Monday, January 5, 2009


There has been much to celebrate of recent. Whether it's Christmas, Hanukkah, or even Kwanzaa, festivities always take over the month of December. And, most notably, the end of 2008 rang in more excitement than the average New Year's Eves as we all put to rest one of the toughest years in recent memory. Amidst all of the celebrating, one of my nearest and dearest friends faced another birthday - an event that too often gets lost in the shuffle of the change in years. This year, we were determined to ring in her new year as festively and memorably as the rest of the events taking place all month. Since we knew we would be meeting up with a large group of friends for a party later in the evening, the real pressure was choosing a spot for 6 girls to enjoy dinner and drinks while not breaking the bank. The Bowery Hotel's Gemma ended up being the perfect way to kick off the night.

With barely one foot in the door, I was nicely surprised by the rustic and welcoming decor of the restaurant - immediately changing my preconceived notions of NYC's trendy new hotel scenes. Look up, and the wood paneled ceilings are covered with hanging, woven baskets. Look left, you will catch a glimpse of a massive wax sculpture simply created from burning one candle on top of another. Take a seat, look right, you realize you are actually dining in a large space and seated farther from your neighbors than in most overcrowded New York restaurants. And, as I looked forward, I was thrilled to be dining at an intimate, semi-circular booth where we could all actually take part in each conversation. While there is so much to take in, there is just as much to settle into and truly enjoy a group outing.

The food and prices were as comforting as the setting! With a selection of antipasti, cheeses, meats, pastas, pizzas, and more, everything is great for sharing. Most dishes are what you find on traditional, rustic Italian menus and very solidly prepared. To start, I recommend the burrata caprese as well as the baby arugula, grape tomato, and parmigiana salad. Burrata and arugula are two of my favorite ingredients and, preferably with the most basic preparations. For those of you not familiar with the cheese, burrata is a blend of mozzarella and cream - creating a soft, buttery texture - how can that not be delicious? There was also a prosciutto and fig special that we shared - another typical, yet unbeatable combination.

For variety, we ordered up three very different mains - the cod, a four seasons pizza, and a tagliatelle dish. The fish and pasta outshone the pizza which was tasty, but did not stand apart from other brick oven pies. The tagliatelle was topped with an oxtail ragu and fresh ricotta. Although simple, the dish was very rich and hearty - oxtail being extremely flavorful. The cod was roasted and served over braised Swiss chard, sauteed mushrooms and barley in a white wine reduction sauce. This took me by surprise as one of the best dishes of the evening as it was the most atypical dish of the rustic menu. The fish was perfectly cooked, seasoned, and balanced with the winter vegetable accompaniments.

Six girls, three starters, three mains - and (I won't deny it) one dessert later, and we were perfectly satisfied - ready to continue to our next festive destination. We had overcome the big birthday dilemma of dining out with a group both reasonably and enjoyably in NYC. As another holiday season has come to a close, I am not going to pretend that it will be months before the next celebrations. Today is a best college friend's birthday (Happy Birthday Eli!). In a single day, yesterday, I learned that my very oldest childhood friend got engaged over the weekend (woohoo Snooz and James!!) and that one of my best high school friends also accepted and is taking the plunge (finally, but we are all so psyched S and ACA!!). And, sadly, later this week, we are sending off a close friend who has lived in NYC since the month I first arrived as she makes the move up to Boston. Yes - celebrations in 2009 are only just beginning. I have a feeling we are all going to make 2009 be more than divine!

335 Bowery
New York, NY 10003
Phone: (212) 505-9100


Jess said...

Dear Hungry Roach,
Great work! This may be your best entry yet! i don't think it's because it was my birthday dinner...okay, maybe it is because of that. either way, i'm so glad you could celebrate with me - the food would not have been the same without you :)

gemma said...

you forget to mention the name of the place... which just spells out "AWESOME" in itself :)