Croft Alley

CROFT ALLEY
8428 Melrose Place
No telephone number


My obsession with Croft Alley started when I saw a post on Instagram of a bowl of creamy-white house-made yogurt that was artfully drizzled with pure chlorophyll and decorated with glistening berries. Then I saw a picture of their baby kale & mint salad with perilla leaves and crispy shallots in a coconut dressing. These were just the kind of simple yet inspiring dishes that I always find myself drawn to! 

Needless to say, I quickly became a "regular", stopping in every chance I had when visiting L.A. from the ranch. I adore the staff there and now call Phuong, chef and co-owner, a dear friend. (They have this thing where they all say, very loudly, "Jessica DaaaAAAaang!" when I show up. Never gets old!)

This place is a challenge to find as there are no signs to point it out. It's literally tucked into an alley behind the more visible Alfred Coffee & Tea and therefore completely hidden from the famed storefronts of Melrose Place. But, of course, this is all part of its insider-y charm.

It's nothing short of a miracle what they can pull off in their tiny kitchen, which contains only induction burners and convection ovens! Everything on their well-edited menu is executed flawlessly, from the custardy French scrambled eggs to the golden-crisped tuna melt. (Believe it or not, they also serve pho on Tuesdays.) For those who are gluten-free and vegan, there are plenty of options that thankfully never taste like hippie food. 

Real food and real people. Gotta love that.

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*Croft Alley also holds private speakeasy dinners and provides catering. I had a small birthday dinner here last year and everyone loved it. We had miniature steamed Vietnamese rice cakes, heirloom tomato salad, kale & mint salad, prime rib roast, grilled broccolini, celeriac purée and panna cotta.

 

Bottega del Vino

 

BOTTEGA DEL VINO

7 East 59th Street bet. Fifth & Madison Avenues
212.223.2724


You can really work up an appetite while shopping—or, in my case, window-shopping. When hunger strikes in the Barneys/Bergdorf territory, I like to waltz into the cozy front room of Bottega del Vino for a panino and a capuccino. The ones here are super special and are a world away from the grill-marked panini you'd find at the typical deli, with their generic fillings, like pesto chicken.

Along with its sister restaurant Via Quadronno, this place shares the most interesting panini combinations I've ever come across. Their "award-winning specialty", as denoted on the menu, is the Non Ti Scordar Di Me, which has a smoky, pungent mix of speck, brie, and påté. If that sounds too complicated, they also offer simpler one-note versions that contain just mortadella or just prosciutto.

Given its location, which is around the corner from Cipriani's and Sirio, you might think it's one of those expensive hoity-toity spots where a plate of tomato, basil, and mozzarella will set you back $38. Quite the contrary. You'll easily be able to get away with a lovely afternoon lunch for under $20—or less. If you're lucky and happen to unleash a little charm around Paolo, who's one of the owners, perhaps you may be surprised with a complimentary tiramisu.