NAME: East River Café
ADDRESS: 1111 First Avenue (at 61st Street)
New York, NY 10021
WEB SITE: www.eastrivercafe.com
TELEPHONE: (212) 980-3144
FAX: (212) 980-3171
HOURS: Lunch/Brunch: 12:00 Noon – 3:30 PM, Mon.-Sun. Dinner: 4:00 PM – 11:00 PM, Sun.-Thurs.
4:00 PM – 12:00 Midnight, Fri.-Sat.
(Contemporary and classic Mediterranean
dishes. In addition, a unique variety of
thin-crusted pizzas and homemade gnocchi
are available from the oven.)
CREDIT CARDS: All major
PRICE RANGE: Lunch/Brunch: $14.95
(Prix Fixe with mimosa or
Dinner (entrees): $12.00 – $28.00
DRESS: Elegant Casual
SEATING CAPACITY: Bi-level dining room seats 100
(Wraparound Outdoor Café seats 24
NUMBER OF ROOMS: 1
(Wraparound Outdoor Café seats 24)
PARTY FACILITIES: Available upon request
(Upper level of dining room or entire restaurant is
available for private parties and special events.)
BAR: Full-service sit-down bar. The handsome
20-foot long custom-made copper bar features
stylish barstools, hanging Tiffany lamps, and
a striking 100-year old antique mirror. The bar
features an impressive selection of global wines.
A variety of wines are available by the glass. In
addition, a premier selection of spirits, liquors,
after-dinner drinks, dessert wines, and specialty
cocktails such as Pomegranate Martini (Level
Vodka with a Splash of DeKuyper Pomegranate),
Key Lime Martini (Tommy Bahama Rum, Orange
Liqueur, Fresh Key Lime Juice, and a Splash of Kajmir
Vanilla Liqueur), and Tatanaka (Bison Grass Vodka,
Apple Juice, a Splash of Lime Juice, and a Hint of
Vanilla) are also available. The Lunch/Brunch and
Dinner Menus are available at the bar. On Wednesday
through Saturday from 7:00 PM until 12:00 Midnight,
accomplished pianist Alberto Aprigliano plays classical
and popular music in the bar alongside the front dining room.
ATMOSPHERE: Exotic, romantic ambiance. The stylish bi-level dining
room is enhanced by a 14-foot high ceiling, candlelit
round tables, exotic custom-made mahogany and
fabric-upholstered chairs, pale pink walls, antique
hand-carved mirrors, recessed mood lighting,
black-and-white vintage photos of classic movie stars,
antique copper lanterns on the walls, hard wood and
Mediterranean tiled floors, and French doors opening
onto a charming outdoor café to create a contemporary
OUTDOOR CAFÉ: A charming wraparound outdoor café on a
quiet East Side street seats 24 people. It is
enhanced by potted plants and by wood
flower boxes. It is open March through
DESIGNER: Sam Marcos
EXECUTIVE CHEF: Sam Marcos
WINE DIRECTOR: Sam Marcos
OWNER: Sam Marcos
OPENING DATE: July, 1994
East River Cafe
1111 First Ave., at 61st St.
212-980-3144. (Fax) 212-980-3171
Hours: Open 7 Days a Week for Lunch & Dinner
Appetizers: $6-$13. Pasta: $12-$19. Pizza: $9-$14. Entrees: $16-$26.
Wine List short: well selected and amazingly inexpensive, with many choices under $30. 10 Wines By The Glass: $7-$9. Bottles $25-$85
Review By Nancy Walman
The delightful East River Café offers a tinkling piano, packed-bar-scene, and the area’s best value in first rate dining, with an outstanding Italian-Mediterranean kitchen. Inside, there are three attractive rooms with high back country-style chairs, bare wood floors, tables set with double-white cloths and crisp white linen, and walls hung with framed photos depicting scene from films. Prices are midrange with many entrees priced under $20. Steak Sinatra is a terrific hunk of grilled prime-aged Rib eye, sautéed with porcini mushrooms, served with broccoli rabe and mashed potatoes. The most expensive dish on the menu ($26), it is still a bargain. You won’t find a lighter lasagna or gnocchi anywhere and all pizzas are recommend, especially the four -cheese or prosciutto-truffle-oil versions. The fresh and perfectly cooked Grilled Mixed Seafood is terrific and a Pork Chop special, flattened and breaded Milanese-style, topped with a sparkling salad was wonderful. A chilly Saturday night dinner started with generous cocktails and a crisp Sauvignon Blanc from a short well-selected and amazingly inexpensive wine list. Besides the fabulous pizzas, pasta and steak, there were such succulent entrees to choose from as a Cornish game hen in white wine sauce and salmon crusted in potatoes in a zesty Dijon mustard sauce. A dense orange cheesecake, tiramisu and cannoli were the dessert winners. Service is highly efficient and accommodating and owner Sam Marcos is a warm and charming host. Now if every neighborhood could have a restaurant as pleasant as East River Café, what a wonderful world this would be.
RIVER CAFE: MIDTOWN MANHATTAN RESTAURANT
CELEBRATES CHEF SAM MARCOS’ MEDITERRANEAN COOKING
East River Cafe, the exotic, romantic Midtown Manhattan Mediterranean restaurant features the contemporary and classic Mediterranean menus of executive chef Sam Marcos. The restaurant, which opened in July 1994, is owned by chef/restaurateur Sam Marcos.
