Out of town report: Emporio (NYC)

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Last weekend, I made a quick trip to NYC to see my sister and some friends from college. I knew it would be a weekend of running around from spot to spot, which meant that I would basically be carrying all of my belongings with me almost at all times so I attempted to pack as lightly as possible since 1) I did not want to be profusely sweating the entire time and 2) I have weak arms. I boarded a 10am bus on Friday and was in Chelsea by 3pm afternoon. I had early dinner plans, but wanted to squeeze in some shopping beforehand since my Saturday was completely packed.  So after getting off the bus, my weekender bag and me made our way to East Village and Soho in search of summer clothing. After running around for a few hours, still with my weekender on my arm, sweating up a store (this could not be helped) and with sore shoulders, I had definitely worked up an appetite. I met up with my sister, my brother-in-law, and some of their friends at a small Italian restaurant in Nolita. Emporio opened in 2009 from the same team behind Aurora (in Williamsburg and Soho) and was inspired by a twenties-era Italian grocery. The restaurant is cozy and intimate, with wood walls and hand painted wallpaper. We were seated in the adorable back dining room, under a large glass ceiling.

For such a small spot, the menu at Emporio is fairly diverse, with numerous appetizers, cured meats, cheeses, handmade pastas, pizzas and grilled entrees. We started with two appetizers for the table to share: the Charred Octopus and the Prosciutto & Burrata. The Charred Octopus was perfectly grilled, and served over a romesco sauce, onion confit and fingerling potato salad. While it was delicious, I thought that $15 was a little hefty for this small serving. The Prosciutto & Burrata came on a large wooden board with several long slices of 18 month cured prosciutto, burrato, and three thick slices of bread with crushed tomato bruschetta. The slightly garlicky bruschetta tasted incredibly fresh, and the burrata was creamy. I spread the burrata on top of the crusty bread, topped it with the salty prosciutto and popped this perfect combination into my mouth.

Since I am still on a (now two month long) pizza kick, I decided to split a pizza with one of the girls. We went with the Speck & Mushroom pie with smoked scamorza, ricotta, and truffle oil because I’m going to pretty always take the truffle oil option if it is presented to me. The pizza came straight from the large wood-burning brick oven, and definitely large enough for two hungry girls to share. I was not disappointed with our order. The thin crust was crispy (some bites almost tasted cracker-like) and delightfully chewy. Most importantly,  the crust did not get soggy even as I picked up the last slice. Each bite was extremely aromatic, due to the mushrooms and the truffle oil. In addition, we ordered the Brussel’s Sprouts and Kale salad in an attempt to make our dinner slightly healthier. The lemon dressing was nice and light and complemented the slightly bitter greens well.

After the very satisfying second courses, it was time for us to move onto dessert. While I would have loved to order the Nutella turnover, I did not want to force my Nutella obsession on others (especially near strangers), so I tried to be too aggressive about ordering it. The group decided to go with two dishes to share: the Tiramisu, and the Vanilla Panna Cotta. Sharing two desserts among eight people meant we got about a bite of each dessert, which was the perfect sweet note to end our meal. Both of these desserts were delicious. The silky and delicate panna cotta was fragrant, while the tiramisu was velvety and indulgent. I would highly recommend Emporio to anyone looking for a solid Italian spot, especially for a date night since the cozy ambiance of the restaurant gives it a romantic feel and the expansive menu gives you the option for sharing dishes, or ordering your own.

Afterwards, we headed to Beauty & Essex in the Lower East Side for a drink, before we headed back to my sister’s place in Newark. The front of Beauty & Essex is set up as an old pawn shop, and you enter into the bar/lounge through a back door after walking through glass display cases in the shop (not sure if people ever actually buy anything in the pawn shop though). Even though it was still early on a Friday night, the bar was packed with well dressed people. I felt bad about constantly whacking everyone as I walked through the bar, especially since 90% of the women were in heels. Meanwhile, I was still in my bright red harem pants from earlier (that kind of look like silk pajama pants), with a day’s worth of sweat dried all over my body and a giant weekender over my shoulder. Definitely was not fooling anyone into thinking I was New Yorker. Beauty & Essex is pretty large, with two floors (with dining rooms and lounge areas on both) connected by a giant spiral staircase. Besides the sleek decor and dramatic crystal chandeliers, I was also impressed by the ladies’ room, which provides all the women waiting inside with free pink champagne. After staring at the champagne station for at least forty-five seconds like the out-of-towner that I am, I grabbed a glass of bubbly and went back out to rejoin the swanky crowd (still with that damn weekender on my shoulder). The free champagne was surprisingly good! I actually did not even feel like finishing it though, and passed it off to my brother-in-law, who is man enough to swig pink bubbly from a tiny flute. We decided to head across the river back over to Newark to their place not long afterwards, which meant I could finally put my bag down to rest for the night. Even though our time at Beauty & Essex was brief, it seemed like a fun spot to spend an evening. The next time I am back in NYC, I would not mind returning here for drinks (without the bag of course).

 

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