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New Restaurants, a Catskills Fest, and More NYC Italian Food News

Two of the city’s best Italian restaurant groups expand, Scott Conant leads a parade of Food Network stars to a Catskills food event, and a pasta-related controversy in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

Bar Primi Penn District

Bar Primi’s new Penn District location. Photo: The Ingalls

There’s so much happening in New York City’s Italian food scene that it can be hard to keep up. I’ve tried to write a weekly recap here at Appetito in the past and even that fails to capture all the pop-ups, restaurant openings (and closings), special events, festivals, chef moves, trends, and more. Hey, it’s a big city, and the Italian food and drink scene keeps turning, churning, and in the case of this update, returning.

What I mean by that is that this week’s update features the return of the Catskills Cuisine Festival, which has its second annual event planned this coming weekend, and two major new Italian restaurants that are from familiar chef/restaurateur names, Andrew Carmellini and Philip Guardione. All this and more, so let’s get to it.

Bar Primi Opens a Second Location

Bar Primi dishes
Bar Primi is now open in Manhattan's Penn District with pasta, pizza, and more. Photo: Nick Johnson/@rickronson on IG.

Bar Primi opened a new location a few weeks back, bringing NoHo Hospitality’s casual Italian spot further uptown to the Penn District near Madison Square Garden. The restaurant group from chef Andrew Carmellini and partners Luke Ostrom, and Josh Pickard recently opened their splashiest new spot, Café Carmellini, to widespread acclaim, adding to its dozen-plus establishments in NYC and beyond (Nashville, Baltimore, Detroit). While this extension of Bar Primi, which has been on the Bowery for a decade, is perhaps less splashy, the new restaurant should be on your radar. Besides a menu of creative antipasti (burrata pockets!), pastas, and pizzas, as well as drinks and desserts, the design is an inviting take on industrial chic that will make this a lively spot for lunch, dinner, and cocktails in a section of Manhattan that has lacked panache. You might even say that this is the first major restaurant to open in the so-called Penn District, an allusion to Penn Station nearby that developers are using to increase interest in the area. 349 West 33rd Street, NYC, 212-233-6100, @barprimi, barprimi.com.

Piccola Cucina Casa Brings the Sicilian Brand to Brooklyn

Inside the new Piccola Cucina Casa in Brooklyn
Inside the new Piccola Cucina Casa in Brooklyn.

When I profiled Piccola Cucina chef and restaurateur Philip Guardione for Appetito last July, he hinted that the fourth NYC location of his Sicilian-inspired restaurant empire (which extends to Ibiza and Montana) would be in Brooklyn. And now it is! Piccola Cucina Casa soft-opened last week in Boerum Hill, with a 46-seat indoor dining room plus a bar and pasta counter—and outdoor seating on the residential street—and even two suites for rent upstairs. Guardione’s menus focus on specialties from his native Sicily and are always worth trying, but he smartly adds other Italian dishes and executes them well. He staffs up with many Italians in the kitchen and on the floor, giving his NYC restaurants the feel of a getaway, and this location will be his first to offer accommodations on site. Also worth noting: Piccola Cucina boasts the largest list of Sicilian wines in NYC. 141 Nevins St., Brooklyn, NY, 11217, 929-295-0015, @piccolacucinany, piccolacucinagroup.com/

Scott Conant and Fellow Celeb Chefs Power the Second Catskills Cuisine Festival

Aerial view of Bethel Woods Center for the Arts
Aerial view of Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, where the Catskills Cuisine Festival will take place this weekend.

Looking for a quick getaway from NYC this coming weekend? Here’s a great last-minute option: the Catskills Cuisine Festival, featuring Scott Conant, who runs the Italian steakhouse at ResortsWorld Catskills, Cellaio, will return this weekend after a successful launch last year. The event kicks off Friday, May 10, with events running throughout the weekend, including tastings, cooking demonstrations, meet and greets, a celebrity chef golf tournament and even a Mother’s Day brunch. The fest will be split between events at ResortsWorld and the iconic Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, site of the original Woodstock in 1969. Conant and Marcus Samuelsson will cook a quattro mano dinner Friday night following the golf tournament, while Saturday will feature tastings on the bucolic grounds of Bethel Woods, with bites and appearances by Andrew Zimmern, Anne Burrell, Michael Symon, Melba Wilson, Geoffrey Zakarian, and Conant and Samuelsson. Tickets and more information are available at catskill-cuisine.com; Sullivan Catskills and Bethel Woods Center for the Arts are the co-sponsors.

More NYC Italian Food and Drink News

Writer Emily Sundberg’s Feed Me newsletter on Substack is considered a must-read in NYC media circles. Today, she cites controversy around Pasta Louise, a kid-friendly restaurant in NYC’s most famed (or infamous) kid-inundated neighborhood, Park Slope. The bad buzz isn’t around its new no-kids-allowed cocktail offshoot, Bar Louise, but around rumors on Reddit that it had a hand in forcing out a long-running bakery, Ladybird, which has announced on Instagram that it is closing in July. The story is kind of insider/Park Slope, but I mention it because I used to live in the ‘hood and always liked Ladybird, and because Sundberg quotes commenters on the subreddit about the brouhaha as calling Pasta Louise “closer to Olive Garden than a legit nyc italian restaurant.” Ha! [UPDATE: Pasta Louise posted on its Instagram page denying any involvement in Ladybird's closure and proclaiming their love of the bakery's owners.] >>> In closing news, Fatto Mano, probably the city’s only Halal Italian restaurant, has shut down. The Bay Ridge establishment, opened by the team behind Lebanese standout Ayat, opened in late 2022. Word is that the space will be relaunched as an offshoot of the casual Ayat with table service.

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