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Help me choose- inexpensive to moderate, Italian

  • c

Hello all, I'm trying to pick a restaurant for a friend's birthday dinner. There will be 4 of us, and we're all young and poor. The following restaurants have somewhat interesting menus, aren't too pricey, and are conveniently located- but I want somewhere that feels nice enough to appropriately celebrate, and you can't really tell that from a website. Where would you go?
So far, I have selected: Via Emilia, Le Zie, and Cacio e Pepe. Thoughts? Anywhere else I should consider? Thanks!

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  1. Cacio e Pepe is my favorite of the 3 you've mentioned. I also love Crispo.

      1. check out Piccolo Angelino to see if it's in your price range. Great spot...

        1. You must consider Trattoria Malatesta (Washington/Christopher). It's far west from the places you mentioned but it is wonderful - rustic and attractive yet reasonably priced. It's open air when the weather's nice so really has a nice vibe and the food rocks.

          I recently went there and was blown away by the first spaghetti dish on the pasta menu - it's simple (I think tomato, mozz, garlic, and basi) but is phenomenal, much like in Italia, and it's around 10 bucks! Also, the portabello appetizer is a winner. Go there!

          1. I like Le Zie and heartily recommend another poster's recommendation of Trattoria Malatesta.

            I also like Da Andrea at 557 Hudson Street for good reasonably priced Italian food.

            I don't know how 'poor' your group is but bear in mind that a complete meal and wine always ups the check no matter how reasonably priced the menu is unless you catch a prix-fixe menu or early bird special someplace.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Flynn1

              Da Andrea, have the house wine and the whole meal is a bargain..
              and good.

              1. I love Il Bagatto on 2nd street between A/B. very moderately priced

                also, like Malatesta on Christopher. they also own Musto on 2nd avenue which is great as well

                All have an Italian vibe with great food for a fair price

                1 Reply
                1. re: Bernke

                  I second Il Bagatto. The specials are more interesting than the main menu and it's a good spot for groups.

                2. Cacio e Pepe is wonderful. I have never had a bad meal there. The good thing is that they take reservations for a party of four. It is a very cozy restaurant, warm lighting, has enough of a special feel I think. I wouldn't recommend Via Emilia for a birthday dinner. I used to go there often at the old location and loved it. Went the the new location and the decor is very cold and not very special, the food just average. Maybe it was an off night. I love Il Bagatto but have always had to wait an extraordinarily long time to get a table.


                  1. For young and poor I would second the recommendations of Le Zie or Da Andrea.

                    1. Cacio e Pepe all the way. I'm poor too, but I love this place. The pastas will run you around $15 I believe. The pasta portions aren't incredibly large, but then again, maybe I have a large appetite. You will NOT be disappointed.

                      I just had brunch for the first time at Le Zie yesterday. We ordered the lasagne (good, pretty heavy, I think they use some kind of sausage-y meat) and my dining companion had the mac&cheese (couldn't taste any truffles though). Not a bad option, the entrees we ordered were $14, but they have less expensive dishes.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: janethepain

                        I really like the food at Cacio e Pepe but I thought their dishes were a little too salty. Their dessert menu could also use a revamping. The atmosphere and service, however, are outstanding. I agree with you about the mac and cheese at Le Zie, there is not truffle taste.

                        1. re: bobby06877

                          That's really funny, I remember other Hounds saying the same thing. I'm actually pretty sensitive to saltiness, and I never noticed that. Maybe for pastas like the one swirled in the cheese - I pretty much order the same dish every time, so maybe it's true for some dishes.

                          There were truffle shavings on the mac and everything, but even when I was chewing on one, I couldn't taste anything. Kinda disappointing.

                          1. re: janethepain

                            I've been to Cacio e Pepe two or three times. I haven't had their signature dish, but that caveat aside, I didn't think it was a great value. It's not cheap, and I think other restaurants in the neighborhood (such as Col Legno) are better. Given the avalanche of Chowhounds posting high praise of the place, I may be missing something, though.

                            1. re: Pan

                              I always order the bucatini with guanciale - so good. I think I ordered the rigatoni with quail and blueberries once too. I've had bites of other people's pastas, incl. the signature pasta swirled in cheese (which to be honest, I don't even particularly like much), but I always felt that the bucatini was the best.

                              But yeah, it's a great way to spend $20, but $20 is still not cheap to me, either.

                      2. Da Andrea is looking good... the place looks cute, and the wine list is ridiculously affordable.

                        I love Chowhound. Thanks!

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Cate

                          Let us know how it goes. I used to be a big Da Andrea fan, but was disappointed in my last meal there (pastas were a bit off). The octopus salad has always been good though.

                        2. Great choice. The food and service is exceptional, especially for the price. I would highly recommend you try the Tigelle, fresh baked flat buns served with prosciutto and the warm octopus sald as appetizers. Their portions are huge so be forewarned. I love their gnocchi as well, potato dumplings in a gorgonzola sauce that melt in your mouth. I had dinner here recently with my wife and 2 appetizers, 2 entrees and 2 desserts, along with a couple glasses of wine, cost us $80.00.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: bobby06877

                            I second the Tigelle. It's like an Italian rendition of a quesadilla and it's superb. However, I never found a pasta dish that I felt they did particularly well at Da Andrea. They claim to be from Bologna and can't make bolognese. That's inexcusable in my book.

                          2. Check out Lavagna - 5th between A and B. The atmosphere is homey but cool, the food is fantastic, service is good and it definitely won't break the bank. I highly recommend the roasted artichoke appetizer with white beans and mushroom ragout. MMMM!!

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: sisack

                              I've liked Lavagna for several years but probably haven't been there for about a year. Very pleasant place, good wine list, good service. Get the table facing the garden if you can.

                            2. I had the rigatoni with quail and blueberries at Cacio e Pepe before and liked it. But if you're spending $20 there, I guess you're having just pasta, no secondo, no dessert, and no wine?

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Pan

                                Nope. I told you I was poor :) If I weren't, I might have second helpings of the beef carpaccio... or thirds...

                              2. may not be as budget friendly as some of your other choices but still an amazing "bang for your buck", but peppolino ranks highest on my list!

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: cheflauren

                                  Peppolino is not on menupages.com, but I found it on superpages.com:

                                  Pepolino Restaurant
                                  281 West Broadway, New York, NY 10013
                                  (212) 966-9983

                                  I wouldn't have thought of anyplace on West Broadway being a good value. Please tell me more. What do you like best there?

                                  1. re: Pan

                                    I've never eaten there but I've passed by often while walking. I've noticed, if you want bang for the buck, the lunch menu has some dinner entrees for $5 cheaper.

                                    I remember when it was first reviewed in the Times. They liked it. http://events.nytimes.com/mem/nycrevi...

                                2. Thought I would mention Perbacco, E 5th/B, not expensive, I enjoyed it. Had spelt ravioli with pears and some kind of hard cheese; a special of pork loin in a smoked red pepper sauce was well-received. Cheese plate was pretty good, chocolate dessert was nice (chocolate 5 ways). Good value on the wine list, great glassware.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: kenito799

                                    Glad to see a recommendation for another place in my neighborhood. I've never been there. Anyone else have comments about it?