Friday, December 24, 2010

A Visit to Casablanca and Tuscany Within Manhattan

Between my trips to far off locations like Punta Cana and Champagne, France, I often receive invitations to check out events and places within the two states I am in most – New York and Illinois.   What I didn’t imagine when I headed into New York City a few weeks ago was that I would really be heading into another worldwide adventure.

I visited the Hotel Elysée a few months ago.  I loved it, but I didn’t get a chance to experience all it had to offer.  I was determined not to do the same at its sister property, Casablanca Hotel.  The Casablanca offers a whole different atmosphere than the Elysée, with a Moroccan flair and a more laid back feel.  It is literally a stone’s throw to Times Square, in fact, I probably walked by it 100 times in my life and didn’t realize all that was being offered inside.  They offer mini-suite rooms, with a separate living area, perfect for couples and families, but singles like us can also get two queen beds, with free internet and a helpful staff.

It was a getaway in celebration of my friend Lynn’s birthday and we began it at the Casablanca Hotel’s free evening reception.   I have been to many of these and hotels usually have a couple of bottles of beer and wine and some vegetables and dip.  The Casablanca, like the other HK Hotels, takes it one step further, adding Prosecco, an Italian sparkling wine, cheeses, fruits and nuts.  It is all served in Rick’s Café, named for the bar in the movie Casablanca

I really enjoyed the Lunetta Prosecco from Cavit, fruity and crispy, the perfect aperitif to our Italian dinner at Nino’s Tuscany.  I had been looking forward to visiting the restaurant, but as soon as I mentioned it to someone in the hotel, their eyes lit up and I knew Nino’s, located on 58th Street off 6th Avenue, would be really special.

When you walk off the street in Manhattan and into Nino’s Tuscany, you are transformed to Italian with the smells and the cozy atmosphere (definitely a great place for romance too). We sampled the starters, from the salad with Goat Cheese and Walnuts to the Pasta Fagiole, followed by an al dente Spinach Ravioli and the best Crespelle (basically a thinner baked Manicotti) I’ve ever had. 

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We shared a tender Osso Bucco and then finished with a Banana Flambe, made at our table.  I regret that I did misplace my wine list, but I can tell you to trust their pairing advice, as it worked to perfection.

As good as the food was, Nino’s was made even better by the delightful Irving Fields.  Fields plays piano beautifully and we had a front and center seat to make requests and be charmed by this world traveler.  He performs at Nino’s often and you must see him and listen to the experiences of this 95 year old, who has told his stories and played his music for New York City icons like Donald Trump and Regis Philbin.

We walked back to the hotel (calories in must go out!) and enjoyed a restful night at the Casablanca before feasting on their breakfast.  If you have ever been to a European hotel, you would be reminiscing with the cheese, yogurt, fruit, croissants, cereal and muffins (with some bagels thrown in for the New York flavor).  All of this is complimentary, including the cappuccinos and lattes. 

There isn’t another European trip on my schedule in the near future as I am heading down under soon, but it’s good to know that Hotel Elysée and Casablanca Hotel have two more “sisters” (Hotel Giraffe and the Library Hotel) for me to try if I need to get back that charm.


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