The winter has made us a little stuck in a rut where it is hard to motivate ourselves to go anywhere and do much besides watch rented movies and read at home. I think it’s nice to have a month or so of “hibernation” time. We’ve been lamely staying in the UES for much of the weekend. Which is fine by me, because I love our neighborhood. I love all the dogs in sweaters and little kids in snow boots.
On Saturday, while venturing out to our favorite corner diner a few blocks away, we noticed that Ottomanelli’s Cafe 86 had reopened after five months of mysterious deadness. It was a great discovery. Ottamenlli’s Cafe is a true neighborhood gem: a too-narrow restaurant that serves up extremely reasonably priced Italian dishes that taste like your mama made them. If your mama is Italian, that is. Mine isn’t, but I imagine the hearty, simple meals there could be served in some Italian mom’s home kitchen. I love their spaghetti bolognese. And their lasagna. All of the meat in their dishes is delivered fresh daily from their meat shop down the street.
The Ottomanellis have a sort of meat empire across the city. They’ve been a big name in the butcher business since 1900, but the sons (grandsons?) have since split up and staked out territory in different neighborhoods. One of their butcher shops is across the street from us (at 82nd and York Ave). It’s more pricey than what you can get at the supermarket, but it’s definitely quality. We bought some freshly ground beef here for Sunday’s dinner, and it was much better than chuck. Also, all their beef is from grass-fed cattle, which is good to know. And people who work there know their regulars by name, and call new faces “sir” or “ma’am.” The floor is checker linoleum. Need I say more?
We ended up dining at Ottomanelli’s Cafe on Saturday night, and it did not disappoint. It’s a bit out of the way for everyone else, but it’s a Yorkville favorite. The place was hopping, and people kept having to wait in the cramped entry way for a table to open up. Throughout dinner, we kept hearing people telling the two servers how glad they were the place was back open for business.
On Sunday, we went to Beanocchio’s Cafe, our go-to hangout spot these days for when we get need to get out of the apartment. This place is SUCH a breath of fresh air in a city full to the brim with Starbucks and Coffee Bean. There are little figurines of Snap, Crackle and Pop (you know, the Rice Krispies icons) and Archie Comics characters on the back shelf next to the assortment of tea bags. There’s a stuffed Pinocchio doll, naturally. The menu, which includes breakfast items and sandwiches, is painstakingly written by hand on a giant chalkboard. You almost feel like the gang from Friends could come walking in at any moment to catch up.
We just get two black coffees and a muffin (all of their muffins are awesome, none of that dried-out Starbucks nonsense) to split, and then linger there for an hour or so. This Sunday, we couldn’t get a two-person table, so we had to sit at the large kitchen-type table at the back with — gasp! — strangers.
It turned out to be a really pleasant time. We ended up swapping sections of the Sunday Times with a gray-haired couple and randomly chatting with two women about Downton Abbey — our unanimous entertainment choice for that evening over the Super Bowl.
And they say you never meet your neighbors in New York.