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Fabulous Italian (not the obvious ones, please)

I'm looking for a place that's a little under the radar. I adore Lupa and Babbo but would love to find a spot that's less touristy, and where I can get a reservation at a reasonable time. I keep thinking of the Greek place Periyali as a comparable spot--great, dependable food where you could bring family or friends.

Any thoughts?

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  1. I like Crispo. It is popular among locals but less touristy IMO. Price is reasonable too!

    And avoid anything in Little Italy because they are all touristy...

    1. hearth, great italian

      1. You might try Il Giglio, which is sort of a sister to Il Mulino but you can get in.

        1. Crispo is good. I also like Roberto Passon. Just avoid the place pre-theater as it is very crowded and tables are cramped. Just had an excellent lunch there today.

              1. Bianca. Delightful space, sublime gnocchi.

                3 Replies
                1. re: wallywalnuts

                  Food at Bianca's is good and prices are moderate, but I would certainly would not call it delightful space. Cramped tables and noisy as far as I am concerned. Definitely much cheaper than Periyali and far less nicer service and atmosphere.

                  1. re: G3B

                    Perhaps it just was because it wasn't that crowded when I was eating there. I liked the homey decor.

                    1. re: G3B

                      I LOVE Bianca, but you are correct. Tight space. But the food is great, not good, IMHO.

                  2. Ginos on Lexington around 60th - pasta with secret sauce, chopped salad. Many standards. No reservations, cash only but good.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: serious

                      Dare I ask: What is "secret sauce"?

                      1. re: Pan

                        It's basically a (delicious) red sauce - you'll have to ask
                        Gino's why "secret."

                        1. re: serious

                          I find that the Gino's secret red sauce is a red tomato with a lot of butter.. Like Haazen's butter and onion sauce.. Take your normal sauce and literally add a stick of butter.. I love Gino's for memories of my family and for there food..

                          1. re: Daniel76

                            Gino's is like the Italian food that your great-grandmother from Brooklyn would have made, if she had a little more money and really liked cream and butter. Strictly old- (old- old-) school Italian-American restaurant stuff.

                    2. Thanks. Crispo, Hearth and Beppe were all on my list. Glad to hear they pass muster.

                      Had not thought of Gino's, Bianca, Roberto Passon, Il Giglio.


                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Aleppo Pepper

                        Le Zie is good. I love their Venetian bean soup, octopus and chickpea app, and any of their pastas. Lamb shank is great too.

                      2. I would absolutely suggest Beppe. Though I am more than bothered by a glass of a "Super Tuscan" costing $17 - I have never been less than happy there with food, service and the super warm atmosphere. The bean salad is a MUST!

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: fortyweeks

                          i've been to beppe many times for lunch, not dinner and it is great... however i would suggest bianca over beppe... although agreed that bianca's space is less than steller, beppe's space is less inviting... but you have to try both places as they are both great... bianca doesnt have a bar area but there is one right next door that had a fantastic campari martini that night...

                        2. I would also add Cacio e Pepe. Delicious and a pretty laid back atmosphere. I've also heard very good things about Teodora although I haven't had a chance to try it yet. Enjoy!

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: JeremyEG

                            Unfortunately (b/c it's in my nabe I really wanted to love this place) I had the worst lasagne of my life here last year. It was like a pile of mushy pasta/dogfood. Even the brodos (they are famous for three kinds of chicken soups) were not so great. Staff was snobbish as well. Even in this area of not so great food, I never went back.

                          2. interesting you say beppe's space is less than inviting. i always think is "homey and warm...in a not too cramped sort of way" when i eat here.

                              1. Leaving aside, for the moment, that I'm not a fan of Periyali...

                                Campanile, on 29th St., b/t Madison & Park Av. S., is an under-the-radar neighborhood restaurant that serves excellent traditional Italian food in a space that has attractive decor and very comfortable seating.


                                2 Replies
                                1. re: RGR

                                  I'll try Campanile. I'm curious as to why you don't like Periyali... Too much money for Greek food? Farty clientele?

                                  I always find their calamari to have the best texture of any around. I also like the slightly outdated decor and frumpy feel to the place. It's a spot where I've brought my family and they've been very happy with it. Note that they require straight-forward, less adventurous food served in a comfortable setting--tables covered with cloth that are far enough apart that you don't feel overwhelmed; service must be attentive. I can eat in the dumpiest dive if they have the best of something, but I am looking for an Italian spot that evokes a similar feeling to Peryali so I can bring the familia and still enjoy myself.

