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Lacey's Bridge Tavern Book Club finds "Lost" author

by Jodi Lee Reifer

Staten Island Advance - Staten Island, NY

July 24, 2009

Staten Island writer Sandy Lo discusses and sign copies of her new novel Sunday (July 26) at Lacey's Bridge Tavern.

The tavern's book clubbers read Lo's "Lost in You," (Lulu.com, $16.98) in anticipation of the 6-9 p.m. meeting.

 

The story chronicles the love life of 25-year-old Cooper Jackson. Normally closed off to relationships, the young woman unexpectedly finds herself attracted to a member of a boy band. Problem is, he's engaged. As a distraction, Cooper throws herself at another band member.

 

Born Sandra Lo Grasso in South Beach, the writer now resides in Elm Park. She is the founder and editor of an online entertainment magazine, StarShineMag.com, which has featured interviews with Jessica Simpson, Taylor Swift and the Jonas Brothers.

 

Lacey's bibliophiles meet monthly in the bar at 75 Innis St., Elm Park. There are no club fees. On book club nights, Lacey's serves a three-course meal (salad, appetizer, entree) and unlimited soft drinks, coffee and tea for $23, which includes tax and tip. There's a cash bar for those who like booze with their book banter.

 

The informal crew has tackled everything from literary classics such as Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird" and bestsellers like Jodi Picoult "The Pact" to Marilyn Monroe and Barack Obama biographies.

 

Questions? Call book club moderator Sara Gaither at 718-702-3091 or e-mail saracaron@yahoo.com.

Get Lit

by Jodi Lee Reifer

Staten Island Advance - Staten Island, NY

January 3, 2008

Books, booze & banter: What a novel idea on the bar scene

Boo! Hiss! The writers' strike is dragging into its third month.

For TV addicts, this void of fresh episodes is a major buzzkill. Suffering from "24" or "The Office" withdrawal? Join the club.

Or join a different club.

Once a month about three dozen Lacey's Bridge Tavern (LaceysBridgeTavern.com) denizens indulge in a different type of pop culture pursuit: Reading with cocktails.

"The more you drink, the more you want to talk," jokes retired police sergeant Hank Edgar of Graniteville, 60, who favors non-fiction and Budweiser. "You become more fluid."

Established a little over a year ago, Lacey's Book Club tackles everything from literary classics such as Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird" and bestsellers like Jodi Picoult "The Pact" to Marilyn Monroe and Barack Obama biographies.

While Manhattan's KGB... and Rocky Sullivan's... in Brooklyn attract celeb novelists who read while bookworms (tequila anyone?) drink up, Lacey's lets the crowd do all the talking.

The woman-in-charge, Sara Gaither, calls the crew to order from atop a chair, sometimes dropping a few jump-off questions. But mostly, it's the lit lovers running the show over wine, top-shelf shots and a $20 three-course meal. A recent menu: Salad, pasta and pork chops, plus unlimited soda and coffee. The booze is extra.

"People love this club because it's fun and informal and also smart and interesting," says Gaither, 32, of Richmond, who teaches English at the College of Staten Island. "It's really the book club for anyone who thought they couldn't join a book club. Great friends, great food, great conversation. What else is there on a Sunday night?"

The too often long-lost hobby of reading for fun is especially attractive now as new television becomes increasingly rare thanks to the Writers Guild of America strikes, say Lacey's book clubbers, who run the gamut from 20- to 70-somethings.

Noel Ladner, 30, and her mom, Julie, 59, use the club as a mother-daughter bond strengthener.

"I call her up and say, 'Oh, I can't believe this happened,'" says Noel, a quality assurance analyst for a financial services firm who reads on the way to and from her Manhattan office from Annadale. "That's my favorite part -- and her trying not to tell me what happens next."

These non-traditional bar patrons give Lacey's props for fostering new perspectives on topics such as suicide, the subject of Picoult's "The Pact," the November pick. Readers instinctually want feedback and that's mostly not possible with authors. Plus, the club turns them onto novels they might never have picked up.

And in the literary world, that means no re-runs -- ever.

