This is Us!

We are here to bring you our life through food. Especially Italian food. You can learn more about us here.


To-may-to, To-mah-to by John Iaciofano

Tomatoes, you see, are so very sick...
With colors so bright, and a versatile shtick.
Grow them yourself, or buy in a store,
These plump rosy dumplings, I truly adore.
Whether sliced or crushed, cooked, or fried.
There's just no wrong way, they can be applied!
Is it a vegetable, or is it a fruit?
To me that is such, a pointless dispute.
But if made to pick, its optimal form
My choice would be easy, please let me inform:
It wouldn't be on pasta, but that's runner up,
But tomatoes on pizza, now that is what's up.
Spread on a cloud, of freshly pressed dough,
With balls of mozzarella, to contrast its glow.
Placed in an oven, 900 degrees...
Charred to a crisp, yet soft when it's squeezed.
Cut it or fold it, there is no wrong way.
Oh Pizza, my love, I never will stray.
And god bless tomatoes, and all of their might,
For if loving you is wrong, I don't want to be right.

* The purpose of this wonderful poem will become clear very, very soon....wait for it.....

Oh Durado Me....(we review Hoboken's La Isla)

The other night, Elana and I headed to a Hoboken institution - the
cuban restaurant of La Isla - located at 104 Washington Street.  In
truth, either of us could have reviewed this restaurant without going
- we are pretty big fans of this joint and head there often - but in
an effort to maintain trust with our readers (5 and counting, plus
mom) we will only review after the experience is fresh in our heads.

While hardly a well kept secret, it still surprises me that a mention
of La Isla is sometimes met with a puzzling look by people living in
the immediate area.  Perhaps it is the basic sign that merely reads
"Restaurant" or its dingy appearance, but La Isla is one of Hoboken's
better restaurants.  Its chef, Omar Giner, was recently featured in
The Food Network's Throwdown! with Bobby Flay (and won).  And it's
authenticity is a product of proximity - Hoboken closley borders the
towns of Union City and West New York - towns with a substantial Cuban American population.  Indeed, even Zagats gives la Isla a 26 food rating (defined as "extraordinary to perfection").

Inside, it's always a lively atmosphere.  Bright colors, festive
drawings, and unique ornaments fill the cozy restaurant.  The wait
staff is in uniform - hats and neon t-shirts. There is even a sit down
bar with circular diner style stools if you wish to forego the
traditional sit down dinner.  Sitting down, my sister and I are
anxious to tear into our bottle of wine (brought from home, La Isla is
BYO) and order from the dependable menu...

And the praise stops here.  La Isla was way off its game.  For an
appetizer, we ordered the Coconut Shrimp with Mango dipping Sauce and the Platano Asado, which is a Roasted yellow plantain stuffed with picadillo, beef & queso blanco.  The Coconut Shrimp had good texture and decent coconut flavor, yet we both agreed that the taste was lacking a little punch after a few chomps.  In addition, the yogurt sauce was watery and thin.  We were split on our feelings towards the Platano - i loved the satisfying nature of it, while Elana found the meat to taste like something from "taco bell."

On to dinner.  I ordered the Stuffed Chicken Special: Chicken stuffed with spinach, mushrooms and machego cheese. Black beans and Taro root puree on the side.  It was very good.  The chicken was plump and juicy, and the "stuffing" gave it great flavor.  The black beans were an appropriate compliment.  Elana ordered the Durado: Mahi Mahi (grilled) with chick pea, bacon, potato hash. Grilled asparagus & saffron garlic aioli.  To be honest it was not good. The fish was a poor cut (gray and red, not white) and it lacked flavor. Parts of it were even “fishy”.  Indeed, the highlight of the dish was probably the the chick pea, beacon and patato hash - which was quite tasty, albeit a tad salty.

For Dessert, Elana ordered the Batidos - kind of like a milk shake (which we had to ask twice for; our waitress forgot it the first time). It was mango flavored and light, not too sweet.  It was pretty good, yet we both noticed its slight blandness.  We also split a Tres
Leches Cake, a common Central American dessert.  While it was not excellent, it was very good.  Our only small complaint was that the cake could have been more drenched in condensed milk, as portions were a tad dry.  For Elana - who I suspected was still hungry after the disappointment of the Durado - it was probably the highlight of the meal.

