Eating NYC: Emilio’s Ballato

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When my friend Sinead and I arrived in New York, all we had booked was the flights and the first hotel. It was easily the most unplanned trip I’ve ever been on, but it was fun to try to travel like this (it was so last minute and we were so busy we didn’t have time to plan beforehand) and also strangely liberating.

Our first night in the city we had dinner quite late, without booking and just tried our luck at  Emilio’s Ballato, an Italian restaurant food writer Diana Henry recommended in her New York special in The Telegraph.  

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The interior was charmingly dishevelled in a New York sort of way and we could tell the guests were enjoying themselves; drinking wine, sharing both stories and food. We shared a bottle of wine and dove straight into the starters as they arrived just a few minutes after the waiter had taken our order. Sinead had this huge portion of crispy, warm calamari and was almost too full for the next course.

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My starter, baked clams with breadcrumbs, parsley, butter and a little garlic, was a lot smaller but just as nice.

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We both chose pasta for the main course; Sinead had the excellent Pnne all’Arrabbiata…

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…while I enjoyed spaghetti with a summery ‘raw’ tomato sauce. It was all really nice and well-cooked but not outstanding. But despite this, I really liked the place. It all comes together as one really nice experience; the food, the ambiance, the interior, the staff.

Emilio’s Ballato, 55 E Houston St, New York, NY 10012

Clams with sherry and potatoes

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Seafood for me is Friday food. Probably because we had Atlantic prawns every Friday of my childhood (it’s pretty normal in Sweden, actually). First of course, because it’s yummy and, second, it doesn’t take long to prepare, which is why my mother thought (and still thinks) it’s the ultimate way to start the weekend.

These clams with cream, sherry and potatoes are just amazing as a Friday evening dish. Serve with bread and maybe some aioli if you want a more elaborate meal. For me, this and a glass of bubbly is all I need.

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Clams with sherry and potatoes, serves 2

500 g clams

3 medium potatoes

a knob of butter

1 shallot, finely chopped

50 ml dry sherry

100 ml cream

salt & pepper

chopped parsley

Peel and cube the potatoes. Boil until soft, approx 15 minutes. Drain. 

Rinse the clams in a colander and discard any clams not closing. Melt the butter in a saucepan and fry the onion for a few minutes on medium heat without browning. Add the sherry and let some of it evaporate. Add the cream and then the clams. Put the lid on and wait for a minute or two. Check that the clams have opened. (If not, put the lid on for another minute.) When the clams have opened, season the sauce and add the potatoes. Scatter with parsley and serve immediately.