CHIC PLACES: WHERE I ATE PASTA IN NYC

If you know one thing about me... it's likely to be my obsession with pasta. Pasta, is truly the absolute most delicious thing I can eat. It's why Italian is my favorite cuisine and perhaps why I chose to study Italian in high school/college and study abroad in Verona, Italy for a semester. It's also my favorite item to order at a restaurant, which is funny because I actually enjoy it when I make it myself, despite the fact that I hate cooking and am pretty terrible at it. Perhaps it's because the bar has now been set so very low? Or because I can almost be certain it's going to be really, really good when prepared by a professional? The jury is still out on that one.

What I will say is that every time I make dinner reservations at home in Los Angeles or before a trip somewhere else, I do my best to find somewhere that's perfected my favorite food group. So naturally I asked many friends, did my online research and checked my outstanding lists before heading to New York City this past October. I came in with a lot of information, some disappointment from hard to book spots, and lots of optimism for my next trip. Here's what I found. Enjoy!


1. Sant Ambroeus, (multiple locations)

I love this place for many reasons, the first being how legitimate it feels. There's something about being here that feels safe and enjoyable. It's a no fuss, traditional, upscale spot where you can easily go for any meal or just a coffee and something sweet. But despite the dark wood, white tablecloth and otherwise classic decor, they added a little pink accent that I feel connected to. It's a simple, yet powerful piece of marketing that is clearly working on me. So since I have become so eager to eat a proper meal here I decided I'd make it a mission to try some pasta, even if it meant eating alone in the early afternoon. Luckily my husband was game and we found a perfect spot outside, right in front of the entrance at the West Village location, perfectly positioned to people watch and relax while I got my middle of the day, pasta fix. I went back to basics and ordered the cacio e pepe, which I must say is always a reliable pasta choice at pretty much any Italian restaurant. Even if it's not on the menu I have always gotten it by asking since it's so simple for them to make. I honestly can't say I have ever had a bad one, but how can it be bad when you combine pasta, butter and pepper? But back to Sant Ambroeus, the pasta was delicious! I really wish I had been able to come back every day of the trip and try more of their pasta dishes, but unfortunately I wanted to branch out. No worries thought, I will most certainly be coming back next time.

2. Il Mulino, Greenwich Village 

We came here on our last trip to NYC with friends and honestly, I wish we had chosen to come back this trip too. Even my husband, who tends to devalue eating out at restaurants, was impressed, given how much free food they give you before you even order anything off the menu. First things first, you need to go to the original location in Greenwich Village, as it's just so legitimate, I am scared to try the newer locations and be disappointed. Every waiter appears to be a distinguished Italian man who seems to know food well. We ordered a bunch of things to share but of course my favorite was the pasta. We had the Capellini Il Mulino and I believe another pasta dish too, however, the Capellini was my favorite. We also ordered a delicious chicken parm and a few other things for the table, but whenever I go back I will be solely ordering pasta, likely the gnocchi which looks to die for!!


3. L'Artusi, West Village

Okay, so I need to be really honest here. I didn't really love it. And to be honest, I was actually very disappointed because this place was overly recommended to me by so many people, particularly for their popular pasta dishes! I ordered the garganelli after so many great reviews and due to a very enticing menu description, the mushroom ragu, how genius is that for any mushroom lover like myself!? Arthur got the other very popular pasta, a simple spaghetti with garlic, chiller's and parmesan, which was very good, but not life changing by any stretch of the imagination. This was one time where I regretted taking my own advice to just order a cacio e pepe, and I am sure it would have been absolutely delicious had I done so. To make matters worse, we were pretty disappointed finding out we had ordered the more expensive bottle of brut rosĂ©, but I will say it was delicious and fueled a fun night for us, so in the end it was worth it I suppose. Aside from the less than great meal I was hoping for, I also wasn't really a fan of the ambiance in the restaurant, even though it was packed with people, dark and modern, it just didn't feel authentic or cool or particularly fun. Perhaps I just went on an off night, but that was my honest experience unfortunately. 


4. Palma, West Villlage 

This place was also heavily recommended, and appeared consistently beloved on social media given how equally enchanting the space is, in addition to the menu. Tucked away on a quiet cobblestone street in the West Village, this shabby chic restaurant has the most charming little courtyard with candlelit tables, surrounded by ivy covered walls. It's no surprise they frequently host private events and some of the most intimate weddings. Smartly, the courtyard was covered, which I appreciated given I met some girlfriends there for dinner on a cold, rainy night. I sat at the romantic bar before our table was ready outside and ordered The Garden cocktail, of course, while waiting for my friends. I knew they too would appreciate how pretty the place was and I couldn't help but think how perfect it must be for a date night. {more photos from Palma below}

But aside from how lovely the decor was, I did also love the food. We started with the delicious arancini before shamelessly ordering three pasta dishes to share. We had the cacio e pepe ravioli, fettuccine fungi e tartufo (mushrooms and truffle) and the agnolotti ricotta e spinaci; all of which were delicious. I wasn't as impressed by the agnolotti, however, I am also not a huge ricotta lover so I'm not the best judge, but both the fettuccine and ravioli were absolutely amazing. Overall, this is now one of my favorites for sure. 

