled cheese sandwich was served on crusty sourdough, with thin slices of tomato. It was grilled perfectly and adorably topped with a green olive. Some creamy coleslaw came alongside of it, but was also a bit overdressed for my taste. I love cabbage, so too much mayo is always a disappointment.  The cheddar cheese was awesome; gooey, sharp and exactly the comfort food I’d expected.

Overall, aside from the bad tap water and overpriced bottled water, I thoroughly enjoyed this meal and restaurant. I would love to go back some evening after work for cocktails (they use craft liquors that add to inherently artsy quality) and snacks like the housemade pickles and mini lobster rolls on their snack menu. If you need a cool spot to meet a date or some friends, I think State Street Eating House makes a great choice.

Solorzano Bros Pizza, 3604 Webber St, Sarasota, FL

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As a New Yorker who moved to Sarasota a year ago, I’m constantly on a quest to find pizza that comes close to what I know and love. Most pizza places around here, to put it bluntly, really suck. A few months ago, I found G’s Pizza (https://bigforkinmouth.com/2012/07/25/gs-pizzaria-7119-s-tamiami-trail-sarasota-fl/) and have been pretty happy to satisfy a craving there when the need strikes. It’s very close to work which is great, but it’s pretty far from where I live- and we are definitely NOT in their delivery zone. I think it was my review of G’s which prompted the owner of Solorzano’s to email me suggesting that I give them a try. Well, a pizza craving hit hard yesterday so Gabriel and I headed over to their Webber St. location which is less than 10 minutes from our house.

When we arrived, we found that their choice of slices was limited to plain or pepperoni only- apparently they’d had a busy day already and sold out of everything else. The boy behind the counter told us he’d be happy to make us slices of whatever we wanted anyway, which we were happy to hear. The very reasonable $6 lunch special I ordered included any slice, a house salad, a drink and 2 garlic knots. (Well, I’m actually not entirely sure that it normally includes the garlic knots or if that was something he threw in after I mentioned that I’m a food blogger. Either way, nice touch.)  I ordered artichoke and mushrooms for my slice of pizza and sat down to wait for my meal. A few moments later, a lovely salad with perfectly ripe, red, tomato slices, red onions, fresh cucumbers, romaine lettuce and a great balsamic dressing came out, along with my slice and a couple of huge garlic knots.

Everything looked awesome and I was ready to dive in. The salad was a generous portion of fresh and colorful veggies, and the slice looked VERY New York. My first bite was promising. Yes! The cheese was full of flavor, hot and bubbly and the sauce was slightly sweet and the right amount. My only gripe was the crust. The texture and taste were spot-on, but it was just slightly too thick for me. I personally like a good, thin, fold-over-able NY style crust over one that’s really bread-y.  Even so, this is pretty damn close to what I want in a slice, and I will definitely give it my stamp of approval. The garlic knots were really oversized compared to the typical NY ones, and they tasted great. Crusty outside and doughy/chewy inside. They could have used a little more garlic, but I’m admittedly a garlic freak. I am very curious to go back to try the other types of pizza- there were SO many appealing choices, like ‘Farmer’s Market made with fresh local produce, the ‘Sinatra’, a white pie with fresh tomato slices and basil, as well as the ‘Margarita’ with fresh basil and mozzarella. I’d also like to try the eggplant parmesan at some point.

The setting itself was very authentic and made me feel like I was back up north. I liked the Rat Pack music playing on the speakers and thought it added a cute touch to the old time-y Italian feel. There are plenty of tables outside which I would have enjoyed except that it happened to be a very windy day. We decided to sit atop the red stools inside and were comfortable there. We thought it was interesting that there’s another supposedly authentic NY pizza shop in the same plaza, and after seeing 4 stars on Yelp figured that now we’re gonna have to try that one too. That said, I am quite sure our next delivery order will be from Solorzano’s regardless. I’m very happy to be able to throw away the delivery menus I’ve collected and rejected so far and replace the subpar choices near me with the very good Solorzano Bros. instead. Bravo! We will be back!

Tandoori Indian Restaurant: 3440 Clark rd. Sarasota, FL HAS MOVED TO 8453 Cooper Creek Blvd

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mango lassipappadum and 3 sauces, tamarind etcchickpea potatoes patties appnaanrotieggplant entreesaag paneerbasmati rice

I feel like I’ve said this a lot more times than I ever expected to, but WOW, great ethnic food in Sarasota?!?! Amazing! Who knew?

