“I have news,” said Shelley Clark as she invited me to dinner last night.
Ooh, exciting. Was a chef fired? was a scandal brewing?
I rushed to Focolare to find out.
Focolare is a modern Italian restaurant that recently opened in the unlikely locale of Little Italy.
As a New Yorker, if you want to have a clandestine meeting and really, really don’t want anyone you know to see you, go to Little Italy.
What’s left of this once proud neighborhood is now a tourist trap whose restaurants have a reputation for bad, fake Italian-American food. I have no idea whether that reputation is deserved or not, as I haven’t eaten in Little Italy since my first or second month living in New York, back in 1999.
But chef Frank Lania, a veteran of La Grenouille, is trying his hand at contempory Italian there. So Shelley and I sampled beet ravioli, penne with eggplant, duck with a mild chocolate sauce (don't laugh), and some seared scallops, while she told me that she was quitting her job at Lou Hammond & Associates after 10 years to work on her own.
That was her news. It’s not really news I can use, but interesting nonetheless and I’m happy for her. Shelley had to rush off, so I chatted with Frank, drank some sherry and sampled some desserts — white wine mousse with raspberry coulis, molten chocolate cake with vanilla bean ice cream.
While I was pausing between bites, I was approached by some tourists from Houston. I had been pointed out to them as a food writer and they just wanted to give me their ringing endorsement of Focolare. They liked it much better than other places they’d eaten in New York — Tavern on the Green and The View.
I thanked them, welcomed them to New York and asked them what shows they’d seen. I think they said they’d seen Mama Mia.
Frank said that just a few days after Focolare opened they were visited by Texan tourists who loved the place and have been sending their friends there since.
But if you’re a food writer, or someone in the media who covers books about food, you don’t have to go to Focolare to sample Frank’s cooking. He’s making a goat dish for Goatstravaganza, a party on November 8 celebrating the launch of my friend Margaret Hathaway’s book The Year of the Goat.
Goat cheese will be served, Margaret will read from her book and her husband, my college friend Karl Schatz, will show pictures he took of goats (he’s a terrific photographer, if I do say so myself), cashmere, mohair, kidskin and other goat products will be on display, Goats Do Roam wine will be served (even if you have already received your invitation, I bet you didn’t know that; I’m on the inside track!), and live goats will be in attendance too.
So if you’re, you know, legit, and want to come to the party, let me know: Post a comment here or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org