STILL ON MY LIST

1. Carbone, Greenwich Village

I still can't believe I haven't been here yet, but given the difficult reservation system, perhaps not? Nonetheless I really hope when I do ultimately go, it's worth the hype. I keep hearing about the spicy rigatoni, which I assume is quite similar to the spicy fusilli, also a vodka based sauce, at Jon & Vinny's in Los Angeles, which I love. 

2. Nello, Upper East Side


This place has always been on my list as another reliably good Italian spot in New York. The only thing that's held me back is it's not exactly the type of place my friends want to go before a fun night out, it seems to be of a ladies who lunch type of spot. This is perfect for me however, because I was born 50 and quite frankly love an older crowd. 

3. Lilia, Williamsburg & Misi, South Williamsburg

I've had several New Yorkers recommend I head to Brooklyn, where admittingly I have not been yet, to try these spots. At Lilia, Instagram has me drooling over the cappelletti and the mafaldini and Misi's occhi looks so good, similar to a tortellini but wider and perhaps stuffed with something different. I'd also be open to trying the fettucine there, which looks simple but yummy. If you have been to either, send me your recommendations! The next time I head to NYC I will definitely prioritize a trip over the bridge, for pasta of course, among all the other wonderful things I have heard about. 


4. Elio's, Upper East Side

Elio's seems to be a pricey, but reliably good, reliably classic Italian restaurant that everyone seems to love. From most reviews it sounds like a nice spot for group, an older crowd perhaps, but a lively one, which I am all about. I have heard really good things about the chicken parm but as for pasta, this is the kind of place where I am almost certain the red sauce must be good. But if I am wrong, please do tell me!

5. Sorbillo, Noho

I found this place on Instagram and even though they seem to focus mostly on Neapolitan pizza, I couldn't help but obsess over the images of the gnocchi in a vodka looking sauce and the carbonara that I would order without the meat. It's a bit more casual but appears to be quality nonetheless. 





Going to stop here before I end up booking another flight to NYC for another full-fledged pasta tour! 

-MGN

CHIC PLACES: RALPH'S COFFEE SHOP, NEW YORK CITY


I have been waiting so very long to come here... Does anyone remember the original Ralph's Coffee shop from years back? I do. I remember seeing it on Instagram and being overjoyed about the idea of going, however, when I arrived for girls trip in Fall of 2017 I was extremely disappointed to find out it already closed. Thank goodness I had secured a coveted reservation at The Polo Bar to get my fix, otherwise who knows what fate my girlfriends would have found me in. And unsurprisingly, Ralph's Coffee came back just in time for my trip this October, in not just one but two locations, three if you count the truck parked outside Rockefeller Center. Now all I am missing is a ticket into Ralph's Club, which was sadly only available one evening, for all the fashionistas, myself not being one of them. 





I decided to visit the Madison Avenue location, given how beautiful the green floral wallpaper looked online and because I think it's a much more attractive setup inside the beautiful Ralph Lauren shop. I think most retailers should become smarter and consider combining cafes and restaraunts into their brands, many of which have and I love them all.  For example The Skinny Dip Charleston with their frozĂ© served in the upstairs bar/coffee shop, Mansur Gavriel with their perfectly shaded pink and flowered courtyardLa Mercerie with the most beautiful blue hued decor and French menu, and of course Restoration Hardware, with stately restaurants in Chicago, New York, West Palm Beach and Napa Valley. 




SHOP MY LOOK





But aside from my anecdotal retail consulting commentary, I really did enjoy my morning inside Ralph's Coffee, a perfect addition to the walks I like to do on the Upper East Side whenever I am in town. I could guarantee this would become one of my favorite morning go-to's if I lived here, given the equally adorable Sant Ambroeus coffee bar does have any vanilla flavoring for my almond milk lattes, unfortunately. So I was elated to order just that, along with a piece of cake to take home to my husband later, in this elegant little corner. 




SHOP RALPH'S COFFEE




Located in northeast wing of the Ralph Lauren women's mansion (how chic does that sound already), the coffee shop is perfectly bustling as you'd expect it to be mid-morning with just a bit more Ralph Lauren glamour than your average neighborhood spot. With a high vaulted ceiling, a forest green leather banquette, decorative molding and that oh-so-precious floral wallpaper I'd love to do a future powder room in, I can see why the barista said they have plans to expand. I can almost understand now why this iteration of the coffee shop plan is more successful, as I think it aligns better with what people really want; a beautifully decorated space to relax for a minute, sink into the loveliness this iconic American brand has created. As a shopper you often feel rushed, silently encouraged to purchase quickly and leave in most shops. But I think retailers could really use a more inviting space for their customers to relax while they browse and I could only assume it would incur more sales, especially if they sold a cocktail of some sort!




Fortunately for me my buzz didn't extend beyond two shots of espresso before I was on my way out to continue my day in New York City. I can only hope the Beverly Hills location gets a similar spot one day too, but until then I'll have to just enjoy all the perfectly branded merch I grabbed on my way out. 


