This week, I had the pleasure of spending 22 hours in New York City, 11 of which were dedicated to work, 8 to sleep, and 1 to my morning get-ready rituals, leaving 2 measily hours for exploration. Luckily, those work hours included a great dinner at ViceVersa, an Italian restaurant on West 51st. ViceVersa’s menu is fairly mellow, but with hopes of eating something I could only find in New York, I ordered the Casoncelli, a pillowy pasta stuffed with crumbled veal, raisins, and crushed amaretto cookies, of all things, topped with butter and fantastically salty slivers of pancetta. Let’s not forget the wine and the delicious garlic and herb house bread.
Even though time was scant, there were three key New York moments during my trip that made me smile like only an out-of-towner can.
#1: Pancetta is not bacon.
Big cities make me feel inferior. My clothes aren’t stylish enough, I have no interest in art, and I’m no fine dinning aficionado. All of that sparkling, steadfast, Ohio-bred confidence that flickers on occasion in Charlotte completely fizzled once I stepped foot in New York. Instantly, I felt like I didn’t know nothin’ bout nothin’.
That evening, as our waiter rambled through the Italian offerings on the menu, translating this word and that, I heard him swiftly and unapologetically say “pancetta is bacon.”
Both of these meats are very dear to me, but are entirely distinct. Bacon has an indisguisable smokiness that is missing from pancetta, an absence that allows your mouth to focus and revel in the excessive saltiness of the Italian meat. Both bacon and pancetta taste great with eggs, on sandwiches, and crumbled in mac and cheese, but the flavor of each meat is entirely unique.
Sorry guy, but pancetta is not bacon, I thought, head cocked to the side, followed instantly by “that’s right, I know something!”
Cue the smile.
#2: Everything bagels make everything better.
A trip to NYC would be for naught without a giant slice of pizza or a giant NY bagel. I found the later early in the morning at Bagel & Bean: one jumbo everything bagel loaded with egg and cheddar cheese made the whole trip worthwhile.
I left smiling even though the coffee was complete crap. Maybe they should amend the name to Bagel & Avoid the Beans?
#3: Is this a door?!
Due to the aforementioned cup o’ crap, I stopped in at Starbucks on my way to Central Park. As I waited for my Christmas Roast Misto, I was awed by the people in line chatting business and the flurry of activity inside the shop. There was so much happening–in the line, behind the counter, at the tables, by the cream–that my mind wildly attempted to multiply the energy of this solo Starbucks by the thousands of coffee shops across the city. It was too much to comprehend.
Coffee cup in hand, I pushed on the glass door to exit but it didn’t budge. Thinking the hinge was backwards, I pushed hard on the left side of the door. No budge. I paused, confused and discombobulated, and at that moment all the confidence I’d gained from the prior night’s pancetta incident vanished, leaving me feeling like an awkward door-opening amateur.
I glanced over my shoulder and saw a man looking directly at me (but of course), so I mouthed “is this a door?!?” as I pointed at the glass, shoulders shrugged. He pointed at the right side of door, and motioned for me to push hard. I obediently followed his mimed instructions, and the door jerked open, causing me to stumble back onto the street, a giant out-of-towner smile spreading across my face. Apparently, New Yorkers aren’t as mean as they seem. I wish I could tell him thanks.