Tag Archives: pizza

Café Viva: The Unexpected Vegan Haven

With midterms coming around, I didn’t have time for a sit-down meal, but still wanted to indulge in a tasty, healthy, meal. That’s when I found Café Viva. I was struck by the variety of items they had, from vegan pizza and gluten free pizzas on spelt, corn, or whole wheat crust to salads to pasta and calzones. I finally settled on a slice of Zen Pizza (vegan) and a vegan Pasta Bolognese.

The order arrived within twenty minutes, thirty minutes earlier than Seamless had predicted.

Café Viva: Broadway Avenue (between 93rd and 94th Street)

Zen Pizza (Vegan):

Green tea herb, miso-tofu, green tea basil pesto, shiitake mushrooms, caramelized onions, sun-dried tomato, and roasted garlic on a green tea herb spelt crust.

I didn’t expect much since I had never tried green tea and tofu on pizza, and had never really considered pizza as “healthy,” but I was pleasantly surprised.

2017-04-07 18.08.59-2The pizza had an overall herby scent, and the shiitake mushrooms and green tea worked surprisingly well together. The sun-dried tomatoes were rather acidic, however, and overpowered the other flavors. The miso-tofu was also rather dry and flimsy – by the end, I was just eating the tofu and mushrooms alone (san-crust). Despite the flimsiness, however, the flavors blended very well in a zen-like manner.

Pasta Bolognese (Vegan)

with homemade Seitan meat sauce. 2017-04-07 19.01.02

Café Viva offers both Linguini and Penne Pasta options, and I ordered the Linguini option. The meat sauce was extremely fresh, and the pasta was the perfect texture.

The 2017-04-07 18.09.48portion is extremely large (especially so after finishing a whole slice of pizza), and there was ample sauce. Although the pasta did not look particularly appetizing, it tasted heavenly.

The pasta came with bread, but it was overly salted on the inside and under-seasoned on the crust.

I will definitely go to the Café Viva store next time to sample some more of their other vegan pizzas and pastas.


Broadway Joe’s Pizza-Van Cortlandt Park/242nd Street

A$AP Rocky once said “Anything is better than that 1 train.” While we have all chanted this after the conductor announced the “train will be held momentarily” for the fourth time in ten minutes, we can all agree it holds a special place in the hearts of all Columbia students. After all, it grants us access to the world outside of the MoHi bubble. Commuting can be rough, especially when the train is not coming for 12 minutes, skipping the stop you need and the closest subway stop is a fifteen minute walk in -32° weather or a heat wave. In times like these (and quite honestly, anytime), there is nothing more convenient and comforting than a quick, cheap slice of pizza to sustain you. My mission for this semester is to explore the world along the 1 train through eating one of the foods that defines New York. The rules are simple: Take the 1 train, curse price hikes, get off, and look up the closest pizza joint. I am a firm believer that even bad pizza is good pizza, and the local joints that sustain New Yorkers throughout the city deserve recognition. This is an ode to the shops that are overlooked treasures as well as to those who may be mediocre but serve an essential role to the community of commuters.


My quest begins at the first stop on the 1 train- Van Cortlandt Park/242nd street. The trip was faster than I anticipated and in less than 30 minutes, I was breathing in the fresh air courtesy of Van Cortlandt Park’s 1146 acres. After walking thirty nine feet from the subway station, I arrived at Broadway Joe’s Pizza. At around 4:30pm, Broadway Joe’s had the universal afternoon pizza joint patrons of rowdy high school and middle school students. The design was straightforward, no frills. Close your eyes and imagine any pizza place anywhere in America, and that is Broadway Joe’s.


A plain slice cost the standard $2.50 and it was worth every cent. I ordered the second to last slice of plain pizza behind the display case. The pizza looked promising- the image does not do justice how much larger the slice was compared to the plate. The cheese glistened under the perfect amount of grease. I folded my slice and took my first bite. Not sure if this was beginner’s luck, but I hope every random, local pizza shop is as great as this one. The crust somehow had the perfect combination of crisp and chewiness. To confirm my observations from the initial taste, I took another bite and tested how far the cheese extended- perfectly elastic and bouncy. Lastly, the tomato sauce, while not a major player, passed the test of not being too sugary (a pitfall of many $1 pizza places) and if anything, approached the tangier side of the spectrum.

