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Dispatch from New York

New York, post-Sandy: In luck if you have a wood-fired oven

November 01, 2012|By Claudine Ko
  • Part of the skyline in Chelsea after Hurricane Sandy. Businesses, including restaurants, scrambled to open despite widespread power outages.
Part of the skyline in Chelsea after Hurricane Sandy. Businesses, including… (Zandy Mangold )

New York City residents began emerging from their apartments on Tuesday to explore Hurricane Sandy’s damage, but soon enough, it was time for lunch. And while uptowners easily got tables at their favorite neighborhood restaurants, for downtowners, because of the widespread power outage (which may not be restored anytime very soon), there was nowhere to eat — well, almost nowhere.

As a river of water flooded the streets just an avenue away on the West Side, Barrio 47 co-owner Alex Volland reopened Tuesday at 11 a.m. with a sign out front advertising “suckling pig.” His closure on Sunday had forced him to cancel the restaurant's “Feast for the Senses,” for which he had purchased a 25-pound pig. And though his power went out on Monday around 8 p.m., his walk-in was still a frosty 30 degrees 20 hours later due to another lucky holdover: a giant cube of dry ice intended to create a spooky bar effect for Barrio 47's Halloween festivities. Add to the mix its wood-fired brick oven and a large supply of candles, and they were ready to go.

“There were so many people in the street hunting for drinks and food, and by 11:30 we were packed,” says Volland, who worked the bar (his first time as a bartender) while his brother helped manage the floor. “We served like 200 to 300 covers” — twice as many as on a typical night (the 55-seat Barrio 47 is usually only open for dinner service). By 9 p.m., they had sold out of everything.

Since then, they’ve remained open by buying food at the local market and serving only three dishes: chicken with truffle mashed potatoes, ribeye and pasta with roasted tomatoes/shaved truffle.

Forcella owner and pizzaiolo Giulio Adriani also relied on his wood-fired ovens to get back in business in the hurricane's aftermath, as a number of local pizzerias did, including Pulino’s on Houston/Bowery, Pizza Roma on Bleecker Street and Motorino in the East Village. Plus, says Adriani, “We serve pizza, and flour doesn’t spoil.”

On Tuesday, he and one of his busboys manned a full-house throughout the day at his outpost in Williamsburg, until they closed around 11 p.m. and sold nearly 250 pies. A few hours later, around 2 a.m., he headed into the city to salvage what he could from the freezers at the Forcella on Bowery, shuttled them back to Williamsburg for storage, and then, once again, made the trek into downtown later that morning around 10:30 a.m. He arrived in the city at 3 p.m. “Usually, it takes five minutes,” Adriani says. “It was something like I’ve never seen in my life, there was so much traffic, it was unbelievable.”

Within an hour of arrival downtown, they were up and running, serving a limited pizza menu.

“I never felt like part of America; I’m Italian,” says Adriani, who moved to the city in 2010. “But this is the first time I felt like a New Yorker, because opening the restaurant like this with candles, you don’t do it for money, because you lose money. I saw these policemen on every corner, making a terrible shift in the cold. We’re going to bring pizza to every policeman on the corner. The policeman are there to help people. You help each other…. It gave me the spirit of being a New Yorker."

And what has Adriani been eating? “Last night, I ate a lot of gelato I saved from the freezer,” he says. “One box is 1 kilo, like 2 pounds, so for sure I ate 1 pound of chocolate ice cream, because I like it when it’s melted.”


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