Saturday, April 15, 2006


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Abboccato [138 W. 55th St. (bet. 6th and 7th Aves.) 212-265-4000]
Excellent midtown Italian restaurant across from the City Center theater. I went for lunch during restaurant week, but according to the waiter, the same prix-fixe I had is available all the time. I chose a lovely and surprisingly large Fritto Misto (lightly fried mixed seafood) as my appetizer. My main course was the Pollastrello alla Romana, a delectable chicken dish with peppers, tomatoes, and olives. Dessert was the Bonet (chocolate mousse). It was a lot of food for lunch, and it came with a hefty price tag ($24.07). But despite the high prices, I would still recommend Abboccato for its high quality food.

ama [48 MacDougal St. (bet. Prince and Houston Sts.) 212-358-1707]
If it's cute you want, it's cute you'll get at this adorable Italian restaurant. The prices are probably a little high, but the food is good and the atmosphere is great. It's a very nice date spot. Make sure to start out with some of the bread, because the bean dip is excellent. Then I would recommend trying the Crab Salad. It comes prepared as a sort of short cylinder of crab, avocado, and vegetables, and it is delicious. For main courses, I enjoyed the Capuntini Di Altamura (with sunday ragu), which felt like it had a meat sauce, without the meat. Tasty stuff. Top it off with a selection from the extensive wine list, or if you prefer beer, try the Menabrea Amber.

Arte Cafe [106 W. 73rd St. (bet. Columbus and Amsterdam Aves.) 212-501-7014]
A pretty setting, friendly service, and good prices combine to make Arte Cafe a good date spot, especially on Monday nights. That's when you can get two pizzas and a bottle of wine for just $30 total! But if you want to go on another night, there are plenty of other solid options on the menu. For pasta, I recommend the Pappardelle with veal ossobuco or the Cavatelli Bolognese.

Caffe Buon Gusto [236 E. 77th St. (bet. 2nd and 3rd Aves.) 212-535-6884]
Small and cozy, this is a very tasty choice for dinner. You can create your own pasta or choose a specialty pasta such as the black linguini with calamari or the green and white linguine with salmon that I had. Prices are affordable and of course other Italian specialties are available as well. I recommend reservations as it is a pretty popular place.

Caserta Vecchia [221 Smith St. (bet. Baltic and Butler Sts.) 718-624-7549]
Try this quaint and authentic Italian restaurant in Carroll Gardens/Boerum Hill for some fantastic Neapolitan-style pizza. Order whichever pie suits your fancy, although I can tell from experience that the prosciutto is good. The prices are very reasonable, and I highly recommend that you sit in the garden in the back. This place is a well-known Brooklyn institution and is definitely worth a visit.

Da Andrea [557 Hudson St. (bet. Perry and 11th Sts.) 212-367-1979]
It's in the West Village. It's trendy. It's good. And most surprisingly, it's very affordable. Homemade pastas for $10-$11 are the way to go in my opinion, but others might beg to differ. I chose to devour the Cavatelli with Pesto (and Shrimp and Salmon) as my main course and was happy with my choice. Also, the Caprese appetizer was excellent, as was the Torretta di Verdure according to my lovely assistant. The atmosphere of the restaurant is pleasant and appealing, giving you an authentic Italian feel. Furthermore, bottles of wine are pretty cheap! I was fortunate to stumble onto this place and I will be more than happy to return.

Da' Giulio [176 Lexington Ave. (bet. 30th and 31st Sts.) 212-889-2939]
If you order correctly, Da' Giulio is a good choice for dinner. If you don't, you might feel a little bit ripped off. I recommend both the Fried Calamari and the Beef Carpaccio as appetizers and the Scialiatelli (pasta with shrimp and lobster sauce) as a main dish. Each of these dishes is flavorful, albeit somewhat conventional. Avoid the Rigatoni Da Giulio because it's too creamy and avoid the Lamb Chops because you just don't get enough food.

Gennaro [665 Amsterdam Ave. (bet. 92nd and 93rd Sts.) 212-665-5348]
A nice, affordable restaurant, Gennaro won't blow you away, but it should leave you satisfied and with most of your money still in your wallet. A nice wine selection is an added bonus.