This will not be the last time I come here. The combination of Broadway Joe’s and the beauty of Van Cortlandt Park created a very convincing reason to ride the 1 train to the first stop to have a New York autumn picnic.


Cheap Eats NYC: How to keep your date (and wallet) happy

As learned from the women of Sex and the City, dating in New York City can be rough. It’s even rougher when you’re a college student, living on a college student budget. If your parents are anything like mine, they are reluctant to give you much “food money” because of the amount they’re already spending on your meal plan. With that being said, living in one of the most expensive cities in the country doesn’t help much either. No one wants to blow his or her entire weekly allowance on a first date. Unfortunately, this leaves little room for “wining and dining.”

Don’t worry, though, there is hope! Believe it or not, nice date spots that won’t break the bank exist. So, in an effort to ensure that you don’t disappoint your date and get to see them again, I’ve compiled a list of tasty (cheap!) spots.

CREAMLINE NYC in Chelsea Market


Chelsea Market is an experience in and of itself.  Inside its brick walls lie dozens of restaurants and shops. One of which, is the all-American restaurant, Creamline.  From peanut butter/jelly/banana sandwiches to grilled cheese fingers to fried oreos, Creamline NYC satisfies all of our childhood cravings.  Follow dinner with a walk on the High Line, which is right to the market. Trust me, you’ll need to walk off this meal.

P.S. DO NOT skip the malted milkshake. Worth every calorie.

Click for their menu. 

MIMI CHENG’S DUMPLINGS in the lower East


Treat yourself, and your date, to some mouthwatering dumplings at Mimi Cheng’s. My personal fave is the steamed ‘Reinvented Classic’ dumpling, made with pork and baby bok choy. The laid back environment is the perfect place to bring someone you’re just starting to get to know. For dessert, order the caramel apple pie dumplings- they are a must-have!!

Click for their menu. 

S’MAC in the East Village


S’Mac, aka Sarita’s Macaroni and Cheese, is basically every mac and cheese lover’s dream come true. They offer specialty mac and cheeses and made-to-order mac and cheeses. For me, the best option is the build your own mac and cheese. With 15 cheeses, 4 herbs, 12 veggies/condiments, and 6 proteins to choose from, there is something for everyone. It’ll be hard for your date not to be satisfied.  And, if you’re “of age,” follow dinner with drinks at one of the quirky bars that the East Village has to offer.

Click for their menu. 

Gaia Italian Cafe in the Lower East Side


As long as Gaia exists, there’s no need to spend $25 on a plate of pasta at some fancy Italian restaurant. This little hole in the wall serves up prime Italian food with rich flavors. My personal favorite is the spinach and ricotta gnocchi; it’s the perfect consistency! They also do daily pasta specials, which keeps things interesting (hopefully like your date).

Warning: they do close relatively early and fills up quickly, so plan ahead, and make a reservation!!

Click for their menu.

Happy eating, and happy dating!!

Trick to Making Great Italian Pizza

Italians take food very seriously. We don’t make jokes about food, we consider it almost a sacred subject. There are some things that you cannot say to an Italian without making him or her explaining how the risotto you have just eaten is not the real one and what the real lasagne should look like. That’s why when an American friend of mine told me that she once “made a pizza” by buying a Pita bread and putting cheese on it, I couldn’t accept the fact the she believed to have made a pizza. I knew I had to do something, and there was only one thing I had to do: to make a Pizza.

Pizza is the most famous Italian food in the world, so famous that it is not even necessarily associated with Italy anymore. But in Italy, it is crystal clear that pizza is our creation, and therefore we feel like the only ones to have the right to talk about it.

In Italy, young people usually go to a pizzeria to eat pizza once a week, as the most normal social event you can imagine. It’s cheap and good, so why not? But a lot of people are able to make their own pizza as well, especially when you realize how easy it is. So, are you ready?

The first thing to do is the pizza dough. Here is what you need:

Continue reading Trick to Making Great Italian 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