Where to Find Sicilian Specialties, and More Reader Questions

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By Nikita Richardson

I’d like to start this week’s newsletter with a very heartfelt thank you to the folks here at The Times who contributed to last week’s Valentine’s Day dining newsletter. They are some of the busiest people on staff, and I appreciate their taking the time to share such thoughtful recommendations. We will definitely do that again!

Today, it’s reader question time: This month, we have visitors wondering where they should dine in Dumbo, Brooklyn; someone looking for regional Italian specialties; and a request for outdoor dining spots in Lower Manhattan. As always, if you have questions or want to offer some polite commentary, email me at [email protected]

Old-School Sicilian on the Waterfront

My friends and I really enjoy Sicilian and Italian specialties that include sarde, bottarga, merluzzo, and interesting pastas with unusual non-red-meat ingredients. Restaurants that focus on this seem far and few between. Any recommendations? — Marc T.

I hope you don’t mind, but let’s focus on the Sicilian part of your request. I’m going to point you in the direction of the 119-year-old Ferdinando’s Focacceria, in the Columbia Street Waterfront District in Brooklyn. It’s a homey setup with hexagonal tiled floors, grandma plates and one wall covered with images of famous people who have stopped by — Christopher Meloni, Martin Scorsese and at least two New York City mayors. Order the softball-size arancini special, covered in red sauce and some of the freshest ricotta I’ve had in recent memory, and then get that pasta con le sarde you’ve been craving. It’s at turns sweet (thanks to golden raisins) and wonderfully funky (the sardines), with bucatini cooked al dente, of course.

Dining in Dumbo

My husband and I will be staying in the Dumbo area in mid-March to see a concert. We have two days and nights and would love some recommendations for dinner. We like eclectic restaurants and would love to be able to walk rather than Uber or taxi. — Maureen P.

Dumbo doesn’t enter the restaurant conversation enough, which is a shame because there are some nice options! I simply must give a shout-out to the ever-reliable Superfine, on Front Street, where I enjoyed several happy hours as a fresh-off-the-U-Haul-truck 20-something. It’s unfussy, with a wide-ranging menu, and if you go on a Wednesday night there’s live jazz. For some of the finest coal oven-fired pizza in the city, check out Juliana’s. And you know who’s still got it after 15 years? Vinegar Hill House, on the edge of the neighborhood. I recently had a lovely lamb ragù there, as well as chicken-liver mousse with crusty bread and piquant mustard. And the real victory? I was able to get a reservation with less than 24 hours’ notice.

Winter-Proof Outdoor Dining

Any recommendations in Lower Manhattan with heated outdoor patios for a business lunch? My team meets monthly for lunch as we’re still working from home, and one of my colleagues feels uncomfortable eating indoors after the pandemic. — Hannah M.

I will be tackling dining for the Covid-conscious in the very near future, but for now I have two recommendations. Many restaurants seem to have opted out of winter-proofing their outdoor dining areas, but Fairfax, in the West Village, still has its “yurts,” with hefty overhead heaters to keep you and your party warm in isolation with your burgers and Old Bay tots. And the team will love you forever if you treat them to Uncle Boon’s khao pat puu (crab fried rice) and red curry rice salad under the heaters at Thai Diner, on Mott Street. That’s just science.

In Other News …

This week, Pete Wells reviewed Le Bernardin for the first time since 2012, and he found that the restaurant has come out stronger on the other side of a pandemic that devastated the industry.

Openings: Moody Tongue Sushi, the two Michelin star brewery and restaurant from Chicago, will open on West 10th Street on Friday; Goa New York, from the Toronto restaurateur Hemant Bhagwani, will take over the space that once housed Tetsu; and the chef Greg Baxtrom’s Maison Yaki, in Prospect Heights, has turned into his new spot, Petite Patate, a French bistro.

The HBO Max show “The Last of Us” has inspired a wave of fungi-based fear. But, Tejal Rao writes, much of that fear comes from the mystical and mysterious role they play in nature.

It wouldn’t be the Roaring 2020s without the return of the Bee’s Knees cocktail, Robert Simonson reported.

The reporter Brittany Loggins wrote about One if by Land, Two if by Sea, the Greenwich Village restaurant with a romantic setting that sees as many as 10 proposals per week in February.

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