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PUCCINI!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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nativeNYer May 26, 2007 11:44 PM

Approximately 7 years ago, there was a great Italian restaurant (puccini), particularly for pasta, on the corner of Columbus and W80-something. It was a small place with a velvet curtain blocking the entrance. To my utter horror, It closed way back and was replaced by a Subway sandwich shop [bawl; pound fists on table] . Ugghhh... it was one of the few pasta places throughout the city that got pasta right and it was inexpensive. No, it's not Babbo but it ws a uniquely great pasta place without any fanfare.

So, it took me years to get over this; however, everytime I pass that corner, I look up and just groan. Well, there may be good news. I had dinner at Uncle Nick's Friday night on 9th in the 50s and, as we strolled back home, I noticed the word "Puccini" atop a small store front (on 9th in the upper 50s/low 60s), same font of the old Puccini sign and same size restaurant. I gasped, ran across the street and grabbed a menu. Ummmm.... this is IT. I really think this is it.

Ran home but they are not listed on menupages. When I googled puccini, i came up with their other location in Whitestone on Francis Lewis Blvd (geez, i know that nabe well. never knew they were there) as their online menu is the same as the menu from the 9th ave location . however, i did not see the 9th ave location listed on that site. Then a second listing of puccini on google, lists the former restaurant on Columbus - same menu as the one from 9th ave and also the whitestone location... so this IS it.

So, i am afraid to ask. I checked this site and found no mention of puccini aside from 2-3 fans who mourned its closing or raved about the pasta > 4 years ago regarding the former columbus location. So....anyone try the location on 9th? What do you think? Has it been there long? same chef? Perhaps my taste buds were warped (for my sake, i hope they are still warped b/c i need a great pasta fix badly) but their pasta was prepared perfectly, in my opinion.

I will post a request for opinions on the outer borough board re the whitestone location and i will post a review re the 9th ave location after i treking over there this week. fingers crossed. btw, menu says they are open from tuesday-saturday - 5pm -11pm.

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  1. v
    valerie RE: nativeNYer May 27, 2007 04:54 AM

    I don't know anything about the 9th Avenue location, but I, too, was a big fan of the Columbus Avenue place. I used to live in the West 70's and my friend (who lived on West 85th) and I used to go there often.

    I remember when it became a Subway...how sad.

    1 Reply
    1. re: valerie
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      jsmitty RE: valerie May 27, 2007 06:44 AM

      2nd!

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      kiworan79 RE: nativeNYer May 27, 2007 05:35 AM

      We ordered in from Puccini two nights ago after picking up their menu on a walk by. We ordered the bruschetta and two pasta dishes: funghi and carbonara. I think we made a mistake by ordering in the bruschetta -- as it probably didnt travel very well, but even so -- the flavor was complex and delicious. I had the funghi which was so rich and tasty (our favorite dish of the order), but could have had more mushrooms. SO had the carbonara, and he was impressed by the quality pancetta instead of standard bacon. For the cost (which was extremely low) we were extremely satisfied -- although not exactly blown away. Sorry to say that I had never been to the UWS location, so cannot compare. All in all, a great inexpensive addition to the neighborhood.

      13 Replies
      1. re: kiworan79
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        nativeNYer RE: kiworan79 May 27, 2007 11:09 AM

        well, i am relieved to hear there are additional puccini fans (thnx, valerie and jsmitty) and even more excited to hear good things about the 9th ave. location (thnx, kiworan79).

        kiworan79, i think your review is exactly what i expected to hear based on my experiences at the UWS location. i always had the rigatoni alla vodka - great tasting pasta and cooked really dente with fabulous sauce - perfect taste and consistency. are you aware of how long they've been in hell kitchen? thanks again!

        1. re: nativeNYer
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          kiworan79 RE: nativeNYer May 27, 2007 12:54 PM

          I, too, just noticed Puccini the other night. I know a few weeks (maybe a month or so) back there was a short lived restaurant in the same location called IS@NY -- so I would guess it has only been there a few weeks at best. From the looks of things the other night, it seems like they are doing great business. Most of the tables were filled both inside and out.

          I neglected to mention in my above posting that the pasta was indeed cooked perfectly. We will definitely order in again -- and dine in as well!

          1. re: kiworan79
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            nativeNYer RE: kiworan79 May 27, 2007 02:01 PM

            oh, ok. good. i thought i was slipping. i'm not on 9th every week but i would have been bummed out if i had missed this for months or [yelp] years. ... and, excuse my typo above. i obviously meant al dente.

            we need more pasta places like this in Manhattan - inexpensive, laid back and serving excellent pasta. I can't name one restaurant that is similar to puccini with respect to those characteristics. If someone can, I'd love to hear about them.

