Tag Archives: pizza

The Bourdain Diaries: Culinary Institute of America


“CIA is located in the buildings and grounds of a former Jesuit monastery on a Hudson River clifftop, a short cab ride from Poughkeepsie. In my buttoned-up chef’s coat, check pants, neckerchief and standard-issue leatherette knife roll-up, I arrived determined but full of attitude.”

Over spring break I had the wonderful opportunity to get out of the city. My father came to visit me and we decided to rent a car and head to West Point for a spontaneous tour. After our tour, I looked at a map, and to my great surprise I saw the letters “CIA”. Knowing that the Intel headquarters probably not located in small town New York, I suddenly remembered Bourdain’s book “Kitchen Confidential”, and how he mentioned CIA multiple times. Low and behold, I had stumbled upon the culinary institute of America!
Bourdain trained at CIA in 1975, and as he mentions in “Kitchen Confidential” it was a bit different back then. Upon arriving on the campus it truly did seem like any other college campus. Students were running down the paths to their classes, probably late and hungover just as any other campus. Except these students all looked exactly the same – checked pants, white chef’s tops and large paper chef hats.

As I continued to explore the campus the fact that it was in fact a “culinary” college became more and more evident. Instead of pedestrian walkways they had “chef crossing” signs. The ornate stained glass work above the main entrance was a pineapple instead of the stereotypical university insignia. All in all, the place screamed “chefs in training” from every corner of the campus.

Unfortunately, because my dad and I had just miraculously stumbled upon the institute we were unable to procure reservations for any of the official restaurants on campus. However, we were able to eat at the informal Italian café, which served pizzas and paninis.

All of the restaurants on the campus are student led, and it’s really interesting to see how they are progressing and all of the roles of the restaurant industry they must take on at CIA.

Again, because this was the more informal dining selection, the menu choices were not the largest, but they were still interesting. We opted to order cappuccinos, “Procusstio Pizza” and Tiramisu for dessert. To be quite honest, the food was the least exciting part of this trip. Because the chefs were all in training, the food did seem somewhat experimental to me. The pizza had scalloped potatoes on it, and a significant lack of procusstio to my dismay. Also, the tiramisu did not have quite enough solidity or liquor for my taste. In no way, shape, or form would I ever criticize the chefs at CIA, as they are infinitely more talented in the kitchen than I will ever be, and I realize that they are in fact training. The experience overall was really fun, it was especially a unique experience to see what techniques the chefs were vocationally taught in their early years.


Rafele Ristorante

With winter quickly descending on the cold, steel structures of the city, the last sight I expected to see from Rafele Ristorante was a warm, summery environment. But look for yourself.

Rafele Ristorante

Thick, green stalks and stems draping over the shelves. Cute, little flowers poking up from the center of the rustic, wooden tables. Bottles of wine and olive oil lining the walls. I can’t help but to think of a warm meal in a summer garden in Tuscany. Although I have never had the pleasure of visiting Italy, Rafele Ristorante brought a little piece of Italy to America, almost as good as a real trip.

For my appetizer, I had burrata frita. Burrata is a soft, buttery combination of mozzarella and cream, and of course, frita means fried. So yes, I just ate fried cheese. Personally, I could eat cheese all day in replacement of breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but the restaurant fried it for me. Everything is better fried. This cheese is no exception. That sweet, gooey cheese was a godsend.

After I finished my cheese, the waiter smiled wide, asked how everything was, and whisked away my plate. Even the waiter seemed warm and summery! Not too long after, my margherita pizza was brought out. Some people get upset when you get something as simple as a margherita pizza. After all, it is basically just a normal cheese pizza with a few leaves of basil thrown on top. Yet, its simplicity allows you to better appreciate the two main actors that influence a pizza’s quality: the sauce and the crust.

margherita pizza

The sauce tickled the tongue with its sweet, herby flavor. It tasted of tomatoes, onions, and garlic, slow-cooked all day as if they had waited for my arrival before being put to use. And the crust was exactly what any New Yorker wants: thick enough to support the rest of the pizza, but thin enough to give a satisfying crunch. The edges were blackened and crispy from the wood fired oven. Yes, it was a simple margherita pizza. Simple and delicious.

Sadly, I didn’t have room for dessert. I was really in the mood for tiramisu, but I ate an entire pizza… so that didn’t happen. Regardless, I highly recommend Rafele Ristorante. Winter is coming. We need a reminder of the happy, summer days.

Rafele Ristorante



(212) 242-1999

29 7th Ave South, New York, NY 10014

An Italian Restaurant You Can’t Go Wrong With

Of all the Italian restaurants near Columbia campus, Bettolona is definitely one of your best bets for a romantic date night. It is more spacious and chic than the cozy MaxSoha (on Amsterdam and 123rd), and definitely a lot tastier than V&T Pizzeria (Amsterdam and 113th). The pizza here is cooked in a brick oven. The prices are very reasonable, and the atmosphere of the restaurant will make you feel casual and comfortable. The waiters and the owner (he is actually Italian!) are very friendly and know the menu well.

