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Karen's Restaurant Revue airs on Sept. 18 and Sept. 25, (2 different shows), both at 9:00PM on Time-Warner Cable, Channels 98, 77, or 3. Check your local listings for stations in your area.
 

TWO NEW YORK CAFES

CAFÉ VIVA

Cafe Viva
Café Viva on the Upper West Side

This is no ordinary café. Someone had told me that Café Viva has good pizza, so I brought my mother, Maybelle, and our teen-age pal, Betsy, along for the ride to the upper west side to find out the scoop. Everything amazed us about the place.
 
When we got there, I found out that it’s kosher and vegetarian, with even some vegan dishes and a lot of very healthful options, mostly organic, including whole wheat crust on some pizzas, wheat-free on others, and even artichoke pasta. Not in the sauce--the actual pasta is made from it! The menu is actually mind-boggling.
 
And it’s far from just a pizza place; there’s a full menu of pastas, salads, soups, sandwiches, and desserts. Even the array of beverages is dazzling! (Maybelle declared, “What wonderful things they have at this place!”)
 
You can take-out or eat-in. We chose the latter, of course--we weren’t taking it all back to Brooklyn, let me tell ya. And this way, we could jump up and grab a different beverage every few minutes.
 
My mother, who can be known to be Debbie Downer when she doesn’t really want to go someplace, brightened up the moment she tried the split pea soup. She declared it the best she’s ever had, which is very high praise from her!
 
And she loved the Caesar salad, which I even told her not to eat because she might be allergic to some ingredients. Turns out, it’s e-word-less (“egg,” for you newbies to my column) and anchovy-less.
 
Betsy and I stared at the pizza display for about ten minutes, wanting to try everything. We finally chose slices of basic (labeled “Napoletana“ here), one with a whole wheat crust, and squares of basic and cheese-less. The last was a tad too spicy for us wimps, but we loved everything else, especially the basic round. This is all surprising because I’ve never had a decent-tasting kosher pizza before. I probably wouldn’t have even gone there if I had known in advance, but we were all so glad we did.
 


Angel Hair Pasta with Margarita Sauce

The highlight for us was the pastas. My little mother loved her Baked Ziti Sorrentino (there are three kinds of baked ziti!), while Betsy and I shared the fettuccine Alfredo and organic angel hair Margarita. They were both perfect. The mozzarella chunks in the latter were plentiful and the Alfredo sauce was smooth. We had it with dairy milk, although they make it vegan, as well.
 
I really couldn’t eat dessert, (which proves there’s a first time for everything), but my guests went for it. My mother didn’t want to share her carrot cake cause it was that good, which was interesting because a day or two before, she had taken one bite of a high-priced one I had brought her from a famous bakery and passed on it. Café Viva’s was half the price and she coveted it!
 


Apple Crumb Tofu Cheesecake

Betsy was into the chocolate cake, which was dairy-less. I still can’t figure out how they do any of it. They make a different flavor tofu cheesecake daily, also.
 
I’m glad the service is order-at-the-counter because I noticed they serve healthful teas. They even carry the Chi Tea Ultimate Green Tea extract that I had just featured on my show the month before! I plan to tell you more about that in one of my fall columns because it’s perfect to use during flu season. If you need more info on it before then, just get in touch with the amiable owners, Tony and Bella Iracani. And if you’re in NY, have some pasta while you discuss.
 

Café Viva 2578 Broadway New York, New York 212-663-8482


CAFÉ SHANE
 

Luther
Luther behind the counter section
of the front section of Café Shane

I wrote about our favorite place in Brooklyn two years ago, in my first NY column for this site, but I love it so much that I just wanted to laud it once again.
 
Not only does Café Shane have delicious food, the personnel has to be the most pleasant out there. My little mother and I walked in recently for breakfast, but it was too hot for me because NYers seem to love eating with the doors open onto the street and summer air coming in. I seriously need air-conditioning, and can’t get used to that NY thing.
 
We saw the fabulous owner, Luther, outside, and I told him I was too hot. No problem for him, he just put the air on for me. What other proprietors care about their customers like that?! Most of them seem to feel that we diners should just shut up and eat.
 
One of the cute waiters had greeted us on the way in, and then said “bye” on our first exit. When we came back in with Luther, he said, “Back so soon?” My mother got such a kick out of that.
 


One of the gorgeous brunches at Café Shane

It really seems that nothing is a problem for them. We’ve been there for the busiest brunches and no one gets testy or nasty, like they do in most restaurants.
 
As I try to explain to everyone, I’m a RESTAURANT critic, not a FOOD critic, which means I comment on the whole experience. In addition to the delicious fare, Luther and company make the whole visit so pleasant that we look forward to going there all week; it’s like a visit with good friends. (It doesn’t hurt that Luther is great-looking, either!)
 
Before anyone opens another restaurant, I wish they could all stop by Café Shane to find out how to treat the patrons. Then no more critiques would even be necessary.
 
Café Shane 794 Washington Ave. Brooklyn, New York 718-399-9001 www.cafeshane.com
 


 
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