Staff with Florian, a participating restaurant; Beth Tuminello from the Fireman’s Hospitality Group, the restaurant’s parent company; James King, general manager; Brando De Oliveira, executive chef and Emil Holzwarth, cook, serving the restaurant’s Sunday meatballs (Photos by Sabina Mollot)
By Sabina Mollot
On Saturday, Taste of Gramercy Neighborhood, the annual food tasting festival and fundraiser, took place under a sunny sky on Irving Place.
This year, 20 restaurants participated and the event’s organizer, the Gramercy Neighborhood Associates, sold 325 tickets. GNA President Alan Krevis said it was the best year so far — this was the third time the event was held — though he declined to share how much money the event raised. Net proceeds will be going to two neighborhood schools, PS 40 and School of the Future.
Meanwhile, the crowd of mostly neighborhood residents sampled dishes like rabbit meatball sliders from Ichabod’s, lobster rolls from Burger & Lobster, house cured Tasmanian sea trout from Barbounia and yellow tomato gazpacho from Adalya.
At the event was Claude and Shelley Winfield, residents of East Midtown Plaza, who said they’re regulars at many Gramercy restaurants, like Ponty Bistro and Casa Mono, and always on the lookout for new ones to try.
“Shelley and I try to support the neighborhood restaurants, otherwise you lose them,” said Claude, also the second vice chair of Community Board 6.
“If you use places in your area, all your streets are lit,” added Shelley. “A lot of people don’t know that.”
At TOGN for the first time was another couple who live in a building on the block where the event was taking place, between 17th and 18th Streets.
After sitting down at one of the streetside tables, both Liz and Mark Mindlin said they were impressed with all the options.
“The food is delicious so far,” said Liz, who added that while they often go to restaurants in the neighborhood, the event was the first time they’d heard of The Stand, a nearby comedy club and restaurant. “The food was very good,” she added.
A few of this year’s participating eateries also said the festival has been helpful in getting the word out about their businesses.
A returning restaurant was Ichabod’s, where Courtney Oakley, the director of events, said the event sometimes attracts foodies visiting from out of town (the W Hotel is nearby) as well as people from other neighborhoods.
She added, “This is something Brooklyn has always done very well, different festivals with great food. It’s wonderful that we’re having more of them in Manhattan.”
Greg Azzollini, one of the owners at the family-run Paul & Jimmy’s, agreed. “Just a few minutes ago I met someone who said he’d been in the neighborhood for 10 years and never tried us and now they’re going to come for dinner,” he added. “Plus it’s a nice way to meet other restaurant owners.”