Contact AWE senior writer Jodi Lee Reifer at reifer@siadvance.com.

Lacey's Book Club
Bibliophiles pack this Elm Park pub (75 Innis St.) once a month for informal discussions about a book they choose at the end of each meeting. Reading is encouraged, but not required. The next meeting is Jan. 13 at 6 p.m. This month's pick: "The Road" by Cormac McCarthy. No club fees. But the group meets over a $20 three-course dinner -- and cocktails. RSVPs necessary. laceysbridgetavern.com.
Questions? Call moderator Sara Gaither at 718-702-3091 or e-mail saracaron@yahoo.com.

 

Roadhouse Revival

by Ralph Knisley

Staten Island Advance - Staten Island, NY

December 20, 2007

A Google map search may be necessary for that first excursion to Lacey's Bridge Tavern in Elm Park. But future visits will be easy once you've discovered what may be a fine example of a local American roadhouse. The building is marked on either side with a sign that says simply "Eat" and an arrow aimed downward to the entrance.

We enter and the place is easily recognizable. The cozy, pine-paneled bar and booths do indeed recall every roadhouse in vanishing rural America. The woodsy backroom has dining tables and knowledgeable, cheerful waitresses in black outfits waiting to greet diners. This is an honest, pleasant eating and drinking establishment. We like it.

We opt for the back room and peruse the lunch menu, available all day, because we couldn't do justice to the family-style meals as advertised on the front window, in the menus and on the Web site. If this roadhouse was in, say, Wisconsin, we would be offered large portions of bratwurst and fish fry. But Staten Islanders crave their southern Italian classics -- parmigiana, piccata, marsala and marinara -- and they get them here with plenty of pasta, if desired. If you haven't been that friendly with your dining companions before the tempting platters arrive, you will be after sharing the delightful food. There's quantity, of course, but definite quality, too.

One evening we shared a delightful spinach salad with thick-sliced mushrooms, red onion hoops, bacon bits and wedges of hard-cooked egg in a tasty maple-sherry vinaigrette. It also contained wedges of wan tomato which perhaps could be eliminated in winter.

A guest desired a cheeseburger which was charcoal-flavored, cooked to medium as requested and offered with good cheddar cheese. It included rough-cut french fries, a trifle salty but that didn't stop us from demolishing the pile.

Linguine with red clam sauce, a good test of an Italian kitchen, was spot-on with properly cooked pasta and whole and chopped clams in a rust, rather than red, colored sauce with a suggestion of Worcestershire that offered a greater depth of flavor than usually found in this dish. The restaurant is also known for its two-pound meatloaf and barbecued flank steak.

For dessert, the cheesecake is housemade but our favorite was a carrot cake, not housemade, which offered a moist base topped with tasty cream cheese icing.

We have had the Bridge Tavern's Sunday brunch on several occasions and we recommend ordering from among the egg dishes. There are several eggs benedict plates, a frittata, Mexican omelet and a create your own omelet. We have tried the cream-cheese filled French toast and the grilled vegetables and mozzarella over tossed salad and they were indeed tasty, but we believe the hen fruit will leave you in the happiest mood.

Sangria was our favorite drink with its robust flavor and fresh fruit. Other classic brunch thirst quenchers are available including mimosas and Bloody Marys.

Each Sunday at brunch a lovely lady named Karen performs vocally with guitar. With her wide repertoire, she finds something to please everyone.

Quibble: Brunch could be more pleasant with a bread basket of good bagels or rolls and freshly baked muffins. Each time we have been there, the basket is less than half-filled with little chocolate donuts, sugary donut holes and small squares of crumb bun.

The Bridge Tavern does a good catering business and is quite involved in community affairs as its Web site can attest. At each visit, dinner or brunch, we have found a family gathering of 25 or more people in the dining room. Obviously, they are doing something right. Maybe it's time for you to venture over there to see for yourself.

Ralph Knisley is the temporary restaurant critic for AWE. All comments or questions should be directed to AWE@siadvance.com.

 

 

The Mother's Day brunch crunch
By Pamela Silvestri
Staten Island Advance - Staten Island, NY

May 11, 2007

Thinking about taking mom to brunch this Sunday? Well, thousands of other Staten Islanders had the same idea.