Gabriel and I bought a coupon deal to go to Tandoori Indian Restaurant based on a recommendation from my boss. We decided to go a few nights ago when I had a serious craving for Sag Paneer. (Fresh homemade cottage cheese cubes cooked in fresh creamy spinach gravy, very delicately spiced.) This is one of those dishes that I get intense cravings for every so often, and since I’ve recently cut meat out of my diet and am finding less options on most menus, I am so happy to say that this favorite of mine is still a-okay.

When we arrived, it was a fairly empty restaurant but we noticed quickly that a lot of their business seems to be in take-out. Quite a few people came to pick up their ‘to go’ orders while we ate. The waitress came over and brought menus and water and made some suggestions at our request. She also brought out the delicious, creamy, sweet, mango lassis we ordered, as well as some crisp popadom with the 3 classic sauces: tamarind, mint chutney and onion. My favorite is always tamarind and I always ask for extra to use on the rice and entrees as well.

We decided to try the Ragda Patties (crispy fried potato patties topped with chick peas cooked in onion & tomato paste spiced with ground spices and finished off with our house yogurt and tamarind & mint chutney) as our appetizer. It wasn’t exactly what I expected, but it WAS really delicious. It was mainly chick peas, spiced with really interesting flavors, and the patties it sat atop were decadent, creamy, potatoes. They didn’t really seem crispy to me- as described in the menu, but they were very flavorful and the texture contrast with the chickpeas was interesting.

For our entrees, we shared the Sag Paneer, which was perfect, and the Baingan Bharta (roasted, de-skinned and pureed eggplant, cooked with turmeric, onions and tomatoes, seasoned with herbs & lightly flavored with a hint of freshly ground fried spices) which was also really wonderful. The basmati rice that came with it and the Tandoori Naan and Roti we ordered were the perfect platforms for the complex flavors of our entrees.

Overall, I am really happy to have had a chance to try Tandoori and will definitely be back. The owner came out to chat with us to tell us that they will soon be moving to a new location in Coopers Creek off of University Drive- and we are glad to know they will be in an area that we frequent. As a New Yorker who used to think that Jackson Heights, Queens is really the best place outside of India (not that I’ve actually been there) to eat Indian food, I am VERY pleasantly surprised to find awesome, authentic, Indian cuisine right here in Sarasota, Florida. Bravo Tandoori!

 

UPDATE: Tandoori Grill has moved to 8453 Cooper Creek Blvd and is STILL awesome. Gabriel and I had dinner there last week and the food was FANTASTIC. YAY!! It’s so close to where I live now and the $9.99 buffet still has tons of vegetarian options.

Blue Dolphin Cafe: 470 John Ringling Blvd Sarasota, FL

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I loooooove a good breakfast. I met my dad at Blue Dolphin and was charmed to find out what a ‘regular’ he is there. Everyone knows his name and treated us both really well. It has the feel of the NY diners I miss so much, and a menu with tons of great choices at fair prices. I ordered a 2 egg omelette (they are usually 3 eggs but 2 was plenty for me) with broccoli, tomatoes, mushrooms and half the amount of swiss they’d normally use. It came with fresh, thick, rye toast and a fruit salad and it totally hit the spot. Everything was cooked perfectly, exactly the way I would do it myself- except probably a bit prettier if I’m being honest about my omelette cooking skills.

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Mozzarella Fella: 1668 Main St Sarasota, FL

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As a recent NYC transplant, when I read excellent reviews about a new sub shop in Sarasota, I do not take it lightly. When I find out that the owner is from Brooklyn, I take it even more seriously. When I see mouth-watering pictures posted on their well-maintained Facebook page, I start making my plans to go. Everything I’ve been reading about Mozzarella Fella has been a rave, and I am very happy to report that I agree. It’s a fantastic new addition to Main Street.

My father (who is also a Brooklyn native) and I met up yesterday for lunch and arrived to find a packed house. Apparently it has not taken long for people to catch on to the new hot spot for lunch, but the line moved quickly and they were actually ready to take our order sooner than we’d made up our minds. Everything on the menu was appealing, and the case of lasagna, meatballs and various prepared salads was gorgeous, with each dish looking better and better. I was in the mood for eggplant and had (If I remember right) 3 different eggplant-based subs to choose from.  I settled on the eggplant parmigiana sub and a half iced tea/half lemonade. My father was quickly sold on the special sub-of-the-day: veal cutlet with fresh mozzarella and marsala sauce. We placed our orders and went to sit at a 2-top to wait for them to be brought out to us.

