"I've had this door on First Avenue for 10 years, and I've always thought, I've gotta figure out something to sell outta this damn door," Marco Canora, the chef-owner of East Village Italian stalwart Hearth, jokes.
His solution, arrived upon after years of consideration, at first appears almost too simple: a no-frills window called Brodo, where he's ladling out bone broth and a couple of classic Italian soups.
Yes, broth. Although it's more often thought of as a building block—the liquid gold that adds flavor and depth to everything from sauces to braises—at Brodo, three slow-cooked, steaming-hot broths are served in coffee cups for sipping straight.
"My goal was really to create a new category of beverage," Canora says. "The mix-ins really bring it into the category of juices and the like."
Each of the three broths—Hearth (a blend of beef, turkey and chicken), Organic Chicken and Gingered Grass-Fed Beef—is made by simmering a mixture of meat and bones for 18 hours. The resulting liquids are rounder and more nuanced than anything store-bought, with a depth of flavor that's surprisingly satisfying.
There's a health bent to it, too: "Three and a half or four years ago, I got interested in nutrition and health, and bone broth kept coming up. It's the superfood that never makes it onto the list of superfoods," Canora says, noting that he started to drink broth when he started to get serious about cleaning up his diet (so much so that he's coming out with a healthy-eating cookbook, A Good Food Day, in late December).
A selection of broths and soups | The window on First Avenue
You'll be surprised by how nourishing and filling each broth is: A small (8 ounces, $4 to $4.75; there are also 12 and 16-ounce sizes available) may not be quite enough for a meal, but it's delicious and satisfying and quells hunger pangs. Six mix-ins are available, which add even more flavor and depth: Beet kvass (fermented juice) and fresh turmeric enliven the rich Gingered Beef, while the Hearth became even earthier and richer with a shot of shiitake tea.
Canora is also serving his famous ribollita ($7 for a small)—that traditional Tuscan tomato soup thickened with bread—from the window, topping it with crunchy bread crumbs and a showering of Parmesan flakes. As the weather gets colder, you'd be remiss to leave without a bowl.
The secret behind that almost stew-like soup? "We cook the black cabbage with mirepoix for a good hour, which gives it a depth and funkiness," he says. "And the Parmesan on top gives it another hit of umami. I've always said that the Japanese and Italian pantries are similar, because each one has so much glutamate."
So while Canora bemoans (with gratitude, of course) the fact that he's already inundated with orders—the broths are also sold in quarts to go—he has bigger plans for his little stand.
"I'd love to do a seaweed broth," Canora says. "I'm also thinking about doing an infused coconut milk add-in with lemongrass, Kaffir lime, chile and ginger. Put a shot of that in some broth—how good would that be?!"