One day in early September of 1999, we entered our high school chorus class unknowingly that 12 years later, we would be living together in Queens, NY with our Boston Terrier, Rocky, happily in love.
After a year of sitting next to each other in class (and flirting with Kristen by making fun of her, as boys do) Manny went off to CW Post for college. As fate would have it, in the fall of 2001, we serendipitously reunited at a party of a mutual friend, and where our romance would truly begin.
After a year of dating, Kristen was accepted to Boston University, and prepared to go away to college. Although a scary and uncertain period of time was approaching, we decided to pursue this undeniably fateful love.
Manny visited Kristen nearly every other weekend during her college years. Our Boston weekends together were mostly spent in the North End, still authentically Italian, from the locals to the food. This was undoubtedly the beginning of not only our love, but also the beginning of our passion for food, wine, pastries (!), and authentic dining experiences.
In 2004, Manny finished college and decided to take a trip across the United States with his two best friends. Along the way he fell in love with traveling, experiencing new things, taking risks, and meeting interesting people. Concurrently, Kristen decided to take her passion for all things Italian and pursued a summer music program in Siena, Italy. Kristen instantly fell in love with Tuscany—even the
countryside, blanketed with sunflowers, breathed with passion. This place was something magical. Kristen knew that Manny needed to experience Italy… it was truly the heart of all culinary desires.
When we both returned from our adventures, Kristen knew she didn’t need to do much convincing to get Manny to return to Italy with her the following year. We spent much of our time planning a 5-week European excursion to Italy and Portugal (to visit Manny’s extended family). We never knew our love for food (and each other) could grow even more…
From 2004 until today, we have traveled all over Europe, with many returns to the places we loved: Austria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Germany, France, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Spain, and Switzerland in search of the best meals, and the most divine culinary and cultural experiences. We have both agreed, of all of the places we have traveled, that the fresh seafood we had from the Mediterranean Sea and the wine that flowed right from the Côtes du Rhone in Villefranche-sur-mer (France) was, hands down, the most incredible gastronomic experience we have ever had. We can remember every breath, every bite, every sip.
We are constantly in search of those moments, not only when traveling, but in every dinner and experience we plan in New York City. These moments and meals exist right here, and we have found them, from reading reviews or getting recommendations, to stumbling upon them when taking a wrong turn to the restaurant we were supposed to go to (our favorite!). We have even found the best meals when cooking for ourselves in recreational classes at top culinary schools in the City.
When not working hard for the next meal or adventure, Manny and Kristen spend their weekends enjoying all that New York has to offer: bike riding around the boroughs, comedy shows in the Village, an Upper West Side string quartet performance, picking up fruits and veggies from the Farmers’ Market, Wine Tasting on the North Fork or Hudson River Valley, dancing along with an 80s cover band, sailing around NY Harbor, picnics in Central Park, sipping on Guinness at the local pub, or simply preparing a candlelit dinner in our own backyard, or making Saturday breakfast together and lounging with our Pup. Life is truly grand.
While traveling recently, someone asked where we were from…when we replied “New York,” she sighed, “Ah, the center of the universe.” In every moment and everything we do, we always stop, for even a millisecond, to remind ourselves that this is the greatest City in the world—and we will take advantage of every opportunity we can—from an honest day’s work, to a hard earned meal. Buon appetito!
Born and Bred in… Mineola (Long Island), NY…Had a 3-year fling with Manhattan’s Upper West Side….and now lives with Manny in Queens.
By Day… Teaches English as a Second Language on Long Island.
- New York City cab drivers: they always have an interesting story to tell, words in a foreign language to teach (if you are genuinely interested), all while getting you to your destination safely. Be kind and trust them!
- Stinky cheese: the stinkier the better! If it doesn’t smell like a boys’ locker room, it’s probably not that good.
- Spice! Everything from cumin to the hottest chili pepper you can find. To date, the spiciest food I’ve ever eaten is from the Halal cart on 53rd St. and 6th Ave. And yet, I can’t get enough of their spicy sauce!
- Languages and Cultures: I have been studying linguistics and different cultures throughout college, graduate school, and today. The study of language and the ways of life of others never cease to amaze me. Wherever I travel, it is always important to me to learn the polite and basic words to communicate with, and respect, the locals. Knowing just one word in another language has gottenme a very long way, even right here in New York City.
- Eating one meal and discussing what to do for the next one!