About 10 minutes later, our sandwiches arrived wrapped in deli paper. My drink was forgotten and I decided to just go grab a bottle of water from the fridge instead of re-ordering it. I came back to unwrap my sandwich, which turned out to be a mozzarella, arugula, tomato and basil oil sub instead of the one I’d chosen. It actually DID look pretty awesome, but it was not what I’d ordered so I brought it back to the counter and told the owner, who was very apologetic and said she’d correct it right away. A little while later, she brought my correct sub along with the mistaken one- and it definitely made up for the error that she let me keep it to bring home for my honey. (who, incidentally, was quite pleased) In the end, I decided to eat half of each which was a great consolation. More to try! Both subs were excellent. The mozzarella is definitely the standout ingredient- SO creamy and somehow light and rich at the same time. The eggplant was crisp and not overly breaded. The bread has the most perfect consistency- both chewy and soft with a toothsome crust.

All that said, one bite of my dad’s sub and it was quickly obvious that the special of the day is no joke. Seriously. Next time, I’ll let the chalkboard decide what my order will be. WOW. This was unbelievable. The veal (which I don’t normally order) tasted so incredible that any animal-cruelty-related guilt quickly subsided. Sorry vegetarian friends. Sorry cute little baby cows. I’m sorry that you are so delicious.

It was tender, but with the most delicious, crispy, crust. The melty mozzarella on top dribbled down the sides and mixed into the savory marsala sauce with juicy, plump, sliced mushrooms. The crusty bread sopped up all of the extra sauce and cheese and worked both as a catchall and as a compliment. This was seriously one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had. It was, however, totally messy. My dad and I agreed that if you decide to eat there, it would be nice to have your lunch served on a plate instead of wrapped in paper. A paper plate would be fine, but the mess that eating on paper makes was kind of annoying.

Aside from the 2 little ordering errors with my overlooked beverage and my sub confusion, this place totally rocks. I am sure that they will get more and more efficient with the ordering and accuracy, but the food can’t possibly get any better. I will absolutely and positively be back, and hopefully by the time I return, reviews like mine and the soon-to-be-countless others won’t have made it completely impossible to get in.

Bravo Mozzarella Fellas! Welcome to Florida!

Jim’s Small Batch Bakery. 2336 Gulf Gate Dr, Sarasota, FL

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Stop #2 on my father and I’s little culinary adventure in Gulf Gate led us to Jim’s Small Batch Bakery and WOW this was the highlight of the day for me. This tiny little shop tucked away in the corner of Gulf Gate is just awesome, with a staff who clearly has a ton of integrity about what they do. Jim was on hand to chat and give us some samples of his sorbets and ice creams and I simply couldn’t resist. I ended up with a scoop of coconut sorbet and a scoop of strawberry sorbet and they were both so incredibly delicious. Smooth, creamy and very natural with nothing but the fruit, a little sugar and a binding ingredient. Some of the best sorbet I’ve ever had actually. I couldn’t help topping my cup with a lemon sand dollar cookie that was super thin, crisp and delicate. I also tasted my father’s vanilla ice cream which was equally outstanding.

The case full of treats was extremely tempting, and I’m lucky that I work pretty close by. I will absolutely be back for lunch soon- as they had a wonderful little menu of sandwiches, soups and quiches in addition to their baked goods. The almond croissant was LOUDLY calling my name and I promised it that I’d come back for it soon. The lemon bar, breads and cakes also looked amazing and I’m sure I’ll eventually try them all.

YUM. I will be back within a week, I’m sure of it. Thanks Jim!

Derek’s Culinary Casual: 514 Central Ave, Sarasota, FL

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I am going to have to start with dessert. No, I did not start the meal that way, but I just can’t stop thinking about it for long enough to start my review with anything else. This is passion in a cup. No. This is what the most succulent, romantic, seductive, indicative-of-a-lasting-love type of first kiss would be if it were translated into a dessert. This is serious.

The dessert which is simply titled *S’mores is so much more than that. This is no Hershey bar. This is not a boxed graham cracker or a Jet-Puffed marshmallow (not that there is anything wrong with any of those things. The classic s’mores has always been one of my favorite treats on the planet) This is a S’mores as you knew it from childhood campfires that has been elevated to the utmost level of sophistication and indulgence. The crisp brulee topping of the homemade marshmallow shatters as you chip your way into it. Underneath the shell, you’ll find the creamiest, most heavenly, smooth, rich, chocolate you can possibly imagine. You may think, at this point, that you’ve arrived in heaven, but then you’ll dig deeper to find the crumbly, cinnamon-y goodness in the bottom layer of graham cracker that will bring you over the edge. Sigh. Yes. This is the kind of dessert that leaves you wishing you still had enough stomach space left to order another one. Or 6.

