It’s sad. I was walking to the subway after work recently on a warmer winter day, and heard Joe the Carrot Peeler salesman. I’d heard his pitch a few times, but never really stopped to listen fully or even take photos. I never bought a peeler, but now I wish I had. 

It’s interesting how one person who’s name you don’t even know can affect your daily routine. In the past year of my life, he became a staple to me, a constant when walking through the Greenmarket in Union Square. His presence to me was similar to the GreenPeace advocates lining 17th St. or the UHO Homeless collection tubs with the guy shouting, “Even a penny can help.” Do you know his name? That guy with the raspy voice on the corner of Union Square West and 14th St. I don’t. Yet, these nameless people shape our lives. 

RIP Joe Ades…your voice and presence will be missed. 

Joe Ades - RIP

Joe Ades - RIP

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Last night, I had the pleasure of letting my mind escape and dream of being in two countries that I’ve always wanted to visit: Spain & Italy.

My night started out with a showing of Vicky Cristina Barcelona by Woody Allen, starring Scarlett Johansson, Rebecca Hall, Penelope Cruz, and Javier Bardem.  I had wanted to see it because I’m a fan of Woody Allen and I’d never seen a work of his on the big screen. The movie turned out the be much better than I expected. I had anticipated a bit of a love story, or a twisted love triangle. Keep in mind that I tend not to read reviews about a movie or play until I see it so that I won’t be influenced in one way or another. But if I come across a review, I’ll read it – but I don’t seek them out. The basic story is two female American tourists with different ideas about love visit Barcelona for a summer and romantic and not-so-romantic adventures ensue. This film was quirky without trying and everything just seemed to fit: the music, the cast, the environment. I didn’t really notice one aspect over another – the movie just was. It was great to just sit back, relax, and really enjoy a movie. Some of the lines could have been a bit forced due to their wit, but none were. I also enjoyed the relaxed linen fashion – all characters wore the loose clothing so effortlessly and fashionably, again without trying. 

I was unfamiliar with Rebecca Hall’s (Vicky) work, and was very impressed. Actually, I just found out that she’s performing at BAM alongside Ethan Hawke in The Cherry Orchard. Her expressions and reactions were natural, even with the character’s neurotic and nervous nature. Javier Bardem (Juan Antonio) performed with an amazing balance of lust and arrogance, but still allowed the viewer to really feel for his character. One particular scene that I enjoyed with him was when he kept asking his ex-wife Maria Elena (Penelope Cruz) to speak English in front of his girlfriend, Cristina (Scarlett Johansson). Moments such as this made the movie as natural as it was. Maria Elena wouldn’t stop speaking Spanish, and Juan Antonio wouldn’t give up until she started speaking just a bit of English. She weaved in and out of both languages, but stuck primarily with Spanish. Juan kind of gives up, but still remains annoyed at her inability to listen or act appropriately in front of Cristina. Then he speaks Spanish too as much as Maria Elena, as would most likely happen in life.

Personally, I could relate a great deal to Cristina’s restlessness and need to jump from one setting to another. As soon as she feels settled in one place, she has this desire to move on. In my life, I’ve always wanted to move to NYC. Now that I finally have, I can’t wait to travel outside the US. This desire made me love the film even more, with 95% of the setting in Barcelona. I’ve always longed for the carefree lifestyle of artists living in Spain and the ability to jump on a plane and escape to a different country for a weekend. Vicky Cristina Barcelona allowed me to feel as if I were on a real journey with Vicky & Cristina for two months, temporarily satisfying my desire and allowing me to just relax and enjoy the film. Highly recommended ****

 

Vicky Cristina Barcelona - Cristina, Maria Elena, & Juan Antonio Gonzalo

Vicky Cristina Barcelona - Johansson, Bardem, and Cruz

Vicky Cristina Barcelona - Juan Antonio & Vicky

Vicky Cristina Barcelona - Javier Bardem and Rebecca Hall

 

After the film, I went out in search of an amazing Italian restaurant that I’d dined at in the Fall. I couldn’t remember the name, but remembered their perfect, tender, and meaty lasagna and cozy atmosphere. After walking around the East Village for about 1/2 hour, we finally found Max on Ave B near 3rd St. We had to wait about 1/2 hr more just to get a seat, but it was worth it. The first time I dined there, I ordered the Rigatoni al Ragu Napoletano (meatballs and sausage). I don’t normally eat a lot of meat, but I guess I was feeling a bit carnivorous that night. It was delicious, but not as great as the lasagna I sampled from my neighbor’s plate. Last night, I ordered my own and was not disappointed. Their portions are pretty huge and definitely enough to take home about 1/2 or more. Both times, their dishes were served very very HOT and very fresh. We also ordered appetizers of caprese with Buffalo mozzarella and bruschetta. Both were extremely tasty and fresh and hit the spot after not eating lunch!

I completely recommend the restaurant for the food, but I wasn’t so crazy about the atmosphere or service. My first visit was on a weekday afternoon, so it wasn’t as crowded. But going on a Friday night was probably a bit of a mistake. We tried to wait at the bar, but even that was packed. For about 20 minutes, we stood there having to move constantly to let the dishwasher and bartenders and servers pass by us or get into the bar. There’s seriously nowhere to wait – I even considered waiting in the restroom! Maybe it would’ve been more tolerable if the outside seating area was open.

The hostess was very nice and tried to be accommodating for a packed house, but it was tough to flag the waiter down and I wasn’t thrilled with the waiters kept running into me on my way to and from the restroom. I know it’s packed, but none of them said “excuse me” or “sorry about that” – I did see them apologize to others who were seated though, so it just depends. In all, the food is definitely worth the wait and dealing with rude waiters on busy nights. It’s also pretty inexpensive (about $12 for the lasagna). They do have a pretty good wine list, but the only two basic drinks they serve are Coke and Sparkling water (or tap water). It’s a wonderful little taste of Italy if you don’t mind inconsistent service and a cramped atmosphere. Recommended ***

 

Max Restaurant - East Village, NYC

Max Restaurant - East Village, NYC

 

Max Restaurant - Front

Max Restaurant - Entrance