"We've been booked for the last three weeks," reported Cynthia Diaz, the receptionist at Historic Old Bermuda Inn in Charleston. Brochures for Mother's Day have been distributed since Easter. The catering house will charge $29.95 for adults and $16.95 for children for a spread that includes Belgian waffles, carving stations and a dessert table replete with a flowing chocolate fountain.

Rather than disappoint customers, Ms. Diaz recommended the South Shore Country Club in Huguenot and the Hilton Garden Inn in Bloomfield. At the moment, both locations also are fully booked for brunch.

"Whoa, we have 508 for brunch," said Patty Salerno, banquet manager at the South Shore Country Club.

"We've had two cancellations for the earlier seating but we're holding the spots for any regulars," she said. The South Shore plans on an extensive buffet to be served in the facility's large ballroom.

Gene Lucarini of The Lake Club in Sunnyside stopped taking names when he hit 200 reservation requests.

"I believe in a loose pack and I don't want to rush anybody," he said, adding, "What I don't make on that day I'll make up in the future. Those people will all come back." He believes a lighter crowd -- the aforementioned "loose pack" -- allows the restaurant to give better service.

Lacey's Bridge Tavern in Elm Park met with stunning success for its first Mother's Day brunch. Right now, Chris Lacey, proprietor and chef, expects more than 85 guests.

"We have space outside but are cutting off brunch at 1 p.m.," Lacey explained. He's giving guests a sit-down meal with about a dozen options, including eggs Benedict, frittatas and pasta. With mimosas, Bloody Marys and all drinks as part of the deal, the meal costs between $15.95 and $18.95, excluding tax and tip.

Meanwhile fishmongers at the New Fulton Fish Market in Hunts Point found business to be slower than usual for Thursday morning before the big day.

"Tonight was pretty disappointing," said filetman Bobby Tuna, otherwise known as Robert DiGregorio of Great Kills.

"But that only means Friday morning should be slamming," he said. Based on what he's hearing from buyers, DiGregorio is predicting record numbers for this Mother's Day. He speculates that tilapia and salmon will be the hottest fish items on restaurant menus.

DiGregorio has a brunch reservation for his family at Café Botanica, the gourmet garden restaurant at the Botanical Gardens in Livingston. With a sunny day in the forecast, he should be in good company.

"Each year when I read about families rushing, in the last few days, to book Mother's Day brunch or dinner, I think they are self-conscious about not treating Mom as well as they should have during the year," observed Ralph Knisely of Randall Manor. He will be cooking at home for his wife, Jane, a mother of two.


Pamela Silvestri is the Advance food critic. She writes "Traditions," a weekly ethnic food column in the Wednesday food section.

 

 

 

Barkeep of the week

By Jodi Lee Reifer

Staten Island Advance - Staten Island, NY

February 15, 2007

 

Rachel Clarke, 35, Lacey's Bridge Tavern

This master of sass arrived at Lacey's Bridge Tavern less than three months ago, but Clarke has been tending bar for more than a decade, most recently at the now-shuttered Side Street Saloon, where she amassed hard-core fans over six-plus years.

Many of them jumped with her to the Elm Park watering hole. "They're like lost puppies. Some of them followed me. Others I dragged by their leashes," Clarke says, laughing like thunder.

Loyalists say they adore her teasing, raunchy nature. "She has people who want to be around her. It's not just getting drunk," says Christopher Corbo, 23, a Randall Manor grad student studying microbiology at Wagner College.

Deliver a quick comeback and the self-professed "painfully single" barkeep will lay on a high-five. "It's all about how much sarcasm you can dish out and take back," she says.

Clarke first got behind the bar to earn money to put herself through Manhattan's Fashion Institute of Technology. She stopped reporting to the Fashion District after Sept. 11 and became manager at Side Street in St. George. Her attention to detail isn't lost on customers, they say.

