Gaia Cafe, Liquor Permits News, APL Reviews

The housemade brioche with Nutella is just one of many reasons to wander into Gaia Italian Cafe.

A roundup of restaurant and nightlife news around the neighborhood today.

  • East Houston Street newcomer Gaia Italian Cafe gets some love for its vegetarian options, and this exclamatory remark: “This is Italian Italian food.”
  • This week’s Community Board 3 SLA committee meeting covered a lot of ground: bad news for the bar formerly known as Aces and Eights (formerly known as Mo’ Pitkin’s) and Clinton Street’s CultureFix, but good news for newcomers Masala Wala and Zoe.
  • Early reviews of Orchard Street’s APL are in, and they’re pretty good all around.
  • Something’s going on with the produce market under the Manhattan Bridge.

Food Wire: Mo Pitkin’s, Prune, Hotel Chantelle

Neighborhood food news to start off the weekend:

  • The former Mo Pitkin’s House of Satisfaction, which became the doomed Aces and Eights, may become Mo Pitkin’s again, according to EV Grieve and Fork in the Road.
  • Prune chef Gabrielle Hamilton’s moment in the NY Times’ spotlight continues this week with a profile, following up on their review of her new memoir, Blood, Bones and Butter.
  • Top Chef alumna Camille Becerra, who bagged on Orchard Street’s APL (which is due to open any week now, without her), has a new home in the kitchen at Hotel Chantelle.

Health Department Closes “Aces & Eights”

In the spring and summer of 2009, shortly after its opening, the Aces & Eights bar at 34 Ave. A generated a firestorm of complaints from the neighborhood. It was not a unique debate, just one more episode in the bar vs. neighbors drama that plays out all over the city.

But the Aces & Eights uproar, it turns out, probably could have been avoided altogether: the bar never obtained permission to open its doors, according to city officials.

On Tuesday, the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene shuttered the 18-month old watering hole for lack of a valid operating permit. It had been cited for the same violation in April 2010, and ordered not to reopen until the permit was issued, according to the health department’s public affairs office.

A note signed by “the management and staff” posted in the window Wednesday attributed the closure to “unforeseen paperwork/permit issues” and promised that they were “currently doing everything in our power to make sure we will reopen again tomorrow.”

More Details: New Grand Street Restaurant

Yesterday we told you about the new restaurant planned for 365 Grand Street, the old "Isabella's" location. This morning Jesse Hartman confirmed he's going before Community Board 3's licensing committee on May 11 to ask for permission to serve alcohol. Hartman is a musician and filmmaker, who along with his brother, Phil, operated "Mo Pitkin's House of Satisfaction" on Avenue A until it closed a couple of years ago. Phil Hartman runs the "Two Boots" pizza restaurants.

The restaurant will feature an Italian small plates concept. Since the indoor space is very small, he'll make full use of an outdoor area in the back, adjacent to the Seward Park handball courts. Hartman says he plans to enclose the garden so it can be used all year and to cut down on noise.

Hartman and his wife have lived in the neighborhood for 7 years. Since "Mo Pitkin's" closed, he has been working on a film project, "House of Satisfaction."

He's excited about the concept for the restaurant, tentatively called "Grand Park." Unlike several blocks above Delancey (Rivington, Orchard, Ludlow), there are not a lot of dining choices in the immediate area.  Hartman says there are stil a lot of details to work out, including building department issues. But he's hopeful everything will fall into place.