Intermezzo [202 Eighth Ave. (bet. 20th and 21st Sts.) 212-929-3433]
They say that they have the best Italian food in Chelsea. I'm not sure about that, but what they definitely do have is pretty good food at pretty good prices. When I was there, everyone ordered pasta and enjoyed it. I had the Pappardelle with wild boar, while the Rigatoni Alla Siciliana was another strong choice. On the whole, you should have an enjoyable meal here. Oh, and look out for the busboy who masterfully fills up water glasses exactly to the top. Give him his propers.

i Trulli [122 E. 27th St. (bet. Park Ave. S. and Lexington Aves.) 212-481-7372]
A terrific Italian treat. This massive restaurant offers top-notch food in an equally nice atmosphere. I had the Panzerotti to start and the Orecchiette as my main course. Both were delicious. For wine lovers, there is an extensive wine list and even a separate wine bar. Not for the light of wallet.

La Cantina Toscana [1109 First Ave. (bet. 60th and 61st Sts.) 212-754-5454]
Try out this tiny Tuscan treat on the Upper East Side. Featuring an authentic Italian atmosphere and more options than most comparable restaurants, La Cantina Toscana is a good place to try something new. For starters, if you want something light, go for the Mesclun Salad. If you want something a little heavier, order a bowl of the Pappa al Pomodoro. For your main course, make sure you have some wild game or fish. For wild game, you can choose anything from wild boar to venison to pheasant, generally served in a ragu with a healthy portion of pasta. Buon Appetito.

La Giara [501 Third Ave. (bet. 33rd and 34th Sts.) 212-726-9855]
A surprising find in the vast Murray Hill wasteland, La Giara provides good Italian food at reasonable prices. Start out with the Bruschetta (or maybe the Panserotti) before trying one of the many pasta dishes. I greatly enjoyed the Pappardelle with duck meat and I sampled the Capricci with bufala mozzarella and tomatoes, which was as tasty as you might imagine. The service is friendly, albeit a little slow, but overall you should have an enjoyable meal here.

Lamarca [161 E. 22nd St. (at 3rd Ave.) 212-674-6363]
Moderate prices and solid pasta make this a good choice for dinner. Each pasta also comes with a salad and of course a big piece of bread, so you will probably leave stuffed.

Marco Polo Ristorante [345 Court St. (at Union St.) 718-852-5015]
If it's old-school Italian you want, it's old-school Italian you'll get at this Carroll Gardens haunt. The main dining room is dark and decorated with images of Marco Polo and other Italian heroes. The menu offers up few surprises, but the large portions are nice for gluttons like myself. My friend enjoyed the Minestrone soup to start, and it was a massive bowl that almost a meal in itself. For my entree, I went with the Pasta Nera Adriatica (squid-ink pasta with seafood) and it was excellent. My friend's Zuppa di Pesce (seafood in a tomato broth) was less so. My other friend had a pasta special that was tasty. So stick to the pasta and you should enjoy yourself.

Mediterraneo [1260 Second Ave. (at 66th St.) 212-734-7407]
A Berger family favorite for years, pasta doesn't get much better than at Mediterraneo. The pizza and other dishes are good too, but pasta is clearly the specialty (along with fast service). Among others, I would recommend Tagliolini al Granchio, Linguine Nere all'Arrabbiata, Pappardelle all'Anatra, and Penne al Sugo Toscano, but every single pasta dish I have ever tried there has been delicious. This restaurant is almost always crowded, so if you can't get a table, I suggest a visit to the sister restaurant down the block, Za Za (see below).

Nonna [520 Columbus Ave. (at 85th St.) 212-579-3194]
An Italian brunch? Yes, that's right, I had bacon and eggs here and they were very good. With a nice corner location, this is a good place to eat outside on a summer or spring afternoon. Also, the more traditional Italian food is supposedly pretty solid, so I plan on coming back at some point.

Notaro Ristorante [635 2nd Ave. (bet. 34th and 35th Sts.) 212-686-3400]
Exactly what you expect from a good New York Italian restaurant. Prices are reasonable and the food, albeit perhaps not overly creative, simply tastes good. As far as I know, this is one of the better options for Italian in the neighborhood. The ambience of the restaurant is nice as well. I recommend the Pappardelle in a tomato sauce with arugula and goat cheese.

Orologio [162 Avenue A (bet. 10th and 11th Sts.) 212-228-6900]
A wonderful little Italian restaurant in the East Village, Orologio offers up a nice variety of delicious dishes at very affordable prices. If you're in the mood for a salad, start with the Insalata Dirucola Enoli (arugula salad with gorgonzola cheese and walnuts). Then, I would recommend a pasta dish. Two of the better options would be the Spaghetti alla Chitarrina (spaghetti with lamb ragout) and the Tagliolini Bianchi e Neri Piccanti (black and white tagliolini in a spicy tomato sauce). Bottles of wine are mostly in the low $20 range and the clock motif around the restaurant makes for a nice atmosphere. Finally, once you finish dinner, there are a number of fun bars in the neighborhood to cap off your night.

