Photograph courtesy of 36 Main
As we were working on our Best New Restaurants cover story this month, those of us in the editorial department began reminiscing about some of our most memorable meals. Creative Director Bob Supina recalls having dinner in a tiny trattoria in Rome a few years ago with his wife and two daughters. Nestled off in an alley in the bohemian section of the city, the cozy eatery served an amazing array of homespun Italian delights. Bob, who hails from a big Italian family in Staten Island, claims his veal dish — tender and moist — was the best he’s ever tasted (with apologies to his grandmother). But of course, the experience was about more than top-notch food. There was the enchanting atmosphere, and the shared time with his family. Best of all, a father-daughter team cooked and served the meal, and surprised the Supinas with tasty treats they had not ordered. “It felt like somebody was cooking just for us,” Bob recalls.
One of my most memorable meals took place in the summer of 2001. My husband and I, along with three other couples, had rented a vacation home in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, right up against the Canadian border. Our big dinner outing of the week took place at a weird and wonderful place called Zack’s on the Rocks. The fun started right away when Zack himself — clad in a purple muumuu — greeted us, got us all settled in with an interesting array of cocktails, and then started pounding out show tunes on the piano. The building, a little chalet in the woods, was magical. The dining room ceiling was covered with millions of lights and decorations that combined to create a fairy-tale atmosphere. But it was more than kitsch — the five-course meal (with raspberry sorbet between each course) was sophisticated and excellent all around. We all recall the chocolate butter and fresh pumpernickel bread, as well as the outstanding personal service. My husband’s steak was so good that he was practically weeping (although that may have been because I ate most of it). Unfortunately, Zack’s, which had been a Vermont institution for more than 30 years, closed shortly after our visit. But after seven-plus years, each of us still ranks this as among the top 10 meals of our lives.
It seems that great meals are a combination of delicious, high-quality food; a unique atmosphere; outstanding service; and good company. (Being on vacation with some of your favorite people in the world also helps.) All seven of the new restaurants we describe in this issue have what it takes to create one-of-a-kind culinary experiences. I can personally vouch for three of them. The scallops I enjoyed at the Global Palate this summer were the best I’ve ever had — period. Nine of us recently celebrated a dear friend’s 40th birthday at 36 Main; we all concurred that it was the perfect spot for this momentous occasion. And last April, my husband and I hightailed it down to Haverstraw to celebrate our anniversary at Union Restaurant and Bar Latino. The unique setting reminded us of our Panamanian island honeymoon years before, while the fresh and flavorful Latin food had us swooning.
I plan to visit the remaining four restaurants in 2009. I suggest you make your reservations soon.
Olivia J. Abel
Editor in Chief