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Old-School, Italian Red Sauce Restaurant

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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.

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  1. 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!

    1. 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

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

            1 Reply
            1. re: lookingforpig

              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.

              http://www.campanilenyc.com

            2. 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

                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. 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

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

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

                  1. 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

                      Picolo Angolo in the West Village!

                    2. 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

                        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. 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. 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

                            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.

                            http://nymag.com/listings/restaurant/...

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

                            1. re: Bob Martinez

                              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

                                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.