02 March 2009
I completely deserved a treat after yesterday's long hike. Daphne and I managed to get to Midtown Manhattan from Astoria within an hour's time, despite it being pre-snow chilly out. I need this kind of exercise more often, but since winter's a rough time to be out and about, and joining a gym would completely break the bank, I've been nearly hibernating for the past three months. So what are two thoroughly pleased-with-themselves but weary ladies to do but head down to Caffe Reggio for something nice and refreshing?
As I've mentioned before, Reggio is (by American standards), an ancient cafe that boasts NY's "Original Cappuccino". The food's okay (my favorite is the Pignoli Tart), and they even serve loose tea (great for a city that rarely serves loose tea with exception to actual tea rooms), but it's the ambience that draws me back. They really don't make 'em like this anymore, the dimly lit, dark Italian Renaissance paintings, kitschy statues, clocks, the original cappuccino urn - attempts to recreate this vibe elsewhere would likely seem contrived. It feels European without the exchange rate - and the increasing proliferation of conversations that end with a question mark? at every sentence and phrase? confirms that some of the young hipstery types have found their way here. Thankfully they're dispersed among other kinds of people? (oh no, I'm talking like that now!)
Every time I come I've looked longingly at the corner near the restroom that I call the "Nefertiti Suite", because it's ensconced in such a way that would make it cozy for couples, yet appealingly private for someone like me - oh and there's a Nefertiti bust on the wall above. This was the first time I arrived to find that corner empty, and I made a beeline for it. So far, so good. My time there chatting with Daphne was just lovely, and in that I was perfectly happy. But I made one mistake - I ordered the hot chocolate.
Here's a brief history of the Gata and chocolate. I, like most people, love chocolate, but like some people, does not get love in return. I have certain sometimes embarrassing digestive issues that leads me to cut down on food containing dairy, red meat, coffee, and chocolate. When I do have any of these things in a meal or drink, I make sure to make it worth my while. I truly savor it. (Recently I had a cheeseburger deluxe with a vanilla milk shake, and despite the discomfort the following morning, it was absolute heaven.) So I make sure to have only cheeses I really like, quality ice cream (no diet Breyers for me!) beef that doesn't take effort to chew (why waste my time on a tough steak?), and only the most fabulous chocolate. I shun most candy bars, and don't go near Swiss Miss. They're not horrible, but the ensuing results have to have made the investment worth it. A few weeks ago I allowed myself a small cup of Jacques Torres hot chocolate, and I was near tears from the sheer pleasure. Sometimes I'll allow myself a red velvet cupcake, but only from places known to make the best ones (Magnolia!)
Knowing this, ordering hot chocolate at Caffe Reggio was an informed decision. One news website claimed that the best hot chocolate in NY was here. I figured my socks would be knocked off, along with my boots and my growing blisters. And...meh. It was just ok. I know I didn't order whipped cream - I didn't think I'd have to. But it was kind of watery, not a large cup, and simply boring. Yes, I added sugar, and it helped (I already knew it wasn't gonna come sweet). I don't know, though. It wasn't terrible, but if I'm going to risk an outraged "stomach", I want PERFECT! THE BEST! And it wasn't that at all.
Thankfully it didn't quite ravage my gut, but I did have trouble sleeping last night - not the best way to start a snowy Monday.
To sum it up, I love Reggio, always will, and I know I'll return again and again. I hope they stay around for a long time. I'm just not gonna order the hot chocolate.