Welcome to The Lunch Belle, a NYC based food and travel website that views various dining scenes and destinations through the lens - and belly - of a highly opinionated thirty-something.



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  • 10/25-10/28: El Paso
  • 11/1-11/4: Aruba
  • 11/21-11/25: Houston
  • 12/24-12/30: Miami
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Tabelog Reviewer TheLunchBelle




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The girl's holiday dinner 2007

Ok, so I know that I've got Lil' Frankie's on my "Nay List for NYC," which means that something about dining there is flawed, but I gotta admit that I had a damn good experience there this past Saturday night.

My sweet friend Emily planned a girl's holiday dinner at Lil' Frankie's
for Saturday, December 15th at 8:45 p.m. I arrived five minutes shy of the reservation and found that I was the first of my party to check-in with the hostess. I made my way to the bar, grabbed a drink and admired the scene. The restaurant was adorably charming and old fashioned with tin roofs, dimly lit gothic chandeliers, oversized mirrors and an overall shabby chic design. Lil' Frankie's was fully packed with patrons, however it wasn't fully packed with staff. For about five minutes prior to ordering my drink, there wasn't a bar tender in sight.

Finally, the girls arrived and though we had a reservation, we had to wait about twenty-minutes for our table. We ended up being seated in a corner booth-like table that overlooked First Avenue. I couldn't help but fall in love with the mismatched dinner plates and overall warmth and intimacy of the restaurant; especially when the snowflakes began flurrying outside of our window.

To start, we ordered a couple of bottles of wine, Lil' Frankie's salad and a Margherita pizza made with a whole wheat crust. Each of us ordered our own entrees, which were an assortment of pastas, the halibut special and the roasted chicken special. Everyone was very happy with their dinner and even happier with the overall price tag of our holiday meal.

I highly recommend Lil' Frankie's
for a laid back, casual or festive and affordable meal. The atmosphere, pizza and people watching can't be beat!


Dinner at Bocca, 12/14/07

It had literally been months since my darling Kevin and I had seen each other. A dinner date was long overdue, so we decided to meet up for a bite at Flatiron's newest Italian, Bocca. I hadn't heard too much about the restaurant, but the few reviews that I'd read had been positive. My first hint about the outcome of this meal was the fact that upon making my reservation on opentable.com, I was awarded 1000 points to dine at Bocca. That seemed quite generous, since the average amount of points given per restaurant is a mere 100. Hmmm, very suspicious.

The evening was chilly and I'd gotten off of work at 5:30. What's a girl to do for an hour and a half before dinner? Instead of doing any more holiday shopping damage to my credit card, I decided to head to the restaurant early and grab a drink. I arrived at Bocca
around 6:30 p.m. and informed the host that I would wait for my guest at the bar. Since there wasn't an empty seat, he told me that I could be seated...incomplete party and all!

The host grabbed two menus and a wine list, and led me to the dining room. We had to pardon ourselves from the bar patrons clogging the walkway about three times before approaching the main room. I felt like I was on a busy subway car, trying to make my way through the ocean of people. Yuck. Once we reached the completely empty room, I was told that I could choose to be seated at any table. Duh! This was both wonderful and creepy at the same time.

Finally seated, I was able to take in the space and decor. It was obvious that the restaurant was renovated prior to opening. The walls and banquettes were a peppy mustard yellow with dark chocolate colored tables and a beautifully paneled wood ceiling. The lighting was perfectly dim and pleasant and the background music was festive and jazzy. Unfortunately, the bar was built out too far, making the walkway from the hostess stand to the dining room virtually grid locked (should there be bar patrons). I would estimate two feet of space from the back of a bar stool to the wall. What if an obese person is trying to pass through? Another gripe would the restaurant's crappy acoustics.

After perusing the cocktail/wine list, I decided to order prosecco with raspberry puree. Ten long minutes later, I received my beverage. Good thing I wasn't wearing a light colored skirt! My champagne glass was carelessly splattered with raspberry puree, but my waiter was far away and too busy flirting with the other waitress to care.
More diners began to arrive around 6:55 p.m. Kevin sent me a text message saying that he was close, so I decided to peruse the menu. There was a prix-fixe enclosure that boasted two courses for $20.95. What a deal! Everything sounded delicious. Finally, Kevin arrived. After catching up for a bit, our wannabe-model waiter approached and took our drink orders. I asked if there were any specials for the evening, and he mumbled a couple in his strong Italian accent. Noticing the prix-fixe enclosure in our menus, the waiter told us that we were given the lunch menu and prix fixe is not available at dinner. What a buzz kill! We were not served bread like the other tables were; I had to ask for it. When it finally arrived, we were both starving, so I'm not sure if I could give you an accurate review of the bread and olive oil, as I'm sure anything would have tasted delicious at that point. My blood was boiling!
After what seemed like an hour, our aloof waiter returned to take our food orders. I went with the "homemade" ricotta and spinach ravioli with shrimps and caper berries, and Kevin ordered an arugula salad and the filet mignon.

