November 13, 2017 | BITE: My Journal

Bond 45: To Think That I Saw It on 46th Street

The tempting antipasto display grabs your attention as you enter Bond 45.

          I don’t plan to hang out at Bond 45 now that it’s moved to 46th Street in the throbbing heart of the theater district.  I didn't hang out there when it was on the east side of Times Square. I live a short walk from Fiorello, so I can get a serious antipasto fix on a whim and there’s even a booth with my name etched in brass on it (along with 22 other people who apparently share the booth, some of whom I know).

 

 

Owner Shelly Fireman proudly claims the original bronze sculpture done on his vacation in Pietrasanta.

 

          But the new, relocated Bond 45 is definitely on my pre-theater dinner list. And I’d meet you there, if you insist, on a Monday, when most theaters are closed.  If you, like me, are also a fan of Shelly Fireman’s feeding style, you already know what to expect. Do you remember Shelly’s New York? (Click here to read post ) How about Shelly's Tradizionale? Although Brooklyn Diner is nothing like Trattoria Dell’Arte and the Redeye Grill won’t remind you of either, Bond 45 has a Fiorello vibe.

 

 

A selection of antipasti makes a great starter for the table or pre-theater dinner for two.

 

          You’ll be fired up by the signature display of antipasto bravura as you step inside. You might recognize a familiar cast of characters in the Fireman troops running the show. And when a manager passes by mid-evening with chocolate chip cookies, warm from the oven on a baking sheet, you’ll know you can go home again and you’re in Fireman territory.

 

 

A captain circulating with fresh baked chocolate chip cookies is a Fireman Hospitality tradition.

 

          The new Bond definitely looked familiar on my first visit. It was during Friends-and-Family previews and Shelly himself, seeming besieged and a bit anxious, was seated at the next table with his wife Marilyn and friends of mine who’d just returned from Italy. Dinner was on the house, and I longed to taste almost everything on the collection of menus the waiter dropped at our table. “Prix Fixe with our compliments,” the flyers read.

 

 

The Tuscan-style ribollita soup – vegetables and bread and not much liquid – can be very filling.

 

Nonna’s short rib meatballs are rich and fatty and delicious: you get three to an order in tomato sauce.

 

          But after polishing off an order of ribollita soup (which I didn’t like as much as I expected to because it was so bready) and just one of Nonna’s maniacally rich short rib meatballs, I didn’t have room for pappardelle with eggplant Parmesan, Brando’s lasagna Bolognese, or a “gooey Margherita pizza.”

 

 

The chocolate blackout cake is Bond 45’s homage to a vintage Brooklyn classic.

 

          I certainly didn’t intend to put away more than a smidgen of Chocolate Blackout Cake. Until I tasted it. And then resolution vanished. That darkness refers to the World War II blackouts that inspired the Ebinger Baking Company’s chocolate-pudding-filled icon. I know because I was married to Don Forst, another Brooklyn icon, who insisted 45 years ago that I must try it.

 

 

The new Bond 45 on 46th St. is surrounded by Broadway theaters but you can’t miss it.

 

          More to the point, the previews gave me a good idea of what I wanted to order next time. Two weeks later, a pair of us recruited a couple of guys we could count on for appetites to justify the dishes we hadn’t been intemperate enough to work into our freebie tasting: a pizza, the pastas, the chicken pepperoni parmigiana.

 

 

Pizza “with a lot of pepperoni” the menu promises. It also has the heat of ‘nduja and a touch of honey. 

 

          It might seem redundant to order a pizza, as the menu describes it, “with a lot of pepperoni,” and the chicken pepperoni parmigiana, too. But the pie filling my mouth with the heat and saltiness of ‘nduja and the sweetness of honey proves to be essential. (That’s a pizza combo I would never have imagined.) And the layered parmigiana, though similarly paved with pepperoni, is a totally different animal. It’s dinner all by itself, oozing rich explosions of burrata, enough for four to share.

 

 

Chicken pepperoni Parmigiana is made even richer with explosions of burrata and guanciale bread crumbs.

 

Pastrami spaghetti carbonara with a poached egg and everything-seed mix. Oy vey, the menu warns.

 

          Pasta is imperative tonight, too. “Don’t forget, I’m Italian,” one of the gentlemen chides. I order the super rich pastrami spaghetti carbonara – “Oy Vey, poached egg and everything seed mix,” the menu teases. “Oy Vey,” whatever that means, is right!

 

 

Romaine, chickpeas, almonds, avocado, strawberries, soft pecorino and yogurt are tossed into chopped salad.

