Over the years, when meeting new people and they would ask what I did for a living—I would respond that I was in the “dirt business” which made perfect sense to me since all real estate basically starts out as a pile of dirt. My wife hates this tag line—luckily, the conversation inevitably segues into my one of my favorite topics—Greenwich/Manhattan real estate, a good golf story, a great dining experience or a new wine.
So thought I would share some of my exceptional experiences, whether it be about real estate, food or wine on my dirt dine+wine blog, and hope to hear about your favorite places as well!
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The Skinny on the Priciest Dirt
Always fun to see the biggest and best that trade, so here are the top five dirt sales during the first quarter of 2017 and in 2016 . Of note, in 2016 there were 28 transactions over $5 million compared to 44 transactions in 2015. As of April 4th, there have been 13 sales over $5 million and another 6 are pending/contingent contract.
Right now, the sweet/hot spot in Greenwich is the $2 million and under market. This segment is seeing multiple bids on good, properly priced, turnkey properties in south of the Post Road, Riverside, and Old Greenwich. For more details on the first-quarter of 2017 in Greenwich, click here for our 1Q2017 Snapshot.
Chart Topper Tidbits. While 2016’s highest sale has already been surpassed this year, it is worth noting that 200 Guards Road had been on the market since January 2015 with a listing price of $27.9 million. Chimney Corner sold in 2011 for $6.95 million and subsequently underwent a significant exterior and interior renovation, while Hurlingham was originally listed at $12.4 million. Copper Beech traded at the peak of the market in 2008 as new construction for $8.05 million.
Top Spots For A Foodie
Anyone who knows me, knows I am always looking for a new place for food! I have found the following places to not only serve good food, but provide an all-around memorable experience—from the food, the staff, the ambiance—these are worth the special trip or detour to share with family and friends.
Tell them JJ sent you!
Arthur Avenue—The Bronx
Arthur Avenue is a foodie/cook’s paradise. Having piloted many an Arthur Avenue walking tours for family and friends—it is my go-to place for quality meats, cheese, pasta, bread and pastries at unbelievably reasonable prices. Unfortunately, it is also becoming a hot spot (i.e. more touristy) but so far, remains authentic… think Little Italy circa 1980. Some of my favorite stops include:
- Casa della Mozzarella. It’s small, quaint and feels like you have stepped back in time. Best priced mozzarella, parmigiano reggiano, It’s a favorite for locals, so don’t be surprised if there is a line.
- The Market. Grab a cappuccino and a sfogliatelle (aka lobster tail) at the café right inside the front door and check out the cigar wrapping, peruse the fresh produce and meats. Mike’s deli has some of the best breakfast sandwiches.
- Borgattis—Pasta. This is the pasta place; I can say no more.
- Biancardi’s—Meats. By far, the best priced meat store. Best quality meats and the best price and they vacuum pack it all. Don’t forget to get a pound of freshly sliced bacon!
- Tietel Brothers. Great deli for all sorts of Italian provisions, but hands down the best sweet Italian sausage.
- Madonia Bakery—It’s hard to choose from the focaccia, ciabatta, or round of fresh daily bread. The rounds are perfect for a morning egg bulls-eye.
Also, don’t miss the sidewalk clams and oysters if you are a fan. After a stretch of the legs, try Zero Otto Nove for lunch or dinner. Zero Otto serves up a wonderful variety of wood-oven pizzas, pastas and appetizers in a cozy, casual setting. A great starter is the Polpettine, Polenta & Caprino (meatballs in spicy tomato sauce, polenta & goat cheese).
For a slightly more upscale, bit pricier venue, try the famous sibling restaurant, Robertos. Robertos’ specials of the day have never disappointed. The truffle pasta is an absolute must to share with the table.
Once a hidden gem in Stamford, great for lunch or dinner, Café Sylvium is known for delicious authentic Italian fare at reasonable prices. My wife also happens to enjoy their “hearty” wine pours. Old school Italian décor, run by Nick and his brother, this place has caught the eye of many now, ranking as the #1 on Tripadvisor so walk-ins and reservations are not as easy. Lunch tends to work slightly better as a walk-in. Couple of must try plates, the stuffed mushrooms, sole francese and the gnocchi.
