Sunday, January 31, 2010

☞ EAT: Authentic Italian Arrives with Frizzante

When we talk about authentic Italian, we don't mean the red sauce tourist traps you find throughout the city. After traveling to Italy a half dozen times for an earlier career, this blogger learned that all the red sauced places were more popular in the southern regions and are not really consider the pinnacle of Italian cuisine. Florence was known for its steaks, Milan had their special risotto accented with saffron and the southern city of Rome had a ground beef stuffed cannelloni with bolognese sauce that they were known for.

All that said, we were happy to find that Frizzante Italian Bistro that recently opened in South Harlem did not fall into the typical Italian American menu. The first tell tale sign upon entering the eatery is that folks are greeted with "buona sera." One typically hears this saying for "good evening" when arriving at any restaurant in Italy. It turns out Harlem has a restaurant run by European Italians which is really a very dramatic change from the usual. Food wise, the menu is separated into appetizers, pastas and entrees which are all considered distinct part of a complete meal in the old country.

Being the Americans that we were, we just had an entree for we were on the go for the evening. The rustic lamb shank with white beans was something not typical in this part of town and had fresh, seasonal flavors. There were a couple of red sauce options and we sampled the chicken parmigiana which was decent but much lighter than what most Americans would expect from the dish. Frizzante was still BYOB when we dropped by since they are still waiting for their liquor license and the dessert menu wasn't really up to par. They had a couple of cake offerings that we opted not to go for. Dessert-wise, this was also a similar experience while traveling in Italy. To check out Frizzante at 2168 FDB/8th Avenue, take the B,C to 116th Street to get this corner of South Harlem. Tel. (212) 866-0525. Photos by Ulysses

Saturday, January 30, 2010

☞ DWELL: 200 Edgecombe Cottage House

OPEN HOUSE: Sunday, January 31st by appointment only. The small cottage house (yellow house to the far left) on 200 Edgecombe Avenue, between West 144th and 143rd Street is a 22 foot wide potential charmer for the right buyer. The well under a million price tag is great for deal seekers but usually comes with issues to consider. The asking price of $699K is one of the lowest in the market but the actual lot might be smaller than most i.e. smaller back yard. The three family townhouse come with architectural plans because the new owners will need them to finish up the job.

Looking into the property, it seems that the owner had started a gut renovation and ran out of money. Bare joist hold up the floors and exposed ceilings with electrical and plumbing yet to be installed. The property is currently laid out as 3,700 square feet of living space with five bedrooms three full baths spread out on three floors. Another huge distraction is that the back yard faces a larger completely abandoned six story apartment building which might provide too many variables for future home buyers to be comfortable with. This property is only two blocks away from the A,B,C,D express train at 145th Street. Contact Andrew Shell tel.917.662.2666. Photo by Ulysses.

Friday, January 29, 2010

☞ SEE: Inside the St. Nicholas Townhouses

We covered the historic St. Nicholas Avenue blocks at 147th Street in the past but always wondered what they looked like inside. This weekends NY Times has a slide show on a family renting out one of them for $3,500 a month and raising their three kids in Sugar Hills. With smaller apartments going for much more on the Upper West Side and a ill father's wish for the family not to move to Brooklyn, Harlem was the natural choice. See more in the NY Times: LINK. The closest subways to this block are the A,B,C,D trains at 145th Street. Interior photos courtesy of Chester Higgins Jr. House photo by Ulysses.

☞ WALK: J.D. Salinger's Childhood Home

On the southwest corner of Broadway and 153rd Street sits a castle like apartment complex that has the distinction of being the home of writer Jerome David Salinger for the first nine years of his life. Overlooking historic Trinity Cemetery, this prewar building at 3681 Broadway would have been considered one of the new luxury elevator complexes of its time. The terracotta battlements at the top and all the cast iron details have still held up through the years at Halidon Court and it's probable that the interior is pretty intact. There is no indication of the famous writer's connection to the building on the facade but maybe that will change soon now that he has passed away. The nearest subway to this location is the 1 train at 157th Street. See our past post on J.D. Salinger: LINK. All photos by Ulysses

☞ REMEMBER: J.D. Salinger of Harlem

Acclaimed writer J.D. Salinger passed away this week and many of the papers have been writing about his relationship to New York City but most of them only give a nod to his original childhood nabe: Harlem. We mentioned J.D. Salinger's works a couple of times last year since many did not know that one of America's most famous writers was born in Harlem. The year was 1919 and the Salinger family lived right across from Trinity Cemetery in West Harlem. The young family would represent what was then a majority ethnic white Harlem which was mainly Jewish and Irish in some parts. Until about 1928, the Salingers would move (this year would correspond with when the great migration of African-Americans would start to shift Harlem's demographics) down to the Upper West Side and this area would then be the focus of much of his writing. More recently, the famous Glass family from his novels showed up in the film called the Royal Tanenbaums which coincidentally was filmed in Harlem. Read more about it in our past post: LINK.

