Looking for a moderately priced restaurant (no entree over $16ish unless it's a big steak) near 86th and 3rd. Cuisine preference: Italian, American, French Bistro... no Indian, Mexican, Middle Eastern, Spanish.
Paola's on 84th between 2nd & 3rd, but near 2nd is very good. If you stick to the pasta menu it's within your budget, but if you stray into the secondi piatti menu you're looking at over $20 for entrees.
Another Italian is Mangiarini, 83rd & 2nd. Entrees are between $15-$20, but pastas are less. I haven't been in a while, but someone asked about it on CH recently and subsequently ate there and really enjoyed it.
I'd put D'Alsace (inconsistency and all) above the 3 Italian joints too, but it's also a lot more expensive. Or maybe I just end up spending a lot more money every time I go ... love the bone marrow and the extensive beer selection.
I love Caffe Buon Gusto on 77th b/w 2nd and 3rd. The food is delicious and most pasta, chicken, and veal dishes are $12-$15 - fish can be a few dollars more. You can check out the menu on MenuPages. Also, it is quite small, so you may want to make a reservation.