                                  1. re: Aleppo Pepper

                                    I think Periyali is very overpriced. We had dinner there once and, considering the cost, I didn't think the food was all that great. In my view, the food at our favorite Greek restaurant, Ethos, is superior and a fraction of the cost. True, the very casual taverna-style ambiance is quite different from Periyali's. But it's a congenial place, and service is efficient. So, I'm happy to sacrifice white tablecloths for better food and lower prices.

                                    Btw, Campanile is not shabby but, otherwise, it exactly fits the description of the kind of place your family likes.

                                2. My favorite upscale Northern Italian is Da Umberto on 17th and 6th. It has been consistent forever. The food it great and so is the service. It is, however, fairly pricey.

                                  1. Try Scallinatella on 61st and 3rd, really really great restaurant and the menu is constantly changing

                                    In full disclosure it is a bit expensive (no prices listed on the menu)

                                    1. i prob think beppe is uninviting bc i've only been there for lunch... it's a different atmosphere, different servers, etc than dinner... i'm not a huge fan of da ciro... i think it's just an inconsistent restaurant... yes their robiola pizza is good but that's the only positive i can think of...the meatballs were tough and my gnocchi was overcooked when i went there about 4 months ago.. my server was also very snotty... not helpful at all...

                                      1. Borgo Antico (13th St. near Univ.Pl.)

                                        1. Crispo! Food, service and decor are all tens!

                                          1. No one ever mentions Il Nido (E 53rd)..I haven't been there in years but it still stands and was very good.

                                            1. I think Da Andrea fits your needs very nicely. Great food and service. I would also second Crispo.

                                              1. Agree with Crispo. I also had a fabulous meal at Lavagna recently.

                                                1. Gene's (11th St east of 6th Ave) is completely under the radar, has been around forever, and consistently nails the standard dishes with a large menu at reasonable prices. It's not where I'd go for innovative cooking or "scene", but it's a dependable place for things like veal saltimbocca or eggplant parmesan.

                                                    1. re: Aleppo Pepper

                                                      I haven't been in a while, but I liked it my last visit. Do a search and you'll find a lot of chatter about it.

                                                      1. re: Aleppo Pepper

                                                        I have once last summer and it was enough. Everytime was terrible, both food and service. All plates were drenced in oil and service was so slow that we almost missed theater and it was right next door and we allocated 2 hours to dinner. We could never find our waitress. She basically took our order and never came back again. We will never go back again.

                                                      2. I really like Beppe as well and the bean salad is so delicious. I'd add Za Za, a little restaurant on 65th/1st. Service and food are both consistently great and my family always asks about going back again and again. I think it may be owned by the people who own Mediterraneo, but I think the food is way better.

                                                        1. My favorite is Col Legno on East 9th. Simple straightforward and yummy. A few simple ingredients well prepared. Like a neighborhood trattoria in Florence.

                                                          2 Replies
                                                          1. re: DavyTheFatBoy

                                                            I like it, too. I went again last Friday or so, with a friend. I was slightly disappointed that the Carciofi alla Giudia weren't fried quite long enough for the leaves to be edible, but the place is just dependable to the nth degree. Nothing fancy or innovative; just solid, honest, tasty Tuscan food for a fair price. And they'll halve most of the pastas if you're also ordering a secondo.

                                                            1. re: DavyTheFatBoy

                                                              Col Legno is the best Tuscan Trattoria this side of the ocean. Its dependably good cooking, good service (with Chris always there) and fairly quiet surroundings have us taking friends there fairly regularly.

                                                            2. Crispo's food is great but the place can get uncomfortably loud and the waitstaff tends to be flaky and often is afflicted with Weird Staring Disease (WSD), an odd frozen facial expression and tragically "off" timing when taking orders.

                                                              One of my favorites is Valdino West on Hudson and Bank in the W. Village. It's a warm, cozy neighborhood trattoria that I've been going to for years.The food is consistently amazing (the last two times I had the seafood stew and the gnocchi osso bucco...both delectable and just what I craved). The owner (a native of Florence) and all the waiters are so gracious and sweet. I go with the boyfriend and bring new friends all the time, and they all become addicted. You'll love it.

                                                              1. Arte on 9th for an Old School experience.

                                                                1. Gonzo - on west 13th between 6th and 7th...always fresh...always delicious and authentic Italian choices...enjoy

                                                                  1. I'm surprised no one has mentioned Via Emilia (21st St.) , which showcases the cuisine of Modena and has the largest selection of Lambruscos in the city. The homemade pastas are some of the best in the city. First-timers should get the lasagna and tagliatelle with ragu. It's cash-only and, as far as I'm aware, reservations are not accepted, but also not usually necessary.