Arco Cafe ext lo

Amid the buzz about meatballs and parm sandwiches, several other Upper West Side restaurants are swinging open their doors.

Arco Café is set to open today on Amsterdam and 103rd street in the former home of Maria’s Pizzeria. It serves food from Sardinia and seats 42 in the dining room plus 8 at the bar. It will also have 20 seats outdoors once we emerge from our endless winter. Oh, and it’s cash only so come prepared. We first wrote about it here, and received this release on Tuesday:

Arco Cafe bar 3 loArco Café will bring a taste of Sardinia to the Upper West Side when it opens at 886 Amsterdam Ave. (near W. 103rd St.) tomorrow. Restaurateur Sebastiano Cappitta, who owns Acqua, Bettola, Bettolona, Buca, Coccola and Isola on Columbus on the Upper West Side and who calls the neighborhood home, wanted a casual, inexpensive spot where diners could drop in for a warm croissant filled with nutella and coffee for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch, an aperitivo with Italian snacks to nibble on in the afternoon or a Sardinian pasta for dinner. Chef Roberto Ruiu, a native of Sardinia who worked at many popular restaurants on the island, has created a menu of Sardinian and Italian favorites, with no dish costing more than $16.

Sardinia, which lies off the coasts of France, Spain, North Africa (Tunisia, Algeria) and Italy, possesses a unique culinary tradition influenced by centuries of invaders, from the Greeks and Romans to the Phoenicians and Arabs to the Spanish and Italian. These incursions drove the native population into the mountainous interior, resulting in a cuisine that’s both hearty and rustic (from the mountains) and light and seafood-driven (on the coast). Surrounded by the sea, the island’s diet is rich in seafood (sea urchin, mussels, clams, octopus, and the local specialty bottarga, the pressed and dried fish roe), as well as tomatoes, eggplants, artichokes, wild boar, pork, lamb and goat. Another local specialty is pane cerasau, a thin bread baked crisp that’s a staple. Sardinia is also known for its cheese and is the main producer of Pecorino cheese in all of Italy.

Arco Cafe Sardinian bread loThe Arco Café menu features Sardinian specialties like Zuppa Gallurese, a rustic casserole-like dish with layers of cheese and bread in a broth; Sardinian Vegetable Fritters; Cozze alla Marinara, a spicy mussel and tomato soup made with Vermentino wine from Sardinia; Maloreddos alla Montanara, a traditional Sardinian pasta with mushrooms, sausage and tomato sauce; Semifreddo all’Amaretto di Sardegna, a semifreddo made with Sardinian amaretti cookies and Pane Frattau, thin Sardinian bread w tomato sauce, parmesan and poached egg that makes a perfect brunch dish. The menu also includes housemade pastas such as Cannelloni al Ragu, meat-filled cannelloni with bechamel sauce; Maltagliati Cozze e Fagioli, homemade pasta with mussels and beans in white wine sauce, and Gnocchi alla Boscaiola, potato gnocchi with mushrooms, bacon and cream sauce.

Arco Café will feature a concise beer and wine list, including wines from Sardinia made with native grapes such as vermentino, malvasia, moscato, carignano and cannonau. The café will be open seven days, serving breakfast, lunch, brunch and dinner, and is cash only. (Wheelchair accessible.)

Bustan, the Mediterranean restaurant on Amsterdam between 83rd and 84th streets, has its “official” opening today, although it’s been open for a couple of weeks. This restaurant generated an enormous amount of debate in the comments on our previous post (particularly about the price of hummus) and a restaurant rep wrote to us to attempt to clear up any confusion about the ownership.

Shelley Clark wrote: “I noticed in the comments there was some debate about whether or not ownership was the same as that of Hey Mambo, which formerly occupied the space. Tuvia Feldman, owned Hay Mambo, but with new partners in the very experience Efi Nahon and Guy Goldstien, it is a whole new food and service ballgame, above and beyond being radically different cuisine! Menu is rooted in Nahon’s expertise with a taboon, the traditional Middle East dome-shaped wood fired oven.  Bustan’s,  custom made on-site, is  unique in this country (and likely the world) with its rotating base, which assures the even distribution of heat.”

