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ALTO OR L'IMPERO

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If you had a choice, which one has the better food and romantic ambiance?
Also, any comment on Il Postino.
Thanks in advance.

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  1. FWIW - here's my review of Alto from last week (v. positive). Don't think it is romantic though.

    5 Replies
    1. re: MMRuth

      Absolutely no comparison. L'Impero is fabulous. Alto is Blah. Like comparing Beluga Caviar to Salmon Roe.

      1. re: DoctortedNYC

        She forgot to link the review. http://www.chowhound.com/topics/443376 Check it out. I think Alto has gone way uphill in the past few months, from what I hear.

        If you are going in the next few days, I bet Impero will be jammed, since it is the closest good restaurant to the UN.

        1. re: Brian S

          Thanks Brian, for adding the link to my review! I've not been to L'Impero - so I can't compare, but by no stretch of the imagination was my recent meal at Alto "blah".

          1. re: MMRuth

            I just booked a restaurant week lunch there. Looking forward (I hope it's still good 2 years later...).

            1. re: Peter Cherches

              I was there one year later, and it was still excellent (except for my fish). Enjoy - and I look forward to hearing what you think of it.

    2. I have never been to Alto, but L'Impero is amazing. I brought my mother there as well, who is a native NYer and been eating out at the best restaurants for years, and she said it was the best meal I have ever taken her for in Manhattan. I plan on going back myself soon, the foie ravioli are calling me....

      1. Have not been to Alto, have been to L'Impero twice. First time was ~5 years ago, so not relevant really, and I thought it was quite good. I also went two weeks ago for my birthday. Gotta disagree with most of the fans here. My food was good, but nothing amazing - I had the Baccala Fritta (salt cod fritters), and the lamb. The fritters were "ok" at best. I forget what pasta course I had, but it wasn't anything special. The lamb was quite good.

        My wife on the other hand had the Burrata/Tomato soup - quite good. Then she had the orechiette - which was *massively* over-pestoed (new word, I know). And to top it off she had the roast guinea hen, which she described as "vile". I tasted some and thought it was "ok", but really nothing special.

        We went with some friends and no one was particularly blown away (although only my wife described her food in such overwhelming terms). So.. to each their own, but I will not be back.

        1. I've been to both and definitely prefer L'Impero. Alto is a very cool room - especially when your surrounded by all those three story wine racks covered in blue glass. It gives a very different, modern vibe and you feel like you're in the center of a James Bond wheeling and dealing atmosphere.

          By contrast, L'mpero is like being in a Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers movie that takes place on an ocean liner. Beautiful and subdued, more civilized crowd and the food is spectacular - especially the polenta with wild mushroom ragout and oddly enough, the spaghetti - so good!

          Alto has really good food too, I just prefer the room at L'Impero.

          8 Replies
          1. re: divamon

            second the spaghetti. weird how something so simple can taste so good. but haven't been back since conant left, so wonder if its still the same.

            1. re: FattyDumplin

              What kind of sauce is on that spaghetti?

              1. re: MMRuth

                It's spaghetti pomodoro, and from the posts I remembered that this is what my mom ordered when I brought her there, which prompted her comments I described above. I must have some when I go back.

              2. re: FattyDumplin

                Chef Michael White has completely overhauled the menu, so that spaghetti is no longer being served.

                http://www.limpero.com/eng/menu.asp?f...

              3. re: divamon

                divamom,

                With the departure of Scott Conant, the sensational polenta and mushroom combo is no longer on the menu. In fact, with Chef Michael White now in charge of L'Impero's kitchen, he has overhauled the entire menu. We had dinner there recently, and his cuisine is superb. Quite different from Conant's and, in my view, even better!

                I do agree with you that the dining room at L'Impero has understated elegance, warmth, and a romantic feel. One little nitpick: I think the tables could be spaced a bit further apart.

                We never made it to Alto while Conant was there, but it's now definitely on my "go to" list, especially after reading MMRuth's stellar review. (I want that duck!!)

                1. re: RGR

                  My Alto Review:

                  http://www.chowhound.com/topics/415502

                  1. re: DoctortedNYC

                    RGR's reply to your June review was: "I fear that the seeming drift you've described is probably the direct result of Chef Scott Conant having severed his relationship with Alto, as well as with L'Impero, several months ago, and incoming chef Michael White having not yet taken over the reigns. Let's hope that once he does, things will improve dramatically"

                    Three months later, they have.

                    1. re: Brian S

                      Brian

                      Fair enough.
                      Will try again.

              4. I just read on eater that there will be a change of pastry chefs at L'Impero and Alto. For me, that's welcome news. When we had dinner at L'Impero during the summer, although Michael White's food was superb, I was totally disappointed with dessert. Way too big and very mundane. When I commented about it to our waiter, he said they were going for the homestyle touch. Feh! A total mismatch for White's contemporary, more delicate style of Italian cuisine.

                4 Replies
                1. re: RGR

                  RGR,

                  It is my understanding that one of the reasons that the pastry chef is leaving L'Impero is because the desserts that are being served are no longer his creations! The dessert that you ate was most likely what Michael has asked him to serve. If you've ever been to Alto, then you'll realize that in fact, his desserts are light, contemporary....and never too big or mundane!

                  1. re: foodie37

                    I think that the reason was that he refused to do anything Italian or fuse the flavors of Italian food into the desserts - ie using the chocolate, spices, etc.

                    So then he said he wasn't coming back.

                    He has to be amazing; I'd think so if he won the Starchef Award.

                    1. re: doona

                      Actually he is still currently working at both restaurants... the report yesterday that he walked off of the job is not true.

                      p.s... the chocolate and hazelnut is currently in some of his desserts

                    2. re: foodie37

                      I've not yet been to Alto, so I can't comment on desserts there.