You wouldn't think a superstar chef like Mario Batali would have many cooking "firsts" left.
But with his first-ever breakfast service at his new NYC restaurant, La Sirena, he's not only tackling the meal professionally for the first time, Batali is taking a burgeoning alt-pancake trend to another level with his amaretti-mascarpone flapjacks, which stack up well against the competition (see the exclusive recipe).
"A lot of people emphasize the importance of sharing dinner with their families every day. Because I sometimes work at night, the Batalis gather around the breakfast table every morning," Batali, who cooks breakfast for his sons every morning, says. "Each week's breakfast menu is determined on Sunday, with consultation from Leo, my younger son who is not yet in college."
He continues, "My sons are known throughout Michigan's Leelanau Peninsula for the their brown sugar pancakes. They incorporate brown sugar at the last second to make for pockets of sweetness after cooking."
Now, we know that pancakes aren't necessarily new: They've been something of an unsung hero of the morning meal. While the recent breakfast boom has already cast the limelight on decadent savory breakfasts—biscuits and gravy, cheesy egg sandwiches—and wholesome avocado toasts, the humble pancake has been waiting in the wings. And it's about to make the move from a "for the table" order to your breakfast entrée of choice.
Whether short (or tall) stacks are having a moment because they photograph well for Instagram, or they're all over Instagram because they're having a moment is a bit of a chicken-or-the-egg question. Regardless, pancakes stacks are flooding our feeds, and we're seeing a slew of alt pancakes pop up on brunch menus across the country.
Sourdough pancakes have been served at Brooklyn's Vinegar Hill House (whose starter comes all the way from Montana, Brooklyn Magazine reported last week) for some time and have now popped up at Tilda All Day and The Four Horsemen, as well as Chicago's Boltwood. Salt's Cure in L.A. serves oatmeal 'cakes, and Indianapolis's Milktooth has a red velvet Dutch baby version with blood orange glazed beets, whipped cream cheese, candied mixed nuts and cocoa nib brittle. Creative takes on the classic are turning up even where you'd least expect them, like at Ivan Ramen, which serves a buckwheat pancake with ginger syrup.
The interior of La Sirena | Photo: Kate Previte
Batali's impossibly light and fluffy flapjacks have a hint of anise and a little crunch, thanks to the cookies that are shaved on top tableside. The garnish is "a total 'Mario-ism,'" Batali's Director of Digital Media, David Gruber, says. At Babbo, Batali's longstanding, iconic West Village restaurant, the chef serves pumpkin ravioli that have amaretti cookies in the filling and shaved on top, along with Parmesan cheese. They're as perfect in the pancakes as they are in the ravioli.
"The amaretti are our nod to Italy in the otherwise-American realm of the pancake," Batali says. "They bring nuttiness, sweetness and texture to the fluffy perfection of mascarpone flapjacks."
Gruber tells us that La Sirena's pancakes aren't the only dish inspired by the Batali household's breakfast staples. When truffle season hits, scrambled eggs with truffles make an appearance in the Batali home kitchen, Gruber says. Following suit, La Sirena serves soft-scrambled eggs with fresh black Umbrian truffles.
Brunch at La Sirena is starting this weekend, which means every Saturday and Sunday, the breakfast menu—pancakes included—will be available until 3:30 p.m., along with about 10 additional items that aren't typically available for breakfast.
And we're told that room service is about to start soon. So just when you thought the amaretti mascarpone pancakes couldn't get any better, they're about to become the ultimate breakfast in bed.
Find La Sirena here, or in our DINE app.
Find Tilda All Day here, or in our DINE app.
Find The Four Horsemen here, or in our DINE app.
Find Salt's Cure here, or in our DINE app.
Find Ivan Ramen here, or in our DINE app.
Find Vinegar Hill House here, or in our DINE app.
Find Babbo Ristorante here, or in our DINE app.
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