            1. re: nativeNYer
              ballulah RE: nativeNYer May 28, 2007 04:03 PM

              Have you been to Basilica on 46th and 9th? I too mourn the loss of pretty much every simple, inexpensive restaurant specializing in pasta throughout New York (at least all the ones I used to know and love). Where have they all gone? It used to be that about 15 years ago you could walk around the whole city and be sure of finding at least one every 5-10 blocks. Not fancy, not inexpensive, not mind blowing, but tasty simple food served in a pleasant environment that was enjoyable when you wanted to eat out. They were the kinds of places that would have garlic aromas for a one block radius to entice you in (if that sort of thing appeals to you as it does to me!). They weren't red sauce joints, by any stretch. Just little neighborhood secrets. There's one that's still around, but such a wan shadow of its former self I can't go there anymore. Anyone remember when Caffe Pertutti used to serve amazing homemade pastas? Their puttanesca and cariofo sauces used to bring me back to the Columbia neighborhood at least once a year. And then one day it was horrible. I tried twice more, thinking it might have been an off night.

              1. re: ballulah
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                nativeNYer RE: ballulah May 29, 2007 01:49 PM

                basilica sounds very, very familiar and, judging from the online menu, it is exactly the type of place i am sooooo coveting!! i must have passed by one night and noticed it for that reason but i don't believe i had an opportunity to stop in. i'll know for sure when i pass by again to take a look. hmmmm... i may have lost track of this place otherwise so thanks!!

                judging from your post above and the basilica reco, we are definitely on the same page (i agree word for word) re the pasta places and i definitely prefer the non-red sauce pasta joints. good to hear someone out there agrees.

                don't get me started re pertutti. i first tried it 10 yrs ago when i first began working at columbia. i then stopped going for the reason you stated. i then tried it again twice this past year. first of all, the service is incredibly rude (not all the servers but the male host/manager is very rude and some of the servers) but the pasta tasted like heavy cream mixed with cheese - done. eeeeck! it wasn't an off night. i even tried taci and tried to make it suffice. so-so but it was in the area. then that moved as well. no great loss, though.

                anyway, i'll keep you posted re basilica and puccini. i'm assuming you've tried basilica. what have you ordered? how's the bread? any suggestions? lastly, have you tried ciro? i can't quite decide whether it's worth a try. definitely doesn't look as good as basilica and puccini. thanks!

                1. re: nativeNYer
                  ballulah RE: nativeNYer May 30, 2007 07:08 AM

                  taci wouldn't have done much better, it was the same owner as pertutti.

                  if you blink when you walk by basilica, you'll miss it. i've had the farfalle w/ broccoli di rapa and sausage (very tasty), the ravioli is very good, both gnocchi dishes are good and the taglierini boscaiola is also good. nothing is spectacular mind you, it's just good, comforting food. i haven't been in ages, but i used to work nearby and often worked very late; i'd stop in here for a solo meal with a glass of wine when i needed to de-stress before heading home.

                  i haven't tried ciro.

                  paola's on the upper east side is another one of those great pasta places. but it's a little on the pricey side, or at least it seemed so in my early 20s!

                  i haven't tried it but biricchino is on my list of places i want to go to. http://www.biricchino.com/

                  1. re: ballulah
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                    nativeNYer RE: ballulah May 31, 2007 08:42 AM

                    yup. i don't expect it to be outstanding. I just want good pasta. I know just what you mean.

                    Funny you mention Paola's. My friend's sister was the floor manager there for several years but, for one reason or another, we never made it there. Gotta try that one as well.

                    Biricchino looks great as well. Geez, you are much better at finding these places than I am. Huge help. Thanks again!!

                  2. re: nativeNYer
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                    Elaine RE: nativeNYer Jul 13, 2007 05:00 PM

                    Just tried Basilica last weekend; their bread is nothing special--we like Ciro's food and bread better. At Basilica, my husband had the bowties with broccoli rabe and sausage and I had the shrimp parmesan with pasta. Not bad, but not quite up to Ciro. I don't remember the price, but Ciro has a prix fixe ($22?) dinner with a couple of pastas among the offerings.

            2. re: nativeNYer
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              valerie RE: nativeNYer May 27, 2007 07:06 PM

              My friend always had the penne alla vodka. If I recall, you could pick the pasta shape that you wanted and put it with the sauce that you wanted.