An avid museum-goer who pays particular attention to the Metropolitan Museum of Art's fashion exhibits, the St. George resident get her kicks from ethnic restaurants, foreign films and books. But it may be concocting sangria for pals that gratifies her most. It's famous, she reminds you. Not so gently.

Rachel's Famous Sangria: Fill a standard size pitcher with Merlot of Cabernet,
leaving 1.5 to 2 inches at the top.

Combine with:
7 counts of blackberry brandy
2 counts of triple sec
half cup of orange juice
half cup of cranberry juice
splash of cherry juice
seasonal fruit such as oranges, apples, lemons, lime and ice

 

 

Dead End For Sidestreet
By Pamela Silvestri

Staten Island Advance, Staten Island NY

January 4, 2006

 

Alas, Sidestreet Saloon in St. George has shut its doors.

The partners are going in different directions and it's waiting to be sold, said Chris Lacey, Sidestreet co-owner and Lacey's Bridge Tavern proprietor. With that tidbit of news, we've encouraged Lacey to shamelessly promote his Elm Park location.

"Come to Lacey's Bridge Tavern," he said rather calmly.

So are there any New Year's resolutions in the works, Chris?

"No -- no, not really," he said.

And once again, the dry-humored Lacey's proprietor runs off with words. Thanks for enlightening us, Chris.
 

 

Eat your heart out, Islanders

By Pamela Silvestri

Staten Island Advance, Staten Island New York

ADVANCE WEEKLY ENTERTAINMENT

December 28, 2006

Oh, what fun we've had chowing down in the borough over the last year! But the critic's hat is off for a moment to share some happy thoughts on our Island's beautiful inventory of restaurants.

While Staten Island certainly has its fair share of good Italian eateries, newcomers are bringing more diversity to the dining scene. For instance, Zest recently opened in Rosebank to offer upscale American fare. Our shores also have been graced with a Vietnamese place, Pho Mac at 1407 Richmond Ave., Graniteville; 718-982-9292. And the Asian trend continues to make waves through the borough with Xin's pan-Asian menu -- at 2071 Clove Rd., Grasmere; 718-818-8387-- and Hokkaido Japanese restaurant at 3295 Amboy Rd., Oakwood; 718-980-0880.

This year, our roundup introduces a "Golden Fork Award." It is a way of giving a general thumbs up to restaurants offering attentive service, commendable environs and good food presented with notable consistency.

In the meantime, have a wonderful holiday. Thank you for reading....

...BEST FAMILY RESTAURANTS

1. Lacey's Bridge Tavern 75 Innis St., Elm Park; 718-273-7514

2. Killmeyer's Old Bavaria Inn 4254 Arthur Kill Rd., Charleston; 718-984-1202

3. Armory Inn 316 Manor Rd., Westerleigh; 718-442-9337

4. Lento's 289 New Dorp Lane, New Dorp; 718-980-7709

5. Nini's Cafe 710 New Dorp Lane; New Dorp; 718-351-9024

6. Grasmere Grill 1204 Hylan Blvd. Grasmere; 718-442-0810

7. Gentile's Restaurant 5262 Arthur Kill Rd., Tottenville; 718-966-9005

8. Portobello Cafe 4221 Hylan Blvd., Great Kills; 718-356-2233

 

 

Say What, Chris Lacey?

By Pamela Silvestri

Staten Island Advance, Staten Island NY

November 24, 2006

 

Let's hear applause for Chris Lacey, the personality/proprietor behind Lacey's Bridge Tavern, 75 Innis St., Elm Park; 718-273-7514. Lacey is just the bee's knees when it comes to chatter about the restaurant business so we'll share a recent interview.

AWE: Do you have any amusing kitchen stories in your repertoire from time at New York Restaurant School, years of cooking on the line plus owning restaurants like Sidestreet Saloon in St. George and Roscoe's, formerly in West Brighton?

Lacey: No.

AWE: Aside from catering pickup orders and special requests for Kielbasi rings are you open for Christmas?

Lacey: No.

And there you have it: Shameless promotion on the part of Chris Lacey, a guy who digs deep to satisfy answers to our burning questions. We thank Chris for his humble spirit and (since he won't) we suggest that you pay a visit to his place soon and try the steamed clams.

