Thursday, June 28, 2007

A Man Called Impy

NYC's Mayors are a ubiquitous bunch: Rudy's running for Prez ... Mike might run for Prez ... Ed Koch
still materializes wherever a live microphone or TV camera is present ... Dinkins gives the occasional interview. Some other Mayors still live in the popular imagination of New Yorkers: the forceful LaGuardia (who recently had a mailbox named after him - I kid), the sturdy Wagner, the dapper but ultimately tragic Lindsay, the good but overwhelmed Abe Beame. Yet one 20th century Mayor seems lost to history, destined to be remembered (if at all) as a fluke and a failure - Vincent Richard Impelliteri (1900-1987; Mayor: 1950-1953).

Call him the forgotten Mayor of memorable times. He came to power after Mayor O'Dwyer resigned in 1950 (under a legal cloud) to become Ambassador to Mexico. The City Council President, Impelliteri, became Acting Mayor and then won a special election to complete O'Dwyer's term. His time in office produced no great achievements and it is widely believed his adminstration was heavily Mobbed up. However, it was during this man's tenure - a man who called himself Impy - that Robert Moses, the great builder, began massive housing and highway projects that transformed this city into what she is today. It was during Impy's time that the United Nations opened for business in 1952; he was the first and only Mayor to address the UN General Assembly until Giuliani in 2001 (after the attacks on America). And it was during Impy's brief tenure that Bobby Thomson hit "the shot heard 'round the world", winning the NY Giants the National League Penant and making baseball history in 1951. (Read the first chapter of Don DeLillo's Underworld for more.) Impy was defeated for re-election in 1953 and disappeared. He died in 1987, and was not greatly mourned. However, he was a man whose moment was memorable indeed and perhaps he did a little good along the way.

Today, Mr NYC, doffs his hat and raises a carbonated beverage to his memory. At Sardi's, above the pictures of the Broadway stars, are pictures of the Mayors. And when I was there, I'm sure I was the only one who recognized Impy's mug, and was heartened to see him having the last smirk.

Offical Bio

If New York's Politicans Were Restaurants ...

Rudy = Rao's
Mike = Per Se
Hillary = Union Square Cafe
Chuck = Empire Szechuan (take your pick)
Eliot = Barney Greengrass


Recently my beloved and my brother and I saw "Talk Radio" on Broadway (review will be forthcoming). Afterwards we went to the world-famous Sardi's for dinner. Sardi's is a legendary Broadway watering-hole, where all the stars go for their opening night parties and await their make-or-break late edition reviews. It's one of those restaurants more people have heard of than gone to, and it's a vital link to Broadway past and present.

Sardi's trademark is the copious portraits of said Broadway stars, and they line the enormous dining room and saturate the walls. They look down at you while you eat and make your memory flood with all the shows you've seen, all the tunes you've hummed, all the performances you remember. You don't go there for the food (which is decent but not great), you go their to feel more a part of the Broadway experience. And I'm glad I finally experienced it.

To find out more, go to

Monday, June 25, 2007

A Park Slope Afternoon

This past Saturday mes amies and I spent a lovely day in Park Slope, one of the most coveted neighborhoods in Brooklyn. It contains gorgeous brownstone apartments, lots of nice restaurants and stores, and most importantly, a happenin' vibe. I have never lived in said 'hood but many of my friends do, and they love it. My mother was born and spent the first eight years of her life there, so I've always felt a certain kinship with Park Slope and its fine residents.

One of its best features is its close proximity to Prospect Park, where we spent the bulk of this past Saturday. Prospect Park is a sprawling, gorgeous place. There are acres and acres of open fields to frolic in and plenty of forested areas to get lost in. It is a family-friendly refuge but also a place where the beautiful people hang. NYC's most famous park is obviously Central Park yet people who are slightly less Manhattan-centric know that Prospect Park is its worthy rival. Both are quite beautiful and bourgeois, yet while Central Park can sometimes feel like a tourist trap, Prospect Parks feels more like the "real" New York. My friends and I were blessed with perfect weather and we greatly enjoyed throwing around Frisbees and footballs and consuming food and beverages in this lovely place.

Later in the evening we went to my favorite Italian restaurant in the whole city - Aunt Suzie's. There is a dish there I have never found anywhere else called Vagabond (you can have it in a chicken, pork, or my favorite, a veal variety) and it contains mozzarella and prosciutto with mushrooms in a Marsala sauce. It tickles your palette and satisfies your taste buds with great vigor. In addition, it is most appropriately followed by the best chocolate mouse and cappuccino in the city. One cool feature: the cappuccino is served with a crystal sugar stick.

So, in conclusion, I enjoyed my Park Slope afternoon and encourage people to seek it out. It is easily accessible on the F line. To get an even better feel for Park Slope life, rent the excellent 2005 movie The Squid and the Whale. You'll laugh, cry, and ... understand why we all should know Brooklyn.

