My name is Roberto Serrini and I live in Astoria, Queens (NYC) which I love. I’m a travel writer and filmmaker and I’ve been fortunate to travel the world all my life, so, I’ve collected some interesting things along the way. I decided one day just to set up a camera and document them all and thought I would share it. Will also make a nice memory when I’m old and look back at all the silly things I had. Hope you enjoy and would love to see what you all hold near and dear.
One of the best ways to see DC is on two wheels, so I walked down to Unlimited Biking on the wharf to get on a new electric bike. before I knew it I was cruising with my personal guide Ignacio past the epic monuments that celebrate this capital city. First up was the least visited and most interesting to me, the Franklin D Roosevelt memorial, which uses negative presses in Iron to illustrate the benefits and drawbacks of social policies like the new deal that Roosevelt implemented to save America from the great depression. It’s also the only monument done in red granite that was shipped from the Dakotas, and the only with a statue of the first lady. But mostly it’s the attention to detail that haunts me. Like the handprints burned into the great depression door as if someone had said goodbye to their home.
Next up is the most beautiful monument, the Martin Luther King memorial, where the statue of Dr. King seems ripped out of the very mountain he speaks from. The towering statue is purposefully left unfinished, as was the message Dr. King was trying to deliver.
Then there was the solemn, beautiful and haunting Korean war monument, which is the newest addition to the city, and is almost complete. No matter where you stand here there is at least one soldier looking at you, which is extremely poignant.
The next up is a big one, the famous Lincoln memorial which is quite powerful. If you are mindful, look down and find the exact spot that Dr. Martin Luther King stood to give his famous I have a dream speech. It’s mind blowing to think about.
Next, the Vietnam memorial which has some of the most unique features. First, it’s the only monument that shows soldiers with their weapons, second, it’s the only monument that honors women, each representing a virtue as hope, faith and charity. The wall itself has a fascinating history. Maya Lin, a 21 year old student, beat out 1400 applicants to design the wall by meeting the criteria perfectly: It had to be reflective, subdued, contain all the names of those who died, and make no political statement. While controversial at the time, she perfectly delivered on all those criteria, especially with the names, which start and end with the first and last person to die in the war meeting in the middle. Truly monumental.
Quite a year last year … amid a pandemic with an uncertain future I found myself having perhaps the most interesting and meaningful year of my life. Everything has been deconstructed and has us all a bit more focused on what is our own personal reality. Looking back all I can say is thank you, because each day is a gift. Thank you to everyone that made last year so special, and here is to this year, where hopefully more magic continues to find it’s way into all our lives.
To save time I made the short All The Pretty Things which featured a dozen brands all in one action packed 5 minute festival film. I call it advertising multitasking. I mean all those episodes of Workaholics aren’t going to watch themselves.
I brought it back to the boot with a few Italian inspired films for Butter Pat Cast Iron. This is one job I didn’t mind retakes.
finally my torrid romance with Allen Brothers boiled over as we completed 13 heritage recipes with chef Olivier Rassinoux. No one told me in college that I’d have to rib eye, roasted bone marrow tordelli, and wagyu beef cheek risotto for work. I would have gotten better grades.
quick rando break. I was accepted into the Explorers Club, which is like Soho House for nerds, I bought this red 80’s looker, and started to learn blender. I made a bench. I know it’s not going to win any awards.
But what did win awards are some of my films (now that’s a segway) With 88 official selections and 26 wins my IMDB page is getting downright respectable. I think. I have no idea what any of this means. I did get this dope poster, LADbible shared one of my films which put me over the 10k mark, and I won not one, not two, but THREE Taste Awards which is like the Oscars for food and travel, their words not mine. I knew high cholesterol would pay off.
Alright lets talk travel. Somehow I found myself exploring Utah for Get Lost Magazine which launched their new digital platform, and DC discovering amazing nightlife and whatever the hell this is and with the smokiest and most fire steak I’ve ever had. Over to the Twin Cities to Fargo it up for 3M, and then down to Guatemala for Jet Blue to do a story on their maiden direct flight from NYC, where I explore the colorful sanatoria depths of Atitlan, the vibrant explosion of life in Chichicastenagno, and of course get my Zacapa rum hat on in Antigua.
My last destination was good ol Italy where I did a series of films for The Gold Hotel in on the Ligurian coast. The papers claimed I was seducing American to come visit. Well I do declare. Then Felini’d down to Rome to win at the Motorcycle Film Festival at Cinecita. While I had my best friends there we thought we should film episode 2 of Italy in Bocca.
So first we rented a 500 year old apartment on the Tiber and planned the ultimate roman meal from the cookbook series.
