A Little Culture: Chinatown & Ciao Amato

It's been a beautiful weekend in the city, full of sunshine, flowers, friends, food, and entertainment. My list of meals since Thursday night is frightening (let's just say I'll be eating salad all week to make up for it), and I'll write more on last night's pizza making adventure in a later post. But today, especially, was one of those days that really only happens in New York, and makes me respect this amazing city in which I dwell.

The morning began with dim sum at Golden Unicorn, which is back on my list of acceptable places to go. I'd been there a few times years ago, and stopped going because I thought it was completely boring and overrated. But today it redeemed itself, and we truly pigged out. I'd say the highlights were the fluffy baked roast pork buns, the garlicky spare ribs, and the stinky (in a good way) durian pastry. I think I still favor the massive selection and entertaining theatricality of Jing Fong, but if I want easy, quiet dim sum, I'll head back to Golden Unicorn.

I left my dim sum partners (all of whom were heading to the Bang on a Can Marathon) walked north on Mulberry past Columbus Park, and stopped for a minute to listen to some informal Chinese opera. I especially dug the cigarette-smoking zither guy...he, for whatever reason, made the experience so much better.

I continued my trek north to meet nightafternight for the final performance of the Amato Opera. Run by Tony Amato for 61 years, I'd walked by the place a million times, but with my spoiled New York "Yeah...it'll always be there" head, had never managed to go. The tiny opera house is two buildings north of where CBGB used to be (note the black John Varvatos awning), and it's so amazing that these two ends of the musical spectrum existed so close to each other for so long. I'm thankful I got to go--it was a sort of throwback to another era, and the company was obviously a closely-knit family that enjoyed every bit of what they were doing. It wasn't the most highly-polished Figaro, but I think it was the most enjoyable I've ever seen.

Listen to Lara Pellegrinelli's NPR story on the closing of the Amato, and check back for a link to nightafternight's New York Times review. UPDATE: Here's the Times link.

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