Sweet Dreams Café
Vegetarian/ Cholov Yisroel & Bishul Yisroel
Hours Sunday through Thursday 11am – 7 pm. Fridays vary.
Hashgacha by Rabbi Fishelis
Sweet Dreams Café, located in The Historic Blue Moon Hotel, offers artisan Italian cuisine in a setting of art, history, and culture. The hotel is a work of art, acknowledged by National Geographic as “One of a Hundred and Fifty in the Western Hemisphere to Check Into,” among other prestigious awards, and is the subject of numerous articles.
Heritage, and a hearty homemade meal, sustains this family enterprise extending to all who enter this beloved ode to NYC’s history. Sweet Dreams is based on Vesuvius, Settenbrino’s Nonna Carolina’s legendary 1930s artisan Italian restaurant.
I came, I saw, and I was conquered by delightful savory dishes: Caprese made with handmade Mozzarella, pesto, and a balsamic glaze, Arancini – Risotto Balls in the house tomato sauce, Tuscan Italian lentil soup – all a perfect beginning to a perfect meal. The entrees were delectable: four variations of handmade ravioli and three of lasagnas. Assuredly, the artichoke rabe and sun-dried tomato in a cream sauce was just like Nonna. Of the three Lasagna variations, my favorite was a plant-based which is the closest a kosher Yid can ever get to a real meat lasagna. The onsite bakery is run by Shaina Settenbrino who bakes exotic Italian pastries – her Lemon Tiramisu deserves a standing ovation.
One must come meet, see, and hear how artist Settenbrino reconfigured a former 1879 tenement into a stately hotel and created an artisan kosher Italian bakery and restaurant. The authentic experience via culture, camaraderie of community and, of course, homemade Italian cuisine are tempting tastebuds from the boroughs to the tri-State area and is truly unforgettable.
The Last Jewish Renovated Tenement
In the heart of the Lower East Side, once the most densely Jewish populated area in the world, stood a building at 100 Orchard Street where every apartment sported a mezuzah, and the owner merchants as well as the tenants, were Eastern European Jews. In 1936 the tenants and the merchants would soon part ways.
Mayor La Guardia sought to enforce transformative social conditions in the sweatshops and tenements, legislation required costs and the owners didn’t want to conform, thinking it might be better to do without tenants than to bare the expense and risk of overflowing plumbing or fire ruining their wares and so they decided to seal up the upper floors. Thus, inadvertently creating testimonial time capsules till 2001, when Settenbrino set about the gargantuan task of memorializing and venerating the generations of lives lived and lost.
Perusing the 14 collages Settenbrino underlaid with depression era green stamps of anonymous merchants and personal effects of the former Jewish tenement dwellers allows viewers to relive periods in our culture when a more wholesome charm pleased with greater satisfaction. In one collage about mothers and children, a boy’s Talmud Torah assignment are on display with an excerpt from a diary cut and pasted squarely in the center that states Sunday School, Sunday School, Sunday School. These collages house immense personal details and, like Hieronymus Bosch, offer an immense visual to step back in real time, to touch and breath in an experience of those lives, to imagine the era of the Jewish immigrant life and through imagination to become part to that experience.
The Settenbrinos have two sons serving in the IDF and the family has done much to preserve the Jewish and historic character of the Lower East Side by housing the displaced Eldridge Street Congregation for seven and a half years, gratis, and now provide the only kosher restaurant, where once upon a time there was a plethora of dairy restaurants. Ironically, they are neither mentioned on the Eldridge Street Synagogue nor the Tenement Museum’s websites although they receive tens of thousands of Jewish visitors yearly – many of which could use a kosher eatery.
Heritage Tours visitors can now join our meet, greet, and eat tours and experience daily activities of the original tenement dwellers, merchants, and highlights of immigrant Jewish life.