Legal Eats: At Raffetto’s on Houston Street, Pasta Comes With a Dollop of History

Kevin Siegel

20170901_172244In 1906, the year Italian immigrant Marcello Raffetto opened a pasta shop at the corner of Houston and Macdougal streets, an artists’ colony occupied the site of the future Vanderbilt Hall and the trial of the nascent century was taking place inside what is today the Jefferson Market library.

Although Village real estate has pushed out both the artists and the courthouse, Raffetto’s is still there. And it is still selling an encyclopedic variety of fresh and dried pasta, piled high in glass bins that are removed from their wooden casings whenever a customer places an order.

But, while much of Raffetto’s allure may be its lack of trendiness, that does not mean it offers little for the modern gourmand, or for the penny-pinching law student. Rafffetto’s also carries a healthy stock of cheeses, Italian specialty goods, and well-priced prepared foods.

20170901_172335.jpgIn one refrigerated case, row upon row of neatly-arranged plastic trays welcome those hard-pressed to put a pot up to boil (although it will be noted that fresh pasta, which Raffetto’s keeps in reams behind the storefront, cooks to al dente in just three minutes). Selections are rooted in old-style ‘red sauce’ classics, such as cheese lasagna ($7.50 for a two-serving tray) and baked ziti amatriciana ($6.95), but also reflect an appreciation for the chic in dishes like cavatelli with broccoli rabe ($6.95) and chicken and rosemary pappardelle ($6.95).

Many customers, the author included, prefer to stock up Raffetto’s frozen ravioli. Forty-eight cheese-filled squares, simple and delicious when boiled and tossed in olive oil, come in at $5.95, while specialty varieties range from arugula and ricotta ($6.50) to white and black truffle ($12.95).

20170901_172600.jpgFor the many of us accustomed to evenings spent prowling the storefronts between NYU and Houston Street in search of an affordable meal, dishes like these ought to be obvious choices. It is hard, then, to say what keeps Raffetto’s off students’ radar. It cannot be a diminished love for a nice plate of pasta. Yet, in a place with such a palpable sense of history owned for over a century by the same family, you wonder if the hint of obscurity is not by design.

Still, the food at Raffetto’s is reliably good, and its offerings versatile enough to cater both to the home chef and the takeout aficionado. There is no premium for tradition.

Editor’s Note: In Legal Eats, Commentator columnist @KevinSiegel takes you inside the most interesting and tastiest restaurants and watering holes around NYU Law.

A Summer Intro to the Law with the Unemployment Action Center

UAC Photo (2)
Students in the Ladders for Leaders program.

Unemployment Action Center

We are five undergraduate women of color interning at the Unemployment Action Center (UAC) this summer. We’re just like the Keating Five on “How to Get Away with Murder”—a group of students who work outside of class to help clients—except we are not law students yet. We also do not murder people.

In New York City, there is a staggering number of unemployed individuals fighting for their rights, yet only a small number of advocates ready to represent them. The Unemployment Action Center is a nonprofit, student-run organization that provides pro-bono representation for individuals in adversarial hearings to obtain unemployment benefits. With training and guidance from NYU law students, we argue in front of administrative law judges. UAC hires law students and, through the Ladders for Leaders program, college students to run all aspects of the group’s operations over the summer. Sometimes, we even take on practicing attorneys head-to-head to fill the void in advocacy for the unemployed.

As exciting as our work has been, we cannot ignore how few professionals and law students look like us. The sad reality of low numbers of women of color in the law is just another challenge we are all excited to take on.

I always knew I wanted a career that used the law to protect people. That’s exactly what we do at the Unemployment Action Center.  The task is not always easy. A client can be an untimely chatter box or a very timid person who can be intimidated and manipulated under the pressure of tough questioning. At the UAC, I’ve learned to think on my feet (because you can never be fully prepared) and that five heads are better than one.

– A Young Black Hispanic Female Student

My daycare teachers used to complain to my parents that whenever other children were in trouble, I always argued relentlessly in their defense. That instinct has served me well at the UAC. Here, I get to defend individuals who cannot properly represent themselves. Learning to defend those in need is the start of my goal to work in International Criminal Law.

– Damyre K.B.

As a girl from the South Bronx, I was often told to think realistically about my future. Pursuing a career in law was deemed unreasonable by those voices. They were wrong. Not even yet in law school, I am representing claimants in a real court room, and feel like I already have began a legal career.  I intend to utilize the skills that I’ve gained this summer to lower the recidivism rate by advocating for individuals facing the challenges of re-entry after incarceration.

