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VISITOR ASSISTANCE - VERY GOOD, HONEST NYC ITALIAN

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Mark T. Mar 26, 2001 03:53 PM

We will be coming up to NYC in a few weeks with our friends from the south. They have a 2-1/2 year old daughter. As expected, they are looking forward to a memorable Italian lunch/dinner in Manhattan. Looking for suggestions, please.

Criteria is $10-$20 per entrée, casual attire, good red-sauce variety of pasta/chicken/veal, ok for child and group of 6-8, nice ethnic ambiance (to meet their NYC expectations), red and white tablecloth a plus (see last comment), and downtown/midtown location not too far from subway. Don't need extensive wine list - decent red/chianti is satisfactory.

We're really not looking for the best Italian food in the city, just something that is very good for that range and will meet their expectations for the experience. Hope I didn't make this too difficult. I've read some of the postings, many seem more upscale than needed and any further suggestions/recommendations to help narrow the focus would be greatly appreciated.

Sincere thanks,
Mark T.

  1. g
    gab Mar 26, 2001 04:32 PM

    Maybe you should go somewhere in Little Italy. It will be fun, surely an experience your friends will remember.

    I had a memorable meal at La Mela a few years ago. There's no menu--the waiters plunk down a big bottle of wine and bring out course after course--antipasto, pasta, meat or fish, etc. And it's not very expensive. It's a welcoming atmosphere.

    Two other popular Little Italy spots are Da Nico and Benito's. I think you'd have more fun at La Mela, though.

    6 Replies
    1. re: gab
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      maven Mar 26, 2001 05:02 PM

      I think someone else posted this warning a while back but it bears repeating: LaMela can get very expensive if the waiter is "aggressive" in bringout out platters of food (family style). You'd be surprised how it can add up. They also aggressively push the bottled water. Wasn't an experience I enjoyed.

      1. re: maven
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        Giorgio Mar 29, 2001 06:20 PM

        Carmine's? Madonna mia, that place is horrible. Little Italy is a sad echo of the days when it was an actual Italian community. There are no really good restaurants there, just overpriced tourist traps. I much prefer a place like Trattoria L'incontro in Astoria, Queens, which is run by a man from Abruzzi and his Sicilian wife, or I Trulli, in midtown Manhattan.

        1. re: Giorgio
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          Bill F. Mar 31, 2001 12:13 AM

          Giorgio,

          Perhaps you can explain to Mark what you had at Carmines that was so horrible? Perhaps you can also tell Mark whether your recommendation of I Trulli fits all his requirements. I had pasta with meat sauce, meatballs, Italian bread, and two glasses of Chianti. The pasta, sauce, and meatballs were fairly good. The Italian bread was very good, and the wine, on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the highest), rated about a 4. Let's face it, I think it's pretty hard to find an established Italian restaurant in NYC that will make a horrible mess out of pasta and meatballs. Remember, Mark isn't looking for another Il Mulino.

          1. re: Bill F.
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            Bill F. Mar 31, 2001 12:18 AM

            I forgot to mention that I had the house wine.

            1. re: Bill F.
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              Lou from Queens Apr 5, 2001 10:43 PM

              For very good, family style eating,friendly service and decent wine list try Trattoria Sambuca 20 W 72nd Street. If you go on Sat. or Sun. go early! This is mostly hearty southern style cooking. Have never had bad meal and usually bring a group of people with me when I'm there. Don't know how they do it in such a pricey neighborhood.

            2. re: Bill F.
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              Elaine(Snutteplutten) Mar 31, 2001 11:14 AM

              I used to enjoy Carmine's when I was younger (late teens, early 20s) - the sheer enormity of the portions was attractive. I went there about a year ago on the strength of these recollections. The lasagna was dry, heavy on the ricotta and light on seasoning, tasted a bit like an oversized version of Celantano's, the salad we got (can't remember the name) was an enormous platter of romaine with the "goodies" few and far between, and the house red was astringent and basically undrinkable. Plus the usual racket making it impossible to converse.... I really would not recommend this place to anyone, not with so many decent (if not spectular) pasta joints dotting the city.

              I think Carmine's is owned by the same people that owned Ollie's, and with both, I feel that a cute (if fake) concept has lost whatever charm it once had over the years. Or maybe I've just gotten old and cranky.

      2. b
        Bill F. Mar 26, 2001 11:12 PM

        Given your "requirements," Carmine's comes to mind. They have two locations (Broadway, 90-91st, 212-362-2200; and 200 W. 44th, Broadway-8th Ave., 221-3800). I've eaten at the one on Broadway, but not the other. Carmine's is known for its copious portions, and my experience bears this out. Plenty of red sauce dishes, and the quality is fairly good, but not close to the best. I don't recall the color of the tablecloths, but the atmosphere I believe would fit your friends' expectations. The atmosphere is festive and ideally suited for groups. There is always a wait to get in -- in fact I think you need reservations for a group of six or larger. It's one of those places not easily forgotten. Perhaps someone out there can give you a review of the 44th St. location; and yes, it's convenient to subways.

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