              1. re: valerie
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                nativeNYer RE: valerie May 27, 2007 07:14 PM

                yup. exactly. here's the website w/ menu:

                http://www.nycpuccini.com/index.php?x=2

                although this is from the whitestone location, the menu i picked up from the hell's kitchen location the other night is identical. hope you get to try it soon.

                1. re: nativeNYer
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                  gramercyfoodie RE: nativeNYer Jun 2, 2007 04:41 PM

                  update, fyi: i called the whitestone location to get the exact address of the manhattan location, and they are not affiliated...looks like this case is not closed...

                  1. re: gramercyfoodie
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                    nativeNYer RE: gramercyfoodie Jun 2, 2007 11:13 PM

                    thnx for the update!!! that is so wild. their menus are exactly the same. how could that be? perhaps the owners of the original puccinis parted ways and opened two separate restaurants? i had dinner there (9th ave) friday night. will provide a report later today.

                    1. re: nativeNYer
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                      nativeNYer RE: nativeNYer Jun 3, 2007 05:32 PM

                      tried puccini last friday night. had the penne with vodka sauce and a caesar salad. the salad was huge and for $6.95 (or so) it was a bargain. they served 4 anchovies with it which is unheard of.

                      i thought the salad was good but not the best i've tasted. i'm not too sure i liked the dressing or maybe there was too little of it on the salad. i didn't care for the croutons.

                      the pasta was a huge serving despite the price. i had asked for it to be served al dente and light on the sauce. they did just that. it tasted good but i wasn't blown over by it at all. it didn't taste anything like the pasta i had, had at the former UWS location but it wasn't bad. rigatoni is no longer an option at this location; however, i think the difference was in the sauce.

                      the service was very good. they know how to refill water and start off serving water with lots of ice which is almost unheard of. that was a big plus for me. the bread was okay but nothing special and not served warm. olive oil was on the table. big plus but it was great oil.

                      anyway, i will go back and try another pasta. turns out they are open tuesday-sunday and closed on mondays although the menu states that they are open tuesday-saturday.

                      yes, i'm a bit disappointed (only b/c the former puccini was so outstanding) but i will also try basilica which ballulah has recommended.

          2. k
            kam0424 RE: nativeNYer Jun 3, 2007 06:05 PM

            I almost went here Saturday evening and found out that they are BYOB. There's a bonus...

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              foodie478 RE: nativeNYer Jul 13, 2007 01:24 PM

              Can someone provide an address and phone number? I can't find this place anywhere online!!!

              12 Replies
              1. re: foodie478
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                nativeNYer RE: foodie478 Jul 13, 2007 02:05 PM

                oh my goodness. i'm sure it was on menupages but it's gone!!!! it is located on W9th near W49 (or W48, W50, somewhere right there). i will check the menu when i go home and post the details.

                i still haven't returned to try it again but i did try the puccini in queens (francis lewis blvd). i will not elaborate on the queen's location on a manhattan board but will say the queen's location seems closer to the original puccini than the 9th avenue one. basilica , which i still haven't tried, may be another option for you - 9ave near W46th.

                1. re: nativeNYer
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                  nativeNYer RE: nativeNYer Jul 13, 2007 04:07 PM

                  puccini
                  212-245-8050
                  826 9th avenue near W54th
                  they most have removed themselves from menupages b/c they just answered when i called.

                  1. re: nativeNYer
                    Ora RE: nativeNYer Jul 14, 2007 07:05 AM

                    I have noticed this place for weeks--it looks very sweet, romantic even. Love the name. Its on the list for sure.

                    1. re: Ora
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                      nativeNYer RE: Ora Jul 14, 2007 08:24 AM

                      it was a bit of a disappointment for me when i went probably because i had high hopes it would be just like the former puccini on the UWS but it wasn't. it's still good and worth trying.

                      we finally tried basilica last night. huge servings, good quality and nice service. i like the penne alla vodka prepared a bit differently than what they did with it but i definitely recommend the place. the big plus for this place is that they close very late AND their kitchen closes at closing time, not an hour before nor 15 minutes before. a family walked in at 11:50pm last night and they graciously served them without blinking despite the 12am closing time. this is unheard of anywhere.

                      1. re: nativeNYer
                        Ora RE: nativeNYer Jul 14, 2007 09:54 AM

                        OH--Drat I was hoping for a glowing report on Pucci. Could it have been how you ordered? I had such high hopes...