Check out more on the restaurant below, along with a picture of the interior (the menu is here):

The shores of Western Asia, North Africa and Southern Europe will extend to Manhattan’s Upper West Side with the Wednesday, Feb. 26 opening of Bustan at 487 Amsterdam Avenue as a contemporary pan-Mediterranean restaurant.  Bustan, meaning “garden” or “orchard” in Hebrew, Arabic and ancient Aramaic, is the realization of the vision of Proprietor Tuvia Feldman, Executive Chef / Partner Efi Nahon and General Manager / Partner Guy Goldstein to present New Yorkers with the  eclectic gastronomic style of their native Israel, one that reflects the culinary diversity of the Mediterranean region.  Consequently, Chef Nahon, a veteran of New York City’s highly acclaimed Barbounia and Taboon, who first gained international attention at Israel’s top-rated restaurant Keren, has created a menu for Bustan that incorporates the ingredients, flavors and cooking techniques of Italy, France, Spain, Morocco, Greece, Turkey and Israel.

Bustan Dining RoomThe common denominator for the 74-seat restaurant’s menu of mazettim, small plates, hummus, flatbreads and entrees is the kitchen’s centerpiece, the dome shaped, wood- fired taboon oven in which so many of the dishes are prepared.  Fashioned after the more than two millennia old design of the classic Middle East oven, it was custom made for Bustan – each brick hand laid by hand on-site as directed by Nobila Attia the world’s foremost builder of commercial taboons – to be a one-of-a-kind with a rotating base that assures the even distribution of heat throughout the cooking process.

Signature dishes benefitting from Chef’s Nahon’s more than a decade of experience at what he describes as “the delicate art” of taboon cookery include: Whole Heirloom Cauliflower, nazareth tahini, pine nuts & green harissa; Organic Free Range Chicken mushrooms, asparagus, frikeeh & chicken foie gras merguez; and Lamb Terracotta, la boîte spiced lamb kebab with taboon grilled vegetables, tahini and pistachio baked into a flaky bread terracotta.  Of course, taboon baked flatbreads figure prominently, such as Cured Tuna, zaatar, red onion, feta and fresh tomato and Smoked Salmon Pastrami, zucchini, kale, ricotta and Parmesan.  Fish is also a Bustan menu staple, testimony to Chef Nahon’s earliest professional experience at a seaside tavern in the ancient Israeli port of Jaffa.  Witness the Taboon Whole Baked Fish and Poached Moroccan Halibut, spicy tomato sauce, fire roasted peppers, black ink fettuccine & cilantro

Like Bustan’s food, the restaurant’s décor is not rooted in a single cultural identity, but rather embraces a broad spectrum of the Mediterranean color palette of sea and earth tones in hues of blue and sienna.  A charcoal colored faux stone wall is punctuated by backlit portholes redolent of the region’s nautical heritage, while the sleek lines of the deco inspired bar conjures up images of the glamorous yachts that ply the Mediterranean’s water today.  And in keeping with the restaurant’s name, an inviting garden will celebrate the Mediterranean tradition of al fresco dining during warm weather months.

Throughout the year,  Bustan’s beverage team led by Goldstein, an educator for the American Sommelier Association and the  winner of  numerous awards for his wine and beverage programs at the likes Barbounia and Junoon, will evoke a mantra of “drink what you eat.” Bustan’s selection of seven signature cocktails will complement the cuisine with distinctly Mediterranean flavors, such as apricot, fig, lavender, and pomegranate.  Similarly, the wine program of some 20 by-the-glass offerings and another 60 bottles, each chosen to enhance the food’s aroma and taste profiles, will highlight the bounty and diversity of the region’s viticultural areas.   Beer, too, will be an important element of Bustan’s beverage program with imported and local brews – draft and bottled – spanning the full range of styles and types.

Bustan, located at 487 Amsterdam Avenue (between 83rd and 84th Streets) will open on Feb. 26, for dinner only with brunch slated for the spring opening of the garden.  Hours will be:  Sunday 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Monday thru Wednesday 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.; and Thursday thru Saturday, 5 p.m. to midnight.  For reservations and information, call (212) 595-5050.  The currently under construction Web site will be

FOOD, NEWS, OPEN/CLOSED | 27 comments | permalink
    1. Cato says:

      Nice, direct response to the criticisms of charging eleven dollars for a dish of hummus that costs pennies to make.

      Oh, wait … they missed that part.

      Eleven dollars is too much for a plate of mashed beans, oil and garlic, even if it comes with “vision” as part of a “whole new food and service ballgame”.

      Then again, on the New Upper Wealth Side, they’ll probably thrive. Emperor’s new clothes, anyone?

