FOUND: lunch with an old friend
Raf's, Prune, Roscioli, jamón ibérico, grand dining rooms, NA drinks, MORE
RESTAURANTS • First Person
A quiet lunch in the in-between
There is a liminal quality to the blocks framed by Lafayette and Bowery to the west and east, Houston and Bleecker to the south and north — Mulberry, Mott, Elizabeth — not Soho, not East Village, maybe technically Noho, but maybe not quite yet.
These blocks have always felt like their own worlds: shaded, quiet, a little bit secret. Raf’s, which opened this spring at 290 Elizabeth St., is of course nobody’s secret, but it is special and, at 11:45a on a September Wednesday, very much the tucked away haven of your New York City dreams.
The restaurant occupies the old Parisi Bakery space on the east side of the block (where for a short time in the aughts we used to get sort-of-secret sandwiches from Crosby Connection), next door to Tom & Jerry’s, the enduring neighborhood watering hole that nurtured a generation of NYC media and tech. Raf’s space is small and elegant, with marble framing the bar up front, and banquettes and a ceiling mural warming the dining room in back.
We were the first to sit for a 12p reservation on one of the restaurant’s first days of lunch service, which began post-Labor Day. To start: a simple, crisp endive salad and an excellent steak tartare with anchovies, mint, and a bloom of Parmigiano Reggiano. Next: decadent rigatoni alla Trapanese and an expertly fried pork collar, the latter accompanied by a bracing celery and cherry pepper julienne and a quenelle of neonata sauce so good we had to refrain from cleaning the plate with the edges of our forks.
By the time our bomboloncini arrived (also excellent), we could feel the build to what would undoubtedly be a raucous dinner service at one of the hottest reservations in town. But it was still quiet on Elizabeth St. between Houston and Bleecker, where Raf's for lunch is a very good idea. –Josh Albertson
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RESTAURANTS • Intel
→ WHAT’S DOING AT PRUNE: “Has Prune reopened?” is a question we’ve been asked several times in the past week in response to new social media images from inside the longtime East Village favorite, shuttered by chef Gabrielle Hamilton in early pandemic, her angst about the future of restaurants captured memorably in a piece for NYT Magazine.
Prune has not reopened — yet. But behind the glass and the curtains on E. 1st St., a lucky few New Yorkers have been enjoying Hamilton’s food (she’s cooking alongside her son, Marco) and checking out the renovated space still hidden behind papered windows. From a special FOUND correspondent, this report:
Outside: Those same old sheer curtains to keep your focus in and outside eyes out.
Inside: Built-ins/booth seating all gone — it’s now an open room that feels much larger. No separation now between front and back of house.
Bar: Same small bar, less alcohol, more space for movement and food.
Quirk: Bathroom door has no curtain, which presumably won’t be the case forever.
Vibe: Felt like a family meal at Prune. Unrushed and delicious.
→ ROSCIOLI WATCH: The upstairs salumeria at Roscioli (Soho), which features à la carte dining alongside shelves stocked with specialty food items, began taking walk-ins for dinner last night. (They start taking names at 5pm.) Two reports from FOUND correspondents on the scene:
“Obviously they can’t exactly replicate their space in Rome, but they’ve done a good job of capturing the spirit.”
“The pastas, most of which land around the $26 mark, should be the focus of your attention. Skip the cacio e pepe (there’s a creamier, richer version around the corner at Charlie Bird) and head to the carbonara. Also note the large selection of burrata, best with anchovies from Cantabria in northern Spain.”
Next week, the upstairs will transition to a mix of reservations and walk-ins, while the downstairs will remain reservations-required, tasting-menu only. Reserve.
→ MORE NEW POWER LUNCHES: For the first time since pandemic, weekday lunch service has resumed at chef Dan Kluger’s Loring Place (Greenwich Village); zucchini “fries” are a must. Reserve. Up at the new Cafe Chelsea on West 23rd, weekday lunch service starts tomorrow, and brunch this weekend. Reserve.
→ SEA CHANGE: After a summer of renovations, Marea (Midtown West), which reopened its terrace earlier this month, is fully back in business on October 6 with new chef PJ Calapa. Reserve.
GOODS & SERVICES • FOUND Larder
Spain’s bounty in Soho
Only pedigreed pigs certified by the Spanish government can be designated Cinto Jotas pigs. Exalted by the Spanish, they roam in complete freedom over meadows and acorn forests.