From there we went to the birthplace of the most roman pasta, Amatrice, which was sadly destroyed by an earthquake in 2016. The mayor took us around to the absolute best purveyor of guanciale and roman pecorino cheese needed to make this ambrosia, and somehow got the local nonnas to share her secrets with us.
Then we jumped over to Arricia which is the home of the por por por porchetta, where we learned the secrets behind this mouth gift from the gods.
Overloaded with this profound knowledge we hit up the best specialty shops and fresh markets in Rome before returning to our ancient apartment to cook. Lemme tell you cooking in a 500 year old wood burning hearth is not like my Brevel toaster oven back in queens. Somehow we had the courage to invite my Roman family to dinner who actually know how to cook, and one very special guest. Rodo, who was the original illustrator of the cookbooks, who not only came, but gifted us two new illustrations which are so special to me I don’t even know what to say.
The entire night was magic. The fact that Me and my friends, who are complete nobodies, could reach out to all these people that share this common love for food, family and culture and bring it together just with our own passion is amazing. In fact, it was so special, such a perfect example of what life should be, that I ended up proposing to my girlfriend Jackie. I never thought 2021 would be such an amazing year, and all I can say is thank you, you all mean everything to me. Here’s to us all in 2022, no matter what comes at us.
The Spy Museum in Washington DC may be the most fun museum I’ve ever been to. First you’re submerged into the bowls of the building and take a quick psych test that will assess your strengths and assign your cover which you must memorize. That’s funny, I love Brazil and wanted to be Indiana Jones when I was a kid. Anyway once inside you are free to explore a massive collection of real spy tech from over the century, and interactive displays that test your skill at decoding and espionage in a frighteningly real way. Immersion is the key here, and it is impossible not to get a glimpse of what this dangerous world was like first hand. The whole museum in effect is like some giant game that is constantly testing you and you can’t help but feel like someone is watching with the possibility of recruiting you for special ops assignments. In the end I didn’t make the grade which was fine with me cause I had a brunch date.
I try to stick to the rules and mind my own business, but the Spy Museum was way too cool not to secretly film and share with all of you. Also, I felt, given the nature of the museum itself, and the fact that they are trying to make you a spy, that they were kinda asking for it. Perhaps I was wrong. Please, don’t sue.
The city of Washington DC is like a Museum you can walk though. That doesn’t really make sense because you walk through museums anyway but what I’m trying to say is that the whole city is in fact a museum. Walking around here it’s impossible not to step full heel in a stinking pile of culture, and the Washington Mall where all learned roads lead. There are in fact 19 Smithsonian museums around this area, and the Smithsonian Institute boasts the title of the world’s largest museum, which is quite impressive indeed. Despite this title, one exhibit that many unknowingly pass over is the tomb of the man who established all of this. James Smithson was the bastard son of an American hating nobleman, so, upon his death he bequeathed that his entire fortune be used to quote “create an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge”. Well Jimmy, all I can say is thank you.
Washington DC after Dark is a wonderful place. While the city is shaking with nightlife, 14th street is the absolute epicenter of entertainment. From taking in live comedy at the Source Theater, or getting your bro and bratwurst on at Franklin Hall, you can find it all right here in one place. Our first stop is this clandestine unmarked door which after a knock and a pause in a stairwell will gain you entry to The Gibson (2009 14th st www.thegibsondc.com) where the eclectic mix of people and absolutely masterful bartenders will start your night off on a very high note and very green drink. If the weather is nice, then a stop at The Garden District (1801 14th st NW www.gardendistrictdc.com) is mandatory, with their festive patio brimming with a jaunty crowd as the feast on BBQ sammies and cold pitchers of beer. Dialing it back a bit swing just around the corner to the Left Door (1345s St NW http://www.left-door.com) which is located, well, through the left door of the dry cleaners next door. A mellow and friendly speakeasy it’s a perfect place to get to know someone, or plan your attack on the night. The next place isn’t hard to find and makes no beef of what they’re all about. Chicken+Whiskey (1738 14th st nw www.chickenandwhiskey.com) is a rare jewel in the nightlife mine. Up front is a positively delicious roast chicken joint, but if you venture in the back and slide past the fridge door, you’ll enter a full-fledged disco. This place was bouncing from wall to wall at 8pm so if you go, go early. I had to do a double take on the way out because I honestly thought it was a dream. Next we pitstop at Jane Jane (1705 14th st. NW www.janejanedc.com) which offers not just an amazing craft cocktail scene, but savory snacks to keep you rocking.