      • G Gomez says:

        (1) Hummus does not cost $1 to make. I make it all the time. My cost breakdown: One can chick peas: bought on sale for $1.59. 1/3 cup tahini: about $1.20 (my 16 oz jar cost $6.99. Juice of 2 lemons: $1. There’s also olive oil and garlic, but we’ll pretend that’s free. So that’s about $3.80 for a not very big bowl of hummus.

        Now, granted, the restaurant can probably get these ingredients more cheaply. So let’s assume for a moment that your estimate of $1 is accurate.

        (2) You are not counting the bread and any other accompaniments (olives, veggies) that likely come with the hummus.

        But more to the point:

        (3) Hello, the price of food in a restaurant does not simply reflect the cost of the ingredients. It can’t. The restaurant must also pay its exorbitant NYC rent. It must pay for electricity, water, heat, etc. It must pay the cook who makes the hummus, the server who brings it to your table, and the person who washes the dishes. Oh, and it has to buy the table and chairs where you sit, your plate, your glass, your fork, the fixtures in the bathroom where you’ll stop after your meal, etc., etc. Do you seriously think all that stuff is free? Or that the restaurant could stay in business without charging enough to recoup those costs? Finally, do you think the owners are not entitled to make any profit on their business? (And by the way, most restaurants don’t end up making enough profit on their food to survive more than a year, especially in NYC, even with what you consider an outrageous markup on the cost of raw ingredients.)

        (4) I have news for you. Those jeans you just bought for $80 at the Gap? The fabric and zipper probably cost $5 or $6 at most! But guess what? The person who sews them gets paid. The factory that hired that person has to pay for its building etc. The Gap store itself has to pay rent and employees. And — eek! — the Gap wants to make an evil profit, and so do its shareholders! So you pay $80.

        (Good heavens, now that I think of it, the raw cost of the cotton seeds to grow the cotton and the metal to make the zipper was probably mere pennies! The people making the cloth and zipper are charging an outrageous amount for them!)

        (5) If you feel you should only pay what it would cost you to make a given item from scratch, no one is stopping you from making it from scratch. If you really want to save money, become a survivalist and grow everything yourself from seeds, spin your own thread, weave your own cloth, etc.

        As for me, I have reservations at Bustan already, and I’m looking forward to it. (No, by the way, I have no connection at all to the owner or anyone who works there.)

        • Mike says:

          Bodrum charges $6.50 for hummus.

          • Kenneth says:

            ..and all hummus is exactly the same, right? And the cost of an item served in a restaurant is in no way related to the overall environment in which it is presented and served, right? Well if your goal is to find a restaurant that serves the least expensive hummus – them you should absolutely make your dining decision based on that. Bon Appetit!

            • Mike says:

              Oh, I have no problem paying exorbitant amounts for meals, but I highly doubt any hummus is worth $11. Based on their pictures, the decor in this place is exactly as it was when it was Hey Mambo. Bodrum has very good food, is reasonably priced and is ACTUALLY crowded because people know it is good. This restaurant has a large network of trolls posting rave reviews to various forms of social media. That is a big turn off.

            • G Gomez says:

              Exactly. You can get a grilled chicken dinner at Texas Rotisserie and grill for 13.95. Go to a nicer restaurant and you’ll easily pay twice as much, maybe more. Or you can buy an entire raw chicken and roast it yourself for $6. Nothing new about this. The majority of the cost you pay in a restaurant is not for raw ingredients.

        • Kenneth says:

          Thank goodness, Finally a comment from someone who actually understands how this thing called ‘business’ actually works.

      • Mike says:

        So, it is the same owner. The same guy owns Artie’s… mmmmm Artie’s.
        Their response also shows me that their yelp reviews are all BS.

      • naro says:

        When you sit in a restaurant you rent the seat and enjoy the atmosphere, not just pay for the cost of the food. If it’s too much for you get the fruk out of there. I love it, and I would prefer not to see you there.

        • Mike says:

          Is that how restaurants work?
          You’re telling me that going out to eat is a different experience than eating at home?

          • Kenneth says:

            Yes. Exactly. Going out to a restaurant is different than eating pork fried rice out of a cardboard container while sitting on your couch watching South Park on TV. You should try it. It’s nice.

        • jerry says:

          What a nice expression. I hope we never sit near each other.

      • jane says:

        I wonder why these really dull places keep opening? The UWS was never high end expensive stuff but at least we had some variety and some quality going on .. Rents too high to get that oportunity now I guess.
        Another place for the new New Yorkers to order in from. Boring boring.

