Where to Dine Like a Tuscan, and More Reader Questions

Prepare for one very down-to-earth experience.

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By Becky Hughes

Today, the role of Where to Eat writer, usually played by Nikita Richardson, will be performed by an understudy. I hope you’ll still enjoy the show, as we have a few exciting reader questions to address.

The curtains open on Act I, a request for dishes from Florence, Italy, that can scratch the travel itch. Act II takes you to dinner at a bar (emphatically not a restaurant), and I’m certain you will not expect the twist coming in Act III.

Feel free to write to Nikita at [email protected] with your questions or advice, and you may see your message featured.

Seeking Florentine Flavors

My husband and I will visit your great city in September. We have traveled to Florence, Italy, twice, and are spoiled by the food. Having visited New York City over a dozen times, we are looking for Italian food like we’ve had in Florence and a restaurant that is not overly a “tourist trap,” nor so over the top price wise. — Amy V.

If there’s one dish in this city that screams abbondanza, it’s an imposing sandwich from All’Antico Vinaio. The shop has opened three locations in Florence since 1991, and, recently, two more in New York — one in Midtown, just off Times Square, and the other in Greenwich Village, by Washington Square Park. Their sandwiches — served on huge sheets of dimpled schiacciata bread, a cousin to focaccia — combine Italian cured meats with rich spreads like pistachio cream and stracciatella. For a sit-down dinner, head to the West Village early in the evening to snag a bar seat at I Sodi, the chef Rita Sodi’s love letter to Tuscany. Or swing by Fiaschetteria Pistoia’s locations in the East and West Villages, for Tuscan pastas and Italian wines in a cozy space.

No Restaurants Allowed

I visit the city regularly, and my wife and I are looking for a good bar with a real bartender that serves good food at the bar. I do not want to be part of a restaurant. If it is part of a restaurant, I want it to be sufficiently separated so we can eat at the bar and have a good, quiet conversation. — Gary C.

I respect your conviction here, Gary, and I really think you’ll appreciate the experience at Bar Goto, on the Lower East Side. The Japanese-influenced cocktail program is serious — try a plum boulevardier, a fizzy sencha highball or explore the vast collection of Japanese whisky. The food menu is short, but elegant: kombu celery, pickled and torched mackerel, and okonomiyaki.

Though the bar and the dining area of Winona’s, in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, share a single, cavernous room, they feel like two different spaces. The menu often changes (and regularly hosts guest chef pop-ups), but dinner at the bar with a carajillo or a martini is always a sure thing.

A Dirt-Inspired Dinner (Really)

I’m excited to revisit the Earth Room again after many years of it being closed — the smell is intoxicating. I think it would be fun to continue the dirt/earth theme after the visit into dinner. Can you recommend a place nearby (Soho, Little Italy, East Village, etc.) that might deepen that earthy experience? — Polly C.

Polly, thank you for one of the best reader questions this newsletter has ever received. I haven’t visited the New York Earth Room, Walter De Maria’s sculpture installation in SoHo, which opened in 1977, but I’ll do my best to channel the scent of its 22 inches of soil covering a 3,600-square-foot indoor area. A plate of mushrooms might evoke a similar earthiness: The truffle mushroom salad at Ye’s Apothecary, on the Lower East Side, includes enoki, clamshell and king oyster mushrooms, all laced with pungent truffle oil. While you’re at it, sip an on-theme cocktail — the Drunken Farmer is made with duck fat-washed Scotch, corn and chestnuts.

In Other News …

There’s no restaurant review this week, but you can catch up on Pete Wells’s recent reviews here, and Times subscribers can read the review a day early by signing up for “The Restaurant Review” newsletter.

Opening and closings: Seoul Salon, in Koreatown, is a New York interpretation of a Korean sooljib (drinking spot) from the team behind Atoboy; Mimi Cheng’s, the Taiwanese dumpling shop, will open a third location in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, this Saturday; and the Upper East Side luncheonette Neil’s Coffee Shop has closed, following the death of the owner Christos Kaloudis on Jan. 3.

Ten years after the Cronut, New Yorkers, the millions of tourists who visit each year and pastry enthusiasts around the world are still obsessed with croissants, Julia Moskin reports.

Clarissa Wei wrote about the changing and fading traditions of Tomb Sweeping Day, a centuries-old custom for which Chinese families clean ancestral gravesites and offer meals to the dead.

A growing contingent of home cooks are buying their cooking equipment, including specialty tools, at restaurant supply stores, Christina Morales reports.

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