Giving our livers a breath of air, we popped into DC’s legendary Miss Pixie’s (Address: 1626 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20009 http://www.misspixies.com/) , which while labeled as a thrift store is really more of a emporium of epic tchotchke. from rare corning ware, to radioactive stemware, to not suitable for lunch dinnerware, this place is a palace to quirk, where you can easily spend a moment finding that perfect thing you didn’t know you needed.
Now, having built up quite an appetite, we slid into Barcelona Wine Bar (1622 14th St NW www.barcelonawinebar.com) which was positively humming with excitement. Here the line between lounge and restaurant is beautifully blurred in typical Castilian style, where you can either drink and nibble the night away, or dive a bit deeper and rock an authentic paella. Next we were told to roll the dice and take a chance on Players Club ( Address: 1400 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20005 https://www.playersclubdc.com/), which delivers as a subterranean pleasure palace that lets your nostalgia run wild. If you can’t have a good time here, you might have a problem. Now that Jackie was devoid of inhibition I told her to go down this dark stairwell in an alley and knock on the door. What would seem like a murder scene, turns out to be maybe the best speakeasy yet simply called, The Mirror (1413 K St NW www.themirrordc.com ) There’s no camera’s allowed so you best just see for yourself. Last, to put a nail in the night’s coffin, we washed up on the shore of Sax (734 11th st NW www.saxdc.com) which you don’t need directions to, just follow the faint thumping sound permeating the city. Inside Sax you are transported to a divinely confused mix of St. Petersburg and Cabo, where the dancefloor is full of convulsing revelers fueled by sparkler topped drinks. To be honest, I am not entirely sure I would recall anything past The Gibson, if not for my camera and a few lovely souvenirs. Thanks DC, you’re the best time I don’t remember having.
On unassuming K street in Washington DC you will find a warm, inviting dining experience like no other. This is dLena, meaning firewood, which chef Richard Sandoval infuses into every drop and morsel. Here wood is Queen, where the barrel aged smoked tequila flights are served on a bored- out patinaed piece of oak giving you a diverse experience that has the power to erase that bad memory in college. If you’re into a bit more pomp and circumstance then summon a Mexican old fashioned where a chalice of sierra Norte yellow corn whiskey and aromatic naraja bitters arrives in a glass plated silver drink reliquary veiled in a thick layer of Cherrywood smoke. If you think all this is for show, you are partially right, but there is no doubt that Sandoval’s love for wood is being put to good use, and he somehow is able to gently transmit their robust qualities only to elevate the natural flavors. Take for instance the smoked oysters with chipotle mignonette and smoked bacon jam. Or enigmatic wagyu beef tiradito with Fresno chili citrus drizzle. Even something as simple as grilled broccolini with smoked chili plays well in the fire as does a grilled avocado with chimichurri.
While all these surprisingly playful dishes confounded us, nothing would prepare us for the star of the show, simply named the Tomahawk. This bone in aged rib eye masterpiece is cooked to perfection in dLena’s searing hot wood burning hearth and then finished tableside with an alchemist dance, being dressed in bone marrow butter before showered with smoked mezcal and flambeed tableside. You even get a choice of salt, volcanic, mesquite smoked, or cultivated sweat from a virgin’s brow. I forget the third, but again, the dramatic theater matches the profound depth of taste in this truly unique and perfectly balanced steak. Not even remotely needed was a crack at dessert, which was this thousand layered panqueque argentino drizzled with warm cajeta caramel and served with salted smoked caramel ice cream dear lord. While the night could have ended there the owner insisted on one more special concoction called the casual encounter, and then casually led me downstairs to their semi-speakeasy subterranean lounge which seemed like a perfect place to bask in the warm glow of a fantastic meal just had.
Washington DC is just lousy with museums, from the Museum of the American Indian, to the International Spy Museum to a bevy of Smithsonian museums that bloom in the city, but one for me rises to the category of must see, and that is the Hirshhorn Museum of contemporary art. Here you can submerge in the genius of Bradford, Anderson, Kusama, Kruger, and Bhabha who’s large scale works will simply astound you. What’s more dizzying is that since it is a national museum it is completely free to enjoy, making it all that more brilliant. First I got to take in Barbara Kruger who is an artist that understands the power of words but definitely doesn’t understand my hair. I’ll let it slide. Gliding onward I passed into the Laurie Anderson Porthole and entered her world saturated with multimedia art. Anderson is perhaps the most prolific avant-garde artist of our time and to experience her expression up close and personal is extremely transformative. The Hirshhorn is a perfect vessel for her work given its flowing, circular layout, allowing you to drift from one immersive piece to another seamlessly like dialing in radio stations in an old car. Here you literally become a piece of the art as it consumes you, having a very Alice in Wonderland experience as Anderson welcomes you to play with scale in her work. I closed out the mindwalk being blown away with one of my favorite anti-artist, Marcel Duchamp, the pioneer behind the Dada art movement in the early part of the 20th century. Since his playful saltiness that cracks the concept of what art should be is a foundation for so many well known modern movements, I was completely surprised to find a brilliant piece that I’ve never seen before, a display with the art completely void, so simple and such a brilliant example of what the Dadaist stood for, that I was completely crestfallen to discover the piece was just on loan, and not on purpose. Hey I’m a travel writer not an art critic, sue me.
