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Visiting Hound: Lupa, Otto, or Max??

  • j

Hi all,

Visiting for the weekend. I was going to try for a last minute reservation at Lupa or Otto. A friend mentioned that Max in the East Village is another good spot.

Any opinions on which is the best place for 4 adults to enjoy themselves and eat great food on a Friday night?

Thanks in advance!

I'll be sure to report back our findings!

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  1. Lupa would be your best bet.

    1 Reply
    1. Yeah, Lupa is a min-blower. The others are great places, but not in the same ballpark. Make a reservation, though!

      1 Reply
      1. re: billyeats

        or, if you can't get a reservation, get there just before they open for dinner and eat at the bar. (Dont be discouraged if the bar is full, its usually diners with reservations waiting for the restaurant to open so they can claim their tables)

      2. Max is TERRIFIC... cheap, great vibe but a little noisy. Try to eat in the courtyard out back so you can hear each other. Definitely get the Rigatoni alla Siciliana (eggplant, mozarella, yum!) or the gnocci or the lasagna (very popular but it has nutmeg in it and that can put some people off) . The sauteed Broccoli Rabe side dish is all lovely and bitter. Nice wines... and the tiramisu is a solid finish. I have not done Lupa yet but I find that Otto disappoints. Otto is very sceney and loud with mediocre flavors on the plate. Wonderful gelato though.

        Between Max and Otto, I whole-heartedly vote Max.

        1. Max is different kind of place than Otto and Lupa. All three are very delicious, so you won't go wrong there. Max is a much more laidback, loud, lively kind of place as opposed to otto and lupa which, yes, are crowded, but the atmosphere is different. Max is always incredibly super busy, and it can be an uncomfortable area to wait in around the bar because it's so full. But it is great food and very cheap! Just be prepared to wait on the weekends. It's fast paced and fun.

          1. Rather then tell which one is better I'm going to tell you that you are talking about three different restaurants, with totally different atmospheres and menus. If you want pizza and antipasti in a hip, semi-upscale setting, then you'll want to go to Otto. If you want the Roman Mario Batali meal in a real homey neighborhood setting, then you'll want Lupa. If you want a good standard Italian meal (won't be some sort of revelation), in a truly laid back place (unlike Lupa, which is only laid back in comparison to Mario's other restaurants), for a really really great price, you'll want Max.

            None of them are a bad meal... it just depends on what you're looking for, what your expecations are, and what kind of taste you have in Italian restaurants.

            The truth is you'll probably get into Max alot easier then Otto, and Lupa may be impossible this late in the game...


            1. I'd pick them in the exact same order that you've listed -- Lupa, Otto, and then Max. But, you might have missed the boat on Lupa reservations at this point. In any case, I think you'll be pleased at any of the restaurants.

              1. Thanks for the detailed advice!

                We're not getting into town until 9ish, so I think the plan is to try to walk in to Lupa (the host said it clears up a bit around 10).

                If that doesnt work out, we're headed to Max.

                Thanks again.

                2 Replies
                1. re: JT007

                  As long as you dont mind waiting 30 minutes or so, you can always walk in to Lupa. They save half their tables for walk ins.

                  1. re: CDB

                    I agree that you should walk in and wait for a table. Especially if you are willing to sit at the big communal table by the window, you should be able to sit without waiting too long. It is worth the wait; it totally outclasses a place like Max.

                2. Have dinner (my vote's for Lupa)...then go to Otto for the gelati.

                  1. If it's nice out, the outdoor seating at Max can be wonderful. It's much more "traditional" Italian.

                    I often enjoy eating at Otto more than at Lupa, which puts me something at odds with most people. I love that they have a lot of appetizer portions priced at appetizer prices so that even when I go with just my husband, we can order a lot of different things. If you are a snacker, Otto is the way to go in my book.

                    That being said, Lupa is probably more the type of place to go if you are coming in from out-of-town. Otto is not particularly "special" in any sense; Lupa's more original.

                    1. I probably went to Max something like 3 years ago, but I found the food oversalted and otherwise just OK, and the style of service seemed to be a fairly aggressive bum's rush (trying to turn the table so fast as to seem rude and disrespectful to me and my friend). I'm a New Yorker and understand the need to turn tables, so please don't figure on my being overly sensitive to this.

                      Have any of you who have been to Max more recently noticed oversalting or over-aggressive table turning?