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Sep 19, 1999 10:14 PM

Help! Looking for Italian Hip & Delicious!!!

  • s

Help! My parents are coming up to NYC for a visit and I
want to take them to a really good Italian place in
Manhattan with a hip menu that isn't too expensive.
I've read good things about Il Bagatto and a few places
in the West Village that supposedly put Mappamondo out
of business. I live and work in Queens so I don't get to
dine out in the city much these days. I used to go to
Angels which is okay, but looking for something with a
little more pizazz.

In return for your help I'd like to show my gratitude by
turning you on to the best kept secret in the history of
New York Jewish Deli. Deli King in Lake Success, just
over the Nassau border on Union Tpke. blows away ALL the
legends. The most consistent Pastrami, killer split pea
soup, a very creative menu for this genre. The new digs
a few doors down from their old location is about as hip
and classy as a Jewish Deli can be.

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  1. Good man, Steve. Ask for tips, offer tips. You got my
    attention (others too, I'll bet). And the deli sounds
    good, in spite of the somewhat shlocky name. Anybody
    else know it? (if so, please post to the "tristate
    region" message board, since it's in Long Isalnd)

    But unfortunately, you ask a lot. 95% of Manhattan
    Italian falls into two categories: cheap/medium priced
    homely or expensive/hip. In neither category is it at
    all easy to find anything even remotely delicious. When
    you say "not too expensive", I'm figuring you want to
    spend $35/person or less, right?

    Re: Il Bagatto.....the chef/owner is a miracle worker,
    I've tracked her for years, but the odds of her even
    touching your food are slim (too busy, too many hired
    hands). My last visit I swore it would be my last, and
    I LOVED the place when they first opened. Service and
    vibe can be downright contemptuous unless you're
    Someone. Then again, it IS hip, it does have a certain
    excitement (some would say pretention) in the air, and
    if you do as you're told and overlook service lapses
    and don't need really DEEP food, it might be a fun
    option. The dishes are Roman, a bit different from what
    we're used to. Price is certainly right.

    Pizza Fresca (31 East 20th Street, 598-0141) is ALSO
    downhill. They used to make some of the finest hip
    pastas and brick oven pizzas in town, and everytime I
    go they dip a little bit more. But it's got reasonably
    slick ambiance, the people are still nice, the brick
    oven feels provocatively rustic amidst the slickness,
    and, again, the price is right. Wish I could recommend
    it more was the best real Italian
    (not Italian-American or some cooking school grad's
    imitation of Italian) in town for a minute. Perhaps
    since you'd have less lofty expectations you'd really
    dig it. Buffalo milk mozzarella on the pizzas is pretty

    I don't think Bar Pitti is what you want (another gem
    downhill....too much press), and the generic West
    Village Dark Cozy Italian Hideaways bore me to tears.
    The midtown flashy places are beyond your budget, and
    it's probably just as well.

    Cono's in Williamsburgh (301 Graham Avenue (near
    Ainslie Street),
    (718) 388-0168)...5 minutes over the great
    old-style Neopolitan with old professional waiters and
    some serious charm. Real good sauces. That's where I'd
    go, but it's not hip or pizzazz in quite the way I
    think you want. They've got retro hipness like crazy,

    sorry I couldn't be more helpful. Tall order.


    8 Replies
    1. re: Jim Leff

      wait a that the same place that used to be
      called Surrey Kosher Deli, on Union Tpk. near 178 st? I
      had a good kasha knish there once. Or wait...since
      that's a numbered street, I guess it's still Queens


      1. re: Jim Leff

        I am showing my age by asking: What is the definition
        of "hip"?

        1. re: Carm

          Definition of hip? Hmmm...

          This question begs a smart-ass response such as "if you have to ask, then you surely aren't." (Joking!) But sarcasm aside, I'd say that the presence of beautiful women is usually a good indicator of what's "hip." Thus, the best measurement of hip is probably hip measurements! This may also explain why it is difficult to find a restaurant that is hip and also serves good food: food that is too good to resist will eventually knock hip measurements off the scale!

        2. re: Jim Leff

          Dear Jim,
          Thanks for your detailed suggestions. I got a response
          from someone who said that Po was really good. Any
          opinion about that one? And no, 178th St. in Queens is
          Fresh Meadows. Deli King has been around for years. It
          used to have a great early 60's decor. Now the old
          location, a few doors down from the new one (in the same
          oversized strip mall) is a kosher dairy place called
          appropriately, "Dairy King" by the same owners. I don't
          eat at the their Dairy one, stick with the Deli King in
          the cool boomerang shaped building. They
          are located at the Lake Success Center, a stones throw
          across Lakeville Rd. Their phone # is 516-437-8420.

          1. re: Steve

            I've never been to Po. You realize, I'm sure, that
            you'll contend with seas of star-struck tourists (oh,
            and make sure they take reservations).

        3. re: Jim Leff
          jonathan gold

          You know, if its owner weren't on television every 30 seconds, Po would be the thinking chowhound's dream Village Italian restaurant. Prices are low (primi average $8; pastas around $10; entrees just a couple of bucks more), and there's a short list of extremely delicious wines priced around $20. The food is consistently dead on, not so much NY-style red-sauce cooking as sort of a platonic dream of NY red-sauce cooking, brightly flavored with herbs, with constantly amazing shellfish dishes, grilled sausages, herbed soups, Florence steaks, etc.

          Batali (does anybody know how he's doing after the operation, by the way?) could charge two or three times as much and still be packed with tourists from Des Moines. The fact that he hasn't, and still remains loyal to the superior neighborhood products, is something of a miracle.

          1. re: jonathan gold

            I've heard from reliable sources that Mario Batali is
            recuperating very, very well. He should be back in his
            clogs any minute now.

          2. re: Jim Leff

            "Perhaps since you'd have less lofty expectations you'd
            really dig it"

            Wow...that didn't come out like I'd intended! I wasn't
            impugning Steve's taste, just pointing out that since
            he probably didn't know this place when it was really
            killing, he might not find it as disappointing as I do.