Cibo Bistro’s New York State of Mind

By Lisa Vaughn

Our lovely driver waiting patiently at the airport.

We left for New York right after our massive Boxing Day family dinner at Cibo Bistro, our restaurant in Edmonton, deciding to forgo NYE at the restaurant this year, and spend it in NYC instead — a dream for both of us.

We made reservations at Mario Batali’s Babbo and Del Posto and left the rest up to serendipity, choosing what appealed to us as we walked by, and what bartenders and servers recommended.

We hoped to pick up some ideas we could bring to Cibo, and our time there did not disappoint, even if I did get sick and spend some of it in bed.

babboWe arrived in New York early on December 27, to be greeted by a lovely driver arranged by My One Fine Stay. We found our one-bedroom apartment on the Upper East Side through them as well. One Fine Stay provided an iPhone loaded with the host’s favourite places, Google maps, everything you’d need to feel like a local.

Our first stop was to a nearby pizzeria for a New York slice, then it was off to Babbo for our 10:30 reso.

The room buzzed with clinking glasses and silverware, chatter, laughter, and alternative rock music (which we found out later was Mario Batali’s iPod banging out his favourite beats). The wine list was a book. We laughed a little when we noticed that the cheapest bottle on the menu was $125, and yes, the food was amazing.

Thank you New York, day one done.

Day 2.

chintwnWe both felt it important to visit Ground Zero. After three hours of crowded lines and airport-style security, we walked into an oasis of calm. It was simply beautiful; a large park filled with trees, benches and people in silence surrounding the memorial — two waterfalls with the victim’s names carved into marble and lit from beneath. It’s surreal to think that such chaos had taken place there, and very moving.

Trying to reserve the tasting menu at Momofuko Ko is like trying to get tickets to a hot concert. So we went to Momofuko Noodle Bar instead, a quaint wine bar down the street, while we waited. The bartender poured a super tasty blend from Tuscany and brought a salumi plate on the house for us to share, even though he knew we were waiting for the call from Momofuko and weren’t staying. New York knows the definition of hospitality.

After Momofuku we thought: ‘we’re far from home and it’s Saturday night,’ time to check out the Lower East Side.

Wandering down East First, a funky wooden sign saying Macondo caught our eye. Once again, there were two open seats at the bar in an otherwise full house. Rosario ordered his usual Negroni and I ordered a mango gin cocktail with an addictive smoked sage salted rim. We enjoyed the vibe of the room so much we asked the bartender to suggest some other hot spots. Multiple drinks and three stops later we ended up at Pulqueria, where the cab driver wouldn’t take us down the spooky Chinatown alley. But the streets were clean, and there were Chinese lanterns everywhere.

We made our way through a small door and down the narrow, dimly lit staircase. Jackpot! An underground Mexican restaurant/weekend nightclub. Lit candles were stuck in all the cracks of the brick walls, the drinks were creative, the music was amazing and it was filled with happy people having fun.

December 29.

Del Posto, the focus of our trip.

What else is there to do on a rainy day in New York? Shop! Rosario’s highlight at Bloomingdales was the umbrella man — dressed in a suit feeding wet umbrellas into the Umbrella Bagging Machine — it keeps the floors dry and allows women to stick their umbrellas in their bags. Genius!

Dinner tonight is at Del Posto. This is what Rosario has been waiting for. The entire trip was planned around eating at this landmark Italian restaurant. Rosario again ordered a Negroni made with Del Posto’s oak-aged gin, and I had a classic Bellini. One of our five servers started us off with tasters, while another brought us sparkling wine. Del Posto offers guests three choices: five-course tasting menu; eight-course tasting menu, or creating a menu of your choice. We went with that while they paired wines to suit.

This wonderful three-and-a-half-hour dinner experience ended with cheese, chocolate, a secret dessert box with a different treat in each drawer, a chocolate art piece and individual mini boxes of fresh-baked shortbread.

Between the amazing food and the unforgettable service, Del Posto was the highlight of our trip in more ways than one. And, although our little bistro doesn’t have that scale of service, we definitely picked up on a few ideas to freshen up the Cibo experience.

Day 3 Experience Eataly.

The organized chaos of Eataly.
The organized chaos of Eataly.

When you first walk in there are people everywhere: standing here, eating; sitting down there, eating; people shopping with glasses of wine. We kept thinking, ‘this is amazing, but where do we start?’ There are nine restaurants, each focusing on a different aspect of the culinary craft. But it took us a while to figure this out. There are cheese, beef, pork, seafood, and vegetable sections; a gelato stand; a pasta deli that makes fresh pasta right in front of you. There is even a vegetable butcher who cleans and trims your veg so you go home with only what you need. Eataly was simply heaven to two restaurateurs. Each restaurant is supplied with fresh food from the stations. I know what we have to do to keep it fresh and local, it takes so much time with so many suppliers. All they need to do is place an order and it’s shipped from a section of the grocery store. Brilliant, just brilliant.

We decided to stay close to home for dinner and checked our host’s iPhone for his favourite spots. We chose a place called Cascabel Taqueria, only four blocks away.

The room was filled with brightly coloured art, Christmas lights and Mexican dance music. We chatted with the friendly owner while waiting for a table, ate amazing fish tacos and wanted to return the next day.

New Years Eve in New York.

Our view of Times Square on New Year’s Eve.
Our view of Times Square on New Year’s Eve.

We lasted an hour at Times Square. We were at 56th, and Times Square starts on 47th. We were behind at least 175,000 people. We fled to a coffee shop to warm up and made our way home. After our toes thawed we walked down the street into the first place that looked like a fun place to ring in the New Year — The Writing Room. I’d like to say we went somewhere fun and crazy but our night was simple; two seats at a table by the window in the lounge. We ate pasta and seafood and had lots of Italian sparkling wine. The countdown came and went and it was 2014. We went back to the Pizza Place to end our trip the way it began: with a slice of margarita. We needed to be up early the next day to make our way home.

Goodnight New York, you were amazing.

”We lucked out this entire trip. Everywhere we went was our own personal movie scene — always two seats and a great server or bartender waiting to serve us; the Negroni were over-sized, strong and tasty,“ says Rosario.

If anyone ever flies out of Jersey? Stop at the Mexican place in the airport. Best. Salsa. Ever!

Cibo Bistro’s Lisa Vaughn eats her pizza with a knife and fork.

Lisa Vaughn photos.