-MGN
{all photography via Classy Jorge }

CLASSIC STYLE: 100 COZY WEATHER SWEATERS


There are few things I love more... than a cozy sweater, a good book, a vanilla almond milk latte. The cold weather (meaning 65 degrees or less in LA) has me in frenzy with all the things I get to do in order to feel warm. Eating ramen, watching The Holiday, taking a bubble bath and of course wearing one of my many warm sweaters- a privilege really. So it's not surprising that I would spend endless amounts time searching and scouring the internet and shops for essentially the same thing: the perfect sweater. Which for me requires good structure, soft fabric and typically a shorter length, since I am shorter and the cropped sweaters tend to look a little less overwhelming on me. But I also love things oversized so tucking in is always a great option. Regardless, I have rounded up a bunch of options in every price point to check out. So whether it's already snowing where you live or your love of sweaters requires strong air conditioning and iced coffee, here are the winners in my book. Enjoy!



-MGN
{photography via Elena Cuellar}

CHIC PLACES: AN AFTERNOON IN ST. HELENA, NAPA VALLEY


What a charming little place... St. Helena is, one of the many idyllic towns in the Napa Valley region. This was my second trip to Napa and second wedding to attend. The first time I hadn't really planned to explore beyond our hotel and wedding activities, so this time I was set on seeing more of the well known, well covered wine country and St. Helena was high on my list.





We drove into the charming town from Calistoga, where my friend was getting married that weekend, for lunch and little exploration. I had come across this cute hotel and restaurant during my usual Instagram research and decided it was well worth a visit, even if just to enjoy this amazing wraparound porch and fall foliage. It was almost as if we were leaf pepping on the east coast, something I am very hopeful about getting to do someday.




Las Alcobas was a gorgeous hotel that truly felt like a luxury version of a quaint bed and breakfast in a small New England town. We went for lunch to their restaurant, The Accacia House, on a Friday and it was very quiet and cozy sitting outside on the veranda. We ordered lunch without any spirits given we had an early rehearsal dinner to attend, however, if I ever came back I would most certainly want to spend the entire afternoon sitting with their special margarita and some friends. My husband ordered the burger, which he loved and I quickly decided on the lobster submarine, which I didn't really consider different from a lobster roll. The lobster was delicious, but since I ordered without reading the description, I ended up with bacon and avocado, and not the classic lobster roll I was expecting. Despite that, it was still delicious, and a good reminder to read before you order! 


SHOP THE POST



After lunch we headed into the small downtown area of St. Helena, conveniently located just down the main road from the hotel. Parking was super easy and the shops were so cute. We popped in and out of few places, one of my favorites being Woodhouse Chocolates, a beautiful space with the most decadent chocolate creations. After grabbing a brown butter ganache, a coffee toffee and hazelnut gianguja, I was ready to find a quaint coffee shop to pair with my sweet tooth. Luckily one was just a few doors down, called The Model Bakery.




After a little caffeine boost, and Arthur's pumpkin pie fix, we continued to explore the quiant little downtown area. We passed a nice looking oyster restaurant I wish we had time to try, popped into the local pharmacy and browsed some small boutiques. I happened to stumble into a chic jewelry store because I was so mesmerized by the turquoise chinoiserie wallpaper that I had to peep in and take look. Everything they had was absolutely beautiful, particularly all the colorful gemstones and floral creations. I am not even a huge fan of jewelry but put a chinoiserie painting next to it and I am ready to purchase. 



Another spot that caught my attention along the way was this well curated gift shop called Pennyweight, where I walked into initially for the glamorous chandelier. They have so many lovely trinkets, from cards to watches to stationery to unique and beautiful coffee table books. Given so many products are online now I have much more of an appreciation for the small boutiques and the skill it takes to sell things cohesively. The selection was perfect and I couldn't help but buy a few cards and add more titles to my growing coffee table book list. Which yes, I have running list of coffee table books to purchase based on where in our new home I might want to put them and which are worth the investment or not. I take this list very seriously, as you can see.  



Another place worth mentioning was Olivier, a cute food shop with a focus on their own olive oil and gourmet food goods, baskets and kitchen wears. They had lots of various jams, honeys and baskets, all good things for a nice vineyard picnic. It was a great place for unique gifts and any foodies or people that enjoy cooking, most certainly on my list for next time I make it back to the Napa Valley!  




-MGN

NOVEMBER INSPIRATION


The calm before the storm... It's all about to happen, the holidays that can be oh so wonderful and oh so overwhelming too. I will of course be updating my annual holidazed post regarding my thoughts about not only surviving, but thriving,  during this time of year. But before we get to all of that, I want to take this month as a nice little respite between a crazy end of summer/beginning of fall. Luckily for me, there's not too much happening this month; no travel plans, no birthdays, no major events, which feels like a great opportunity to rest up and settle in after so many weeks of chaos. We are getting closer and closer to the end of our remodel and start of real living in our new home and I couldn't be more eager to have a kitchen to eat my take out in. Perhaps I will have to start cooking now? And of course, Thanksgiving is upon us and I will continue to count my lucky stars that I basically married a chef! Happy November everyone. 

SHOP THE POST


-MGN

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