 

 

Try Education over Regulation

By Pamela Silvestri

Staten Island Advance, Staten Island NY

October 31, 2006

 

Put down the chalupa and drop the doughnut, says the Board of Health to restaurants. The city is moving to put the kibosh on food items produced with artificial trans fats.

"They're really going after fast-food providers who've made a lot of money from people in the past " they need to step up to the plate," said Silva Popaz, proprietor of Vida Restaurant in Stapleton, who supports the proposed ban.

She points to a fiercely competitive fast food industry that lures customers to value meals and the likes of 99 cent burgers. Artificial trans fat oils are cheaper to work with, she says, and therefore squeeze more profit out of meals. She already limits deep-fried items and inventories only soy, olive and peanut oils in the restaurant's pantry.

Seeing the writing on the wall, food operators like KFC Corp. have dropped artificial trans fats from their food repertoire.

The cafeteria kitchen at Wagner College on Grymes Hill dishes out 18,000 to 20,000 meals per week during the school year. But the management company " Chartwells Higher Education Dining Services of North Carolina " cut the bad stuff from student's diets last April.

"There is a massive reformulation effort by the manufacturers and producers so many more trans fat-free snacks and baked goods will be made available," said Holly Hart, director of marketing and communications with Chartwell's.

But that doesn't mean students will opt for more salubrious meals.

"From a nutrition perspective, we do not encourage eating fried food in general," said Ms. Hart. "However, we do provide fried food choices as requested by many of our clients..., but we are doing so in the most responsible manner by using only trans fat-free oils."

In other words, young customers want the fried goods. The food service operator understands this and therefore continues to sell them.

"Now we have to try to police people's eating habits," laments Chris Lacey, owner and chef of Lacey's Bridge Tavern in Elm Park.

"I would want everyone to be as healthy as possible, but how does it become the business owner's responsibility?" asked Lacey.

For him, the beef over trans fats brings back memories of the smoking ban, perceived as a revenue generating effort by the city. Enforcement of that measure came with heavy fines for restaurateurs plus hours of their time answering summonses.

Putting pressure on restaurants to eliminate any item may be a short-cut for the Health Department. The agency may serve the public better by educating consumers to make proper choices from the get-go.

 

Lacey's Tavern Goes All Out
By Pamela Silvestri

Staten Island Advance, Staten Island NY

June 30, 2006

 

Chris Lacey introduces al fresco dining at Lacey's Bridge Tavern in Elm Park. Lacey steered clear of the ho-hum when putting together the outdoor area: He built wooden tables into surrounding fences that unfold as needed.

"They're efficient, we had them built ourselves," said Lacey, a trained chef who co-owns Side Street Saloon in St. George. "It keeps the yard available for larger parties, although the weather hasn't helped over the last 10 days," he admitted.

His saloon isn't serving pub grub, by the way. French fries and onion rings are made from scratch. Lacey keeps a garden of fresh basil, oregano and other herbs within reach of the kitchen. Mint is grown for mojitos.

"The mint just takes off," he noted.

Lunch time crowds favor bar pizzas and burgers. Dinner menus focus on large portions "meant to be shared." Dishes such as Rigatoni Caprese -- tomatoes, basil, fresh mozzarella in garlic and white wine sauce for $14 -- are served with 1 1/2 pounds of pasta. Lacey points to barbecued flank steak with homemade onion rings.

"That's $26, but it's the whole flank steak, about two pounds average," he said, reminding of the importance of collaborating dining partners.

KIELBASA TRADITION

With a mostly Italian theme running through the menu, a skillet of kielbasa with sauerkraut ($14) stands out in the mix. The Polish tradition continues from the late Walter S. Daszkowski Jr. Daszkowski, previous proprietor who passed away about two weeks ago, owned the tavern for 67 years.

"Bridge Tavern was renowned for its smoked kielbasa," Lacey said. He said he has a handful of steadies for babka and sausages, special orders that are popular on holidays such as Easter.
 

Lacey's Bridge Tavern,, 75 Innis St., Elm Park, 718-273-7514
 

 

 

 

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