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BF's birthday dinner--lots of stipulations. Help!

  • m

Looking for the perfect place to have dinner for my boyfriend and I on his birthday in a couple weeks. I feel like we've been everywhere that fits the following description so I'm hoping that you savvy Chowhounds will have some secrets up your sleeves.

Here are the specs:
-The place needs to have amazing Italian, French or American food. He likes hearty (I don't mean big portions), savory food--the sweet corn ravioli at Cafe Cluny has been a recent favorite dish, just to give an idea.
-It has to be small (smaller the better) and dimly lit. No mega-restaurants or bright places.
-It can't be stuffy or sceney. Preferably no white tablecloths & snooty service, or wall street guy/pr girl scene. Think the vibe of a cozy, casual Trattoria, not the newest "it" restaurant. But special in its own right--not everyday casual.
-Downtown suggestions only please (I'm open to Tribeca, LES, EV, WV, Soho and thereabouts, and Chelsea).
-I'm flexible on price as it's his b-day, but would prefer a place in the $20-35 entree range. (No small plates please)

Places that have the vibe I'm going for but I'm ruling out because we've already been there (plus some, like Crispo, are too big for what I'm going for):
August
The Place
Cluny
Little Owl
Lupa
Crispo
Gavroche
Gascogne
WD-50
Chubo
Peasant

I think that's it...please please help. Any suggestions much appreciated.

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    1. re: Nuray

      I've only been to Freeman's once about a year ago, and I really liked it. But it was packed even on a weeknight and hard to hear the friend I was dining with. Has the buzz (and din) died down any? If so, it could be a contender. Thanks!

      1. re: mae

        I was there two weeks ago, it is still crowded but it is better than before..

      1. re: Lucia

        I love Apizz and he's never been there...definitely a possibility. Thanks!

      2. Il Giglio has white tablecloths, but otherwise fits the bill fairly well...in Tribeca...

        1. barbone on ave. b is perfect. great food, dimly lit, priced well.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Will4Food

            I LOVE Bar-bo-ne. I have been there a twice this summer and it was great both times. You can sit outside if you prefer and it's just this unpretentious, delicious spot. If you like pasta, you could do the $35 pasta tasting. I think there's also a $40 tasting menu. I've had the duck ravioli, the black pepper pappardelle w/ short rib ragu, and the veal short ribs--all of which I really enjoyed. I have also sampled many of the appetizers, which are good. If you tell them it's a birthday, they'll probably even bring out a dessert of glass of wine for you guys.

            www.dazzlendine.com

            1. re: jrazzle

              Thanks guys! Barbone hadn't made my radar, but with that description (and after peeking at the photos & menu on its website), it's on there now. Definitely a possiblility. Quck q: What's the crowd usually like? Say, on a Wednesday at 9?

          2. Five Points, Hearth or Cookshop?

            1 Reply
            1. re: jdream

              Thanks jdream. But I know he's not into Five Points (too big and impersonal). We've been to Hearth but again with the white tablecloths! (The food is great, but I feel like it tries a bit to hard to be a "fine dining experience"). Cookshop had crossed my mind though...but it looks kind of bright, no? I'd love to be convinced wrong!