Harlem is one of my favorite parts of New York City. It’s still raw New York, mostly untouched by Real Estate developers, the people who live here, have largely been born there, that whiff of authenticity is something that attracts me. In the past this part of the Big Apple had a bad reputation, maybe justifiably so, the 80’s were crazy. But today please don’t hesitate to take any of the many trains up there, and find yourself something really, really good to eat. This neighborhood might just have the largest variety of cuisines of all kinds of countries, Asian, Soul Food, Italian, Mexican, African, I’m honestly still waiting for a German restaurant. It would probably be amazing.
Beneath you’ll find a few spots I have recently visited, and I vouch for their total deliciousness!!
Craving Italian food? There is no shortage of Italian restaurants in New York City. You don’t have to go to Little Italy for some good Italian cooking though, as a matter of fact, that area of the city has become somewhat of a tourist trap in my humble opinion. So hey, go to Harlem. Go to Harlem?? Yes. Go to Harlem. It is a culinary wonderland up there, and Italian food is plenty. Settepani is located on the corner of 120th Street and Malcolm X Boulevard, and is a modern looking, inviting restaurant with plenty of outside seating on Harlem’s wide sidewalks. adjoining the restaurant is a little Italian ice cream stand, and, just FYI, they have a Wiliamsburg location which sells breads, pastries and many other baked goods.
Now, back to the restaurant. I went with my daughter in tow, and we ate like royalty. We ordered a few dishes, and ended up sharing everything, so we could have a good taste of it all. First was a super fresh salad with arugula, strawberries, toasted almonds, beets and goat cheese. Loved it. Next was Spaghetti Di Mare, which was packed with fresh seafood (shrimp, calamari, mussels, clams) in a delicious tomato sauce. It was impressive. We went with the special of the day next, which was a pounded chicken breast with potatoes and vegetables, garlic and purified butter. Holy moly. I hope it is on the daily specials when you go!! We closed out with a Strawberry Cheese cake and a Red Velvet Cake, and let’s just say, we went home happy campers, everything was outstanding.
Harlem Biscuit Company
Biscuit sandwiches are all that and then some, let’s agree on that right off the bat. If done right, they are little slices of culinary heaven, packed with flavor, they’ll make you do a little dance in your seat. Just a couple of weeks ago, I went to Harlem Biscuit Company on Frederick Douglas Boulevard and 113th Street. It’s a small place, rustic and bustling, with wooden chairs and tables inside and outside, ever so inviting. If you judge a restaurant by the lines of people waiting for seating or takeout outside of the restaurant, then this place promised to be top of the line, and then it most certainly was.
I visited with my friend Dom, a fellow foodie and blogger, and we ordered the John Lewis (Hot Chicken, Slaw and Pickles) and the Bodega (Bacon, Egg and Cheese). When in New York City, it is obligatory to order a Bacon, Egg and Cheese Sandwich at some point, and it’s even better on a biscuit. The John Lewis Sandwich was out of this world, the chicken was crispy and spicy, the pickle soothing and cool, I loved it! Even the biscuits themselves are not one and done, you can order from a variety like Buttermilk, Chive Cheddar, Black Truffle and Everything. Add ons are store made spreads like Jerk Butter, Grape Jelly Butter and many more, creative as can be. This place delivers, and it’s a safe bet for weekends, when you are possibly recovering from a fun night out. It’s a must-try.
Did anyone say Pizza? Because I’m down for pizza. Anytime. Ortomare on Columbus Ave and 109th Street is an Italian restaurant, serving plenty of pasta and all other Italian goodies, but what drew me in was the pizza. Spacious and traditional, this place is just what you would expect in a New York Italian place. I had a seat outside during Covid times, it was cozy and comfy.
The pizza here is made by a chef directly from Italy, the dough is fermented for 48 to 72 hours, the end result is a Roman Style pizza that will knock your socks off. I ordered the Pizza Prosciutto Crudo with prosciutto, parmigiano and arugula, and it was unbelievably good. I had to force myself to stop eating and save some for later. I absolutely loved it. I did save some space, so I could have a Tiramisu, which was (of course) also very good. I love it when you can actually taste the Amaretto in the cake, and this one delivered. Awesome spot!!
See you in Harlem!