Recommendations at Lupa
Antipasti - beets with pistachio butter, treviso with almonds and vinotto or the classic escarole salad.
meats - get the salumi or the testa if you want some adventure.
pasta - i love them all but the house made orrechietti (only served at dinner) if they have it, bucatini, carbonara, linguini, or bavette. I would do two pasta courses if can. skip the gnocchi and taglitelle.
entrees- chicken is the best in the city, pork shoulder or the plate of the day. rabbit sausage on mondays is great, the crispy duck on tuesday is heaven, and the lamb short ribs on saturday will blow your mind.
dessert- tartufo or dates, stay clear of the panna cotta. cheese selection is so-so.
We ususally skip dessert, but NOT at Lupa! You must stick around for this stewed date dessert with some kind of marscapone. We're normally chocolate lovers, but this dessert, in its simplicity and sophistication, really hit the spot! Sort of like the Cacia e Pepe, simple, yet brilliant!
Don't let the naysayers drag you down, I've been going to this restaurant for years, you really can't go wrong -- people either get it, or they don't. Just go in with an open mind, an open heart, and an open belly! And I'm sure you'll walk out more than happy!
I like Lupa too, but I was there on a Monday a few weeks ago for an early lunch. I ordered the vermicelli alla carbonara which on previous visits was delicious. The Monday visit was sub-par. I'm hoping this was due to it being a Monday, and the usual chef was off for the day. I'm going back to Lupa tomorrow for lunch, but the carbonara was really off last time, I won't order it again for awhile, kinda like drinking too much JD and not drinking it for awhile -- Although, I'd still recommend taking the gamble and ordering it to someone else, because when it is good, it is really good. I highly recommend the sardine appetizer really great, and the whole roasted fish is good too.
I have only been once, yesterday in fact. The four of us were very happy with the food and service. The ambience is pleasant enough, nothing special, though we found the back room to be quiet and comfortable as opposed to the front which when it filled up with people at the bar seemed like it might not be so pleasant. The saltimbocca is indeed very good, as is the duck (a special on Tuesdays), and the gnocchi, the tripe and the octopus were excellent. The tartufo was a great dessert. The comparison one poster makes to da Umberto makes no sense to me. You could easily spend twice as much money there, and there are 100 better places to do that. Compare the price. Lupa is a bargain. I agree with Chow Baby about the wine list. Very interesting and reasonable choices in all price ranges.
I don't get it when people don't get Lupa.
It's one of my favorite Italian restaurants in NYC and my wife and I go there about once a month or so. Luckily, we live a short walk away.
The food is outstanding. The service can be spotty, but if things aren't going your way just speak up and they become more attentive.
I like to get the Trippa alla Romana, but I realize that's not for everyone. After that, the bracciole is second to none. Try the brussel sprouts with parmesan cheese.
The wine list is very well thought out and hits every palate and price range.
Impressions of Lupa depend so much on who is serving the night of your visit, I think. I don't find it to be a pretentious, obnoxious place, but I've almost always had the good fortune of having a nice waiter.
Things that I think Lupa does particularly well:
cured, aged meats -- try whatever catches your fancy. they're all good... I love the tongue
A lot of people like the saltimbocca. I'm just not a fan of the dish, I think, but if it's something you tend to like, by all means try it, here. Apparently they do it well.
Enjoy your meal!
I would probably skip lupa. I know people love it, but I ate there 2 weeks ago and it was just ok. The salad we got was so so and my pasta was good, but not better than anything I've had at da Umberto. I guess I found the atmosphere really off puting. The place feels really pretentious...a real operation. The waitress did a whole song and dance about one of the deserts and it was just obnoxious. The restaurant has no charm at all. I had been looking forward to this meal for a long time too and it really wasn't good. I can't say it was bad, but there was no wow factor. I would go to aphizz instead or peasant.