☞ SEE: 759: Boy Scouts of Harlem

February 8th, showing 7:00 PM at the Maysles Cinema. Harlem documentarian Jake Boritt's 2009 film 759: Boys Scouts of Harlem will debut at the Maysles Cinema as part of the Boys Scouts 100th Anniversary. Arrive early for this will be a popular event with local politicians expected to attend. Check out the schedule at the Maysles Cinema website: LINK. Admission $12.00 with limited seating. The Maysles Cinema is at 343 Malcolm X Blvd/Lenox Avenue between 127th and 128th Streets. Tel. 212-582-6050. Nearest subway is the 2,3 train at 125th Street.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

☞ LISTEN: Michael Hawkins at Billie's Black

Tonight, Friday, January 29th, performing 8:00 PM at Billie's Black. Check out the R&B sounds of Michael Hawkins at one of South Harlem's first new soul food eateries. Billie's Black is located 271 West 119th Street between Frederick Douglass Boulevard/8th Avenue and St. Nicholas Avenue. Tickets $10 at door. Tel. 212-280-2248. The closest subways are the B,C at 116th Street and the A,B,C,D at 125th Street. Website:

☞ INTRODUCING: The Triangle Cafe

The building at 2230 FDB/8th Avenue has alway been one of our favorites in South Harlem but what amounted to great commercial space seemed to alway be vacant. Not any longer. A tarp went up recently announcing the arrival of the Triangle Cafe which was very auspicious seeing that the windows seemed to have been papered over for some time now. The work permit on the door had a start date of October 2009 and an end date of late March 2010 (with an estimate $80,000 worth of renovations). This little triangular building between 120th and 121st street is one of the miniature Flatiron buildings that run along the diagonal course of St. Nicholas Avenue and is really one of the more unique South Harlem structures in scale and proportion. So with all that said, a great new eatery should be in the nabe around March or early April. The closest trains to this location is the A,B,C,D at 125th Street or the B,C at 116th. Photos by Ulysses

☞ REMEMBER: 303 East 127th Street Circa 1931

After hearing about the Harlem African Burial grounds on First Avenue at 127th Street, we wanted to really see what the area looked like before the government took over the space. Our research came up with a property that was listed at 303 East 127th Street that stood on the plot up to the early 1940's. The vine covered wood frame house was probably one of the oldest in East Harlem and must have dated back to the mid 1800's at about the time of the Civil War. This plot of land was the eastern most fringe of Harlem and would have had unobstructed river views back in the 19th Century. The elevated 2nd Avenue El train can be seen to the right of the house which no longer exist today.

The property was probably abandoned or sold by the mid 20th century and the city transformed the entire area into the 126th Street Bus Depot which takes up an entire two blocks (lower photo). Today, the area behind the house is basically unrecognizable with exit ramps to the Willis Avenue Bridge covering most of the terrain. This week, politicians gathered at the oldest Church in Harlem to discuss how the city could possibly handle any excavation when they upgrade and develop infrastructure of the land in the future. Read more about it in our past post: LINK. The closest train to this area is the 4,5,6 at 125th Street Archival photos courtesy NYPL. Current photo by Ulysses

☞ EAT: Yatenga Definitely Open for Business

A reader mentioned that Yatenga didn't seem like they were officially open this weekend but we saw that dinner was being served last night. Lunch service apparently is not available at this point. Yatenga French Bistro is on 2269 Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard (7th Avenue), just below 134th Street. Tel.212.690.0699. The nearest trains are the B or the 2,3 express at 135th Street. See our past post on Yatenga: LINK. Photo by Ulysses.

