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Falai, Barbone, Lil Frankies or Frankies Spuntino for tonight?

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I am going to dinner with my parents and want to take them to a delicious meal. Cost isn't so much an issue between all of the choices but I just want to make sure it is a slam dunk in terms of good food.

Any suggestions as to which one I should pick?

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  1. Falai all the way. Hands down the best place on your list.

    Lil' Frankies has gone seriously downhill in the past few years. It was great when it first opened, but I don't think it can handle the volume it gets these days (as evidenced by my cold uncooked pizza that I got not one, but two times - and I never go there/order from there anymore).

    Frankies Spuntino on Clinton St. doesn't hold a candle to the original on Court St. in Carroll Gardens, which is divine, so if you're ok going to Brooklyn, I would recommend it just below Falai.

    Barbone on Ave B is also not so good - there are many better Italian options on Ave B and its vicinity - Max, In Vino, Perbacco.

    1. Barbone, hands down. I seriously eat there about once a week (I do happen to live about a block away). I had the tasting menu last time I was there, which was phenomenal. Everything is good value too, the pastas are in the $10-15 range and entrees $15-20.

      My favorite dishes are the beet salad, asparagus fries, the carbonara, linguine with clams and the mascarpone cheesecake. But everything I've tried has been delicious... my boyfriend is partial to the Short Ribs.

      This is NOT a red-sauce italian restaurant. If you want that, I would suggest Il Bagatto, which IMHO surpasses Max, Frank and Lil Frankies.

      1 Reply
      1. re: tatiana_nyc

        i wouldn't say frank is red-sauce italian.

      2. Oh, forgot to mention there is a large back patio at Barbone, too. Great atmosphere, kind of feels like you're eating in someone's well-appointed back yard.

        2 Replies
        1. re: tatiana_nyc

          Absolutely not Barbone. The food is bland, the service is atrocious. Falai or Max would be a better choice.

          1. re: princeofpork

            I find the service at Max to be pretty irritating, actually. The waiters and waitresses are kind of well-meaning but inattentive and the bus-people end up doing all the work in there. I also don't think the food is as good as it used to be--gummy lasagna, too oily pastas.
            Out of the restaurants on your list, I often go to Frankie's Spuntino and it's enjoyable--good food and wine list, cozy atmosphere, nice service.

        2. Falai is in another category altogether--much more creative, better quality, and higher prices. Barbone has a beautiful garden, but the food is okay. (i.e., I go there, but I'd never go in winter, for example, as the garden is mostly the draw.)

          3 Replies
          1. re: scrittrice

            scrittrice, we had dinner at Falai on Friday night. It was one of our best meals this year. I'm surprised there is not more about Falai on this Board. We thought it was better than Degustation. Agree with your thoughts on Barbone, it's more of an everyday place.

            1. re: financialdistrictresident

              So glad you liked it! It's one of my favorites, but I see complaints about it pretty often on this board. Maybe it's uneven and we've always been lucky and hit a good night? Expensive, but worth it. I'm a fan of the cafe on Lafayette and the panetteria across the street, too.

              1. re: scrittrice

                Consistency is critical and difficult to achieve when humans and food are involved. Their wine list could be better. The challenge is where to eat next?

          2. 1st time at Barbone Sat Oct 27. The linguine with clams, which we both had, is a killer version w/pancetta. My domestic partner had the fennel and radicchio salad which she enjoyed very much. I ordered the pan roasted cod which I found to be right on. The wine list is enormous and Italian. Alberto knows his wines and can choose well for you.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Marco

              We also had a good experience at Barbone. Service got a little relaxed towards the end, they disappeared. Pastas are the way to go. We didn't have dessert. We thought it was a good value. When deciding between two wines our server suggested the less expensive wine and it was very good.

              Given the comments, maybe we should try Falai.

