This past Saturday was one the most fabulous dining experiences I have had in a while. I have always been one to try different restaurants, but this weekend was something special. It was an Anniversary dinner at Verace in Islip, NY. To start with the ambiance, it gave me the feeling of being in an Italian bistro but not quite like any other place on Long Island. We were seated promptly and the restaurant was very crowded and intimate.
It was Verace’s 2nd Anniversary menu; a $25 3-course price-fixed menu with an additional $10 for unlimited tap wine. This menu was our calling for sure. I started with the POMO NOCCIOLO; a Salad of Apple, Bleu Cheese, Candied Pecans, Light Balsamic Dressing. The salad was dressed well with just the appropriate drizzle of balsamic, and the other three additions were paired well together which caused a symphony in my mouth.
For the main course, I opted for the STEAMED MUSSELS; accompanied with white wine, garlic and basil. One word:delicious. The mussels were fresh and cooked to perfection. The aroma of garlic and white wine was divine and I knew I had to have them all.
For dessert I chose the COFFEE PANNA COTTA; with Huckleberry Sauce, Espresso Glaze. I typically don’t enjoy the taste of coffee in my dessert, but this was absolutely divine. The precise amount of coffee did not over power the panna cotta, and the huckleberry was a perfect pairing.
The wine on tap is still new but I am seeing it more and more lately. It’s eco-friendly, cost efficient and also highest in quality. One of the reasons why I am a repeat guest of Verace!
Verace: Authentic Italian Restaurant / 599 Main St, Islip NY 11751 / 631.277.3800
Former “Real Housewife of New York” has developed her own fortune with her natural talent: Food. It was only only a matter of time before she started sharing her healthy recipes with the world, and I for one am a huge fan. From watching her on TV with her no bullsh*t attitude, her healthy lifestyle, her art for cooking and mixology, and positive energy she is a true inspiration to me. Her recipes over the past years have been a go-to for me for cooking with what I have.
Of course we all may splurge on fine dining and our occasional $150 per person meal in our favorite restaurant; but Bethenny has got me thinking. It’s hard enough these days to keep food on the table let alone eating well. How do you stretch your dollar? Well, Bethenny’s recipes are familiar to all of us who cook because of the ingredients she has chosen. I learned how to make broccoli my new cake; a fantastic burger that isn’t flavorless; a cocktail that is only 100 calories.
Now back to stretching the dollar. I work in the restaurant biz and I am going to let you all in on a top secret way to eat great food at half the price. It’s the time we all look forward to after a long day of work, happy hour. No matter where you live, you can easily find restaurants that are offering special 3 course menus for $25, cocktails, beer and wine at half the price, and lets not forget about the bar menu. For instance, a typical happy hour is from 5pm-7pm. There is no shame in dining in a bar alone during the week and eating/drinking a quarter of the price others will be paying in the dining room. I for one do this all the time, and frankly the bartender is so bored you gain a relationship with them and 9/10 times, and they will hook you up if you are a frequent visitor.
However, just because you are not spending a lot of money does not been your tip should be reflected. Just as a side note, you should always tip between 15%-18% no matter what, and even more if they are hooking you up with free drinks or samples of new food created by the chef.
Now back to where I go for my dollar fix. Every other Thursday my favorite go-to restaurant is La Tavola in Sayville, NY. It’s a small rustic Italian restaurant with sister restaurants Ruvo and Del Fuego. Here is the scoop: La Tavola has an extended happy hour offered from 4pm-9pm on Thursdays only. Not only does that give you an extra two hours to dine and relax, but there is live music, a bar menu that ranges between $5-$12, but also half price wine, beer and specialty cocktails. They also offer a Pasta and Pinot menu every Monday and Tuesday for $20 which includes a fresh pasta dish and a class of wine. Did I mention on Thursday they offer half price pizza? Fresh Artisanal Pizza ($12), thin crust, and choices such as pepperoni, Margarita, barbecue pizza, and my favorite, black mission fig. Their crispy artichokes ($5) are also a favorite of mine. On the other two Thursdays of the month I head over to Port Jefferson, NY and join Ruvo’s happy hour which is from 5pm-8pm on Thursdays. It’s a romantic place, but is also great to just go out with a girlfriend for a few drinks and a bite. At Ruvo, they offer 2-3 $5 choices at the bar which change weekly. You can also order from their regular dinner menu, no bar menu here. But this is the part where I come in, don’t order the $20 something entree. Try the lobster risotto which is $10 or the mushroom risotto which is $8. Or, try a few appetizers which are typically under $10 a piece. Not only is this eating on the cheap, but you are also allowing your taste buds to endure different flavors. I look at it as a few meals in one. My best friend Jessica and I normally order an appetizer a piece and then either a salad or the risotto. However, we will always start off with one of the $5 bar specials as a amuse if you will. Lastly, there is Del Fuego located in St. James, NY. It’s easy to miss when driving, but once you are inside you never want to leave. It is very small and quaint, but they serve one of the best margaritas I have ever had in my life. Typically I go here on a Tuesday or Wednesday. Tuesday is half price tacos all day and night, and a happy hour that is from 12pm-6:30pm. Beer, wine, margaritas are all half off, and the tacos are one word: AMAZING. I always go for the taco trio which is one fish, beef brisket and one mesquite chicken ($13). The best part is they make everything fresh to order and you can see them cooking it while enjoying your drink. All three establishments have a wonderful staff who is very knowledgeable of the cuisine and are friendly. They will also remember you if you are a frequent diner.
La Tavola: 183 West Main Street / Sayville, NY 11782 / 631-750-6900
Ruvo East: 105 Wynn Lane / Port Jefferson, NY 11777 / 631-476-3800
Del Fuego: 429 North Country Road / Saint James NY 11780 / 631-963-6900