☞ SHOP: New Look at 254 West 125th Street

There are a handful of nondescript, single level storefront's on 125th Street that have been abandoned and we noticed some signs of activity recently. Located between FDB/8th Avenue and ACP 7th Avenue, number 254 West 125th Street had been closed for some times and it now seems like some major work has started for the small retail space. In the middle of the a complete gut job, the most interesting thing that was revealed are the original cast iron columns revealed underneath.

Somewhere in the 1980's or 1990's, many of these stores modernized themselves in the stucco or granite tile aesthetics that look terribly outdated these days. Hopefully the new owners will recognize restoring the original detail of the facade will only add more character to the future space. Downtown stores on Broadway and in Soho all have this restored storefront look and 125th Street can have the same appeal if the owners would rip out all that other stuff that was added on recently. We noticed on the DOB website that approximately $30,000 will be invested in the small space to get it up and going. The nearest train to this location is the A,B,C,D on at 125th Street. Photos by Ulysses

☞ SEE: Home Grown Hip-Hop at MCNY

FREE! Tuesday, February 2nd, starting 6:00 PM at the Museum of the City of New York. From Jazz to Salsa to Hip Hop, Latinos have played a key role in shaping and developing the musical sounds of New York City. Join three pioneers of the Latino Hip Hop movement—Joe Conzo, photographer and author of Born in the Bronx: A Visual Record of the Early Days of Hip Hop (Universe, 2007); Jorge "Popmaster Fabel" Pabon; and DJ Disco Wiz, author of It's Just Begun: The Epic Journey of DJ Disco Wiz, Hip Hop's First Latino DJ (Miss Rosen Editions, 2009)—for a discussion about the roots and challenges of urban Latino Hip Hop and a slide presentation of Joe Conzo's work chronicling the early days of Hip Hop in New York City. Reservations required. To RSVP, call 917.492.3395 or e-mail Additional free performances include "Bachata with 'El Senor Bolero'" (2/19), "Monk's Move" (2/22), "Gino Sitson & Friends" (3/2), and "Annette A. Aguilar & String Beans" (3/23). See the full schedule at the MCNY website: LINK. The Museum of the City of New York is at 1220 Fifth Avenue, between 103rd and 104th Street. The nearest subway are the 6 train at 103rd Street or 2,3 at 110th Street.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

☞ LISTEN: Les and the Cosmolingo at Shrine

Tonight, January 27th, performing 10:00 PM at Shrine. Les and the Cosmolingo are the act to see at Shrine this week. Check out the nu-jazz soul sounds this evening if you don't have plans. Shrine is at 2271 Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard (7th Avenue), between 133rd and 134th Street. Tel.(212) 690-7807. Take the 2,3 train to 135th

☞ DWELL: 17 East 128th Street Reduced

The Civil War era clapboard house lover's dream abode on 17 West 128th Street just got a step closer to being affordable for the right buyer. Back in July, we reported that the porched charmer just a half block east of 5th Avenue was on the market for $2.35 million, which seemed pretty high for the location and the market last year. So what are they asking now? After a $555k price chop, the property is up for $1.795 million as of last month. The single family house is a major 26-foot wide and has nine bedrooms and four baths. The side street is pretty quiet on this section of central Harlem that feels more like an extension of the Mount Morris Park Historic District. Check additional and archival photos in our original post: LINK.

☞ SEE: Romare Bearden at the Metropolitan

The collage artist Romare Bearden's family in 1913 moved to New York's African-American mecca when he was three, and he would grow up to be one of Harlem's most important modern artist. The Metropolitan Museum of Art currently has a show honoring his most important work called The Block (1971), which shows daily life in Harlem at the corner of 132nd and Lenox Avenue. This 18 foot-long collage shows adversity along with the bond of community, which is a constant theme in his works and, interestingly enough, was inspired by the view from a friend's apartment at Hamilton Terrace. The show will run into spring at the Met, so stop by before it's over. Also, the block still exists today (lower photo) and can be reached by taking the 2,3 express train to 135th Street. There's also a great interactive site about the show that the museum has set up: LINK.

☞ EAT: Settepani Temporarily Closed

Settepani, the game-changing Mount Morris Park Historic District cafe, has closed its doors, but don't panic. Hidden away in the shuttered storefront, there's a sign announcing renovations and some spring cleaning that will go on through the rest of January. The cafe is also updating itself to a wine bar and will be serving lunch and dinner in the future! Sounds like a good plan. In the meantime, just head over to Il Caffe Latte across the street for your coffee fix, if the place is still closed and you are in the neighborhood. Settepani is at 196 Lenox Avenue at 120th Street. Tel.(917) 492-4806. The nearest subways are the 2,3 express trains at 116th and 125th Street. Photo by Ulysses.