Saturday, June 9, 2007


As previously mentioned, I just moved (and moved in with my beloved). My new home is located in the same borough that Archie Bunker and George Costanza once called home, Queens. They would not, however, have felt as comfortable as I do in the Queen's neighborhood of Astoria for it is one of the most diverse and vivacious communities in the world - and I mean that literally.

Queens in the most diverse county in America (borough and county being co-extensive, ya see) and in Astoria you can see blacks, whites, Asians, Arabs, Eastern Europeans, and Greeks (who give this neighborhood its character and flavor), living side by side by side. Astoria is one of the hottest neighborhoods for young people moving to NYC to live in, and it welcomes all. It used to be regarded as a "tough neighborhood" but now it, like so many parts, is getting gentrified and Yuppified. But this isn't necessarily a bad thing. Walk along its main drags like 30th Avenue, Ditmars Boulevard, and Steinway Street, and you can find any store or eating establishment you want and even those you never thought of. Oh, and the Bohemian Beer Garden is fast becoming one of NYC social hotspots, with lines down the block on Friday and Saturday nights. I gest not: its almost as hard to get in as Lotus or Marquee but the people are friendlier, the crowds are more fun, and those places don't have great Czech beer and picnic tables either!

Astoria is a quintessential New York neighborhood. And it proves that the heart and soul of this city exists not only in Manhattan.

A couple other cool things.

1. Did you know that Astoria is one of the hearts of show business? Here exists the Kaufman Astoria film studios (where "Sesame Street" has been filmed for almost four decades, along with more adult-friendly fair like "Angels in America"). Also here is the world-class Museum of the Moving Image, the movie and TV lover's Met. Also nearby is the UA Kaufman Astoria 14, a big multiplex where you can see first-run movies at bargain rates - and the lines are never that long. Oh, and this is the same place where only a month or so ago held the premiere of a little film called "Spiderman 3."

2. Want a great view of Manhattan? Then take the N/W subway line. The first/last stop in Queens on this line is Queensborough Plaza (technically not in Astoria but that's not a sin) and yet going or coming on this line, into or out of Astoria, gives one a breathtaking view of l'Isle de Manhattan. You see all the grand structures: the Chrysler Building, the Empire State, the United Nations, and the brand-new Bloomberg Tower from across the East River. It's a postcard picture view and at night, when you see all this lit up, giving NYC a diamond night sky ... well, if you aren't even slightly moved by the sight, then you should move to Duluth.

Astoria. Like every part of this city, it has its unique charms. And it's a nice place to live too.

Best Mexican Food in NYC

Conventional wisdom always being wrong, the best Mexican food in Gotham is not at some pricey, fancy, impossible-to-get-into madhouse but at a simple little dive down some steps. Cafe El Portal is located at 174 Elizabeth Street, in the heart of real-estate broker created area called NoLita.

The place is easy to find since it has proper signage. You then descend into a dark but decently lit tiny restaurant where friendly people quickly seat you. Cafe El Portal has the best sangria I've ever consumed, topped only by their tortilla chips and pico de gallo salsa (also the best I've ever had). The menu is modest but have wonderful burritos and tacos (my favorite being the fish ones). When you eat the food, you can taste the freshness and you get the feeling that it was made with care. And while this little nook can get crowded, the atmosphere is relaxing. A Mr NYC recommendation.

Reviews: "Journey's End" and "Frost/Nixon"

So far this year I have been lucky enough to see quite a bit of Broadway theater ("Company", "Grey Gardens") and now "Journey's End" and "Frost/Nixon." Here are my quick reviews:

"Journey's End": sadly this play will close soon but it was a heart wrenching account of the boredom and sheer horror that is war. Set in a British trench during World War I, we see men of various ages trying to keep sane and maintain their dignity and honor while faced with almost certain death. One of the most powerful plays I have ever seen. If you can't see it, try to find the script to read. Words can be more devastating then violence.

"Frost/Nixon": this (hit) play is a "behind the scenes" look at the famous 1977 interviews between British playboy journalist David Frost at the 37th President of the United States Richard Milhouse Nixon. The play shows how Frost tried to revive his career by interviewing the disgrace former President and how Nixon used the interviews to rehab his rep. Wonderful performances by Michael Sheen as Frost and the legendary Frank Langella as Mr. Nixon. You might think this serious, heavy stuff but au contraire: any play about raging egomaniacs is automatic fun.


Life has a nasty habit of making lots of things happen at once. These last weeks I have been finishing my semester at school, then moving (more on that later), then getting promoted at work. Thus keeping my blog up to date was not first and formost on my mind, etc. However, now that I'm settled in my new digs, I will update more frequently and ferociously. Thank you for your patience.