Osteria Del Sole [267 W. 4th St. (at Perry St.) 212-620-6840]
If it's good enough for SJP (Sarah Jessica Parker), it's good enough for me. The location is among the finest in the city, as you can look out on a beautiful section of the West Village as you dine on good Italian food. My favorite part of the meal actually was the bread, which came with an excellent dipping sauce of olive oil with roasted peppers. For my main course, I had the Pappardelle with duck meat and mushrooms. It did the deed. While the food is solid, the biggest draw here is definitely the location (and the chance that SJP might be hanging out at the front door while you look at the menu).

Paprika [110 St. Mark's Pl. (bet. 1st Ave. and Ave. A) 212-677-6563]
In case you couldn't tell, I like to eat in the East Village. And I also like Italian food, so Paprika is right up my alley. Set in a cute and cozy Saint Mark's space, Paprika serves up good food at good prices. Start with the excellent Beef Carpaccio, and if you want to split it, they might even do it for you. Then, try one of the pasta dishes, either one of the multiple daily specials or one of the regular menu standards. The Pappardelle with Oxtail Ragu is rich, filling, and tasty, while the Gnocchi is top-notch. If you can still find room, finish off your meal with the delicious Chocolate Souffle cake. Drink-wise, I recommend a bottle of Menabrea beer from Italy as something different, or an affordable bottle of wine as something more standard. Overall Paprika provides a classy Italian dining experience and would make a good date spot (but is also nice as a restaurant for dinner with friends).

Parisi Bakery [198 Mott St. (bet. Spring and Kenmare Sts.) 212-226-6378]
Come around lunch time and the line might be out the door. But I would say that it's worth the wait for a real Italian sandwich. I went with a sandwich of prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, roasted peppers, oil, vinegar, and honey mustard on a hero. After the first bite I knew that I had something special and after the last bite, I knew that I was stuffed. Prices are what you'd expect for a New York sandwich ($7-$10), but the value is definitely there.

Peasant [194 Elizabeth St. (bet. Prince and Spring Sts.) 212-965-9611]
If you can look past the pretentiousness of having the menu in only Italian, you will see that food here is very good. I especially enjoyed the Risotto Nero di Seppia (pretentious, moi?) and the butter that came with bread. Very creamy. The waiter, although not Italian, spoke "excellent menu" and was very knowledgable about food and wine.

Quattro Gatti [205 E. 81st St. (bet. 2nd and 3rd Aves.) 212-570-1073]
Authentic Italian food that tastes better than most of its neighbors. I liked the Linguine alla Positano, but I would also recommend the Branzino. A little expensive, but far from outrageous considering the quality of food and atmosphere.

Scalinatella [201 E. 61st St. (at 3rd Ave.) 212-207-8280]
High-end, fantastic Italian food. The setting may be a little crowded and the prices may be a little high, but the food is always most important to me, and it is excellent here. They even give you two incredible free toppings for your bread (some diced zucchinis in a brown sauce and a seafood salad of sorts). Listen for the specials, because there is usually something particularly good there.

Sezz Medi' [1260 Amsterdam Ave. (at 122nd St.) 212-932-2901]
A taste of Italy on the Upper West Side. Pizza is the way to go here. If you're hungry, order a full pie for yourself. If you're not that hungry, order a full pie and take the leftovers home (or I guess you could share it with someone else...). My Margherita with Prosciutto was fantastic. If you really don't want pizza, you could try a Panuzzo. This is something like a calzone, but with less cheese. It is very filling as well, however.

Sotto Cinque [322 E. 86th St. (bet. 1st and 2nd Aves.) 212-472-5563]
With nice new digs and a location on 86th street, Sotto Cinque has stepped things up a little bit. On the other hand, they are not exactly living up to their name, as only the three most basic pastas cost less than $5. But luckily, none of the more expensive "standard" options cost more than $8.95. I recommend the Rigatoni Cinque, which is very similar to Penne alla Vodka, costs just $6.95, and is rather tasty. Sotto Cinque is an excellent place to go for cheap Italian. If you want the real high quality stuff though, you're gonna have to pay the price and probably head elsewhere.

Za Za [1207 First Ave. (bet. 65th and 66th Sts.) 212-772-9997]
This sister restaurant to Mediterraneo serves up food just as good, but it is almost never crowded and it delivers! Za Za is especially good in the summer when the back garden is open and they offer an incredible $10 lunch special.

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