☞ REVIVE: The Corn Exchange Building Revealed

The landmark Corn Exchange Building on the corner of East 125th Street and Park Avenue has finally shed its post-demolition scaffolding. Even though the building was protected by landmark laws, the Department of Buildings deemed that it was unstable and declared a state of emergency demolition back in October of last year. Even though some experts who had examined the building earlier in the year believed the building was structurally sound, the DOB took over and dismantled the site. Walking by yesterday, the veil that covered the two story base was finally gone and we got a close up look at the architectural details that remain.

When we started covering the story of the former Mount Morris Bank building, the scaffolding had already been up for some times and not many close up photos of the building were available. The base now reveals many unique details that shows the richness of the the original architecture. There is a mix of stone and masonry that includes cut brownstone, red terracotta oraments, granite columns and vaulted brick work. The second to last photo shows the arched entranceway and the remnants of lettering that spell Corn Exchange Bank can be seen. The gaps at the remaining cornice section as seen in the third and fourth photos are where the grand cast iron oriels used to be (see top photo). It's still unclear what the DOB did with these one-of-a-kind architectural elements, but one would hope that they would be stored for future reference. From the last picture, one can see that the walls are about three feet thick, so there's definitely no instability left.

We mentioned in the past that the Octagon Building on Roosevelt Island was rebuilt with much less remaining, so let's hope the right developers come in to restore the beloved East Harlem landmark in the future. Read more about the long history and efforts to save the Corn Exchange Building in our past post: LINK.  Archival photo courtesy NYPL

☞ EAT: La Fonda Replaces Jimmy's Classic Diner

It looks like the fire that closed East Harlem's Jimmy's Classic Diner last year finally did it in for the favorite new neighborhood establishment. This week, signs went up on the exterior touting Mexican Restaurant La Fonda on the stainless steel exterior of the corner store at East 103rd Street. The big question for the new space is: will it do well in a part of town that already has an ample amount of cheap Mexican eats? The white tile and stainless steel interior seems intact currently, so maybe they will be trying a modern spin on an ethnic favorite. Stay tuned. La Fonda is at 1634 Lexington Avenue and the closest subway is the 6 train at 103rd Street. Photos by Ulysses

☞ MEET: Jamal Joseph At Mount Morris Speaks!

It all started back in the '80s -- when Jamal Joseph was an inmate at the federal penitentiary in Leavenworth, KS. There, imprisoned for harboring a fugitive in a fatal armored car robbery, he earned two college degrees, wrote five plays and two volumes of poetry, and founded a theater company that brought together prisoners who'd previously been divided by race, culture and beliefs.

After prison he turned to teaching. And that was just part of it. The IMPACT Repertory Theatre, which he co-founded in 1997, has trained and mentored more than 1,000 youths. In 2008 a song he helped write called "Raise It Up" was nominated for an Oscar, and about 25 IMPACT theater members performed it at the Academy Awards ceremony.

On Thursday, February 4, from 6:30-8:00 PM, MMPCIA welcomes filmmaker and chair of Columbia University's Graduate Film Program, Jamal Joseph as its speaker for Mount Morris Talks! Don't miss this front row chance to meet and talk with Joseph and hear his compelling perspective on using the arts to grow and turn his life around -- while helping young people do the same. Mount Morris Talks! will be at the Harlem Branch Library, Community Room, 3rd floor, 9 West 124 Street, between/Fifth and Mount Morris Park West. The closest subway are the 2,3 trains at 125th Street. Go to the Mount Morris Park Community Improvement Association site for more information: LINK. Photo courtesy of Earl Wilson.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

☞ DWELL: 11 West 119th Street Brownstone

The red brick townhouse on 11 West 119th Street (far left in photo) between Lenox and 5th Avenue might be priced right for the deal seekers out there but there are a few things that are not ideal. At $450K, the house has been on the market a little under a year and had its priced chopped by $125K in the past six months. It's unclear if the building is a total shell or if the inside is intact since the windows have been covered in plywood. Based on the asking price, we assume it will need $300K or more to get it up and going again. Width wise, the townhouse is probably only 15 foot wide so it's really on the narrow side. The other thing is that there are a couple of open lots right next to the building on the left side and that variable is not always comforting to home buyers. The Mount Morris Historic District ends right before the open lots so what ends up on them could go in any direction. The closest train to this area is the 2,3 express train at 116th or 125th Street. Photo by Ulysses

