Yes, welcome new year. We needed you bad, even if only as a marker of time. However, remain clear, we are still in the middle of a pandemic and waiting for the expected holiday surge of cases in the weeks to come. Please stay vigilant, be respectful of others and just stay home as much as you can. Our frontline workers and healthcare professionals continue to need our support.

I hope everyone had a good holiday break, if still being in your house and not having to virtually work can be called a break. Either way, I hope you reflected on the year that was and projected yourself into this year with aplomb.

I had two fun and needed socially distant meals with friends and colleagues in and out of Harlem over the break. Both locales are my restaurant staples and I am so happy to see them holding on, pivoting and thriving during these times.

The first dinner was a gathering of Harlem 1970s babies, i.e. we all turned 50 in a pandemic. We thought it was only right to recount our celebrations over drinks and food in the sexy-ass pods at Vinateria. The night was ebullient.

Fifties club sisters Angie and Ivonne and I settled into the pole-position pod on the corner, lined with thick felt, faux fur seat liners, a heavy tablecloth and a pendant heat lamp giving us warmth and that “come hither” glow. Wine and their winter mojito (check that out) began to flow with some happy hour appy-apps like their brussels sprouts, dreamy croquettes, kale salad and cauliflower soup.

Just to be different, for my entrée, I chose their simple but crazy good roast chicken with mash, spinach and jus. The ladies took care of my black pasta obsession and we shared tiramisu and cheesecake served in a flower pot for dessert while GM Tom wouldn’t let us see the bottom of our wine glasses. Good times.

Next up was a moveable feast day with my new The Spruce Eats colleagues. We began at Torch & Crown beer garden for a couple of craft pints before we became unmovable at a New York City Italian institution, Bar Pitti, until we returned to our homes in joy.

We began with a gorgeous bottle of rosé-like Lambrusco which went well with our primi of warm spinach salad, roasted mushroom salad and all the bread from the restaurant (seems like). We continued to carb load on three house-made pastas—carbonara, black truffle and clams—which we scraped clean with…more bread.

Now on our second bottle of a red Italian blend, it was time for me to learn these women something about the birthplace of my favorite Italian dessert, pannacotta. Bar Pitti is my first and the one by which I measure all that follow, even when in Italy. Creamy, smooth, light, perfectly set, topped and paired with the richest, slightly acidic dark chocolate sauce. Le ginocchia delle api (the bees’ knees)!

Grazie mille a tutti! We are all primed to take 2021 all the way up!

Happy eating, stay safe, wear a mask and thanks for reading!

Kysha Harris is a food writer and editor, culinary producer, consultant and owner of SCHOP!, a personalized food service in NYC for over 18 years. She is the new Food Editor at Follow her on Twitter and Instagram, @SCHOPnyc, on Facebook, /SCHOPnyc. Questions? Comments? Requests? Feedback? Invitations! Email AmNewsFOOD at Follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook @NYAmNewsFOOD and tag us with #SoAmNewsFOOD with your food finds!