– Lyncee Stroman

As a first-generation college student, my family wanted me to pursue a career in law for financial reasons. Law would break me from the cycle of poverty. While I was genuinely interested in the field and have always had a passion for creating positive change, I was worried that the work would be too challenging or cold. My experience this summer has reassured me that I can handle the challenges of law school, and that law can generate change when we empathize with others.

– Shaina Coronel

When I was applying to college, my uncles and brothers told me that pursuing law was foolish. “Law is a dying field. Focus on something that can be useful and substantial anywhere in the world, like medicine or engineering,” they said.  After winning my first case, I was in high spirits. Through law, I made a positive impact on someone’s life. If that is not substantial, then I am not sure what is.

– Judy Fordjuoh

Uncommentable: President Trump Appoints Himself Attorney General, Finds Own Executive Order “Most Constitutional” Ever Written

Editor’s note: Uncommentable is The Commentator’s satirical news imprint. All articles and quotes published under the Uncommentable banner are false and intended for entertainment purposes only.

Written by Naeem Crawford-Muhammad, Editor-in-Chief

In a startling turn of events, President Donald Trump took the unprecedented step of appointing himself acting Attorney General of the United States. During a hastily arranged Rose Garden ceremony in front of throngs of cheering actors supporters and stunned reporters, Mr. Trump swore himself in saying, “King Kong ain’t got nothing on me. In fact, he’s very weak on borders, low stamina, low energy. I’ll be a much better attorney general. The best, that’s what all the real Americans are saying.”

Wasting no time at all, President Attorney General Trump, as he now wishes to be called, immediately reversed the ruling of former acting Attorney General Sally Yates. She had refused to enforce President Trump’s executive order barring citizens of Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States, before she was fired on a special episode of NBC’s The Apprentice: White House Edition. Instead, President Attorney General Trump found his own executive order the “most constitutional” ever written.

“Everyone said we couldn’t do it. That we needed an attorney general. But you know what folks? You know what? We don’t. We do not need them. We do not need them in a house. We do not need with a mouse. We do not need them here or there. We do not need them anywhere!”

After pausing for suspense, the actors resumed their cheers.

Said White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, “President Attorney General Trump is merely doing exactly what he promised he would do when he ran his record-setting campaign and received more votes for president than anyone in the history of the Galactic Republic since Chancellor Palpatine…”

“… who was very good for America by the way,” interrupted President Attorney General Trump. “Don’t let anyone tell you he wasn’t good for America. He was great for America. Loved by the generals. Protected religious minorities like the Sith, whom he always welcomed,” said Mr. Trump.

Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway noted, “The liberal media is just so focused on Crooked Hillary’s shocking loss that they can’t even understand why the American people support this nation’s first-ever president attorney general. When you look at it, the alternative facts presented during the President Attorney General’s news conference earlier, it becomes clear that this action is both precedented and constitutional, and certainly one or the other.”

In other news, the Statute of Liberty has announced she is moving back to France following the revocation of her visa.

Uncommentable: Campus Safe Spaces Suffer Severe Overcrowding Post Trump Inauguration

Editor’s note: Uncommentable is The Commentator’s satirical news imprint. All articles and quotes published under the Uncommentable banner are false and intended for entertainment purposes only.

Written by Naeem Crawford-Muhammad, Editor-in-Chief

Following the inauguration of the 45th President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, campus officials have described a “mad rush” on safe spaces across New York University. While safe spaces are nothing new at the Law School, the fact that they are now perennially over capacity has students demanding change.

“$60,000 in tuition and I can’t even get a seat at a table,” said one disgruntled second-year law student. “Seriously, what’s the point of going to the sixth-best, top-three law school in America if, when bad things happen, there’s no free food and coffee?”

Calling an emergency meeting of the Student Bar Association, SBA President Evan Shepherd vowed swift action to remedy the quickly-deteriorating situation. “YOU get a safe space! And YOU get a safe space! And YOU get a safe space! SAFE SPACES FOR EVERYONE!” vowed Mr. Shepherd to thunderous applause from the fifteen students assembled, some of whom were simply early for their next class.

In an email to the campus community, New York University President Andrew Hamilton promised that all new construction would include “state-of-the-art” safe spaces replete with free food, including locally-sourced, gluten-free, organic, vegetarian, vegan, pescatarian, Kosher, and Halal options.

