Catch It: Dr Smood

Like most travelers, I make time for quiet time, such as last Friday; I sat in a comfortable grey chair at Dr Smood (485 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10017) with a Jade Green tea, Avocado Toast, and my book: North Pole by Michael Bravo.

Dr Smood is an organic café with stillness, along with a friendly staff, and tasty food. Whenever I am not meeting friends for lunch, I find an unengaged table and order coffee or tea with pen and paper in hand to write. Its essence is similar to the words by Michael Bravo, “The Pole Star is different from all other stars because it is, relatively speaking, fixed, whereas all other stars appear to rotate around the Pole Star in the course of a night.”

And thus, I set foot into a neighborhood star, Dr Smood for the pleasure of good food, good company, and the mystery of a traveler.

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Catch It: Tramonti Pizza

One of the greatest joys of being a writer is meeting new people who like sharing their stories with my readers. Especially, when I meet an entrepreneur who has a passion for doing what he or she loves, and has made a life and gives what one can like words of inspiration.

Several weeks ago, I interviewed Chef Giovanni Vittorio Tagliafierro of Tramonti Pizza located at 130 Saint Mark’s Place, New York, NY 10009. The restaurant is in a quiet neighborhood in Lower Manhattan with a mixture of trendy streets and sidewalks of charming cafes and bakeries. 

There is a historical and humble presence when one enters Tramonti Pizza with its warm-hearted, welcoming décor and family pictorials on the walls. The restaurant is not only known for its sumptuous food but the atmosphere of home. Chef Giovanni has abundant energy as he moves throughout his establishment with a cheerful and caring way.  

Right before we sat down to talk a regular customer came into the Italian restaurant to pick-up his order. And while he was waiting, I asked the gentleman, “What do you like about Tramonti?”

“It’s delicious. It’s good. It’s our favorite place in the neighborhood for my wife and me. We come at least twice a week.”

“Oh great,” I said. “I am here to interview Chef Giovanni.”

“Use my name.” He said, “I am Matt, and we love Tramonti.”

Chef Giovanni laughed, and so our interview began with light music in the background, a wood-burning oven, and his best mate Luca, at the front desk while customers flowed in between.


Tramonti is a valley between the mountains along the Amalfi coast, and “Tra” in Italian means, “in between,” “monti” in Italian means, “mountains.” Growing up in Tramonti, my family had three to five wood fire ovens because they were making everything there, not only just the bread. It was the cooking; the heat of the house, the stove is like the fireplace. So the real business was in Southern Italy, my family had the Pizzeria in Tramonti from about 1885 over 100 years ago. My great-great-grandfather Vittorio opened a small cantina. Cantina is the location where you sell the wine. He had a sub wood fire and made pizzas for the customers. Tramonti is known as the land of the pizza maker. Of the 4,000 residents that live in Tramonti, there are over 2000 pizzeria restaurants spread out all across Northern Italy and in a couple of cities in Europe. We opened our family pizzeria in October 1964. My mother is the boss with my two brothers, and the restaurant seats more than 200 people.


Last summer in July was the 50th anniversary of my first pizza. It was July 22, 1968. I was in the kitchen, and my grandfather Giovanni who had been in WWI, asked me, ‘can you make pizza for nonno?’ Grandfather in Italian is nonno, and I said, ‘no, I can’t, I don’t know how to make pizza.’ He said, ‘you are six years old…come on. How you don’t know to make pizza yet?’ ‘I said, ‘no not my fault nonno,’ So my grandfather took my hand and said ‘today, you gonna learn from me and you going to make pizza for nonno.’ I was six years and two months when I made my first pizza. My nonno said it was the best pizza he ever had in his life. But I’m not sure. (We both laugh).


I didn’t know about East Village. I found this by chance because the place was available and it already had a wood fire oven. I had seen many people walking here, young people, it was not expensive for me, and I say ‘Why not opened an Embassy of Tramonti’. In New York, we are the Embassy of Tramonti. Many people come here from Tramonti. A couple of days ago, I had a family from Asbury Park, New Jersey, that is considered the little Tramonti in America; they saw this place on the internet, and they decided to come. They asked me to help them do some research to find their relatives in Tramonti and using Facebook, we found their family.