DC is a neighborhood town built to be explored by foot. One favorite area to hoof between is Logan to Dupont where you will be gifted many a unique sight like a garden full of mutilated Barbie dolls. Yes my friends over at @Atlas Obscura (https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/barbie-pond) tipped me off to this diorama of, quote, “rotating cast of guys and dolls”, that is curated by an anonymous party offering a jaunty and festive display of Barbie’s that evolves year round, and immediately brings a smile to anyone that happens upon it. Their strong Instagram game (https://www.instagram.com/barbie_pond_ave_q/?hl=en) with over 26 thousand followers boasts that Barbie pond is “bringing Logan Circle property values down since 2014” but raising spirits exponentially to me.
Hungry after such an art viewing stopping at Nina May (1337 11th st NW http://www.ninamaydc.com/) is a must which in my humble opinion offers the best ambiance and best brunch in DC hands down. From their pallet splitting fresh cocktails to insanely fresh and creative takes on haute cuisine comfort food, you can bask in ambrosia glory sampling sweet and savory flavors from around the world.
Now to get the experience of working off a delightfully heavy meal without, you know, any of the physical activity, it’s recommended to stop by the Shaw Skate Park (1528 11th st NW https://shawskate.splashthat.com/) to see some of DC’s slickest practice their craft out in the open.
Now crossing over into the brackish chic neighborhood of Dupont we hit up one of the city’s lesser known but fascinating museum, the Phillips Collection (1600 21st st NW https://www.phillipscollection.org/) which has the honor to be America’s first museum of modern art founded in 1921. This institution devotes itself to furthering the conversation of diversity in the arts, and on our visit, we got to explore the works of Alma W. Thomas who was the first Black woman given a solo show at the Whitney Museum at age 81. Better late than never I suppose Whitney museum, but thankfully the Phillips has their sights set on celebrating those underappreciated geniuses.
I dunno about you but amazing art makes me hungry which is why a Michelin star rated Unconventional Diner (1207 9th street https://www.unconventionaldiner.com/) is the next mandatory stop. While this instagrammer wet dream might ward off hard core dinner fans with their crafty cocktails, you will not be disappointed by the elevated grub here. Large format plates are the taste du jour at the unconventional diner, with a chicky sandwich that delivers, and a French Dip poutine that would make any Québécois say mon due that’s good.
Fully loaded on the world’s richest dishes, it was time to walk it off once again, this time in a 4 floor mansion that may or may not be haunted. The Mansion on O Street (2020 o street https://www.omuseum.org/) may not have the most unique name, but definitely offers a singular experience, unless you personally know an uber rich hoarder with a playful obsession with secret doors. Here, after a short training video, you are let loose in this 108 room Victorian mansion that boasts over 70 hidden doors that you are dared to find. Most people only find 4, probably because the other 66 are hidden behind all the clutter, all of which is for sale. Yes, you can buy anything you see, you’re welcome. Frankly, this quote-unquote museum is a violent mix between an overactive swapmeet and your Aunt Peggy’s forgotten hoarder attic, and while not everyone’s cup of tea it is without question one of the strangest places I’ve ever witnessed. There is so much more to see in DC, but unfortunately we got lost somewhere between the 3rd and 4th floor and have been stuck here for about a month, please send help.
So I got to do something I always wanted to do, which is check out a play at the infamous Ford’s Theater in Washington DC. There was quite a turnout to see Jose Carrasquillo’s fanciful reimagined version of Dickens’ a Christmas carol, with the preeminent Craig Wallace as Eb Scrooge, but there was no doubt that many came to see this empty balcony, where Booth famously dispatched our beloved president Lincoln. What I was duly surprised to discover is underneath the theater is a rather profound, if not strangely thorough exhibit of sorts that displays all sorts of related material to the murdered commander in chief. Including the actual pistol used in the heinous act, the overcoat the president was shot in, and, if you can believe it, the very bloodied pillow he expired on. This is definitely the most macabre and haunting Christmas Carol I have ever seen, no question about it.