Old School Italian
I want to buy dinner for my west-coast based in-laws during their upcoming trip to Manhattan. They like old school Italian with excellent quality food and nice decor, and where the waiters wear suits or tuxedoes and look like they've worked there for 50 years. Anywhere in Manhattan is OK although Midtown/Times Square area would be most convenient. $ not an issue. Any recommendations will be sincerely appreciated!
Well, I may be wrong, but I can only think of one upscale "excellent" Italian restaurant in NYC that serves "old school" Italian (I think you mean what we often refer to as "red sauce" Italian, right?). That's RAO's. There are probably people who are still trying to get a table from the time that they first opened 100 years ago .... I have never eaten there, but I bet there are some people on these boards who can give you pointers on how to get in... For the most part, I believe that "style" of restaurant has fallen somewhat out of favor in NY. Not to worry, though, you'll get very good food at the following restos, which are not exactly on the mark, but all come close to your specifications in some way or another, assuming $ really is not a factor:
FELIDIA, Midtown East, formal decor, excellent food that is more modern.
DEL POSTO, Chelsea West, truly grand decor, excellent food that is a mix of tradition and invention.
MINETTA TAVERN, Greenwich Village, "old school vibe", though not too formal, plenty of waiters who look like they've had a long career there, food that is not on par with the two above, but fairly traditional
IL MULINO, Greenwich Village, a downtown Italian institution, serving very good food (ask the waiter for whatever you wish, the mnu is flexible/optional), one of those places where the service is formal but can be gruff, plus, they'll bring over a whole bunch of antipasti to share before an of your ordered food arrives... prepare to be stuffed! I amnot sure what it means that they are now a chain- maybe someone elsed on here can tell us if they have gone downhill recently.
Try Grifone, which is Midtown East. It is not red sauce, although you can get a mean veal parm there, but meets all your other criteria - tuxes, nice (old-fashioned) atmosphere, loads of specials that get recited at the table, good food.
i would add scalinatella to the list of good recommendations already here (assuming by old-school you mean italian-american cuisine). there was just a thread on it recently.
If you'll travel to the boroughs, in brooklyn you can find excellent old school italian food with waiters in tuxes and some fantastic meatballs, steak pizziolla, veal parmiggiano, etc. at places like Gargiulo's, Bamonte's, and Fiorentino's. i had an excellent meal at fiorentino's recently with my wife and daughter, we went early and were treated to a very beautiful old school italian meal, complete with all the right characters at tables around us and the wait staff- classic and super old school. everyone was very sweet to the kid and my chicken parmiggiano was absolutely perfect. enjoy - frankbooth