Making the Rounds, Celebrating Passover sans Seder at new East Side Steakhouse

No shortage of good kosher wine from France at hot new East Side restaurant Benny John’s that has family ties to the Tudor City Steakhouse. And below is a recipe for a great spring time cocktail from another legendary East Side establishment Il Monello.

| 09 Apr 2023 | 02:43

Passover, no seder—The first two nights of the Jewish holiday Passover are commemorated by the Jewish people with ritual foods and the retelling of the story of the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt. It’s a communal feast, called a Seder, and is generally held in homes and communal settings such as synagogues and the 92nd St. Y. No bread. Only matzah. For me, this year, the first night of Passover was sans seder. It was with a friend at the newly opened Benny John’s Bar and Grill on East 48th St. BJ’s is owned by the sons of Mirso Lekic, who owns the world-renowned Tudor City Steakhouse.

Benny John’s menu is traditional steakhouse. I brought along the shmura matzah I purchased from my Chabad rabbi and asked Faridj, BJ’s host, if there was kosher wine in the house. Voila. Out came the Parisian born Faridj with a beautifully decorated bottle of Domaine Noires Vainiers, Languedoc, France 2021. Instead of having him open the $95 bottle, I asked him to pose for a photo op holding the bottle alongside the round, kneaded shmura matzah which is shaped by hand. While it wasn’t a seder, it was the first night of Passover spent with a friend, the great wait staff at Benny John’s–George, Lorenzo, and Faridj–and shmura matzah and a bottle of unopened kosher wine. L’chaim.

Springing for cocktails

No sooner did Spring arrive in March, than restaurants and bars began offering up their own cocktail creations and concoctions, and I learned that March 24th is National Cocktail Day. For bartenders, every day’s a cocktail day, so I checked in with Bobby Ochs who owned Mulholland Drive Cafe with Patrick Swayze and Peaches with Marla Maples and who began his career in hospitality as a bartender at the then Stadium Motor Lodge located along the Major Deegan Highway in the shadow of Yankee Stadium. I collaborated with Bobby when he was writing his memoir “Bobby Ochs, Kid From the Bronx and Restaurant Partner to the Stars”

He said that you knew spring was here when Major League Baseball started, the Masters was being played, and the Kentucky Derby was being run and could enjoy the cocktails that went with them: Mint Julep for the Derby. Tom Collins for the Masters. Moscow Mule for watching the Yankees or Mets. Season or no season, event or no event, there’s no time like the present to enjoy a cocktail at home or served up by a bartender. Start at Il Monello’s, an upscale, sophisticated Italian restaurant on East 49th. On National Cocktail Day, they featured their Spring Fling cocktail and it’s still available along with their classic cocktail selection. The Il Monello Spring Fling is light and fresh, with highlights of pomegranate, and orange. It’s a fun drink to enjoy during spring season. Here’s Il Monello’s:

Il MONELLO Spring cocktail

2 ounces a Grey Goose vodka

1 ounce of Campari

1 ounce of fresh squeezed orange juice,

Garnished with fresh orange slice, pomegranate seeds, and blueberries.

Cut the curb, please!

One of the few streets that I’m aware of in Manhattan that doesn’t have a cut curb at the corner is located at the northeast corner of 48th St. and 5th Ave. It’s a busy busy corner. Let’s get it a cut curb.

Reader readerback - From Bob Lape responding to column about Honey Locust Park located next to the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge: Great to read rebound reports, especially the exciting salute to my favorite Mayor, whom I interviewed the morning after his first mayoral election. Cornered him—not hard—as he alighted from the subway near the bridge that would come to bear his name. He greeted me with his trademark, How’m I doin’?”