☞ SEE: Chashama Manhattanville Studios

The manufacturing section of Manhttanville that is east of Broadway on 126th Street still has a few shuttered buildings but all are not dormant. On 461 West 126th Street, under some major scaffolding, one will find a colorfully hand painted facade with the letters spelling out Chashama. After some research, we discovered that this orginization works with landlords that have spaces not in use and converts them into studios and artist galleries. The mission started by its founder in 1995 was to set up an orginization that would help artist stay and thrive in the city and keep studio space and galleries affordable. Chashama has 11 locations across New York City and this is their Harlem branch in an old factory between Amsterdam and Convent Avenue. The nearest subways are the 1 or A,B,C,D train at 125th Street. To learn more about Chashama, go to their site: LINK

☞ SHOP: A Preview of Best Yet Market

The grocery advertisements on the windows of the soon to arrive Best Yet Market in South Harlem didn't really provide any clue to what the actual aesthetics of the supermarket will be like. Construction has been going on at a breakneck pace and we were able to take a couple of photos of the interior at night. Although not as well known as Whole Foods, the Best Yet in Harlem seems to be really designing the space to make a presence when they debut in Manhattan sometimes in the next few months. There's a pretty good amount of decent tile work up on the walls and the place has vibrant color. Balanced with the industrial look of the exposed pipes and the stainless steel, the space is decidedly contemporary but with a nod to classic materials and palette. The Best Yet market is located at 2195 Frederick Douglas Boulevard/8th Avenue, between 118th and 119th Street. Closest subways are the B,C at 116th Street. Read more about Best Yet in our previous post: LINK. Photos by Ulysses

☞ LISTEN: Geri Allen at Gospel Uptown

The Winterfest Jazzmobile series at Gospel Uptown continues with renowned musician Geri Allen performing this week. The Winterfest events are every Thursday night at the Harlem live-music dinner club located in the historic Alhambra Theatre building. Cover is $17.00 for each event with a table minimum. Gospel Uptown is at 2110 Adam Clayton Powell/7th Avenue, between 125th and 126th Street. Tel. (212) 865-1841. The nearest subway is the 2,3 or A,B,C,D stations at 125th Street. See the Gospel Uptown site:

☞ PROTECT: The Harlem African Burial Grounds

Tuesday, January 26th, 6:30 PM at the Elmendorf Reformed Church. The Elmendorf Reformed Church (ERC) Harlem African Burial Ground Task Force will host an informational Town Hall Meeting about the site of New York's second oldest burial ground for Africans in pre-revolutionary America. The "First Church of Haarlem," built its first house of worship at what is now the corner of First Avenue and 127th Street in 1665, and dedicated about a quarter-acre of the property for use as the "Negro Burying Ground," according to the church web site. Today the burial site is mostly covered by the NYCTA 126th Street Bus Depot, and possibly parts of 126th and 127th Streets just west of 1st Avenue.

Community members want to raise awareness and make sure that the government is conscientiously regarding the site since it is in the process of a major infrastructure overhaul. Politicians that will be in attendance include U.S. Representative Charles B. Rangel, State Senators Bill Perkins and Jose M. Serrano, City Comptroller John Liu, and Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer. The third incarnation of the Elmendorf Reformed Church is at 171 East 121st Street, between Lexington and Third Avenues. The nearest subway is the 4,5,6 train is at 125th Street or 5 train at 116th Street.

☞ EAT: El Paso Taqueria

The larger of two eateries, El Paso Taqueria on Lexington Avenue, between 103rd and 104th Street might be the best mexican restaurant in town. Even the most particular critics from the west coast have confessed the food holds up. Some folks think the service is hit or miss but most would agree the place is worth coming back to. When the weather is warmer, the back yard seating is also a plus. El Paso Taqueria is on 1642 Lexington Avenue. Tel. (212) 831-9831. The closest subway is the 6 train at 103 Street which is only a block away. Read about the other restaurant in our other post: LINK. Photo by Ulysses.