“Schools like Harvard and Yale may sit higher than us in things like ‘rankings’ and ‘resources,’ but when it comes to safe spaces, NYU is the world leader,” said President Hamilton triumphantly.

When reached for comment at the White House, NYU Law alumnus and presidential Senior Advisor Jared Kushner said, “Come on… Do you know how tough it is to get him to sign on the dotted line? The man uses ‘bigly’ in sentences ON PURPOSE. I can’t be held responsible for what happens next. How’d you get this number anyway?”

While it is unclear how much these new safe spaces will cost, New York University recently announced that tuition will increase to $250,000 per semester starting this fall.


How I Saved $10,000 My First Year Working

Written by Ijeamaka Obasi

I’ll start by saying that I’m someone who believes that you can afford anything if you budget. Since college, I’ve been pretty independent financially. Coming from a family of six I knew that college was expensive. I decided that when I started school I would not ask for money. Not to mention asking wasn’t always an option for me.

With that being said, I like to budget, and was excited about the possibilities of what I could do when I received my first paycheck. I am in no way a financial planner – although my friends say I’m pretty good at it. Still, the tips I’m going to share allowed me to pay a number of bills including purchasing a new car, while helping my family, and enjoying my social life.

Open a savings account.

I know, duh right? If you have trouble with constantly “borrowing” from yourself, never thought of opening a savings account, or are looking for an additional bank account, I recommend PNC Virtual Wallet. The PNC Virtual Wallet account gives you a checking, reserve, and savings account. This layer between checking and savings is pretty worthwhile and helps me to leave my savings alone. Another option is to open bank accounts at two separate institutions.

Start with a plan.

I took a position as a sixth grade math teacher my first job out of college. In training we learned about backwards planning – start with the end in mind. This proved not only to be a successful strategy in the classroom, but also in my finances. Since I lived in Texas and there was no public transportation, I had to buy a car. I anticipated possibly going back to school in two years and knew I wouldn’t have an income. As a result, my goal became saving enough money to pay off my car loan in three years.

Therefore, think about your goals. Is there a certain amount of debt you want to see gone? If you lost your job would you be able to live for the next six months unemployed while you search for your next career move? A good way to calculate this is to add up all your bills for one month and multiply this number by six, then turn the figure you get into a savings goal!

Now that you have your savings goal, divide it by twelve.

This new magical number is now a bill. You will need to pay this every month to yourself. It’s not a figure that is necessarily set in stone but you should treat it seriously.

Compare the monthly total of your bills (including monthly savings goal) with your monthly salary after taxes.

One of the number one reasons people don’t meet their goals is because they weren’t feasible in the first place. Add up all your bills including the savings goal. Do you have enough money to live your life outside of bills? This means groceries, gas, entertainment, and haircare (yes hair is in its own category). Don’t set yourself up for failure when you know you can’t live off of $100 a month. Remember that the magical number is a starting point. It can be adjusted – but do this in the beginning and only change it if your bills or salary dramatically changes.

Write it down.

Make a monthly list of all the bills you have. I did this every month and had it hanging on my bedroom wall. I always felt good crossing everything off, and even better when the money started adding up in my account.

Take it seriously.

Let your savings goal be one of the first things you pay. If you pay it like a bill it will become a habit. And it will also boost your confidence because you now have a tangible example that you can do anything you put your mind to!

Be happy – You’re on your way to saving $$!

Editors note: The above article was originally published by and is reprinted here with permission.



Law Student Life: The LLM Cruise

Written by Samarth Chaddha

Two weeks ago, the LLM Class of 2017 set sail on the Spirit of New York for a formal cruise. Hundreds of students from dozens of countries boarded to dance, drink, and talk the afternoon away in one of the highlights of the LLM program so far. The Office of Graduate Affairs is to be thanked for organizing this.

The cruise left from Chelsea Piers with a spectacular view of Manhattan, and was a great opportunity for LLMs to connect with each other. Many of us spoke about our reasons for joining the program and whether we intended to take the bar exam and work in the United States after graduation. In August, we had gotten a primer on American law through Introduction to US Law lectures. The three sections of that course rarely had a chance to mingle, but we all came together here.

We went so close to the Statue of Liberty, it felt like we could shake hands with her! At first, the ship swayed noticeably along with the waves, and the passengers rocked from side to side with the music in order to keep their balance. The chicken entrees came dangerously close to sliding off the plate, and the crockery clinked together. But soon enough, everyone began to get their sea legs.

