Monday, November 16, 2009

Celebrity Sighting

Saturday night is amateur night, so no, I did not expect to see any famous people, even though I had been warned that the Bowery Hotel plays host to the creme de la creme. But there I was, tucked into a cozy booth at Gemma, waiting for my sister, and when I looked up I discovered Julianne Moore and Family three tables down.

Five minutes later, Max Fischer from Rushmore (a.k.a. Jason Schwartzman) sat one table next to Julianne. I wonder if celebrities give one another the obligatory wave that I give to fellow runners I see in rural places. Probably not.

We were well cared-for at Gemma, despite how busy they were. A call to a friend meant no wait for us, a coveted position for any Saturday night diner in New York. My sister's Coca-Cola and my bellini arrived gratis, as did dessert. Our arugula salad was crisp and fresh, topped with several thin shaves of parmesan cheese. A charcuterie platter was a bit of a disappointment--the meats tasted a little process-y and the cheeses (two of them) were too similar. They were good, yes, but I would have preferred more contrast. Instead, we were met with nearly identical semi-firm cheeses, about which not much was divulged.

But nevermind. Our pasta had been thickened with starchy cooking water and the sauce stuck perfectly to coiled noodles, the name of which escapes me. Spicy sausage in the dish was neither too fiery nor too tame. Our pizza was paper thin, crispy, blackened in the right places. It never betrayed the weight of its (admittedly light) toppings: tomato sauce, cheese, and fresh basil. Maybe our bing cherry clafouti could have used a few more cherries, but the custard was buttery enough to forgive the oversight.

The truly epic--and quite unexpected--turn of the evening came nearly at meal's end, when a familiar face appeared hovering over our corner table. It was my New Jersey-dwelling uncle, who just happened to be an hour from his home at the same restaurant as us, celebrating the 60th birthday of a friend. He and my aunt were the celebrity sighting that neither my sister nor I saw coming. I always say New York is the smallest city on earth.

335 Bowery
New York, NY 10003

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