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Secret NYC | T+L Family

Ericka McConnell David Strah, stay-at-home father and author of the book <em>Gay Dads</em>

Photo: Ericka McConnell

Eat

David says the best thin-crust pizza is at Gruppo (186 Ave. B; 212/995-2100; gruppothincrust.com).

Samba over to Esperanto (145 Ave. C; 212/505-6559; dinner for four $90), a Brazilian spot with live music. After you finish your moqueca (seafood stew) and rice and beans, check out the fence across the street—it's sprouting flowers made from soda cans.

At Life Café (343 E. 10th St.; 212/477-8791; lifecafenyc.com), as seen in Rent, the tables are laminated with vintage magazine covers and the kids' menu ranges from silver-dollar pancakes to baby burritos.

For a taste of the area's Ukrainian past, go to Veselka (144 Second Ave.; 212/228-9682), a diner with tender blintzes and murals outside and in.

Whenever Brigitte is in the mood for true French bistro food, she and her crew head to Casimir (103 Ave. B between 6th and 7th Sts. ; 212/358-9683; dinner for four from $90). Esther likes the duck confit.

At Takahachi (85 Ave. A between 5th and 6th Sts.; 212/505-6524; dinner for four from $75), the family's preferred Japanese restaurant, Nissim always orders miso soup and tofu steak.

A bagel shop might be an unlikely place to find great lentil soup, but it's here at the Bagel Zone (50 Ave. A between 3rd and 4th Sts.; 212/533-9948).

Mary's Dairy and Chocolate Bar (Closed) serves up excellent house-made ice cream—Esther gets Killer Chocolate.

Treat

Of the neighborhood's two century-old Italian pastry shops, A. Veniero's (342 E. 11th St.; 212/674-7070; venierospastry.com) is the bigger draw. But tiny De Robertis (176 First Ave.; 212/674-7137; derobertiscaffe.com), with its cases of biscotti, pignoli-nut cookies, and talc-white meringues, feels more authentic.

On the western border of the park, Café Pick Me Up (145 Ave. A between 9th and 10th Sts.; 212/673-7231) is a warren-like coffeehouse, with a low pressed-tin ceiling and mismatched wooden tables at which East Villagers nibble cookies and peer into laptops. "It's a second home for people here," says Brigitte.

If you're in the neighborhood on a Saturday afternoon, stop by the Sweet Things Bake Shop (136 Ave. C; 212/982-1714; girlsclub.org) for granola, brownies, and hand-painted cookies made by the local Girls Club. Or order by phone or Web—and have your taste of the East Village shipped to you.

Sleep

Hotel on Rivington (107 Rivington St.; 212/475-2600; hotelonrivington.com; doubles from $395, including breakfast) A chic 110-room glass tower offering floor-to-ceiling downtown views.

East Village Bed & Coffee (110 Ave. C; 917/816-0071; bedandcoffee.com; doubles from $110) Ten rooms (one especially for kids) and shared baths in a funky guesthouse. Find the wildly graffitied front door, and you're home.

Outing

Williamsburg, Brooklyn, is where people priced out of the East Village started migrating to in the 1990's, and it's now alive with galleries, boutiques, and good food. Take the subway or a cab, or, better yet, hoof it over the Williamsburg Bridge, which spans the East River (find the pedestrian entrance at Delancey Street) and affords unobstructed views of the Manhattan skyline. On the Brooklyn side, head for the shops and galleries around Bedford Avenue, including Pierogi (177 N. Ninth St.; 718/599-2144; pierogi2000.com), which carries Brigitte's own gouache and ink drawings of insects, then cool your heels at Diner (85 Broadway; 718/486-3077; dinner for four from $80), for grass-fed top-round steak and cheeseburgers in a rehabbed 1929 dining car.

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