            2. I have only been to Barbone once, and it was excellent service wise, food wise, and price wise. The owner was around and chatted with us and was utterly charming. That being said, I can't remember at all what we ate. I just remembered that I thoroughly enjoyed it.
              I'm a regular at Falai Panatteria - tiptop if you ask me. Have never been to big Falai, but always looks packed and beautiful. I'm just too lazy to make reservations I guess.
              Lil Frankie's was like home to me for a few years- I love their sausage pizza and mini meatball rigatoni. I would not call this red-sauce at all, rather an icon of east village italian. I have never had a disappointing meal here, but, like I said, it was like home. Meaning you always know what to expect, and it's very consistent.
              Frankie's spuntino was like the boy I had a crush on until I got to know him better. I was obsessed, especially with the pasta with the pea shoots and breadcrumbs which has been replaced by some pasta with mushroom thing that is really good.
              I think you should go to Falai.

              1 Reply
              1. re: christinag123

                Had a great meal at Barbone. They know pasta there. I had three pasta plates (half portions). The spagetti carbonara was great- they use pancetta not guanciale. Duck ravioli was a smash hit - the sauce was intense, the pasta cooked perfectly and the filling delicious. Chestnut ravioli were great as well, a browned butter with fennel pollen condiment. Priced great. I will be back.

              2. I agree that falai is in a different league from the others. I had a business dinner there on Monday night and it was one of the best meals I've had in NYC. Every plate that came out was delicious and interesting, except maybe for the artic char, which was just good. The rabbit I had was probably the best rabbit I've eaten. The red risotto was divine.

                I would put Barbone ahead of Lil Frankie's on the interesting and deeply satisfying list, but I think Lil Frankie's is a nice neighborhood joint with solid food and a cozy atmosphere

                1. Went to Falai last night. It seemed a little expensive for the portions, but I don't think they were miniscule, as other chowhounds have posted. We split the saffron pappardelle with cremini mushrooms, ricotta, and fig, which was outstanding. The homemade pasta was soft, and light. They also split the dish for us, which was nice. The breads were also delicious, and we were able to try them all- focaccia sprinkled with sea salt, rosemary and brown raisin, onion and fennel, and the black cabbage (our favorite). My boyfriend had the rabbit- the presentation was beautiful- esp the way the rib was arranged. The only thing that was not so stellar was the accompanying salad- it appeared to be something akin to a warm fruit salad, which was a little strange for us. I had the duck special, which was duck confit in a phyllo shell atop a bed of black trumped mushrooms and topped with a piece of seared foie gras--- amazing! We skipped dessert and instead went across the street to Falai Panetteria (dessert for 2 as much as it would have for just one of us at Falai). After dark this place transforms from casual cafe to a more intimate 'nook'. My boyfriend had the flourless chocolate cake and I had the Black Moon Cake (chocolate mousse with a semolina biscuit base)--- I loved my dessert!!! Picked up a black cabbage boule and cream filled bomboloni to go (I believe the pastries are discounted in the evening--- totally worth it!). Overall liked my experience at the Falai restaurants.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Cinder811a

                    Cinder811a, thanks for the report. We just ate at Falai again. It is one of our favorites. I also adore the black cabbage rolls and had the same pasta dish w/ricotta and the duck special app. We also tried "little Falai" across the street for dessert for the first time the other week (Falai was too crowded to have dessert there). It was okay. I am still thinking about Falai's passion fruit souffle which I have now had twice. Think quality not quantity when dining at Falai. Portions are not "American" size.

                    1. re: financialdistrictresident

                      I wanted to try the panna cotta w/strawberry puree at the panetteria but they were out. I was kind of glad though, because the Black Moon Cake was so good! Though the dinner menu there looked simple, I'd still be interested in trying the lasagna (saw it being prepped behind the counter and it looked good). Caffe Falai, however, is next on the list!

                  2. I ate at Falai about 3 weeks ago. I thought it was really good. A little pricey, but great ingredients and preparations. One odd thing is that the lighting is pretty awful so the dishes tend to look less vibrant at the table then they do at the station under the kitchen lights.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: heightsgtltd

                      agree on the lighting. very strange! I also thought it was a little warm in the restaurant (other people have posted the same), maybe it was because we were seated near the heat lamps?