Review - Becco (355 WEST 46TH ST , 212-397-7597 , www.becconyc.com)
Review - Becco (355 WEST 46TH ST , 212-397-7597 , WWW.LIDIASITALY.COM)
After catching an early showing of a movie last night, we got a cellphone call from an old friend, suggesting we meet him at Becco. Happily, we were in the Theatre District so popped over to meet him for dinner. It was quite a happy coincidence since we'd actually thought about using this place for a private party next year, but for a variety of reasons, had picked a French place. I know Becco gets a lot of comments here -- and some negative posts -- but we had a great time last night and wanted to share. Quick thoughts:
I really liked the ambience upon entry, a nice low beam encased ceiling, lights turned down just perfectly, with quality woodwork along the sides. In addition, the bar was a pleasing piece of millwork. It seems like they have some space in back and upstairs too, but the three of us were seated at a round table in the middle of the front room. It was a nice touch that they had real white linens (with no annoying paper on top) for their price point. I didn't notice the Lidia cookbooks for sale (and oh so many of them!) until we strolled out, stuffed like swine.
Our server greeted us promptly and gave us a box of breadstuffs (rustic bread, thin sticks, and foccacia plus some olives and white bean paste) along with the menus. The bread and spread were great, really easy to nibble on. We selected a big white Piedmontese from the $25 list while he rattled off the specials to us. I wish more places would make a commitment to stocking wine at consumer friendly price points on the wine list. I am a serious oenophile and I *almost always* would rather pull mature bottles from my cellar -- paying corkage fees of $10-$25 routinely --rather than order something I don't know off a wine list. Becco's policy makes me want to try their wines, rather than BYO. I don't think I saw a table last night that did not have wine on it, so clearly, something is working here. Our servers were attentive all evening long, refilling our water and other service as needed.
Our friend suggest we do the pasta prixe fixe special, which seemed fine to me. My SO had the Caesar salad which looked ok to me, while we went with the antipasto. This included : grilled octopus, whitefish salad, ricotta with honey, marinated green peas, grilled zucchini and asparagus, pickled mushrooms, red peppers, bocconni cheese balls, sun dried and pickled tomatoes, and some other sundries. It was quite a bit of stuff, and we liked it.
Then we moved on to the pastas. They started with sage/spinach gnocchi which were in a cream sauce. They were fantastic, supremely plump and juicy, but very rich. Not something you could/would want to eat a lot of, but perfect as a small tasting. These seemed to be made in small batches downstairs and then brought up for cooking/serving. Then came an excellent fresh linguini in bolognese sauce. Super fresh and soft noodles with a great sauce. This was something you could really dig into. The final pasta was rigatoni in a marinara sauce. The rigatoni was good but not as popular as the first two, perhaps because they have to dry the rigatoni before cooking. Part of me suspects that it may be made offsite, or by a vendor. Still it was good, and lighter than the other two.
They kept bring around pans of these and although two of us couldn't eat any more than the initial sample, our friend did manage to put away 3 plates. A most impressive trencherman.
Afterwards they brought dessert and digestiv menus by, but we were stuffed, and had to waddle home. I like this place and it is tremendous value. I'll be back, hopefully with a group. I didn't find any issue with cramped tables or noise, but maybe a late Tuesday supper isn't the time when those problems flare up.
We were at Becco about a year ago and had a wonderful pre-theater meal with a group of eight - so took my out of town guest there last week before the show and was terribly disappointed. The pasta was rubbery, the appetizers almost inedible. My friend's sausage was simply OK. We were early so there wasn't a rush yet and it was a Monday - hardly peak time. I'm puzzled at the decline.
My son and I ate at Becco last spring while in town visiting family. (I had asked on this board ahead of time if it was a good place, and got a positive response.) We were seated within 5 minutes of our arrival; the service throughout was prompt and gracious. I don't remember exactly what we ate--I think I had scallops and my son had steak. We definitely didn't do the ayce pasta. My only complaint, which I've been mulling over since then, is that I was charged refills on soda, which I've never encountered before. I mean, come on, it's 2 oz of syrup, if that much, and water. But otherwise, I wouldn't hesitate to go back.
Oh, and I asked what kind of coffee they served, thinking perhaps it was Italian dark roast, which I don't like. The waiter came back w/a small bag of beans to show me that it was regular roast. Nice touch.
Regulars to this board know that I'm in the anti-Becco camp. I think it's the ayce pasta special that entices many people to go there. Unfortunately, my experience has been that those pastas are barely mediocre. Furthermore, they pack as many tables as possible into each room, and the noise level is so horrendously high that having a civilized conversation around the table is impossible. In short, with far better Italian restaurants available in the Theater District, I can't see wasting a meal at Becco.
I am sorry to say that Beccos was the worst Italian food I have ever had with the exception of chain restaurants.
The noise level is horrible, it is extremely hot and the staff are all rude. We waited over a half hour with reservations Sat in the main dining room and I guess our table was the main thorofare for all servers. It got to the point that the women at the table behind me backed her chair into mine so we would not be hit every 2 minutes by a server.
Bread was good, salad just okay, nothing to rave about. I went with 7 other friends. One had the steak which she took one bite, (full of fat) and brought the rest home to her dog
2 others had the pasta special. The pesto sauce was drowning in the pasta, the regular marina was ragu but the ravioli was worth mentioning.
We were never asked for our drinks, just the main course. Evenutally someone came over for a drink order. A friend ordered malibu bay breeze. But they don't have malibu rum. So she decided to try it with regular rum. She did not like it, she continually told our server. It went on deaf ears.
We couldn't wait to get out of there.
And how about those bathrooms being located in the kitchen. How disgusting is that!!!
The best thing about our experience there is that one on the managers sent us to a cute little pub across the street to wait for our table. I swear there were as many people waiting for tables as there were people eating.
THe pub is called Deacons. Very nice staff. If they served food we would of never left.
We don't drink wine (sadly) so there goes the only reason for us to return to Becco. The three pastas I had last time out were on a par with chafing dish fare at a cocktail hour. Too bad, because based on an earlier visit we thought well of the place, but we ordered specials that night and not the pasta.
I am in agreement with the positive reviews.
It is not the best Italian food one can find, but 40 different wines set at $25, the pasta special including salad/antipasto, and consistently pleasant service keeps us returning. The restaurant definitely gets crazy but I have never been turned off by the noise factor, sitting in the front, back or upstairs.
I also love the eggless custard!
Funny - my SO, friend and I must have been sitting a few feet away from you as we were at about the 3rd table in from the door and left around 10 pm. I liked the bolognese a lot, thought the gnocchi was OK (I'm sure it was fine, just not my type of sauce), and the rigitoni was a bit on the rubbery side and the sauce was runny. I agree on the wine, and as one who knows very little about wine, it is nice being able to ask for a recommendation and not having the waiter immediately suggest the most expensive bottle there, since they are all $25. My only complaint is that we called for a reservation about 3 hours before our arrival and they said they were booked solid, but we were able to walk in and there were several empty tables when we got there.
I have been several times before and will continue to go back -despite what some other Chowhounds say, the food is good for the price, particularly if you hit a day with their better pasta choices. Also I have never had a real issue with the noise, and I am normally extremely sensitive to loud restaurants.