Located on Broadway between La Salle and 125th St, it is just the right distance from campus – only 10-15 minutes walking distance from the main gate, yet far enough away  to have a off-campus feel.

Spinach Lasagne

Bettolona is known for the pizza and homemade Italian pastas. The pizza is small and delicious enough that one person can finish it. The spinach lasagna is made delicately and with amazing meat sauce. In all, both the pasta and the pizza here are of great, authentic quality.

Bettolona also features specials everyday. Simply keep in mind to ask the price, since they don’t put it on the chalkboard and you might end up having to pay slightly more than you expected (for example, the stripped bass special entrée was around $25). Also, the menu is entirely in Italian, so be prepared to use your smartphone to check some things out if you don’t know Italian!

Daily Special - Stripped Bass came with Buttery Mashed Potatoes and Spinach

In all, if you’re looking for a place near campus with authentic and great quality Italian food, you can’t go wrong with Bettolona. Highly recommended.


5 out of 5 stars



3143 Broadway (Broadway & La Salle St.), New York, NY 10027

Tel: (212) 749-1125



Central Park Hotdogs

In my sophomore and junior years of high school, I went through a couple of weird–and sometimes utterly shameful–after-school snack phases. The worst one of all was my Top Ramen obsession where I would prepare myself a chicken flavored packet every single day when I came home from school. After eating all the noodles I’d give the leftover broth to my dog, which in hindsight I realize was probably a bad idea: Top Ramen is not the most pet-friendly food, and giving poor Sparky my leftovers surely contributed to his terrible habit of whining (and then barking) when we eat and don’t give him any of our food. Also, Top Ramen broth used to burn my throat after only a few sips, which might be telling of the quality of its ingredients…so good thing I finally grew out of that most horrific habit.

However, the Top Ramen phase quickly morphed into a burrito and pizza making one. Luckily it wasn’t so detrimental to my health. While these snacks could have qualified as full-blown dinners, they were free of MSG, artificial flavoring, and whatever else is in those little dried noodle packets. Anyway, this new snack phase was a clear step up from the last one: I’d make our family’s favorite burrito, which was hearty, but also fresh and delicious. The pizzas would be made with super-thin lavash bread, a bit of tomato paste, sliced onion, zucchini, and bell peppers, olives, caper berries, and Parmesan (basically random things I’d find in the fridge)–nothing like the cheesy monstrosity that can sometimes be regular pizza. Continue reading Central Park Hotdogs

Culinary Paradise for the Italian Foodophile

Eataly, courtesy of thepeche.com

Manon, Culinary Society President, reviews the group’s recent trip to Eataly (because our picnic in the park was unfortunately rained out!) and describes this delightful downtown heaven.

So what should you do on a rainy day when plans for a picnic had to be canceled? Go to Eataly, a gourmet supermarket specializing in Italian products. Right in the heart of the Flatiron district and next to Madison Square Park, Eataly is an amazing assembly of food stands that sell everything you could imagine, from fresh fruits and vegetables to tiramisu, biscotti to prosciutto, and everything in between. It’s even possible to find fish and several types of honey as well as a few different restaurants right in the middle of the market where you can enjoy a cheese and meat tasting, pasta and pizza, or hot chocolate. One thing’s for sure, browsing through everything Eatly has to offer can be quite overwhelming: there’s a lot to chose from and a lot of people to maneuver around (Eataly seems to have basically become a tourist attraction). That being said, it is still more than totally worth going there to discover the variety of things they carry as most anything you’ll get there is guaranteed to be delicious. It’s a true paradise for any food lover.

The best way to experience Eataly is by going with a group of friends right before lunch. You can reserve a table, enjoy a delicious pizza, and then explore the market on a full stomach (they do say it’s dangerous to shop when you’re hungry, right?). I’ve been to one of the restaurants there twice, and both times I left the table fully satisfied. Our table ordered a few pizzas from the menu and then shared everything. The final verdict was good: the crust is thin, soft, and chewy and ingredients are fresh. It’s a good place to get real Italian pizza. Continue reading Culinary Paradise for the Italian Foodophile

The Gluten-Free Manifesto

Jean’s first post for the blog brings up a current hot topic: gluten-free eating.  Whether it’s a necessity or a personal choice, gluten-free is certainly a conversation worth having…especially when it comes to pizza.