Washington Prime—Norwalk, SONO
One of the best referral sources for restaurants can be other wait staff. I found Washington Prime through a waiter at a local restaurant who mentioned his brother opened this place. When it comes to steak, probably no one is pickier than me, so when I sat down for my first porterhouse, I was prepared to be disappointed. However, it was perfect (true rare/black & blue) and I knew I would be back. The steaks are the priciest item, but they have an expansive menu with lots of appetizers, burgers, chicken, fish to choose from.
Frank Pepe’s Pizzeria—Fairfield
Thank goodness for my daughter’s travel lacrosse! Yes, it’s a drive, but a good pizza is a worthy road trip! Anytime I am traveling down the I-95 corridor, morning or night, a detour is taken to Frank Pepe’s Pizzeria. Sit down, take-out—all is available. While the décor is as expected (pizza parlor, paper plates), the service is friendly, the prices great and the pizza off the charts and travels well. You can even get a glass of merlot for $5. Last time, three of us sat down and ordered 4 pizzas—we got a few looks, but we foodies don’t mind and we had leftovers for dinner! The white clam pizza is off the charts (add the shrimp) while nothing beats a good ol’ margharita pizza. (We like to order the crusts extra crispy.)
It’s a bit of a haul, but it’s become a must when my father-in-law visits from Arizona. Adriana’s is another authentic, friendly Italian restaurant, where you sense the staff has worked here for generations. Not always on the menu, but an absolutely must ask, must see, must eat is the stuffed veal chop. No joke when I say it will feed 4 hungry men. All the dishes are family style and reasonably priced so don’t stop at the veal chop, but keep it in mind when ordering! The seafood salad and chicken ripieno are spectacular as well. Lock the car, don’t leave valuables, and yes, you will need to probably have a double espresso for the ride home, but you will feel like you hit the gastronomy jackpot (and don’t forget the leftovers!).
Argana Restaurant & Bar—Port Chester
A dear friend, Nordeen, just opened this authentic, cozy Moroccan restaurant. Moroccan cuisine is new to me, but we were able to taste a variety of their offerings, and I’m officially a fan! I look forward to trying more dishes at Argana but they won me over with the Beef Tajine and Chicken B’stilla – dishes on my own I may not have tried, but will never pass on again, and the couscous is thee best. If nothing else, stop by after work and enjoy some “Fresh Flavors of the Atlas” in the serene setting with the most friendly staff.
Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria—Manhattan
Not to be confused with its sister Il Buco, Il Buco Alimentari is located on Great Jones street and offers a more casual dining experience. My son Nico, who grew up in Florence Italy felt like he was back home between the décor and food. All the breads are made daily and good by themselves, but a little olive oil or lardo mantacato takes it to a whole new level. Couple other favorites include the short rib sandwich and when in season, anything with artichokes.
First off, let me say, I understand wine is not for everyone. Second, it goes without saying, that safety and well-being is first and foremost, so enjoy responsibly. However, finding a gem to share with friends is one of the exceptional experiences.
So, with spring hopefully around the corner, it’s time to start chilling the Rosé. I have to be honest, it’s taken me a bit to warm up to rosé (always thought it was for people who couldn’t make up their mind or who liked wine coolers), but I have become an official big fan. A perfect afternoon—a little truffle mushroom/pancetta/mozz pizza on the grill with a nice rosé, sit back and relax. One of my favorite rosé is the Domaine Ott (approx $45+/bottle retail) which is a little pricey particularly if you are entertaining as it goes down smoothly and hence, quickly. A more economical choice is the By.Ott, which sells for around $19/bottle.
However, my new find is the Fleurs de Praire rosé which retails approximately $17. Not only is the taste is tremendous but smooth, the bottle itself is a work of art.
Of course, my wife tends to keep a bottle of Miraval in the frig too, but I think that is just because of Brad Pitt.