But moving on.

The rest of the meal was equally exquisite. It’s so awesome to find a creative, original, NY-type restaurant SO far from the hustle and bustle that I moved away from here in Florida. The vibe that you get from the food and the friendly chef here is low-key, fun, quirky, whimsical and casual, although the decor really doesn’t seem to match that in my opinion. It’s more subdued and traditional looking (except for a few pieces of art) and I think they’d do well to try to connect the food and feel with the atmosphere a little bit more. That said, once you start eating, you’ll be looking more at your plate than your surroundings anyway so it really doesn’t matter.

We decided to share 5 small plates. I love when a menu provides that option because as far as I’m concerned, I’d always rather try lots of little things than be stuck with one entree per person. We started with the lovely little parmesan rolls they served- which reminded me very much of miniature popovers. Although Gabriel felt they were on the dry side, I rather enjoyed the eggy cheesiness of them along with their petite size. Just enough to take the hunger edge of without putting a damper on my ravenous appetite.

Next, we had our 2 cold selections. One was the chilled cantaloupe soup with jalepenos, pickled vegetables and creme fraiche. WOW. What an awesomely refreshing combination of flavors and textures and a wonderful way to begin this journey through dinner. The smooth sweetness of the fruit paired with the crunchy spicy peppers and vinegar-y vegetables combined into the most perfect little flavor dance, and one that was new and exciting to me. We also thoroughly enjoyed the  ‘Janie’s Wedge Salad’ with
cherry tomatoes, crispy onion rings (probably the best onion rings I’ve ever had), blue cheese emulsion, and warm bacon vinaigrette. The concept of this dish is one that’s on plenty of menus, but here Derek puts his own spin on it and somehow reinvents it into something much cooler than the typical wedge.

We then moved on to our 3 warm plates, one was a special which consisted of a perfectly poached egg over roasted oyster mushrooms and peas, one was the pan seared sea scallops with white chocolate & parsnip purée (So delicious, unexpected, rich and creamy) english peas and mint, and the third was the clams with smoked pork- another special that I wish I could describe more accurately but to be honest, I forgot what the elements were- I just know it was excellent.

Overall, I can EASILY say that Derek’s is my new favorite restaurant in the area. There is no question at all that I will be back sooner than later, and probably frequently. I should add that the service was on point, and that I really enjoyed chatting with the chef when he came over to our table to introduce himself. It’s very cool to see that a superb restaurant like this (that’s not even on Main St.) has it’s tables full, even in the ‘down’ season. With food of this quality, it’s no wonder why. See you soon Derek!

G’s Pizzaria: 7119 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, FL

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This is another one of those “I am a NY pizza snob” type posts where I go to a restaurant to try a slice from a place that claims to be owned by a NYer. I’m always pretty skeptical when I go on these little adventures but am willing to give it a fair shot. When I first walked in and found out the the owner is actually from WAY upstate NY and not the city, I got pretty worried.

I sat down and ordered a plain slice and a side salad with blue cheese dressing on the side. The salad came out and (good first impression) was NOT iceberg lettuce! It was a mesclun mix with beautiful, thick, red tomato slices, black olives, onions and fresh mushrooms on top. The dressing was pretty darn good too. So far, so good.

A few minutes later, the owner brought my slice over, piping hot from the oven and looking an awful lot like a NY slice. BIG, flat, bubbly top, and the right ratio of cheese to sauce to crust. Hmmmm. Could it be? I took a bite. WOW. Ok. I am impressed. This IS a NY slice after all. Is it the best slice ever? Well, no, but let’s be realistic. The truth is that the classic NY slice has a lot to do with the water there, and no one outside of NYC will really ever be able to duplicate that. But this was definitely the closest to NY I’ve had since I moved here a few months ago. Ah. Good enough to evoke nostalgia. The crust was the right mix of crunchy and chewy, the flavor of the sauce was spot-on; not too sweet, the right amount, and the cheese was exactly right. I added my sprinkling of oregano and parmesan- which was on the table like it should be, and it made for a VERY satisfying lunch. BRAVO to you G’s! Bonus that it’s about 1/4 mile from where I work. I will absolutely be back. YAY!