A spectre is haunting Columbia… the spectre of gluten-freeinism. All the dining halls of Columbia have entered into a holy alliance to starve this spectre into nonexistence. John Jay, Ferris Booth, JJ’s place, Columbia nutritionists fake promises… Where is the sparse party of Celiacs to oppose the narrative that you can be on the dining plan and not get glutened again, and again, and again… It’s high time that Celiacs openly face the entirety of Columbia, publish their recipes, their shopping nooks, their list of brands that they can eat, their stories about how they’ve managed to scrape by in a continual state of brokeness…

From this abyss, rises the Gluten-Free Manifesto.

It kind of sucks being GF (esp. at CU) if you don’t know where to look or shop for specialty food, the brands that are safe to eat, and how to make things that are relatively quick so you can keep to your high pressured schedule and not get bogged down with lengthy recipes. All the while you have to do this being on a college budget. Don’t worry, I see you.

As you can imagine, when I found out I couldn’t eat anything with gluten on top of dairy, I was pretty depressed. My brother and my mom would cheer me up by finding recipes that still allowed me to eat the things I liked. One of the things I learned how to do was to make my own personal pizza. So even though I sometimes miss my old diet, I find that once in a while I can act like it’s just like the old times again. I’ve established quite a list of foods that make me happy, don’t take long and are good. My recipes are perfect for the lazy, the thought of having to constantly monitor the food I’m making doesn’t really work for me; I’ve got work to do. So I hope you enjoy, it’s totally awesome to make and no stress at all. Continue reading The Gluten-Free Manifesto

30-Minute Gourmet: Pizza!

Starting this year, our blogger Kelcey has decided to replace Monday’s feature of “Forgotten Foods” with “The Thirty Minute Gourmet” In this feature, Kelcey will explain how to prepare speedy meals with a college student’s budget. So get ready to fire-up your inner chef and steer clear of those dining halls!

As featured on the blog this week, Matt and I had the pleasure of touring New York’s best places for bread and pastry. Although many of our stops were on the sweet side, one establishment (Sullivan Street Bakery) was dedicated exclusively to breads and savory creations. Owner and renowned bread baker, Jim Lahey, is well known for his breads, which are featured in many of New York’s finest restaurants. But what took me by surprise were his delicious pizzas!

Kelcey's Pizza Patate

So this week, I decided to try Mr. Lahey’s revolutionary “no knead” baking technique to prepare a delicious Pizza Patate, as inspired by the pizza I ate at Sullivan Street.

The “no knead” technique is pretty neat. It consists of simply mixing the ingredients for your dough and letting them sit and rise for a couple of hours. No mixer or kneading necessary. Then you turn your dough out onto a sheet pan coated with a healthy amount of olive oil and bake as usual. According to Mr. Lahey, good pizza dough isn’t about any secret ingredients or special recipes; it’s about technique.

After preparing the dough, I topped the crust with potatoes slices that I had soaked in salt water overnight to remove excess moisture. This helped the potatoes cook faster but also kept the crust extremely crispy. Note: if your pizza always comes out soggy in the middle, its probably because your toppings have a lot of moisture. Instead, keep your toppings to a minimum and avoid using vegetables that have a lot of moisture (ie: bell peppers). If you insist on using lots of vegetables, roast them before putting them on your pizza. The results should be much better.

The key to this pizza was quality ingredients. The topping consisted of little more than potatoes, onions, salt, pepper, and rosemary… AND good-quality olive oil.

Start to finish, this pizza may have taken more than thirty minutes, but in terms of active prep time, I was right on schedule. So if you plan ahead, you should be sittin’ pretty for a delicious pizza dinner any night of the week.

Jim Lahey’s Pizza Dough  Continue reading 30-Minute Gourmet: Pizza!

Better than Sliced Bread

Instead of the typical “President’s Kitchen” and “Forgotten Foods” this week, Kelcey and Matt have teamed up to write about an especially carb-filled day in New York. With nothing but their wits and heavy winter coats (Kelcey’s is pretty much a mobile sleeping bag), they braved the frigid January air to journey to some of the city’s most famous bakeries.

The last week of winter break. I just walked into the apartment, still bristling from the 1 block walk from the subway stop. I went to California for the break, and my body was still in shock. I received a text from Kelcey saying she was free on Sunday, and the winter’s chill immediately dissipated. I knew exactly what we would do on Sunday: The Bread Tour of New York! Kelcey and I had been throwing around the idea of touring New York’s best bakeries since mid-summer, but somehow we never executed our plan. This was the perfect opportunity. We would toss all New Year’s resolutions out the window and finish the break with a bang (or at least a boat-load of calories)!