The bathroom is a small, unisex stall, one step above an outhouse. Nonetheless, the door locks in the event you have a spicy meal. Just saying...

We sign the check and leave La Isla, feelings quite disappointed.  I say to Elana - "I wonder if La Isla was just off tonight or if it is just average now..."   Yikes, hope we just caught it on a bad day.

Overall Experience - Miami Vice

High Octane Latte (at La Isla)

I've been hearing about La Isla's Cuban Lattes for a while, so the other day my friend Meg and I wandered over before work to try one out. Since it was about 4,000,000 degrees outside we opted for the iced version. Sans sugar too, cuz Meg and I, well we got enough sugah, honey.

Totally kidding, people.

Anyway, the lattes are excellent. We are fans. In no time we were racing each other to the Path station in a caffeine-induced energy spurt, entertained (read: annoyed) everyone on the train by talking loudly and giggling, and then got to work and promptly fell asleep.

So go get a latte at La Isla and pep up your weekend!

Full review of La Isla coming soooooooon......


Terriers in the Bathroom!! (A Review of Sorella on the LES)

Today’s review is of Sorella, a Lower East Side Italian restaurant. The cuisine is inspired by the Piedmont region of Italy, as is the wait staff’s emphasis on hospitality.

Enter Elana and Mom (John could not be with us on this occasion. He was either golfing or golfing at the time).

We dined at the communal table in the front room, which I highly recommend for its lively atmosphere.

Our meal began with a recommendation on drinks – I wanted something sparkly. And pink. It was a girls’ night after all. I should note that the servers are very knowledgeable about their wine list (all Italian wines). Ours suggested the Gabray Tordera from the Veneto region, which satisfied both my requirements (pink and sparkly). Plus, it was delicious. So much so, that at first opportunity I am going to run out and purchase enough cases to fill my fall-out shelter. If I only had one.

On to the apps: Watermelon Salad and Arugula with Pickled Cherries.

The Watermelon Salad is perfect for summer: light & refreshing with added cashews and cucumbers. And as mom noted, the basil really brought out the flavor.

The Arugula with Pickled Cherries was my choice mostly because I’ve never had a pickled cherry. Imagine that. I would like to have some more. Specifically in this arrangement of bitter arugula, prosciutto, sunflower seeds and shaved Parmesan. A light lemony dressing topped it all off.

Mom and I then split two larger dishes: The Tajarin Pasta and the fried Monkfish.

Tajarin is a thin, ribbon pasta made with egg yolks. It was done perfectly with a lamb ragu, topped with a black pepper ricotta. Pistachios and mint graced the tops of this little mound of pasta like greenery on the hills of Piedmont. …aahhhh…I ate the whole thing. Almost licked the plate, but I held myself back.

The Monkfish was lightly battered and fried with avocados (also fried: yum!) and accompanied by a carrot slaw with an orange dressing.

While we were chowing down (in a very lady-like manner of course and ordering seconds of the Gabray), we overheard one of the servers mention that they serve Baccala, which is essentially salt cod – a very Italian thing. And also a very brave thing to put on a menu. I give them mad props for this, and will have to try it next time I’m there. Which might be tomorrow.

Time for dessert: GELATO. Sorella makes their own gelato and we tried the sampler bowl of three varieties: Chunk Sorella (a salted caramel with chocolate covered pretzels and some other wonderfulness), Giandujotto (hazelnut), and Pazzo (peanut butter – CHUNKY STYLE!).  All were amazing and we ended up fighting each other for the last spoonfuls (I won). Incidentally, “pazzo” means “crazy” in Italian.

Every dish at Sorella has a unique taste. Each dish is its own event, and the main ones change daily. As they say on their menu, “stasera abbiamo,” which means, “tonight we have...” A great reason to keep returning for the next wonderful dish they will create.

Also, they have a giant photo of Boston Terriers in their bathroom. That’s pretty cool too.

Overall Movie Equivalent: Heat - The Edgy Near-Masterpiece

Alexander Would Be Proud (a review of the Hamilton Inn)

Our adventure this evening begins in Jersey City, NJ, in search of the Hamilton Inn.

