Best Italian with atmosphere
We had dinner at L'Impero recently, and I think it would fill your bill exactly. Delicious food, excellent service, classy feel inside and a delightful patio outside (which is where we sat). The "Don't miss!" appetizer: fricassee of wild mushrooms and creamy polenta.
I have not yet been to L'Impero's sister restaurant, Alto. However, my daughter had dinner there a few weeks ago. She said the cuisine, which is more refined than that served at L'Impero, was excellent, and the surroundings were classy.
A Voce has been open several months. Chef Andrew Carmellini was previously in charge of the kitchen at Cafe Boulud, where his French-inspired cuisine food was superb. Now, at A Voce, he is doing wonderful things with Italian food. We dined there shortly after they opened and really loved everything we had. The interior is quite spacious and has contemporary decor with too many hard surfaces, which leads to a major problem, i.e., when the place fills up, the noise level gets unbearably high. So, either go early, or sit outdoors on the capacious front patio, which has a view of Madison Square Park.
Definetely true about the noise at A Voce, although the food is great... and the atmosphere is definetely upscale contemporary. Doesn't feel like a noisy restaurant...
Just one note... we were there last night, and the front patio is not opened yet (for dinner on the weekends anyway). Our server said soon... And your view is not really of Madison Sq. Park- it's more like a view of 26th st. (and a little bit of one corner of the park). For a real view of Madison Sq. park, you've gotta eat in the patio of Tabla. I only mention it because after reading posts about the restaurant we thought it was actually on Madison Ave. (with outdoor seating), and couldn't find it. It's actually on 26th st. about 20 yards east of Madison Ave., with no outdoor seating (at night anyway).