Comfort Defined

January 30th, 2013 § 0 comments

“Comfort” in terms of restaurants is hard to define. There are plenty of neighborhood diners and the like serving up comfort food from meatloaf to frito pie, but for HG, a “comfort” restaurant has to have longevity (restaurant has been around a long time); old fashioned decor; professional waitpersons with long years of service; an unchanging menu. “Comfort” means a democratic approach. No special deference to big shots. No “Siberia.” Gage & Tollner (long closed) in Brooklyn met HG’s “comfort” criteria. So did the two (now closed) “dairy” restaurants on the Lower East Side — Ratner’s and Rappoport’s. As far as places that are still in existence, HG has three favorites. In Boston, it’s Durgin-Park. Very touristy and very plain spoken. HG likes to start with clams on the half shell. Then, a giant slab of rare roast beef (or chicken pot pie or grilled knockwurst with Boston baked beans). For dessert, New England Indian Pudding, natch. In Chicago, nothing beats Gene & Georgetti for old time Windy City flavor. Sirloin steak with a “Garbage” salad and fried onion rings. In San Francisco, Tadich Grill does the best Pacific seafood. HG has one or two Sloe Gin Fizzes at the bar. When seated at table, HG dives into a Dungeness crab cocktail, sauteed Petrale sole or the vast Cioppino, the incomparable seafood stew. A true New York “comfort” restaurant is Keen’s Chop House, home of the famed (giant) mutton chop. However, the prices at Keen’s continue to move upward so the eatery is barely in the “comfort” zone and has instead moved into masochist territory. With the guidance of SJ, HG is comforted at affordable Chinese restaurants in Manhattan, Flushing and the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn.

But wait…There’s a fourth. And, it truly defines the word “comfort.” Located in Italy, of course. HG refers to Bologna’s wondrous Ristorante Diana. A very old restaurant with a beautiful mirrored interior. Gentle lighting. Helpful (never obsequious) service. HG starts his meals there with a glass of Prosecco while contemplating the delights which will ensue. A bottle of Emilia Romagna’s red Sangiovese is uncorked. Then, a plate of tagliatelle dressed simply with butter and the best Parmigiano Reggiano. Using an instrument designed for the purpose, the waiter showers the pasta with shavings of white truffle. The heady fragrance fills the air and occupants of neighboring tables nod in approval. This is followed (and it is not an anti-climax) by Bollito Misto. For those unfamiliar, this refers to a variety of boiled and poached meats. At Diana, the Bollito Misto is served from a large trolley wheeled by a very large man. On the trolley are two poached sausages, Cotechino and Zampone, plus boiled beef, pork and tongue — all juicy and flavorful. This is accompanied by salsa verde and a pungent mostarda di frutta. Dessert is Semifreddo followed by a number of snifters of grappa (for digestive purposes). A brief stroll and a long nap is obligatory. True Comfort.

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