NYU Alumni Magazine Spring 2008

the insider

Best of New York

NYU faculty, staff, and alumni offer up their Favorites

by Renée Alfuso / CAS '06

Take a break from spring cleaning to enjoy some Italian ice cream or a clear night sky.
Star Search

The bright lights of the Big Apple mean less twinkle in the sky at night, but David Hogg, an associate professor at the Center for Cosmology and Particle Physics, says the pollution, humidity, and proximity to sea level also hinder New York stargazers. So for a better view, Hogg brings his Observational Astronomy students to the roof of the Gallatin School of Individualized Study building on Broadway. But for those not in his class, Hogg suggests heading out on the water or seeking an open area for a more unobstructed view. “You can do better than you would think by just finding a playground or parking lot where the lights of the city aren’t in your face,” says Hogg, who observed the last lunar eclipse from the playground at Tompkins Square Park in the East Village. Be sure to bring binoculars—which Hogg says are better to start with than a telescope—to catch Saturn’s rings in the southern sky during spring and summer evenings this year, or the Perseid meteor shower after dark around August 12. And if all else fails, the one way to guarantee a stellar show is to check out the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History. “The planetarium has one of the finest projectors that’s ever been built,” Hogg says of the custom-made Zeiss Mark IX Star Projector—the world’s largest and most powerful virtual reality simulator. “When they turn it on, it’s just one of the most beautiful things.” 175 Central Park West (at 81st), 212-769-5100; www.haydenplanetarium.org

Foreign Flavor

When it comes to finding the perfect gelato, things get pretty competitive between the students and faculty at the NYU summer program in Florence. So when one newcomer became a unanimous favorite, the only problem was having to leave it behind to return to the States—until Grom Gelato finally followed them back home, opening two stores in New York City. “I was curious to see whether the quality would be the same, and I have to say—it is,” says the program’s director Stefano Albertini, who is also director of Casa Italiana and clinical associate professor of Italian. Luckily Grom brought with it the traditional method of making artisanal gelato, which has less than half the butterfat of American ice cream but a richer taste because of its high density. Made fresh daily, Grom’s gelato doesn’t contain any artificial colorants or preservatives, opting instead for seasonal fruit and nuts from the best regions of Italy, such as Amalfi’s Sfusato lemons and pistachios from the hills of Bronte, Sicily, which means that there are new flavors each month. Albertini, who grew up in northern Italy and makes his own gelato at home, knows the sweet treat is only as good as what goes into it. “The ingredients have to be absolutely first quality,” he explains. “Eating it makes you fat, so it’s not good if it’s just filling.” 233 Bleecker Street (at 6th ave), 212-206-1738; 2165 Broadway (at 77th), 212-362-1837; www.grom.it

Dog Day Afternoon

A cramped New York apartment is a rough place for a dog, so it’s important for urban canines to get outside and stretch their paws. “It’s a huge behavioral issue because dogs that don’t get enough exercise will find something to do—like chew your sofa or bark all day,” explains dog trainer and animal expert Nikki Moustaki (GSAS ’97, ’08), who has authored many books on dog care, including the popular Dogfessions (HarperCollins). Moustaki lives in Manhattan with her three parrots and two miniature schnauzers, whom she loves to bring with her everywhere. So for the perfect doggie day on the town she suggests getting an early start at Central Park, where the 843 acres offer plenty of space to roam and they can walk off-leash from 6 to 9 am in certain areas. In addition to special dog fountains for water breaks, from May to September, the park offers monthly Bagel Bark breakfasts, where pooches and their owners gather to enjoy free coffee, pastries, and, of course, dog biscuits. “When dog owners get together, it’s a very social thing. It isn’t solely for the dogs to run around and play,” Moustaki says. And to top off the morning’s exercise with some well-deserved shopping, she seeks out stores that allow dogs, such as Barnes & Noble and Bed Bath & Beyond. But for a real treat, she opts for specialty pet store Spoiled Brats NYC, which features organic foods, all-natural grooming products, and fashionable leashes and clothing for the hippest of pets. 340 West 49th Street (btw. 8th & 9th ave), 212-459-1615

Bowling, Old School

Bowling alleys in Manhattan seem to have morphed into nightclubs that just happen to have some lanes, where traditional nights of beers and strikes have been replaced with apple martinis and booming dance music. Tim Senft, deputy director of strategic communications, remembers when the tiny alley at Port Authority was once a sleazy-in-a-good-way dive, but now calls it “trendy and overcrowded.” So for bowling the way nature intended, Senft suggests traveling to the outer boroughs, particularly AMF 34th Avenue Lanes in Woodside, Queens. “There’s no scene to it—it’s just a bowling alley,” he explains of the 60-year-old establishment that’s maintained its original character and charm. Senft says the space is large enough that there’s hardly ever a wait, so the pros can bowl alongside those just looking for a fun night of hot dogs and cheese fries, which are essential on weekends when the alley stays open as late as 4 am. Senft even chose it as the site for his bachelor party 10 years ago and still recommends it to anyone who wants to experience the real NYC, not just a glamorized version. “It’s a throwback to the New York of the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s that’s disappearing,” he says. 69-10 34th Avenue in Woodside, Queens, 718-651-0440; www.amf.com/34th Avenuelanes

photos from top: Hayden Planetarium © Kord/Age Fotostock; Central Park © 2008 Lance Evans; Courtesy of Grom