We frolicked with them in Jabugo, a town in the Huelva province known for its signature jamón ibérico. Later, in Cinco Jotas’ curing cellars, which date to 1879, we sampled the product, rich and smooth.
To experience this bounty, you can fly in for a tasting at Cinco Jotas headquarters. Closer to home, Despaña (Soho/Queens) will deliver you a quarter-pound, freshly sliced ($100). Or you can walk in and buy a whole leg and/or, for that special someone, a Cinco Jotas gift set that includes a carving knife with a whole shoulder. –Isabelle Kellogg
→ Shop: Cinco Jotas - Paleta Ibérico Gift Set, Despaña • currently showing sold out online, but call the store at (212) 219-5050 • $590.
GOODS & SERVICES LINKS: Signs are up for new Eataly at Broome & Lafayette • Saint Laurent opening Meatpacking Distict flagship • Homewares pop-up Beverly’s finds permanent storefront on Orchard • Trek packs up its bikes on the Bowery • New home goods store BaBoo coming to Church & Franklin • World’s best museum shops: MoMA, Neue Gallerie, Brooklyn Museum.
WORK • Startup Report
NYC’s enterprising tech scene
There’s not much of a peg on this CNBC anointment of NYC as a “tech startup hotbed,” but the vibe checks out. The thesis: a handful of IPOs (MongoDB, Datadog, DigitalOcean, etc.) over the last decade seeded the ecosystem, attracted more VCs, and gave founders confidence to open shop in the city.
It’s a counter to this summer take that the tech giants were packing up and leaving — a take that drew criticism for miscasting a broad real estate story (‘post-Covid, everybody was packing up their offices!’) for something more.
At the very least, the new founders in town can skip the “Why NYC” slide in the pitch deck. Says Eliot Horowitz, who co-founded MongoDB in 2007: “The biggest difference between now and then is no one questions New York.”
WORK LINKS: NYC's in-office occupancy back over 50% of pre-pandemic levels • Every NYC business will have to place trash in bins in 2024 • Korean media company scoops up midtown west property for $37M • How candid can you really be with your boss? • Amex CEO: I read and answer 150-200 customer emails a day • Oversharing on LinkedIn ‘definitely at least a pink flag, probably a red flag’.
WORK • Tuesday Routine
Curiouser and curiouser
J.W. WISEMAN, founder, Curious Elixirs
Neighborhood you work in: Williamsburg
It’s Tuesday morning, where are you working?
After I drop off the kiddo at daycare in Clinton Hill, I hop the G train to Club Curious in Williamsburg, our office-by-day and booze-free speakeasy-arts-club by night. At night, Club Curious has hosted everyone from Grammy nominees to burlesque legends. During the day, it’s much more chill.
What’s the Tuesday morning scene at your workplace?
The first thing I do is turn on the “Stay Curious” neon and put on a record. We have a super diverse library of vinyl here, and we play a game called record roulette. Recently, I pulled The Rolling Stones “Let It Bleed” and Ella Fitzgerald’s “Live in Berlin.”
Once the tunes are on, it’s just me, my small desk, and our new hydroponic system growing salad greens, peppers, and fresh garnishes for our Elixirs. I check on these and the other plants, and open the back door to the garden. By now, Curious Ambassadors have dropped in to re-stock Elixirs for their next round of tasting appointments. Some recent accounts offering Curious: Blue Note, Jungle Bird, The Shed.
What’s on the agenda for today?
We’re working on the recipe for Curious Elixir No. 9, and I’m designing new corrugated packaging from 100% recycled NYC trash. Our philosophy is incremental improvement every day, and we aim to be ever more sustainable (and ever more delicious).
What’s for lunch?
There’s so much in this formerly sleeping corner of Williamsburg: M Noodle for speedy handmade dumplings, Baba Cool for all-day delicious vegetarian, Pecoraro for schiacciata sandwiches and burrata. Also: Edith’s for a tahini-cold-brew slushie, Campbell & Co. for a cobb salad.
Any plans tonight?
We’re heading to the Hudson Valley where Curious started on seven acres in Marlboro. Excited to check out our little test orchard to see how our plum-apricot hybrids are doing. If you haven’t done the Marlboro Farm Trail and Franny Reese State Park’s ruins, they’re both lovely spots not far from Beacon and Newburgh.
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Q: What are the best grand dining rooms in NYC, for a celebratory night out?
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RESTAURANTS • The Nines