 

          Of course, we can’t deny the guys those outrageous meatballs. And even if no one else cares about veggies, I must have the chopped salad with asparagus, chickpea, cucumber, purple radicchio, Marcona almonds, avocado, strawberries, and poppy seed yogurt.

 

 

When I’m not in the mood for a Negroni, I might start the evening with a classic Campari spritz.

 

          Our table is already caught up in the pepperoni fest when an unexpected house gift from the antipasto table arrives: fried cauliflower, charred broccoli, puff pastry vegetable tart and many colors of roasted carrots posed on a yogurt sauce. Not everyone seems interested but I, as always, taste everything.

 

 

I think Fireman’s strawberry cheesecake is better than Junior’s. Try it and see if you don’t agree.

 

          The manager wants us to check out the dining room downstairs but I can scarcely move (not even toward the elevator).  And besides, I’m focused on dessert. I want to introduce my pals to Shelly’s New York cheesecake with fresh strawberries -- it’s the best in town. Sorry, Junior’s.

 

 

I sent back the boring dark bread and the chef quickly replaced it with a pile of rosemary pizza bread.

 

The chef Brando de Oliveira started as executive chef at Fiorello. He’s in Bond 45’s kitchen now.

 

          A few weeks back, my niece had a date to meet an out-of-town friend staying in Times Square. Fortunately, it’s Monday and the traffic going east on 46th Street is only a little bit slow. But Bond 45 is filling up. The Winebill looks like a blowup of Playbill, with one page devoted to mugshots of the cast, Who’s Who at Bond 45. Cute. But cocktails are taking rather long to arrive.

 

The painting, found rolled up in a flea market, came from a Hollywood bar. Guests try to identify the stars.

 

          I make the waiter take the tasteless bread away.  “You need better bread,” I find myself saying, even though, as a restaurant critic, I’m not supposed to be available for consultations. Apparently my critique hits the kitchen, because out come triangles of white, rosemary flecked pizza (slathered too sparingly with olive oil). And then chef Brando himself. I want to suggest he sample the sensational brown bread at Union Square Café, in case he’s forgotten what bread should taste like. I button my lip. The Fireman Hospitality Group is one of my advertisers. My unabashed affection for their restaurants is already compromising.

 

 

I find it impossible to resist the fried artichokes in the Jewish style (alla Giudea).

 

Fried calamari with vinegar peppers is another staple of my dinners with Shelly, at Bond 45 and Fiorello.

 

          I like that the place offers breakfast all day. Breakfast is one of my three favorite meals. But not tonight. Suddenly the waiter is moving things around on the table to make room for the crusty fried calamari with vinegar peppers, fried artichokes alla Giudia, and that huge $39 Shareable Antipasto platter of something for everyone: tiny Brussels sprouts, roasted Romanesco, grilled red and yellow peppers, chickpeas with pecorino, cauliflower Milanese and eggplant two ways. The multigrain salad with root vegetables on a smoked chili aïoli gets its own plate, as do the heirloom carrots. We’re not vegetarians but we sure love vegetables.

 

 

Tonight the four of us are sharing this $39 antipasto platter with many of our favorites from the big display.

 

Multigrain salad with root vegetables on smoked chili aïoli gets its own separate plate as part of the $39 deal.

 

          It’s too late for the pappardelle with eggplant Parmesan I’ve chosen as a main course. We’re too full. None of us can even speak of dessert. “Our desserts are made with very little sugar,” the menu says. Even if I believed that…I couldn’t do chocolate mousse tonight.

 

Pappardelle pasta with eggplant Parmigiana.

 

          I have saved my chocolate chip cookie for this moment. Our waiter brings broken pieces of solid chocolate and chocolate crunch from the hospitality bowls near the door with the check, $45.60 per person plus tip.  

 

 

The keeper of the antipasto table also sends heirloom carrots with freekeh on a yogurt sauce.

 

          I’m going to see The Band’s Visit at the Barrymore Theater on West 47th Street November 29th. I guess I don’t need to say where I’ll be for an early supper that night. I’m reserving at Bond 45 right now because even with 268 seats, I predict the main floor will be fiercely in demand.

 

221 West 46th Street between Times Square and Eighth Avenue. 212 869 4545. Breakfast 7 am till 11:30 am. Lunch Monday through Friday 11:30 am till 4:30 pm. Brunch Saturday and Sunday 11:30 am to 3 pm. Dinner Monday through Friday 4:30 pm “until late.” Saturday and Sunday 3 pm “until late.”  Bond Bar Below late night happy hour 9 pm “until late.”

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