New York

ny_carmines_upper.jpg My new best friend, Laraine Newman, recently took me to Carmines here in Los Angeles, an old school Italian joint that was once the stomping grounds of the Rat pack. From what I heard, there was quite a lot of stomping that took place there. Not only rich in City of Angels History, it has terrific food and a staff eager to please. If you ever feel the need to step back in time and slip your butt into a comfy old red leather banquette that boasts the resting places– at least temporarily – of such legendary butts as those belonging to Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., and Frank Sinatra, this is the place. A history of Carmines is available on this site, written by Laraine, and is well worth the read.

However, my Carmines story involves the other coast. In the early 90’s, Godfried Polistanna and partners opened what was the first new ‘Family Style’ restaurant in maybe fifty years on Manhattan’s Upper West side.  Designed to look like it had been there for ages, it was also as ‘old school’ as a new place could be. A huge space with lots of dark wood, simple tables and white linen, it was adorned with mismatched chandeliers and lamps, its walls covered with old photographs of every conceivable Italian looking man, woman, child and family. It was a revived Don Peppi’s in Queens, a throwback to the Italian joints on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx, and it was a huge, huge hit. Most nights the wait for a table was two hours, maybe more. People couldn’t get enough of it.

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ImageI recently saw a new show on the Food Network called “Food Feuds”. I like it – I get it. It’s a simple premise: in towns all across the country there are passionate disagreements about “the best” – the best burger, the best fried chicken, the best barbecue ribs, the best ice cream. Disagreements of this kind can be fun, unlike political disagreements, which can be fraught with pain and suffering. On Food Feuds, chef Michael Symon heads to a town where rival food joints vie for supremacy; he listens to local fans make their case, samples the foods, and then declares a winner. But “the winner”, of course, is only that for some of the people, not all. And if Michael Symon came to LA and crowned In-N-Out Burger over Fatburger, I would think he was certifiable.

So let’s agree that good people can disagree.

My friend Dean, for example, is a very good person, a brilliant entrepreneur, patron of the arts and devoted family man, but when it comes to one of my favorite foods, Chinese soup dumplings, Dean and I are on opposite sides of the fence, not to mention the country.

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