East River Cafe’s exotic, stylish atmosphere recreates the charming ambiance of a contemporary Mediterranean restaurant. The ambiance reveals itself through a 20-foot long custom-made copper bar, a bi-level dining room with a 14-foot high ceiling, candlelit round tables, handsome mahogany and fabric-upholstered chairs, hard wood and Mediterranean tiled floors, pale pink walls, antique copper lanterns on the walls, recessed mood lighting, and French doors opening onto a wraparound outdoor café. On Wednesday through Saturday nights, accomplished pianist Alberto Aprigliano plays classical and popular music in the bar alongside the front dining room.
East River Cafe’s seasonal Mediterranean menus are sophisticated and creative, yet simple and earthy. Chef Sam Marcos’ menus represent the authentic cooking style of the Mediterranean. His Mediterranean dishes and sauces are enhanced by an impressive selection of fresh, flavorful Mediterranean herbs, imported Italian buffalo mozzarella, homemade pastas and gnocchi, seasonal Mediterranean ingredients, an exciting choice of authentic Mediterranean appetizers, and a unique selection of fresh fish and meat dishes. Marcos has also created a separate Pizza Menu featuring a unique selection of thin-crusted pizzas. His use of fresh fruits, seasonal vegetables as well as a variety of Mediterranean flavors is the foundation of East River Cafe’s culinary style.
Executive chef Sam Marcos celebrates authentic Mediterranean cooking at East River Cafe with a particular emphasis on classic and contemporary Mediterranean dishes. A native of Cairo, Egypt, Marcos learned to cook from his mother and grandmother along with dining out often with his family in local Cairo restaurants. After completing his educational studies in Egypt, Marcos moved to New York City in 1981. He worked at a wide variety of New York City restaurants in all areas of the business from the front of the house to the kitchen. However, his ongoing passion for authentic Mediterranean recipes and cuisine inspired him to open East River Café in 1994, a modern Mediterranean restaurant in Midtown Manhattan.
Sam Marcos comments on becoming the owner of East River Cafe: “I am delighted to have opened East River Cafe. I am essentially a self-taught Mediterranean chef with a passion for the authentic Mediterranean dishes of my heritage. Even though I worked many years in a wide variety of New York City restaurants, my long-term passion was to open my own simple, yet refined, Mediterranean restaurant. When I opened East River Cafe in 1994, the menu was Italian-Mediterranean. I increasingly added more dishes from other areas of the Mediterranean to expand the culinary boundaries. I transformed East River Café into a classic, yet modern, Mediterranean restaurant with an exotic, romantic atmosphere. I refined the menus to reflect traditional as well as contemporary Mediterranean dishes. There is a lot of personal attention to all my guests as though they were dining in a local Mediterranean restaurant. At East River Cafe, I have remained true to my Mediterranean traditions.”
Marcos continues: “The cooking of the Mediterranean in general is simple and earthy. I grew up in Cairo so that a lot of my culinary roots are based in that wonderful city. Later on, I learned and enjoyed Mediterranean cooking and presentation. I wanted to combine the influences of my native city and the surrounding regions in my menus at East River Cafe. However, I remain inspired by my constant discovery of old Mediterranean recipes and the creation of new ones so that my dishes evolve along with the menus. My philosophy with food is to keep the flavors simple and let the ingredients shine. If you over-complicate the food, the flavors become muddled.”
Restaurateur Sam Marcos oversees the areas of food, wine, service, and ambiance. He provides personalized, individual service and attention to all diners to ensure a memorable dining experience.
Marcos explains: “I have attempted to create a sophisticated, yet comfortable, environment with friendly and attentive service – professional and unobtrusive yet warm and welcoming – treating each diner as an individual. I want my customers to come and relax as though they were dining in my own home. Most people like simplicity, consistency, and warm, comfortable surroundings. It is my pleasure providing this special hospitality which is a part of my cultural heritage.”
East River Cafe features a superior selection of global wines. The international wine list, created by Sam Marcos, changes seasonally and is continually evolving. An impressive number of wines by the glass are also available. In addition, there is an impressive wine cellar downstairs.
Marcos explains his philosophy of this seasonal global wine list: “My international wine list offers an impressive selection of first-class wines. I work closely with both small and large-estate vineyards to create a unique selection of wines to complement my Mediterranean menus. It is also my belief that by removing an intimidating edge to the presentation, selection, and service of wine, my guests can relax, have fun, and become more familiar with the exciting variety of global wines.”
East River Cafe has already become so popular that many customers have rented the restaurant for private parties, business events, and even weddings. Marcos works closely with his customers in creating customized special event menus and accommodations.
At East River Cafe, the prices remain moderate. The prix fixe Lunch/Brunch Menu is $14.95 with a mimosa or bloody mary. Dinner entrees range from $12.00 for Capellini al Pomodoro Fresco up to $28.00 for Filet Mignon. The restaurant is open seven days a week for lunch/brunch, and seven nights a week for dinner.
Marcos concludes: “East River Cafe, first and foremost, celebrates the union of fine international wine, food, service, and ambiance. Although I have created a sophisticated, yet romantic, dining experience at East River Cafe, I want my customers to feel comfortable and enjoy themselves as though they were dining in a local Mediterranean restaurant. There is no attitude or pretense here.”
East River Cafe, with its authentic Mediterranean menus created by Executive Chef Sam Marcos, superior global wine list, exotic romantic setting, first-class service, and personalized proprietorship, offers a refined dining experience for all to enjoy.