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Jun 6, 2000 10:13 AM

Little Italy

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Can anyone suggest a great italian place in Little Italy for a Birthday celebration? Thanks!

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  1. I'm sorry but although there are many Italian places in Little Italy, none are great, in fact, only a very few are barely almost good.

    7 Replies
    1. re: Michael

      Have to second that opinion. I think you can have better Italian food in any other neighborhood of the city--ANY other neighborhood.

      If, however, food is a minor concern & you really want to be in Little Italy, maybe the Grotta Azzura? IF it's still open--last few times I walked by it was questionable. Weird old fashioned atmosphere. Most Little Italy places don't even have that.

      1. re: pete wells

        I think the Grotta Azzura is closed - most of the restaurants in Little Italy are rather small and just seem to cram in the tourist hordes wall to curb - if you are not all that serious about food and just want to have a wild, convivial time THAT PLACE - someone please come up with the name - on the north side of Hester between Mulberry and Mott might be for you - long communal tables, big pitchers of beer and wine for the celebrating baseball teams, families, you name it, garlic bread, mainstream ok italian food with an accordian player and maybe other musicians to add to the hilarity - if you want happy birthday sung, that (whatever its name is!) is the place. Can be crowded - get there early. Please someone, the name.

        1. re: jen kalb

          What about Taormina? It was a regular hang out of John Gotti. I ate there all the time in the late 80s (not with John Gotti).

          They would weigh this enormous wheel of this amazing aged parmaggiano reggiano and put it on the table with a dull knife. We'd all attack it, hacking off pieces and gobbling them down with some decent red wine. Then they'd take the cheese back and weigh it again and figure out the cost. (not cheap, not expensive).

          They had an excellent eggplant parmesian, gnocci bolognese and good pastas. The food in general was very nice. Excellent tirami su, too (it was fashionable back then).

          (Sorry about my spelling of those Italian foods).

          Anyone know about Taormina anymore?

          1. re: jen kalb

            is it puglia? i haven't been there, but i've heard tell...

            1. re: felicia

              The place Jen describes is Puglia's. And, yes, it is raucous and fun. But, no, you definitely wouldn't go there for the food. No. Never.

              1. re: felicia

                YES, thanks, Felicia. Its been years since we went to Puglia, but we always enjoyed our visits. A low taste, I admit and not up to chowhound standards, tho we liked the food well enough at the price, though it was not as good as what were then the better places in Little Italy. I was amused to see that Puglia is not in Zagats, even though all kinds of chains and pastarias are in there - I guess its a little downmarket, and no foodie will admit to entering its doors.

            2. re: pete wells

              Sadly, the Grotta Azzurra is history and I haven't found anything that can truly take its place. However, I can recommend Angelo's and Benito II, on opposite sides of Mott St. Not that they're particularly special or festive, but the food is good and the prices are reasonable. Angelo's has a bit more atmosphere than Benito II, but that's not saying much.
              If you're going with a group and are looking as much for a good time as for a decent meal, La Mela can be fun. It's on the same side of the street as Benito II. They have a big outdoor dining patio in the back of the restaurant and they serve family style meals. If you ask for red or white wine, they'll bring magnum bottles and let you pour for yourself, then charge for it based on how much is left in the bottle. I don't even think there's a menu -- the waiter will make suggestions and take it from there. And there's usually somebody who comes in and sings a few numbers each evening. It's by no means a gourmet meal, but it's not bad, it's fun, and the prices are reasonable.