I met up with Kelcey around 10 o’clock down in SoHo for our first bakery. Little did I realize that Sunday was going to be the very coldest, absolutely bone-chilling day of January, with my smart phone reading 15 degrees. We ducked into the first destination, desperate to escape the cold. (-Matt)

Balthazar’s Bakery (and now Kelcey)

As Matt was saying, it was pretty freezing out there, and I had decided to walk from Battery Park City to SoHo (thanks to a non-functioning 1 train). Yes, my mobile-sleeping-bag-coat did keep me warm, all save my face. So by the time I met Matt outside Balthazar’s Bakery, I was totally ready to thaw myself out a bit. Balthazar’s Bakery, in comparison to the restaurant, is a small space with no seating, where most orders are taken to go. Matt and I agreed that our game plan for the day would be to get small items and share… not only to avoid becoming stuffed, but in order to try as many things as we could. On Matt’s recommendation, we decided to share one of their sticky buns. With coffee and pastry in hand, we ducked over to Starbucks to actually sit and enjoy our treat, and it was delicious! Unlike other sticky buns, which tend to be overly sweet and more sticky than bun, Balthazar’s sticky bun was light and covered with a modest amount of pecans and what tasted like butter toffee. The combination of nuts, delicate bun and sweet/salty toffee was totally a winner. And it went a long way in restoring me from my mile long trek in freezing temperatures!

Our sticky bun came to about $3.50. Balthazar’s Bakery is located at 80 Spring Street, SoHo. Continue reading Better than Sliced Bread

The President’s Kitchen: Contemplating Pizza as Art

Formerly known as “Live from the Culinary House,” “The President’s Kitchen” brings you the latest food news and recipes that have been steeping and brewing in Matt’s mind. This week, a philosophical consideration on pizza, with a recipe for pizza dough to finish.

Is this art?

This week, I was invited to a casual Wednesday gathering hosted by the philosophy department. The question of the night: Is food art? With a rising “foodie” awareness and an elite knowledge of food gaining in social capital, this question seemed timely as well as intriguing for anyone interested in food. Plus, it was my opportunity to view food through someone else’s eyes (i.e. a non-food-enthusiast).

Throughout the industry, the definition of food is constantly muddled and questioned. Many consider food to be an art while many others call it a science. Still others go for the more obvious answer of “nourishment” or “fuel,” referencing food’s necessity for our daily existence. The discussion began with definitions, as is usually helpful in philosophy and many other subjects. But this became extremely difficult as we tried to pin down words such as “art” and “aesthetics.”

Art came to be described as novel, complex, with the ability to take the viewer out of his or her habitual way of experiencing the world. Art has the ability to transform a world perspective. The individual is “seized by a distinctive aesthetic ecstasy” as one student pointed out. Art is subject to movements and trends, having creators and imitators. It is a question of craft and intent as well as the experience of the beholder.

As I listened to the definitions given by the people at the table, I found myself nodding my head, thinking “Ah yes, all of these apply to food.” However, once definitions had passed, almost everyone in the room concluded that food, then, is not art! I was floored.

Although food is uniquely temporal in nature, fleeting and perishable, it can still be appreciated as a form of expression. It can be novel, and one only needs to study American food ways to understand that food is, indeed, subject to trends and movements from locavorism, organic food, molecular gastronomy, and the like. Food is extremely complex, requiring knowledge on the part of the creator but also on the part of the consumer in order to fully appreciate it. It is fully subject to experience, and unlike any other form of art, I believe it is more consuming than any other art form. The food is consumed  by the enthusiast and, in turn, the experience of the food momentarily consumes the enthusiast, a sensory overload of sight, smell, touch, taste, and even hearing.

Perhaps the lesson is that a proper education, a handle on the necessary faculties to analyze and appreciate food, is what transforms food to an art. Otherwise, it is simply fuel, something to sustain us. Food cannot be divorced from its function of nourishment, but this function does not debase food. Rather, I believe it makes it all the more astounding and worthy of our consideration.

The greatest irony? This discussion took place over soppy, greasy cheese pizza. An utter injustice.

For worthwhile pizza dough, follow this recipe: Continue reading The President’s Kitchen: Contemplating Pizza as Art

Events: Field Trip to Eataly!

Today (11/7) at 12 pm, the Culinary Society will be meeting at the Columbia gates on Broadway to hop on the 1 line to go to Eataly in the Flatiron District! Eataly is Mario Batali’s newest food venture, and it is simply amazing… in my opinion, it’s like the Disneyland of Italian Food, a small wonderland of delicious foods :) They have everything from great cured meats, cheeses, produce, oils, vinegars, and perfectly crusty breads. And of course, there’s an abundance of pizza, pasta, and gelato. Let’s just say that this field trip will be quite a delicious experience!

Everyone is expected to bring their own money for whatever foods they want to purchase. I would advise 10-20 dollars for those who want cheeses and meats, and up to 30 dollars for the top oils and vinegars. (If you really want to, you can splurge on the $150 vinegar… it probably has pieces of gold floating in it…)

If you have any questions, just email culinary@columbia.edu.