Kevin's salad arrived about fifteen minutes later. I ordered another drink, which never ended up coming. Lovely. I guess Mr. Aloof was too busy flirting or looking at himself in the mirror to remember. Finally, our entrees arrived. Both plates looked wonderful and we were both excited to dig in. Kevin's filet was served atop a potato pancake and surrounded by braised Brussels sprouts and drizzled with pan gravy. He seemed satisfied with his meal. My dish arrived with about five raviolis which were swimming in a shallow tomato broth and topped with chunks of grilled shrimp and three caper berries. The menu had said that the raviolis were homemade, but after tasting my first bite, I begged to differ. The ricotta and spinach interior was dry and the tomato sauce was fishy. The shrimp were tasty, but the caper berries were cold. To make matters worse, we were seated next to this shady and obnoxious couple who were obviously friends of the owner and were being treated like royalty, while we got treated like peasants. Argh!!

Kevin and I were completely underwhelmed by Bocca. The service was among the worst I've experienced in Manhattan and the food was boring, too expensive and falsely advertised. I wanted to slap our waiter so bad; I almost had to restrain myself. Nothing pisses me off more than employees in the service industry who completely don't get the definition of service and hospitality. Oh ya, and one more thing to note to self: Never trust an opentable.com restaurant you've never been to that will give you 1000 points upon dining. Chances are, it's gonna suck!

, I won't be bacca!


Super shout-out to Fresh Direct's 4-Minute Meals: "Smart & Simple" Garlic Chili Wild Alaskan Halibut W/ Coconut Rice

For us busy New Yorkers, even running the simplest of errands is sometimes overwhelming and daunting. Maybe it's just me being the lazy person that I am, but I literally have to talk myself in to getting off my bum and picking up my prescriptions, toiletries, laundry, etc.

When I first heard about Fresh Direct
, I was elated that I could finally check one errand off of my list...that dreaded bi-monthly trip to the grocery store! I still have nightmares of me carrying twelve over-stuffed plastic grocery bags while making the trek back to my apartment. Reoccurring visions of the instance when my gallon-sized jug of Poland Spring bottled water ripped through its thin grocery sack and exploded on the street still gives me chills.

For those of you who aren't in-the-know, Fresh Direct
is an online grocery store offering fantastically high quality products. Everything from locally farmed fruits and veggies, kosher and organic products, health and beauty items, groceries, heat-and-eat/ready-to-cook meals, all the way to a catering service and bulk purchasing is offered on this website. One-stop-shopping is quite a beautiful thing, my friends!
I've been a Fresh Direct
user for about six months now and have been a consistently satisfied customer. Today, I want to give two-thumbs up for a "4-Minute-Meal" that I had for dinner last night. What is a "4-Minute-Meal," you ask? Fresh Direct will answer that for you: "Quick, portable, delicious... and only at FreshDirect! Enjoy portability, speed and convenience without giving up flavor or freshness. Choose from our lush new Presto Italiano meals or our 500-calorie Smart & Simple entrées. Try vibrant vegetable sides or meals created by Rosa Mexicano and top chef Terrance Brennan. All you need is four minutes and a microwave!" I've tried many of these meals in the past and was always impressed; however, the "Smart & Simple Garlic Chili Wild Alaskan Halibut W/ Coconut Rice" blew me away. I almost hesitated when ordering fish fearing a low quality filet, wilted vegetables and mushy rice...but I've never been so wrong about something so right (isn't that a phrase from some horrific 70's love song?).

I placed my pre-made entree in the 'wave for three-minutes, and let it cool for one while I simultaneously cut a fresh lemon wedge to kill what I thought was going to be a very fishy piece of halibut. I lightly squeezed the citrus juice over the fish and cut in to the one-inch thick flesh. The halibut was a generous rectangular portion of meat that had been lightly seared in a cilantro-sesame marinade. It was accompanied by crispy, bright green snow peas and delicate and sticky coconut jasmine rice with a light drizzle of ginger soy. Sound amazing? It most certainly was. The halibut was pristinely fresh, tasting like it had just been caught a couple of hours prior. The robust symphony of cilantro, sesame, ginger and soy mated beautifully with the modest fish, rice and snow peas.

Not only do I recommend Fresh Direct, but I highly recommend this phenomenal "4-Minute-Meal." For a mere $12.99, you're not only getting a restaurant-quality entree at a fraction of the price you'd pay when dining out, but every Fresh Direct Smart & Simple meal is "...portion-controlled and freshly made in our kitchen with lean proteins, lots of vegetables and no hydrogenated oils. Fewer than 500 calories per meal!" What is better than healthy food that tastes amazing? Now that is what I call one hell of a win-win situation!


The Lunch Belle's latest obsession

If you're as lazy as I am (especially on weekends) and need last minute groceries, gifts, DVDs or drug store items, look no further than www.maxdelivery.com. No, I'm not a sales person for them, but I do think it'd be safe to call me their number-one fan.

Initially, I remember reading an article where maxdelivery.com was mentioned. I was intrigued enough to jot down the name of the website and check it out for myself. And like the song goes, "just one look and I fell so hard...," I've become hooked.
What do I love so much about this site? In no particular order, here goes:
Guaranteed one-hour delivery on over 10,000 products
Pricing equal to or very competitive with your local bodega, grocery store, bakery, DVD rental store, etc.
Items from uber famous NY Specialty Shops including:

Go ahead and see for yourselves, folks...guaranteed, you'll become obsessed too! www.maxdelivery.com