This, my friends, is a picture of Lord Stanley's Cup. It was one of the special guests in attendance at last night's Rangers' game for the retirement ceremony of Adam Graves' jersey. I hope my fellow Ranger fans took a good long look at it. The way the current team is playing, the Stanley Cup is not likely to grace the Garden again in the foreseeable future. In a word, this team sucks.
When faced with this kind of suckitude, its especially necessary to fortify one's self prior to the game. Luckily, one of my favorite Italian restaurants is right around the corner. Located on the corner of 29th Street and 8th Avenue, Biricchino has been serving up outstanding Northern Italian comfort food to those in the know for 22 years. Biricchino is one of New York's great hidden gems. While somewhat off the beaten path, and in a neighborhood not known for quality dining, its well worth the trip whether you're attending an event at Madison Square Garden or not.
The husband and I like to begin our meal by sharing a plate of Biricchino's homemade sausages. The assortment varies, but usually includes: a cognac infused chicken apple sausage, a savory sagey pork link, one hot and one sweet Italian, and a spicy chicken with jalapeno link - all of which are grilled to perfection and served piping hot. These handcrafted beauties really benefit from the char of the grill and they are surprisingly lean. Pair the sausage plate with a crisp, lightly dressed, insalata mista and - trust me - you'll be in heaven.
Better yet, go with a group and order the Antipasto Biricchino as well. This assortment of homemade charcuterie is a feast for the eyes as well as the palate. Its stunning. The groaning plate arrives bedecked with salami, prosciutto, bresaola, fresh mozzarella and more! All of it fresh, all of it delicious. Biricchino's store-front deli does a bristling lunch business - mostly devoted to this variety of Italian charcuterie - so the quality is high and the meats are ultra fresh. Paired with the brimming basket of bread that will appear shortly after you arrive, the antipasto is sure to satisfy.
The husband opted to follow our sausage and salad with a plate of Malfatti Piemontesi, pictured above; tender, ravioli-like, pasta pillows encasing a filling of ground veal, prosciutto and fresh Parmesan cheese. The malfatti arrive bathed in a light, yet full-bodied, tomato sauce and they are spectacular! Be forewarned, this dish is rich and the portion is huge - perfect for a bitter, snowy evening such as it was last night. This is Italian comfort food at its best ... and there's plenty of it!
For those seeking lighter fare, the menu has a myriad of options. You can't go wrong with any pasta dish here and the Fusilli con pollo e funghi is a particular favorite of mine. Biricchino has a way with chicken and fish as well. Their fish of the day is always fresh and interesting - and their Pollo alla Milanese is one of the best in the city. Since we were dining at the terribly uncivilized hour of 5 pm last night, I chose to skip the entree and had a small bowl of pasta e fagioli, the soup of the day, instead. It was delicious!
Biricchio has much to recommend it, though perhaps most charming is the fact that your check will arrive with a delicate little plate of homemade truffles ... we're talking chocolate truffles here. Deep, dark, velvety and rich, they are a delightful way to end a perfectly delightful meal. Really, I can't say enough good things about this place. We've been dining here for years and the quality of the food never fails to impress me. The staff is warm and friendly, the menu interesting and varied, and though the decor is not particularly special, its as cozy as can be. Because of its proximity to Madison Square Garden, Biricchino tends to fill up before big events, so call ahead and be sure to reserve a table.
A meal at Biricchino is the perfect way to begin any event at the Garden, but make no mistake, its worth a visit even if you're not in the area. I recommend it, highly!