Pizza at Mama’s TOO! (New York, August 2019)

Our first meal in New York, eaten shortly not too long after arrival from DC, predictably/stereotypically/appropriately/conveniently involved pizza. We were staying on the Upper Westside, in a neighbourhood described by my primary sources of New York food recommendations as a bit of a food desert. But a short walk north from our apartment put us at a pizzeria that has received a lot of attention, and a New York Times star, in the last year: Mama’s TOO! at Broadway and 106th Street. As the name indicates, this is an extension of an existing brand. Mama’s Pizza, not too far away, has been serving up traditional New York slices for a long while now. Mama’s Too! (the exclamation mark is part of the name) takes that pizza in some new directions, both crust and toppings-wise. I do not pretend to be a pizza savant of any kind—if you’d like to find out more about where they fit in or depart from the larger New York scheme of pizza please take a look at Pete Wells’ review. Read this only to find out what four people who do not have any sort of firm ideological position on pizza thought of their offerings on one hot August evening. Continue reading

Young Joni (Minneapolis)

This has been our year of catching up on buzzy restaurants that have opened or been re-tooled in the Twin Cities in the last year or three. Such have been our meals at Hai Hai, Grand Cafe, Hyacinth, Popol Vuh, In Bloom, Handsome Hog and now Young Joni. The restaurant has been open since late 2016. We’ve wanted to eat there for a while but they started out without reservations and those who read my local reviews know what our problems are with no reservations restaurants: our long drive and our young children. But like Hai Hai (and Saint Dinette), Young Joni has relaxed its “no reservations” policy. This may have happened a while ago, actually, but it has only recently flashed on my consciousness. And so we decided to go. Right around then, Ann Kim got nominated for “Best Chef: Midwest” at this year’s James Beard awards. Also nominated were Jamie Malone of Grand Cafe and Christina Nguyen of Hai Hai and we liked both those meals very much. The odds therefore seemed very much in our favour; especially when Kim beat out Malone and Nguyen, and the rest of the competition, and took the award home. How did things pan out in reality? Well, it was a fine meal but, on the whole, not as good as our dinners at either of those places or some of the other new openings. Continue reading