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Sep 29, 1999 04:47 PM

Gino Italian Cuisine

  • r

I'm talking about the Gino's at 780 Lexington Ave (between 60th & 61st) (phone 212-758-4466, but no reservations).

Has anyone else out there discovered this gem? We were intrigued by seeing it noted as having the best red sauce in NYC (the "segreto", or secret, sauce) on TVFN's "Best of..." show. We went there a month or so ago with several friends and, one dish after the next, were constantly pleased. Very traditional, red sauce type, Italian, with professional waiters who've been there for 10, 20, 30 years (take their recommendations), and decor that hasn't been updated for around 40 years (red, leaping zebra wallpaper, plastic flowers in sconces on the walls).

We tried several dishes, and were always saying its the best version we've tried: mussels marinara, pasta fagiole, seafood fra diavolo were all great. Jason and I shared the veal parmesean, which was a very nice, crisp cutlet without too much cheese, and the fresh pasta with segreto sauce, thick homemade egg and spinach spaghetti with a very rich tomato sauce. I couldn't get the "secret" out of the waiter, but it wasn't just a tomato/basil sauce.

We want to go back there again soon. For those that have been there, please post your opinions and recommendations for other dishes.


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  1. I went to Gino's tonight and I have to say it was wonderful. Not 100% foodwise (details below), but the experience, clientele, atmosphere and staff are amazing.

    First, PACKED on a Tuesday night at 9 PM. All these older regulars pouring in, hanging out at the bar and drinking up a storm. I ordered an old-fashioned, and the couple next to me looked at the bartender curiously as he was making it. She (younger) says, "What is that?" "An old-fashioned," says the bartender. He (at least 60): "my father used to drink those!" Bartender (not missing a beat): "That's why they call them old-fashioneds!"

    Second: decor: unchanged since the 40s, except for the plastic flowers Rachel mentioned (with rotating fans positioned above them) and fluorescent lighting. I hate fluorescence, and this was no exception, but it was so weirdly real that you gotta love it. No catering to the downtown retro crowd here.

    Finally, food: wonderful antipasto, with a huge chunk of cold tuna, pickled carrots, pepperoncini, soppressata, hard-boiled egg, mushrooms, roasted peppers. We split a spaghetti with meat sauce which was superb classic bolognese-style-- hearty and creamy. (I forgot about the "al segreto" sauce, even though I asked him about it -- "red sauce with cheese", he replied, not revealing much.) For a main course I kind of screwed up. I ordered pork chops pizzaiola. They were out of pork chops, it turned out, so he suggested veal chops pizzaiola. I got it and the veal and the pizzaiola were competing with one another. My dining companion got the veal parmigiano which was far superior.

    Oddly, for a midtown old-style Italian-American, the prices are fairly reasonable. These restaurants are notoriously overpriced, but Gino's lets you off easy.

    There were crazy couples at the other tables. I won't go into detail. Just visit -- you'll have a great time. People were still pouring in when we left -- at 10:30 on a cold Tuesday night!

    -- Patrick

    2 Replies
    1. re: Patrick A.
      Rachel Perlow

      Glad you enjoyed it. I was worried about posting about this restaurant because I didn't want it to become overpopular, but I figured a place as old and old-fashioned as this could handle it.

      We had no trouble/wait getting in at 9PM on a Saturday night. My impression is that this is definitely a locals regular place to go, so it is logical that it would be more crowded on a weeknight, than on Saturday when restaurant row is packed.

      1. re: Rachel Perlow
        Judy Goldberg

        when I was growing up we used to go to Gino's every sunday night with my grandparents. I haven't been back in years I'm glad to hear it's still great. One historical note: sometime in the '70's they had a fire. They wouldn't reopen the restaurant until they could find the exact zebra wallpaper that was there originally. I call that integrity.

    2. i've passed by this place a thousand times, yet i finally stopped in for lunch today. took a client that works nearby. and it was good-not a destination restaurant-but definitely good. split a 3-color salad and baked clams, both nicely done. i had a saltimboca romana, a dish i find that is pretty neglected by many places (the spinach is not quite right, the prosciutto is too salty, i've even known the hard-boiled eggs to be stale), yet it was deftly prepared here. client had eggplant parm, it looked good, at least what i saw of it (he ate it in about 35 seconds). service was efficient and the prices were very fair. the decor reminds me of restaurants my parents would take me to when i was a kid ("rome" and "bank" in astoria, "luigi's" in jackson heights), little tacky but sentimental. if i find myself in that part of town i'd gladly eat there again.
      oh yeah, almost forgot to mention, the place does not accept credit cards (cash only!!). minor inconvenience, i had to run out to the bank around the corner to pay the check. thanks for the rec.

      1 Reply
      1. re: fred t.
        Rachel Perlow

        That's something that's good about NYC - there's always a bank around the corner! Actually, I remember stopping at that Chase branch when we went to Gino. I wanted to pay cash because the bill needed to be split unevenly (which we do ourselves, never ask the waiter to do it if you can help it), so I didn't realize they didn't even accept credit.

      2. Have to disagree. Food was okay I guess, but the attitude is the worst. It's one of those places where the waiters have favorites and if you are not one of them, don't bother leaving home.

        They were all running around waiting on celebrities like a mini Rao's, and the rest of us couldn't get a cold glass of water. But that was over a year ago, and your kind review makes me think I should give it another shot.

        1 Reply
        1. re: matt

          It's funny how we all react differently to the same restaurant and, sometimes, even the same meal. My grandfather's business was on Lexington Avenue, a block north of Gino's and it became a home away from home for my mother's family over the years. She loved it and was fiercely loyal. My husband and I had our own favorite--the Grotta Azzurra--which is, sadly for us, closed (but I think someone's doing some work on it and may be planning to open a second incarnation). The point being that we sort of forgot that Gino's existed until we had to start looking for an alternative to the Grotta. We happened in one evening a few months ago and, while some of the food was good (or even very good), some was downright awful. My husband had a seafood pasta dish that reeked of old fish and was extremely unpleasant, nay, downright nauseating. The service was rushed and huffy. And the price was definitely too high. It was extremely disappointing, particularly in light of my happy memories of childhood meals at Gino's.
          BTW, if anyone knows what's become of the chef from the Grotta Azzurra (downstairs, corner of Broome & Mulberry), I'd love to know where to find him. They made the best lobster fra diavolo I've ever had.