There’s much to be explored in the Lower East Side – and this little café has delicious, authentic, and ridiculously affordable Italian food. I want to go back already.
I met up with one of my suitemates from last year to grab breakfast/brunch only to eat about three meals’ worth of food. We braved through the freezing weather and the even more torturous wind, finally walking down to East Houston Street. The restaurant looks tiny from the outside – explains that fact that we walked about two extra blocks without noticing it (very wind. much cold).
The place actually had a very nice atmosphere. Despite being half underground, the interior was pretty bright with paintings on the walls and magazines under the tables. Once we took a seat, we realized that they don’t really offer full table service, so we had to walk to the register to order…but honestly, I don’t really like waiters constantly asking how my food is, so it was fine by me!
We ordered the antipasto for two people, which was only about $15. And the paninis were only $5…we couldn’t believe that these kind of prices existed in NYC! So in addition to the antipasto, we also ordered a Milanese panini.
The antipasto was huge! It came on a platter the size of a pizza pan, carrying heaps of cured meats, cheeses, and a gigantic pile of arugula and tomatoes – all drizzled in fragrant olive oil. The scent of the authentic olive oil stimulated my hungry appetite even more. This plate was a meal in itself! Gaia Italian Café also gives you free bread on the side when they can; since we were the first customers to walk in, we got the freshly baked bread, which had an amazing taste and fragrance with a hint of rosemary. Take a bite of bread with meats, veggies, and cheese on top…yum!
I was impressed by the five-dollar panini as well. I actually was not expecting the bread to be this crispy – it almost has the texture of a cracker! But it went well with the fried chicken, pesto, and tomato inside. In fact, I think this bread differentiates the sandwich from other regular paninis.
I want more already!
251 E Houston St
New York, NY 10002
b/t Avenue A & Norfolk St in Lower East Side