Elana: Where is this place (as we are driving somewhere in its general direction)?

John: It’s at the corner of here and up (emphatic hand gesture to indicate both directionals).

Elana: I see…

The Hamilton Inn has a charming corner location at  10th avenue and Jersey Avenue in downtown Jersey City’s historic neighborhood of Hamilton Park ).  It looks like a bistro (complete with outdoor seating) with a Brooklyn hipster flair. The interior is has horizontal, modern wood paneling accented by wall décor that consists of large blackboards displaying the various menus, an arrangement of mirrors at the entryway and a collection of vintage vases, tins and ephemera.

We arrived at around 7:30-8pm. Even given the dinner hour, it was sparsely populated, so we were quickly seated and began perusing the extensive cocktail & drinks menu. While the Hamilton Inn is a restaurant, it is also a bar (a rather nice one with those handy hooks under the bar for hanging your purse and jacket). The cocktail menu features many infusions, muddled ingredients (like berries) and bitters. Something like what you might find on the Lower East Side of NYC at a place like Allen & Dellancy or Freeman’s.

I began with a Honey Mojito, while John ordered the Austin Mule. The Mule was definitely the standout: the ginger beer was sparkly and light and not too sweet. Mine was a bit on the sweet side, but I like that so I wasn’t complaining. It had lots of fresh mint and lime juice to balance the sweetness, however.

To start us off, they brought a small dish of bread with a ricotta and parmesan spread and some olive oil. The cheese spread was delicious with hints of lemon and a smooth, light texture.

On to the apps: fried calamari and perogies. A word about John and I and calamari: we are extremely critical of it. The calamari must be perfectly done, without a hint of rubberyness. The batter should be light, crunchy (never soggy) and perfectly seasoned. And the marinara sauce….well, it needs to be perfect. Fresh and light, not sweet . And we like lemon wedges on the side, please. The Hamilton Inn’s fried calamari hit the mark on all counts. The only complaint I had was that it didn’t include the tentacle  pieces. I like those.

As for the perogies , John summed it up best when he said, “Not a huge amount of taste.”

For the entrees, I ordered the Ferry St. Paella (get the full name from website) and John requested the special Filet Mignon Risotto.

With chorizo, lobster, shrimp, and clams, my paella was the standout entrée of the evening’s choices. The rice was perfectly cooked and the chorizo gave the whole dish a delicately smoky flavor. So much so that john could not stop sticking his fork in my plate.

The risotto was a bit more generic. “It’s risotto,” commented John, while it was tasty, it was nothing too special for flavorful. “I’ll eat it for lunch tomorrow.”

Now onto dessert. There are only two offerings for dessert at the Hammy Inn: Tiramisu and Key Lime Pie. We went for the Tiramisu, because like with fried calamari, we tend to be very picky about our Tiramisu. My first comment was, “WHERE’S THE RUM?!” In my mind, Tiramisu neeeeeeeeeds rum. And more than the few tablespoons that is usually requested by recipes for this desert.  Not that I am trying to get tipsy off my deserts, but it really does add something. Notably flavor. There was good espresso action, however I strongly suspect that the whipped cream on the side of the plate was Redi Whip. But it was tasty (ish) and we ate the whole thing anyway.

A note about bathrooms. John and I have decided that for every restaurant we review, we will also review their respective loos. We think it’s important to have a well maintained lavatory. We also think it’s funny. We may start a bathroom of the month club.  Anyway, the Hammy’s ladies and men’s rooms were very nicely kept. We even have pics! Nice white, gleaming subway tiles, new appliances. And also storage for baby highchairs (hey, you gotta put them somewhere). No points for extremely nice smelling soaps, but the mirrors were large and the lighting was good. And no extra amenities like toothpicks or hand lotion, or tissues.

All in all, the Hamilton Inn is a success, both in food and ambiance. The modern/eclectic look would be right at home in Brooklyn or parts of New York City. And while certain dishes were great, others were not. . Not every dish we ordered was a winner, but we are eager to go back and try a few more. Drinks too (half price on Wednesdays!!)

Overall Movie Equivalent: The Girl Next Door - The Predictable Surprise
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