L'Impero or Alto
I read some of the old threads touching on this issue, but would love further guidance. My husband and I have infant twins and haven't gone anywhere alone since they were born. We have a chance to do a short getaway to NYC (from DC, the culinary wasteland) in a couple of weeks and I want to have a nice Italian meal in a hip setting (though not too hip - we're new parents!).
Looks like I can get reservations at both these places and the food has gotten good reviews here and elsewhere (Gourmet, etc).
Can anyone tell me the differences between these places - types of food, ambience, noise level, price, clientele, etc? Thanks! (oh, and I think it's too late for Babbo or Lupa).
Hi, did you catch my review of Alto posted about a month ago? I also made some comparisons between Alto and L'Impero. The major difference in the food is Alto is northern Italian and more formal, whereas l'Impero is southern and a bit more boldly flavored. Ambience is quite different. While Alto is more glitzy, it is also a bit cold. L'impero is contemporary but cozier. I didn't find either to be noisy, but at Alto we were seated in a smaller upstairs room, and the larger downstairs appeared to be a bit noisier and more crowded. Prices at Alto are about 15% higher. Clientele is varied at each but I got the impression Alto had more out-of-towners due to its more central location. Overall I prefer l'Impero.
We haven't been to Alto though it's high on my "go to" list. We have, however, been to L'Impero a few times, most recently a couple of weeks ago. I love Chef Michael White's contemporary Italian cuisine. His dishes are inventive without being extreme, and all the apps and mains we've had have been delicious. (I've yet to try any of his pastas but from what I've read, they are excellent.) I had been disappointed with the desserts when we were there during the summer, but they have been vastly improved with the hiring of a new pastry chef. There's an a la carte menu, a 4-course prix-fixe for $64, and a multi-course tasting menu which is an assemblage of dishes from the a la carte menu. I can't recall the tasting menu price, but if that is not an issue for you, it's a good way to go for someone who is visiting and will not have the opportunity to dine at L'Impero again soon. The wine list is excellent.
The ambiance is definitely not hip but, rather, there's an understated elegance and a romantic feel. The noise level can rise but not so high as to impede normal conversation. The clientele is of mixed ages. There is no dress code.
Enjoy your visit to NYC and Buon Apetito!