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Michael Lomonaco is a New York chef of the old-school breed, with the Upper East Side address to prove it. His resume is a veritable who's-who of Manhattan's most revered restaurants: Le Cirque, the 21 Club, and the late Windows on the World. After the 9/11 attacks destroyed his restaurant, he proved his resilience and commitment to the New American cuisine he's known for by opening Porter House practically in his own backyard.
Below, Michael pays homage to the classics as well as the brand spanking new, both the highbrow and the low, for a melting pot of choices that reflect a true New Yorker's palate.
Pizza by the slice: Italian Village, where Salvatore and his family from Sicily have been making classic NY Italian-American pizza by the slice for 40 years. The pizza alla nonna with fresh mozzarella and pomodoro sauce is my favorite.
Pizza by the pie: With a great old brick oven, John's has been my go-to for years. I like to stop off on the way home from work and grab a pie to go. Truth be told, the only close competition Johns had for my pizza love was Totonno's—but they're now long gone.
Cheap burger: J.G. Melon makes a great quick and delicious bar burger with the perfect fat-lean ratio and some of New York's best freshly ground beef. It's the spot for a great value burger, cottage fries, and a beer or cocktail in one of the Upper East Side's most character-filled joints.
Fancy burger: Ever since Jones Wood Foundry opened last year, the UES dining scene hasn't been the same. British chef/owner Jason Hicks has brought the best of delicious and inventive pub food to new heights in this fun space. Hick's fancy burger is formed from delicious ground, aged beef and topped with Stilton and bacon. Wash it down with a Fuller's London Pride and you've got a perfect night.
Sandwich: When the yen for old-world delicatessen food strikes (usually after work), 2nd Ave Deli is a worthy successor to Abe's original. I go straight for the giant classic hot pastrami on rye, or the home-cured corned beef and tongue. Add a cream soda, and I'm all set.
Coffee: Oren's Daily Roast is a true home-grown coffee roaster. It's where I always go for the daily special brew.
Bagel: I grew up in Brooklyn when every other block had bagel stores where they made them in front of you—you learned the baking schedule to get them hot and fresh. Tal Bagels reminds me of those real New York hot water bagels.
Delivery food: I love the take-out at Pig Heaven. They serve some of the best Chinese BBQ pork dishes available. My favorite is the fresh suckling pig.
Breakfast: E.A.T. is Eli Zabar's long running hit. Sundays are my days off, and I love to get a cup of coffee with a pain au chocolat before I head to the Met when the doors open at 9:30.
Bar: Bemelmans Bar at the Carlyle is still the most dressed-up bar you could imagine wanting to go to. The bartenders take their time making great cocktails, still displaying the training Audrey Saunders of Pegu Club installed years ago. Gazing at Ludwig Bemelmans' art is worth the price of admission.
Ice cream/gelato: I go to Sant Ambroeus for my favorite nocciola gelato, and maybe a cornetto e café in the morning. It's like a quick trip to Milan: their gelato makes the day a little brighter.
Falafel: Melange Food Fair is takeout heaven for the lovers of all things Middle Eastern. Get the falafel platter with tabouleh and grape leaves, and a baklava or kataifi for dessert.
Late-night eats: Cascabel Taqueria has a busy bar scene, but don't be deceived—these are some serious tacos. I start with some gorditas con puerco, followed by tacos pescado (tuna belly tacos with hearts of palm), and an ice cold Negro Modelo on tap.
Date night: Crown is John DeLucie's very chill spot in the tony UES. Go through the sexy, low-lit bar to a cozy corner table in the back. A bottle of Champagne, a platter of crisp, fresh oysters, and Pennsylvania lamb or turbot is romance in grand style.
Can't-miss neighborhood spot: Sandro's is the home of the great Roman chef Sandro Fioriti, who has spent the last 25 years cooking and serving some of the most authentic Roman Trattoria food this side of the Tiber. My favorites include the seppioline fra diavolo, bucatini amatriciana, the roasted porchetta, and any of his great pasta dishes. It's like a trip to Trastevere for me.