    2. Edka says:

      The place still looks like it has identify crisis and the decorators couldn’t decide what theme to go with.

    3. Jack says:

      As I initially said, its the same owner whether there are different partners or not. The service at Mambo wes horrific and it had a huge identity crisis. As stated earlier, here’s to hoping they don’t make the same mistakes with the new place.

    4. Jerry says:

      I ate dinner at Bustan on Friday night and it was good. (And, yes, among other things, I had the humus.) Perhaps people should stop getting so exercised about a place it appears most have not even been to yet. It’s very simple: if you like the look and feel of a place, you give it a try. If you don’t, you don’t. Everyone who lives on the Upper West Side should already know that there are all kinds of restaurants with varying approaches and varying price points. Why bloviate so much and make invalid comparisons? Because the price point is higher than you want it to be? Yes, I wish Bustan cost a bit less, but I will almost certainly eat there again, when I’m in the mood to spend the money. It is not the same place as Bodrum.

    5. Cakefarts says:

      Hey … Know what’s cool about alllll of you right now? Not a damn thing

    6. DLKD says:

      If you can’t afford it then stay home. Higher prices keep the riff-raff out

      • WhatsUpDuck says:

        Can I come use the gym at your luxury apartment building?
        A member of the “Riff-Raff”

    7. 9d8b7988045e4953a882 says:

      I rarely go out to eat, because a good chunk of my after-tax income goes towards market-rate rent. I certainly would not pay $11 for hummmus or $28.50 for halibut.

    8. TFJWM says:

      Ate at Arco Café tonight. Was pretty disappointed. Started with the Minestrone Soup and Salmon carpaccio, Soup was amazing but the salmon was really cold like it just came out of the fridge. Main course was the sausage with beans and flank steak. Beans were so hard it was inedible and the sausage was nothing special had to send it back, the steak was cooked to perfect medium rare but had no seasoning and the veggies were drenched in olive oil. Overall def not worth the 70 with tip with so many other options around. We’ll give them another chance but hopefully they step it up. The Maitre d’ was kinda rude when we let him know of our issues. Said the salmon was supposed to be “cold” thanks but its not supposed to seem like just came out of a sub-zero fridge

      • cheffina says:

        I had a similar experience at Arco last night. We ordered baby octopus ‘alla diavola’ which turned out to be a tomato soup (made with bottled – or canned – tomato puree) with 3-4 pieces of the seafood. ‘Alla diavola’ is not actually meant to have all that sauce and I’m sure the chef can get some help by checking ‘Cucchiaio d’Argento’ or any other Italian cooking manuals.

        Very unlucky with the second dish too as the chicken was actually raw inside, so we had to send it back. The chicken was accompanied by what had been announced as ‘caponata’. Caponata is typically a dish from the south of Italy, it may be prepared in different styles, it is usually sweet&sour (agrodolce) and it has – amongst other veg – eggplant which is usually deep fried. Typically all the veg are deep (or stir) – fried separately because they required different cooking time. This one had been steamed with carrot, onion and perhaps something else (I honestly don’t remember now), the eggplant was inedible. Eggplant, like potato, HAS to be properly cooked to be digested. The chef’s sister (from Sardinia) claimed ‘it is the way people like it here’. I couldn’t believe it. This restaurant deserves to be featured on Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares.

        Very nice decor overall. The menu, though, is very limited – the ‘secondi’ consisted of 2 chicken dishes, 1 salmon and 1 branzino, none of the dishes is traditional Sardinian (branzino is typically made in salt crust, not wrapped in dough). Pane guttiau was quite burnt. Extremely disappointed and upset – and BTW, I’m from Sardinia.

    9. Carlos Agront says:

      OmG…….This place is amazingggggg….beautiful place…great service…great food….speachless when I eat….and best of all…REAL….Real italian food. I love it. I hope Arco Cafe sky rockets and becomes a great success….I know it will.

    10. Yvette says:

      This is a really lovely, quaint little place, with great service and even greater food. The food is authentic to the Sardonic region of Italy. Great place! Will definitely come back again, for sure!!

    11. kennysaatcho says:

      Wow, I’m surprised to read the negative reviews of Arco. I ate there last night and thought hallelujah, we have a great new place in the neighborhood. It’s authentic and delicious. I’m going again this week. I’m Italian and I’ll be sure to take my parents here when they’re in town.