This boat was a far cry from the Staten Island ferry; it had a dance floor and two bars as well as the standard seating areas. The look and feel of the ship more than compensated the initial “bumps.” The weather generally cooperated, though it warmed throughout the day and some regretted wearing suits in the early September heat. Wearing one was optional, though many LLMs opted for a simple tee or a polo!

The LLM class came from dozens of different countries, but we quickly bonded over selfies and social media. People connected on Facebook and Instagram, forming bonds that would carry us through the hectic first few weeks of the semester. Plenty of selfies and group snapshots were taken amidst discussions of classes, professors, and future travel plans to cities within the US. Students enthusiastically recommended New York’s tourist hotspots to each other. Some people chatted at the bar, while others stood on deck admiring the Manhattan skyline. The LLMs even shot their first group boomerang, and many were seen competing to click pictures with a placard provided by the cruise company. Clearly, the LLMs are not just a photogenic bunch, but take their pictures seriously.

The afternoon ended with all of us disembarking at Chelsea Market. A brave few walked back to campus, while others took their new friends’ recommendations and explored the neighborhood shops. This was just one of many group bonding events for the LLM class; right now, we’re looking forward to the SALSA ball and continuing to explore New York.

A Survivor’s Reaction to Brock Turner’s Release

Aditi Juneja

Last week Brock Turner was released from prison after serving three months of a six-month sentence for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman. I cried. I cried because after I was sexually assaulted in college, it took me over a year to want to be alive again. It took me over a year before I stopped having panic attacks in public. It took me over a year before I could touch my body or let someone else touch it without cringing. I cried for the part of my soul that is angry and wants more punishment. I cried because, while I want that for the victim in his case, I did not want that when it was me.

When it was me, I thought long and hard about whether or not to report it in the first place. I was concerned that my assailant would be punished because he was ignorant about consent. I did not want to ruin his life. I reported what happened to the college only after attempting to talk to my assailant about what happened and hearing him laugh while saying, “You only remember that because you liked it.” I brought forth my claims because his cavalier attitude scared me and I wanted to make sure that it did not happen to anyone else.

I was given a staff member to support me but no one to advocate on my behalf. No one mentioned the possibility of filing criminal charges. The person assigned to support me through the process, as a result of her lack of cultural competence, told me that it was unlikely that my assailant would tell others about my claims. She did not realize that he was from a community where people are regularly incarcerated and it did not occur to her that he would tell everyone as a way to rally support and preemptively undermine my claims. It did not occur to her that, although we are both people of color, he might bring up the long history of false accusations of sexual assault against black men in this country. It was the first thing he said. I was ill-prepared to bring up the long history of women, especially women of color, being sexually assaulted without consequence to their assailants.

Through my experiences in law school, I now know that reporting these events to the police would have been a very different process, but one that is also problematic. For instance, it is possible, even likely, that the police would have dismissed my claims because I am a woman of color. It is possible that they would have blamed me for drinking and being at a party. After all, my own parents chastised me for not taking enough precautions to prevent the assault.

I also know that if I had reported the events to the police that, because of my privileges, my accusations could have been taken seriously. I was a college student and am cisgender, heterosexual, had no mental health history, and came from a stable home. And if the police had taken my account seriously, I now know that my assailant would have probably pled guilty rather than risk a longer sentence at trial because he likely would not have been able to afford to a hire a lawyer.

Today, I work hard against that type of coerciveness in our criminal justice system. I hate the part of me that would feel vindicated by hearing him take responsibility and I know that I would have felt guilty if he had been incarcerated. I wanted some way to assure that he never did that to anyone again, but our current systems do not offer much to rehabilitate sexual assault perpetrators. It is also not designed for what the victim would want, even if it is less retributive than what the system would dole out.

In my first-year criminal law class, when we discussed the subject of rape, the person sitting next to me told me that he could not believe the numbers were as high as the professor stated. My classmate told me that he did not personally know anyone who had been sexually assaulted. I told him that he probably knows people but people do not talk about the subject openly. I did not tell him that I was one such person because I did not want him to think I was a less competent or able lawyer. I was scared of being perceived as weak.

Today, I realize the enormous strength it took for me to keep living. However, my experience in college taught me that, while survivors are not the ones who have something to feel ashamed about, there is judgment that accompanies coming forward with accusations of sexual assault. I did not attach my name to this piece because I do not want this one moment to define me. But if I could go back to that moment in criminal law my first year I would tell my classmate, “My experience was on a campus, but people of all gender identities, including one in six boys, are victims of sexual assault. We are here. We walk among you.”