Tuesday night I had dinner with my old college advisor, BG, who now teaches at NYU and who continues to lead the kind of academic life that made me want to go into higher education in the first place: a tenure track job at my alma mater right after filing his phD; a series of great apartments; a lovely, wine-happy partner; and now New York. His first book won a bazillion accolades, and he's pretty much the expert on the former Soviet far-East and now Azerbaijan as well. It's ridiculous.
True to form, when I met up with BG, he had a neatly-typed out list of all the NYC restaurants he'd been wanting to try, divided up by neighborhoods. We were in the East Village, so decided to pop into Caffe Emilia, on First Avenue just north of St. Marks. It's a sleek Italian cafe that turns into a slightly more elegant restaurant in the evening, with a decent wine list and a full array of pastas, salads, and something called piadine.
Piadine, it turns out, are specialty of the Emilia Romagna region -- thin, chewy, flat disks that are much airier than bread, but not as crisp or delicate as flatbread. Throw some produce and meats inside the piadine, fold it in half, put it in a panini grill for a couple of minutes, and voila:
This was something of a revelation for me: I've grown tired of the city's recent infatuation (read: overkill) with panini -- every place that serves panini inevitably defaults into overcheesing the thing, or adding waaaaay too much Italian cured meat, turning the sandwich into a goopy, salty mess. One has to have a lighter hand with piadine, since the bread involved has no spongy absorbing qualities to sop up the cheese/meat mess. I hate reducing food descriptions to more familiar foods, but it's sort of a cross between a pizza and a quesadilla - only thicker, and more focused on the non-cheese components. The one I ordered (above) had tomatoes, mozza, arugula, and prosciutto di Parma -- a fairly standard combination, but which, inside the piadina, allowed each ingredient to remain fairly distinct.
BG ordered the papardelle with lamb ragu, which was good but not great -- there was a lot of lamb, but strangely not so much sauce, which resulted in an oddly dry pasta dish. The bread basket came out warm, with some great olive tapenade (this, coming from the woman who won't eat an actual olive if her life depended on it). The wines we ordered (Vernaccia and Montepulciano) were good, albeit a bit pricey (when did wines by the glass start getting so expensive?! More and more places seem to have wines/glass lists that start at $9 for a glass, which seems a bit outrageous to me. Caffe Emilia was a bit better, but not by much).
The upshot: go over there and order a piadina. Stick with a glass of water, or maybe a Pellegrino. Good times, guaranteed.