                        1. re: Ora
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                          nativeNYer RE: Ora Jul 14, 2007 10:04 AM

                          probably. my post above from jun 3 at 8:32pm provides descriptives and a plan to return.

                          1. re: nativeNYer
                            Ora RE: nativeNYer Jul 14, 2007 10:07 AM

                            Ah, yes I see now. Now I'm not sure if its on the must do list :)

                            1. re: Ora
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                              nativeNYer RE: Ora Jul 14, 2007 10:35 AM

                              i think it's just me. go ahead and try it while i try l'Arte.

                              1. re: nativeNYer
                                Ora RE: nativeNYer Jul 14, 2007 11:09 AM

                                Yes, it dirty work, but some has to do it :)

                                Off to canal street area right now--let's see what I can dig up today for eats :)

                                Last night was Porter House, BTW

                        2. re: nativeNYer
                          ballulah RE: nativeNYer Jul 16, 2007 09:51 AM

                          what always impresses me at basilica is the wonderful hospitality. food tastes so much better when it's served so graciously.

                          1. re: ballulah
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                            nativeNYer RE: ballulah Jul 16, 2007 12:36 PM

                            i couldn't agree with you more. i basically said the same thing in my post yesterday comparing l'arte and grom. graciousness has gone out the window.

                          2. re: nativeNYer
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                            kam0424 RE: nativeNYer Jul 19, 2007 02:17 PM

                            I agree, I was hoping it was as good as Nook for another BYOB option.

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                    chu RE: nativeNYer Jul 19, 2007 02:36 PM

                    We ate at Puccini a few weeks ago. Just walking by and saw such low prices for the area that we had to try it. We didn't know it was BYOB, so we settled for just water. I ordered the salad with warm goat cheese. It was HUGE. Enough for a dinner on it's own. In the meantime, a very nice man dining on his own offered us the rest of his bottle of wine. The wait staff couldn't have been nicer and rushed over with glasses for us. The pastas were large portions and very good. The best I've ever eaten?...well no, but for under $10, it was very very good. We will definitely become regulars at this place.

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                      nativeNYer RE: ennoo Aug 14, 2007 10:51 AM

                      does anyone have any other suggestions for pasta places like the former puccini on W83? as others suggested here, i've tried puccini on 9th ave, puccini in queens and basilica on 9th ave. all were good but i'm still searching for the perfect, neighborhood, casual pasta place like the old puccini.

                      7 Replies
                      1. re: nativeNYer
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                        valerie RE: nativeNYer Aug 14, 2007 01:19 PM

                        Are you looking for something on UWS? I haven't been there for a while (I moved out of the neighborhood almost 3 years ago) but I always liked Pomodoro on Columbus and 70th/71st. Not exactly the same, but a good neighborhood spot.

                        1. re: valerie
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                          nativeNYer RE: valerie Aug 14, 2007 02:03 PM

                          thanks. i would prefer UWS but i would go anywhere. I practically live on the doorstep of Pomodoro and I agree with you that it is a great nabe spot. not exactly what i am looking for based on my description above. difficult to explain why. i'm sure it's just me.

                          1. re: ennoo
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                            Will4Food RE: ennoo Aug 15, 2007 11:08 AM

                            Celeste on Amsterdam. Hands down, the BEST neighborhood Italian restaurant in the city. No reservations or credit cards...but this place is a wonder--clean, inventive cooking, and a great vibe (though elbow to elbow seating reigns here)

                            1. re: Will4Food
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                              nativeNYer RE: Will4Food Aug 15, 2007 11:18 AM

                              I tried it only once several years back. I will go back. Thanks!!

                              1. re: Will4Food
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                                asnet RE: Will4Food Aug 15, 2007 11:26 AM

                                Celeste is a noisebox with tables the size of a checkerboard. To make matters perfect, on my one visit an unhappy child bawled nonstop like a sad elephant while its parents did nothing to relieve its pain or take it outside. It was the single worst restaurant experience I've had in many years. I live a 5-minute walk from Celeste but have never been back and have no plans to go back unless I hear they have soundproofed the place. But they are obviously more in love with their bare brick image than with their customers.

                                1. re: asnet
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                                  nativeNYer RE: asnet Aug 15, 2007 01:03 PM

                                  Where do you go for Italian food, Asnet?

                                2. re: Will4Food
                                  biondanonima RE: Will4Food Jun 9, 2008 07:57 AM

                                  100% agree with Asnet. Celeste is overrated and VERY overpriced. Food is mediocre at best.

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