What we try to do here is not only to bring the Amalfi style of food but the Tramonti food, because it is all about the food. No town in the Amalfi Coast can compare with Tramonti. Tramonti is the town of the food, the village of the pizza. Everything started there. The products come from Tramonti. Tramonti is the culinary capital of the Amalfi Coast.


The food is more passion than business—much more because if you see my products, I import them straight from Tramonti, and they are much more expensive. If it were only business, it would be different. I am going to find products here, that is cheap. I try to import products from Tramonti like the mozzarella and the sauce. I need the quality, and without that, I can call it anything. That’s why I say we are an Embassy; I am always in contact with Tramonti.


You need patience and passion, because if they think: I am going to be a chef, and make lots of money, eat very well, cook for myself, family and customers, but if you don’t have the passion for the food, it can be just a job, and you will be like any other chef. Passion is love. Passion is when you see your customer, and you see how happy they are on their faces; how happy they are after they have tried your dishes. That makes me entirely happy—absolutely, delighted.


It’s popular because nobody does it. In New York, people are looking for something new. It is something entirely new. In the mind of people, a dessert with eggplant is unusual. I always tell people when they ask for the most traditional dessert, I say to them, we have one.  It’s not easy. It’s a long process. We are talking about three or four centuries of the recipe for our Chocolate Eggplant.


Thank you. My idea was to cook and serve the people. Talk to the people. We like people to enjoy our restaurant, and we smile at their joy.


My pizza was sublime, and my dessert was delicious, and all the while we talked, as customers entered, they seemed comfortable and happy. Tramonti Pizza is merely a family affair.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Posted in Historical Sites, Italian Cuisine, Lower Manhattan, Mediterranean, Pizza Destination, Restaurants, Valentine's Day | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Catch It: Gramercy Tavern

The simplicity of friendship is a Christmas Story because during the holiday season what better time to make time for a friend you have not seen in a long time.

A week ago Thursday, my dearest friend Curtis and I met at Gramercy Tavern at 42 East 20th Street, New York, NY 10003. From longer days of being a student at Georgia State University and him at Morehouse College, we became great friends in Atlanta, Georgia.

The Flatiron District restaurant was bustling with customers, the hostess mentioned she could add our names to the waiting list, or we could sit at the bar. At the bar, they had a waiting list. We included our names, and stood by the window, catching up on the news of our families and holiday plans.

Gramercy Tavern reminded me of why I love living in New York City, with the vibe of cosmopolitan flair, like Fred Astaire entering and wearing a custom-made black tuxedo; Fedora hat by Flamekeepers; and dancing to the Bradford Marsalis Quartet. The restaurant is a mixture of casual sleek, spicy delicious, in the shape of an abstract painting.

Before long, we had seats among others neck-to-neck, at the mahogany bar. After which, on my right, were three friends celebrating. Then one of the fashionable ladies said, “My fiancé just broke off our engagement,” and a short silence. Quickly, chatter started up again.

On Curtis’ left, a courteous gentleman was standing with his new girlfriend. We all introduced ourselves, and then he orders his friend’s cocktail, and said, “Make mine a martini with gin and three olives.”

In between trading stories back and forth, the bartenders demonstrated their enchanting manners by presiding over a full house, of the fantastical aura of the holiday cheer. Such is the best gift of all—sharing, making time for family and friends and welcoming a new friendship.

Season’s Greetings!


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Catch It: Proof Coffee Roasters

In a mood for coffee instead of cooking, yesterday, I entered Proof Coffee Roasters in the West Harlem neighborhood at 2286 7th Avenue, New York, NY 10030.

Right away, one immediately senses the warm and cozy atmosphere of bright lights, modern-styled design; along with a view of large windows overlooking gardens from nineteenth-century brownstones.

I ordered the Columbia-Rain Forest Alliance, and while I waited for my coffee, I spoke with the two Baristas, Rachel and Sheryl. They were a great team, welcoming in new customers, serving regulars, and showing such care in their craft.

I took my coffee to go; I strolled along the way, smelled my flavorful Columbia-Rain Forest, and stopped for a moment. It was delicious.

And then, I started walking again, thinking about preparing my southern-styled turnips for the Thanksgiving Holiday.

