Karen’s Quirky Style Celebrates the Sunny Flavors of Italy at Travelers Poets & Friends

Three new restaurants have opened in what was once a beloved noodle shop that fell victim to the pandemic and left a vacant storefront. Now three restaurants are filling the void: Pamina, Travelers Poets & Friends and Alaluna.

| 15 May 2024 | 02:03

It’s time for celebration as Travelers Poets & Friends brings the sunny flavors of Italy to an empty storefront at Sixth Avenue and West 11th Street.

Neighbors have watched with interest as papered-over windows gradually lit up: Pamina—a gelato shop; then Travelers Poets & Friends—a heartful Italian café market, bistro, and bakery; and finally, in March, Alaluna, an elevated New Italian pescatarian restaurant.

The iconic Sammy’s Noodle Shop & Grill was an early casualty of the pandemic. An institution on Sixth Avenue for nearly three decades, Sammy’s offered cheap, authentic Cantonese dishes in a red-painted dining room that went on forever. The windows were always steamed up from the vats of boiling noodles. A side door was propped open with a broken chair, even in winter, to let some of the steam escape. It was painful to see the For Rent sign year after year. People from near and far mourned the loss.

When the four partners who own Osteria 57 (57 West 10th Street) and Alice (126 West 13th Street) took the lease, they had a vision: to create a lodestone resource of healthful, authentic Italian staples for the neighborhood for decades to come.

Mickey Bosco, co-owner and Director of Operations, reflects on their wish to be true friends in the community. “It’s not just a place to find good food. It’s a place where you can find a friend, learn about what you eat, and share your story.” I’ve known co-owner and CEO Emanuele Nigro since he opened Osteria 57 in 2017, and many warm hugs over the years have convinced me that genuine personal connection is part of the healthy lifestyle that the partners want to promote.

Together, Mickey, Emanuele, and co-owners Waél Deek, Beverage Director, and Riccardo Orfino, Executive Chef, lovingly restored and preserved the historic building’s exterior to house their ambitious vision. Inside, they built their kitchens, bakery, gelato lab, and pasta station, and completely renovated the dining rooms with their customary exquisite Italian style.

When Pamina opened, I rounded up a few dear friends and we discovered dreamy, creamy treats and pastries. I’m obsessed with the Cannolo gelato—Italian sheep ricotta, candied orange, and Sicilian pistachio. Bellissima!

Then Travelers Poets & Friends (TPF) opened, and I splurged on a week-day lunch of bruschetta with smoked salmon and a poached pear tart, charmingly shaped like a pear. Ecstasy!

TPF is an all-day bistro that opens at 8 AM for the traditional Italian breakfast of espresso and pastries like bombolini, maritozzi, and cornettos, plus three kinds of bread, all fresh-baked overnight. The bistro and wine bar extends into the candle-lit evening with a delightful range of Mediterranean pescatarian cuisine, including their house-made pasta.

The market section of TPF offers select luxury Italian foods and fresh, local organic produce. You can pick up fresh-made pasta and sauces to cook at home like an Italian Michelin-starred chef, as well as items from the café menu.

The third member of the trio is Alaluna Ristorante, a speakeasy-style setting of jewel-toned teal walls, warm wood, and greenery. Alaluna illuminates Riccardo’s most innovative menu yet, featuring aged and smoked fish prepared using a Japanese-inspired process that brings out the succulent flavors of Montauk tuna and Hudson trout.

To pair with these luscious flavors, Waél told me, “I introduced a fennel-oil-infused gin martini that complements the charcoal branzino and other fish dishes. I also created a refreshing Japanese-influenced cocktail, the Tokyo Drive, featuring sake and passion fruit liqueur.”

The dishes I’ve tried have been exceptional. The Hudson trout was pan-crisped to perfection, trout roe adding a fresh pop of saltiness to the dish. The Amalfi salad played a starring role, with fresh greens from Union Square farmer’s market—perfectly dressed and bursting with aliveness. An example of their New Italian cuisine is the innovative blue fin tuna “Bolognese” lasagna—many-layered with the tenderest sheets of pasta, ground tuna, and creamy bechamel—gooey, cheesy, crisp-edged heaven!

Stop by to taste a ray of Italian sunshine and say hi to Mickey, Emanuele, Riccardo, and Waél. You’ll feel nourished body and soul

Style Notes

I’m wearing candy-apple-red Mimosa pumps with my favorite dress by fashion designer Andrea T. New York. The dress’s rich ruby tones glow in the dark, with celestial accents from New York artist James Kerr’s Dominion Day painting.

Karen Rempel is a New York-based writer, model, and artist. Her Karen’s Quirky Style column illuminates quirky clothes and places in Chelsea and beyond. For past stories, see https://karenqs.nyc.