- Local and organic produce.
- Improvisational cooking.
- Old French jazz.
- People who snap (with their hands and mouths) at waiters- just because you are paying for a service, doesn’t mean you have license to be rude to someone who is trying to make a living, even if they don’t know what they are doing.
- Waitstaff who do not know their own menu (wine list included)- including the names of dishes in the original language—for example, in a French restaurant, one should know that le poisson du jour means the fish of the day (it’s still not ok to snap!)!
- Acid-wash jeans and a matching jacket.
The Awesome List…
- Les Boissons: Prosecco; White Bordeaux; Organic and sulfite-free reds, like Stoutridge! Lychee martinis on the Lower East Side!
- Hors-d’oeuvres: Stinky cheese, charcuterie, olives, and all of the necessary accoutrements! Mmm, and wild arugula salads.
- Les Plats: Grilled Skirt Steak (medium/medium rare); Moules à la Provençal (really anything à la Provençal—garlic, tomatoes, white wine, fresh herbs….what’s better together?); I always love le poisson du jour! And whenever it’s on the menu, homemade gnocchi is a must.
- Les desserts: Banana Flombee from Les Halles or the Panino di Nutella from I Tre Merli. Hmm, banana flombee IN the panino di nutella would be pretty outstanding!
- A little extra: Cafe La Bergamote in Chelsea has the best coffee and French pastries I’ve had outside of France!
Favorite Restaurant of the Moment…
- Bar Carrera is definitely on my mind a lot these days. It’s always a reliable, go-to spot for great tapas and wines. It’s a place you can go anytime to relax, enjoy a conversation with friends, and taste some delicious bites. For my favorite glass of Vino Italiano and formaggio… always Gottino, in the West Village.
- Sushi…I love my fish cooked.
- Canteloupe and Honeydew- they don’t HAVE to be the primary ingredient of a fruit salad!
- Salt overload. If it’s super salty, it’s probably a mask for spoiled, yucky food.
Born and Bred… in a Portuguese family in Mineola (Long Island), AKA Little Portugal….and now lives with Kristen in Queens.
By Day… Electrical Contractor in Nassau County, Long Island.
- Passport Stamps … Traveling and taking in all cultures. Learning and watching how other people eat, drink, laugh, interact, relax, and just live in themoment. I think about traveling all the time. When one trip is over, the other trip is already being planned on the plane ride home.
- Dessert… Sometimes it’s the only reason to eat dinner. If I could start with dessert at all meals, I would.. Whenever, possible always make it a la mode.
- Surfing and Snowboarding… Both have contributed to some of the greatest days and trips I have had to date.
- Being with my girlfriend and dog.
- The 80′s.. Music, and Movies (It will always make for a great time).
- Halloween .. It’s the only holiday that people don’t stress about what to buy for other people, whose house to go to, and what to cook… Plus it’s always fun to act like someone else for one night…
- Taking cooking classes with my baby.
- When a waiter or waitress tries to impress by not writing down everyone’s order, and then doesn’t get everything right.. You have a pen and pad for a reason, just use it..
- People who ASSUME anything… If you have not traveled to, tried to eat, spoken to, or experienced it yourself, then don’t say anything at all!
- People who park in a spot so that no one can park in front or behind when clearly there was room for one more car..
- Bad Espresso… It’s the last thing I have to judge my meal; if I have to add two packs of sugar you lost me.
- The Mall.
The Awesome List…
- Dessert- Flan, Tiramisu, Truffle, Heavenly Clouds (Served at Bairrada in Mineola), Creme Brulee, Panino Di Nutella (Served at I Tre Merli)…I can keep going forever. Just know that whenever I can I will take it to the next level and make it a la mode.
- Drinks- Wine, Guinness, Blue Moon, Vodka and Sometimes Gin. Espresso.
- Apps- Olives, Cheese, Marmalade , Fig Jam, Pita Chips, Hummus and Carrots.
- Entree- Brick oven Pizza, Skirt Steak , Sea Bass, Lobster, Jumbo Shrimp , Short Ribs, Churrascaria, Sushi.. I could keep going… it really just depends where I’m eating and what I feel like.
Favorite Restaurant of the Moment…
- Les Halles… Had an unforgettable White Bordeaux, Skirt Steak, and Banana Flombee.
- Food that is over salted ( it just means you are trying to hide the bad taste).
- Mussels and Clams