Hankering for a sandwich while in the East Village last week, I stopped at Marco Polo Café out of sheer curiosity. The tiny shop on St. Mark's bills itself as "Asian-Italian New Cuisine." The menu, on the other hand, reveals its Asian influence to be entirely Chinese. So, in the spirit of this blog, what the heck.
The restaurant is the product of a Sicilian-American and mainland Chinese husband-and-wife team. So, naturally, you can order dumplings and buns, or pasta, like bison meatballs over penne. (Unlike another Italian-Chinese partnership I wrote about last year, whose menu was completely Western.) But...what's so interesting about a seemingly schizophrenic food selection?
Well, the restaurant does try to fuse flavors on a few of the items. I decided to forgo the Dumplavoli, which, while having a catchy name, is merely a plate of five raviolis and six dumplings.
On the other hand, the Moo Goo Gai Panini seemed interesting. Anyone who grew up with a ton of take-out should be familiar with moo goo gai pan, the Chinese-American stir-fry of cubed chicken, button mushrooms, maybe a few other vegetables, and generous last-minute phlumph of cornstarch.
My panino does not have cornstarch, thank goodness. Instead, they took the basic concepts of chicken and shiitake mushrooms, added some cucumbers and onions, and topped it all off with a generous serving of melted fontina. You can taste the teriyaki and ginger flavors in the chicken and mushrooms, but in a very subtle way. I had been dreading curious what teriyaki sauce would taste like with fontina, but combo actually works.
At least, it seems to work better than the "Bahn mi italiano" (sic) at Terroir.
Marco Polo Café
102 St. Marks Place (bwtn 1st Ave. and Ave. A)