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
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)
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
Café Viva 2578 Broadway New York, New York
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
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
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,
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