Catch it if you can at


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Catch It: Lafayette Street

I admit my greatest joy is working on a new manuscript. I treasure every step of creating characters, finding their voice, and bringing life to the page. For me, after I have done my work for the day, I walk and become inspired all over again.

Yesterday, the weather was sunny and bright with the crisp wind guiding me to Lafayette Street in Lower Manhattan. My traveling feet entered in some different doors of the brisk breeze from the Mediterranean, Scandinavian, Vietnamese and vegan cuisines in the SoHo neighborhood. The restaurants are casually sleek with much warm-hearted staff, amidst the cheerful faces and passersby.

My five gems are:

Jack’s Wife Freda


224 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012

Osteria Morini


218 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012

Café Select


212 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012



222 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012

by Chloe


240 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012


Catch it if you can in Lower Manhattan.


Posted in American Comfort Food, Contemporary American Cuisine, Italian Cuisine, Lower Manhattan, Scandinavian, SoHo, Vegan | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Catch It: Inside Park at St. Barts

On Wednesday last, several friends and I met for dinner at Inside Park at St. Barts, located at 325 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10022. It is a popular place, especially on Wednesdays and Thursdays where people go to meet and mingle after work.

My friends Jill, Veronica and I sat in the terrace space. In the background a DJ played music; the servers swerved in between the patio area and the urbane crowd at the bar. Straightaway, Jill ordered the Chips and Dips (house-made chips, smoked onion dip) for us to share, and we each selected a glass of Rosé wine. I glanced at the dinner menu.

Moments later, a familiar eye strolled to our table. He is an acquaintance who works at Colgate-Palmolive Company. I thought, “What an unexpected surprise. He smiled and introduced himself to my friends.

And then there were four for dinner.

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Catch It: Hungarian Pastry Shop

On Sundays after church service at The Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine, I usually saunter to the Hungarian Pastry Shop at 1030 Amsterdam Avenue, New York, NY 10025.

The Hungarian Pastry Shop is a little gem of the Morningside Heights community. And every morning, and every eveningone can receive a bit of happiness like the delightful smile on a child’s face.

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Catch It: Magnolia Bakery

For me, the joy of watching my Mom bake a pie, a cake, or cornbread was the best things in life. The aroma of sweetness flowed throughout our house in Georgia. I am reminded of those days whenever I come across Magnolia Bakery.

Last week, I sauntered into Magnolia Bakery located in Rockefeller Center at 1240 6th Avenue, New York, NY 10020. I stood in line to buy a slice of German Chocolate Cake with Coconut Caramel Pecan Icing.

I enjoyed my cake while I trekked uptown, and at the same time, I spoke to my Mom on the telephone. She laughed. I smiled…just like we always do.

Happy Mother’s Day.

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Posted in Brownies, Cakes & Cupcakes, Midtown, Mother's Day, Southern Baked Goods, Wedding Cakes | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Catch It: Alice’s Tea Cup

From time to time after my walks in Central Park, I treat myself to a yummy oatmeal cookie at Alice’s Tea Cup (102 West 73rd St., New York, NY 10023). It is like being in your own secret garden in The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

Alice’s Tea Cup is a pretty little place with teas, sandwiches, and scones. It is a mixture of families from the neighborhood; tourists’ stopping by in between shopping on Columbus Avenue, and passersby discovering something new.

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Catch It: Chopped Parsley

Chasing the night wind after an event in Harlem, my friend Kelli and I wandered into Chopped Parsley at 500 West 146th Street, New York, NY 10031. The restaurant’s motto is “Japanese Food & Beyond.” The food was exceptional; the ambiance was a mixture of the 1960s openness and today’s urbane place to be. The family-owned restaurant is small and charming with a bountiful reservoir of smiles.

We sat at the communal table drinking a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon, as we conversed with a couple who had purchased their home in the neighborhood in the 1950s. He was Irish American, she was Asian American, and they both were professors in Manhattan. In the background was a soundtrack of Jazz; and while we all ate our scrumptious meal, our delightful waiter would stop by to make sure all was well.

It was an enchanting evening.

Chopped Parsley has a homey sense of preparing good food, relaxing with special friends in a Japanese room in the heart of Harlem.

Catch it if you can on Facebook: ChoppedParsley146.

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