Sliced Cara Cara Orange with Fennel Vinaigrette, Toasted Pine Nuts, Ricotta Salata and Mint $13
A two-hour weekend lunch is, as far as I’m concerned, one of life’s greatest and most civilized pleasures. You spend so much time wolfing down sandwiches at your desk, the lunch hour having become a relic of workplaces past, that a proper lunch becomes a very special indulgence.
I have only ever lunched at Union Square Cafe, and it’s an occasion I treasure. The sweetly outdated decor and rather bright lighting have not really changed since the spot opened in 1985, and it’s the kind of place you take your parents for a very nice dinner out. It is about as chic and sexy as your great aunt Hilda. That said, there is an element of elegant comfort and a confident maturity. Most importantly, there is extraordinary food served by genuinely wonderful people.
Go for lunch on that rare afternoon you find yourself with a couple of hours to spare at lunchtime. The food is seasonal, much of it coming from the Union Square Greenmarket, but at its core it is rustic Italian.
Braised Savoy Cabbage, Bacon and Apple Risotto with Sage and Robiola Cheese $16 / 26
Coconut Rice Pudding, Roasted Pineapple, Coconut-Macadamia Gremolata $10
Union Square Cafe: visit website here.
Union Square Cafe is a place I sometimes forget about- it’s ubiquitous among foodies and has been for a gazillion years. We all know the food is really great, the service wonderful, the decor sweetly outdated. We all know it’s the first place to book up during restaurant week. I’ve been there 3 or 4 times and have always been pleased, if not surprised, by the excellence of my meal.
Then there are experiences like the one I had at lunch last week. It was a snap pea salad. Snap peas blanched and sliced diagonally (not sure why but the waitress made a point of telling me that), tossed with firm green peas, mint, pecorino, and smoky bits of pancetta. Each bite brought this: a sweet crunch of snap pea, a burst of fresh mint tempered by sharp pecorino, peas so firm you would feel it under a mattress, and just a hint of crisp pancetta. I mean, this salad was one of the most perfect stories of summer I could ever imagine.