Saturday, November 03, 2007

NYC - A Limited Tour (Part 2)

Heading south and then east from the Cloisters, we stopped over at Columbia University. Jasna wanted to see a real, as she spoke it, "Campooos" (rhymes with "moose"). Her studies had been in the Land of Croats, where university connoted a glom of non-descriptive buildings and inadequate, if any, landscaping. Not having been on Columbia's "campooos" in a long time, I was a bit nervous that disappointment would greet us at the gates (Nice sets of photos from this site of Columbia U. and NYC). It was all she had asked for. Urban setting, beautiful grounds, imposing buildings, vast array of nationalities and intensities walking around with purpose, and all this despite the hard rain that opened up on us. We passed by the Popin Physics Laboratory, unaware on that day of its past importance. I wonder now if Mr. Ahmadinejad was given a tour of that particular building when he was on campus a short while ago; funny enough to cry.
The showers let up as we drove further south and east on the island to the United Nations building. Do you want to get depressed about the state of the world today? Easy enough. Simply go to 1st Avenue between 42nd and 48th streets. You'll see a building of world importance in a state of misery. Allegedly, massive renovations are in store. Shortly. But right now? Well, maybe it was the gray day, but in this visitor's opinion, the entire UN "Campoos" reminded me of old Stalinist architecture/landscaping. It wasn't like this 20-30 years ago. There was an energy to the place, a positive vibe that made world problem solving a possibility (Yeah, yeah, let's all break out in "Kumbaya"). Now though, police and construction yellow tape all around. Trees in need of pruning, grass in need of cutting (and color), safety and security entrance facilities in need of a new non-Stalag look, and cleaning crews on the inside in need of hiring. There's a feel of walking in the huge foyer as if one is in a dying Howard Johnson's, the colors and the verve leaching through the leaky window panes.

After the driving, the walking, the viewing we ended up eating at this fine place, close to the UN. No preplanning on our parts; simply noting the Zagat sticker and perusing the menu posted outside. Our first choice, Saju, unfortunately did not open until past 6:00 PM and we were too famished to wait another 2 hours.

Fabio, as in the Fabio of Fabio Piccolo Fiore, is the chef and owner (partial owner as it turns out). An appealing gentleman of Sicilian descent who came to the States from Rome 15 years ago to make his mark, he stands a solid 6 ft. of smile, charm, and quick tongue. How much truth lay unsifted in the wordy mound he shoveled our way is not important. His performance was a short stage show he threw in along with the excellent meals he served up. Fabio's need for a promotional firm to represent him was obviously nil. Why pay out money for a natural talent he could display as a solo act?
Things were a little slow with customer traffic as it barely 5 PM, so Mr. Fabio felt customer relations were in need of coddling. Having three women at a table and only one guy looked like good odds to him as well. However, I can safely say that not even free desserts brought by the chef himself were enough to convince the women of his innocent intentions.

The early evening ended with my cousin and her daughter heading off to a Broadway show and us wasting a good 45 minutes trying to get out of the city through the Holland Tunnel. Well, all can't be pleasure when visiting the Big City especially if you're planning on leaving with money still in your pocket.

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Dinner at 5 p.m. -- a North American family man reveals to one and all that he's been broken in. No wonder Fabio rushed to your table. Three women, no children ... he knew an audience in need of intimate attention, and, worthy capitalist that he was, rushed to fill the void once filled by children in high-chairs.

Strangely enough, I look at the photos and think this would be the perfect place to bring my wife on one of our all-too-rare "dates".
Yes, WP, 3 lovely Sirens melodically voicing their hunger in the echoing towered streets of NYC did break me into offering a fine dinner and the fabulous faux pas elucidating Fabio.

Plus, the menu outside had Pasta e Fagioli, a personal weakness, available that night (if 5:00 pm eeks by as "night").
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