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Mozzarellando in NYC

Nathasha Lardera (November 18, 2008)
Manhattan gets a Mozzarella Bar, Obikà. It is is the creation of Silvio Ursini, a Neapolitan entrepreneur, who dreamed up the idea more than two decades ago

There's more to mozzarella than pizza and caprese salad; this mild, fresh cheese isn't just a topping but it's a treat in and of itself.

With this in mind, Manhattan gets a Mozzarella Bar, dedicated to spreading this Neapolitan culinary jewel to the biggest city in the country. After launching the world’s first Mozzarella Bar in Rome, and then reaching cities like Milan, Kuwait City, Athens, Tokyo and London, Obikà, from the word obiccà that in Neapolitan dialect means “here it is,” is an innovative and exciting concept in metro dining that graces the sculpture garden of 590 Madison Avenue, in the Atrium of the IBM building.

Obikà is the creation of Silvio Ursini, a Neapolitan entrepreneur, who dreamed up the idea more than two decades ago. His inspiration came partly from the local shops in Naples, where lines formed for fresh, creamy mozzarella eaten on the go, and partly from a trip to Japan, where he became enamored of the care and art with which sushi was presented. He imagined a place that combined the best of both culinary worlds.

In New York City, it's not often that an eatery can claim to be "the first", "history-making, " "never-been-done-before," but in this case we certainly can say that - not billing itself as a café or a bistro, Obika is branded as a Mozzarella Bar, that draws inspiration from the traditions of a sushi bar, but here buffalo mozzarella and other products that are authentically Italian are used instead of fish.


The menu is seasonal and the center stage is, of course, taken by the sublime Buffalo Mozzarella, especially the hand-made and certified Mozzarella di Bufala Campana DOP (Denomination of Protected Origin). This seal is awarded to foods prepared with traditional methods and under strict European regulations. Mozzarella di Bufala is a subtle, delicate cheese world-renowned for its supple texture and flavor. Made using only milk of water buffalos, it is endowed with a mouthwatering flavor that connoisseurs worship. On a direct flight from Paestum to Madison Avenue, it is shipped to New York three times a week and is completely safe, as Obikà began testing its mozzarellas monthly for bacteria and toxins long before the recent mozzarella contamination scare that has plagued farms around Naples.

Obikà also features a locally produced buffalo mozzarella from Woodstock: “Bufala di Vermont,” the first farmstead creamery in the United States, producing fresh 100% pure buffalo dairy products on site, in a genuine Italian style. Guests can enjoy the variety and versatility of gourmet mozzarellas pairing them with Bresaola, Prosciutto Crudo di Parma DOP aged 16 months, Prosciutto Cotto al Tartufo e Erbe, Speck Affumicato dell’Alto Adige, and Mortadella al Pistacchio.

During the hours of operation, from breakfast to dinner, Obikà offers a selection of organic salads, pastas and desserts. The menu is crafted with special attention to include the freshest organic produce, such as cherry tomatoes, spinach, and arugula, and eco-friendly products, in the spirit of the Green Restaurant Association.

There is no chef in the kitchen, but the staff is trained to assemble the dishes in order to give each ingredient the importance that they deserve,” Reto Cantone, one of the partners explains, “All our dishes are strictly ingredient driven.” Differently from other locations Obikà in Manhattan offers some unique rituals: Colazione, a continental breakfast with delicious sweet and savory selections and soon the Aperitivo, a pre-dinner drink meant to open the palate. It offers an opportunity to relax and socialize while enjoying cocktails, wines or beers, along with finger food and teasers. On weekends, look for a signature Italian Brunch to become a trend, with its rich buffet of featured dishes, cured meats and of course, immaculate Mozzarella di Bufala.

Obikà is open Monday to Friday from 7 AM to 9 PM and on weekends & holidays from 8 AM to 9 PM.

Guests can enjoy their meal either at the communal table, at the bar, or at one of the many tables in the public space of the atrium. Obikà also offers take-away and by late fall, delivery services and catering.

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