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Old-School, Italian Red Sauce Restaurant

brappnyc Dec 5, 2007 06:53 AM

I tried searching, but I couldn't really find anything, although I'm sure this question has been asked a thousand times.

I'm going out with friends for Christmas Eve, and nothing says Christmas Eve to me more than good, old-school Italian. Growing up, we used to go to Ralph's in South Philly every year, but now I'm in New York, and I don't know where to go.

I've heard about John's of 12th Street, but I can't tell whether it's any good, or if it's just over-hyped. Also, I think going to Arthur Ave in the Bronx is just too far out of the way for me. Can anyone vouch for John's, or can you give a good recommendation?

As for price, I'd like to keep it about the prices of John's, but we could probably go a little higher.

Thanks, everyone.

  1. b
    bladerobbins Jan 23, 2008 01:52 PM

    I'm not a big John's fan. I'd say Minetta Tavern all the way. Or else head out to Williamsburg.

    3 Replies
    1. re: bladerobbins
      Bob Martinez Jan 23, 2008 02:35 PM

      I'm a big fan of the Minetta Tavern. My only caveat is that I've found the food to be uneven at peak times - i.e. Saturday nights. At other times, including Friday nights, it's been very good and the atmosphere can't be beat.


      The NY Mag. site has the menu as well as a mini review.

      1. re: Bob Martinez
        cricri7 Nov 21, 2009 06:34 AM

        Someone recommended Villa Mosconi, I went there and liked it but I prefer Monte's which is owned also by the Moscone family. It is smaller and more intimate in my opinion. I went a couple of times and loved it. The service is excellent. The waiter remembered me from my last visit many months before. He remembered that I was a high school teacher from Montreal and kissed me on both cheeks. Now that is a welcome!

        1. re: Bob Martinez
          Bob Martinez Nov 23, 2009 05:28 AM

          A word of warning. Since January of 2008 when I first posted Minetta Tavern has been taken over by Keith McNally. It's turned into a place catering to celebrities. Civilians are allowed in only at 5:00PM and 11:00PM. By all accounts the food is very good but it's no longer red sauce Italian. I mourn the old Minetta.

      2. v
        vinegarhill Jan 19, 2008 11:44 AM

        I like John's. If you go on Sunday, get the "Sunday Gravy". It's a bunch of assorted meat and sausages in a ragu. I also like the Trattoria Spaghetto on the corner of Bleecker and Carmine and Monte's on MacDougal. Carmine's down by the Southstreet Seaport is pretty good too.

        1. w
          Whitemarshjohn Jan 19, 2008 10:13 AM

          brappnyc, Is Ralph's any good? I travel to Philly sometimes and was looking for a good old school, red sauce type place.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Whitemarshjohn
            brappnyc Nov 20, 2009 07:23 AM

            Sorry that this reply is about almost a year too late. It used to be great, although I haven't been to Ralph's in probably 10-15 years, but I'd be surprised if much has changed. Definitely check out Villa di Roma in the Italian Market.

          2. b
            brappnyc Dec 6, 2007 05:25 AM

            Wow...that's a lot to take in. Thanks, everyone. I'll do a little bit more research with all these suggestions to narrow it down.

            1 Reply
            1. re: brappnyc
              Cookiepuss Dec 6, 2007 06:05 AM

              Picolo Angolo in the West Village!

            2. r
              rking Dec 6, 2007 04:47 AM

              I would suggest Villa Mosconi on McDougal St family owned and operated, I think it's ideal for what you are looking for....

              1. a
                addictedtolunch Dec 6, 2007 02:14 AM

                Can't go wrong with Lanza's on 1st Ave. Food is nice (not gourmet, but nice- and a great piece of ricotta cheesecake or cannoli to close as part of the prix fix deal if you got there by 6:30). Totally "old school" atmosphere- watch who comes out of the bathroom to see if they are heading back to a table to join a mob enforcer and a corrupt cop, and if so, duck until it's over and go back to your meal. You'll have $ left in your pocket when you leave.

                1 Reply
                1. re: addictedtolunch
                  Pan Dec 6, 2007 05:40 AM

                  I went to Lanza's last winter and was thoroughly underwhelmed. Overcooked, tasteless food.

                2. j
                  jimnorton Dec 5, 2007 10:42 AM

                  Rocco's on Thompson Street ... with the hanging sign. I remember having the staples: clams casino, veal piccata ... "antipasto" with cold cuts, peperoncino, tuna, canned olives, etc.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: jimnorton
                    bobjbkln Dec 5, 2007 07:40 PM

                    If you were almost contemplating Arthur Ave., do go ask this on the Outer Boroughs Board as there are a number of Red Sauce Places in nearby Brooklyn (Williamsburg mostly, but also Downtown Brooklyn) that might be of interest.

                  2. l
                    lookingforpig Dec 5, 2007 10:02 AM

                    I like Coppola's for a night like that. There is one in Murray Hill and one on the UWS.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: lookingforpig
                      RGR Dec 5, 2007 11:22 AM

                      I respectfully disagree with your suggestion of Coppola's. In my view, the food is awful!

                      A superior option in that neighborhood is Campanile, a "hidden gem," on 29th St., b/t Park Av. S. & Madison. Excellent traditional Italian food served by a very friendly, efficient staff. Decor is a bit old-fashioned, but the overall atmospherics are pleasant and comfortable.


                    2. k
                      kpsquared Dec 5, 2007 08:07 AM

                      Vincent's on Mott street. It's VERY old school. I *think* it's still around. Great pasta dishes and the BEST shrimp and calamari around, and 2 great sauces (sweet and spicy). Everyone I've ever brought there raves about it. Prices are decent.

                      1. i
                        Ianbro Dec 5, 2007 07:36 AM

                        I tried John's recently and enjoyed it. It's not going to blow you away, but it's not going to be dissapointing

                        1. artfuldestruct Dec 5, 2007 07:26 AM

                          il mulino on w 3rd bet sullivan and thompson is about as old school red sauce italian as you can get. haven't been in a while, but when i left the place last time i didn't feel like eating for a couple of days i was so full. arturo's on houston and thompson is another good one. less pricy than il mulino and has live jazz sometimes. their pizza is also pretty good.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: artfuldestruct
                            ESNY Dec 5, 2007 07:48 AM

                            Il Mulino is alot more expensive than John's, especially if you get any of the specials. John's is good but not great. Comforting.

                          2. h
                            harrison Dec 5, 2007 07:00 AM

                            John's can be a bit polarizing here. I'm a fan, but it's probably more for the years of memories than the cuisine. The food is nothing special, but the basics are good. If they have the slow cooked ragu as a special, get it!

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