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Relatively Inexpensive Italian for a Triple Date

Hi, Chowhounders!

I have a triple date coming up in a couple of weeks, and since I'm the resident foodie, I know the restaurant choice is going to fall to me. I need a place with relatively inexpensive (under $25) entrees, since two of the six are students. The restaurant should be lively enough that a group of 6 wouldn't annoy anyone, but not so loud that we have to shout. No need for a "scene"-- a neighborhood place is great. Ability to make reservations is a must; ability to use a credit card is preferred. Any neighborhood is probably fine, but Midtown (either side) or below might be better than the UES/UWS.

I'd like to go with something Italian, since that's a crowd-pleaser, but not a small plates place (my boyfriend and I just walked out of Suba hungry). My immediate thought was Crispo, but they require a credit card for a group of that size, and since no one's plans are firm yet, I'm hesitant to put it on my card now. I know everyone loves Apizz-- would that fit the bill?

You all always have great recommendations, so I'd appreciate any thoughts you can give me! Thanks!

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  1. Apizz is more romantic than a group dinner and can be quite expensive if you are drinking. Try Copolas on 3rd and 27th. Good food and reasonable prices in a very nice atmosphere/

    1. I wouldn't consider Crispo too romantic for a group dinner--I've had groups of 6 there, leaving credit card and all. I really like Apizz. It's more intimate than Crispo, but it can be loud in there, so a group of 6 would probably be OK. Peasant is a better fit for groups, but it may be out of your price range. Other options--Lupa, Cacio e Pepe, Otto.

      1. how about something like supper? they can handle the group size and are less expensive than the otherr recs. though they dont take reservations- you can call ahead if you have a larger group. Its a great combo between neighborhood-y and downtown-y......

        1. You might consider Da Andrea. The food is not as good as Crispo, but it is much cheaper and one of the best in its price range. The atmosphere is perfect for a group of 6. Lively but not too noisy. No credit card required to reserve.

          1. Here you go: Russos Ave B, Otto, any of the Patsys, Tony di Napolis if you want family style. not sure if you are legal as you are students but they have great sangria. Nero, Il Bastardo & Zucchero e Pomodori are all owned by same group. all are good. There is a hidden place called Boom in soho. sometimes they have live music.pangea might be a good spot as well, haven't been in a few yrs.

            4 Replies
            1. re: fein

              Thanks for the suggestions so far, gang! I have a provisional reservation at Da Andrea. I have an Italian last name and the man taking the reservation didn't need me to spell it for him, which I take as a good sign.

              How does everyone feel about Da Andrea? Is there a compelling reason against it or in favor of somewhere else?

              And to clarify, we'll definitely be drinking wine. We have a couple of grad students in the mix, but we're all years past the legal age. :)

              1. re: Cuisinescene

                Have friends from out of town who always make it a point to go there. Knowing them, it's a good price/value ratio and good food and a nice place to be. With their rec, I've put it on my 'must try' list. It's not really my nabe.

                1. re: Jane A.

                  Thanks for the input. I think I'll stick with Da Andrea, and I'll definitely report back!

                2. re: Cuisinescene

                  da andrea is the perfect restaurant for yr needs...all homemade and theyre from bologna...food capital of the world.

                  i usually get the warm octopus salad and either the paparadelle with sweet sausage or the sweetbread entree.

              2. Not been there myself, but my roommate was raving about her dinner at Barbone this past weekend. The prices seem really good too, with a $35 5-course meal.


                2 Replies
                1. re: xigua

                  If it were up to me, I'd be making that reservation with the credit card at Crispo even if I wasn't sure yet what the final plans were, and then be ready to cancel within 24 hours if theirs is not the final choice .

                  1. re: xigua

                    Second Barbone. I went in a group of four couples for New Year's Eve and had a fantastic time. They seated us out back with some heat lamps, which gives you a little more privacy to be boisterous with each other. My boyfriend and I are still talking about our meal there. Try the asparagus fries and the chestnut ravioli.

                  2. It may be too late now, but I will also recommend Peasant which I consider as quite romantic.

                    1 Reply
                    1. Reporting Back!

                      Thanks for all the great suggestions, CHers! We ended up at Da Andrea, and had a great experience, so I figured I should report back.

                      First off, the group dropped down from 6 to 4, and we were 20 minutes late for our reservation. I called when I knew we were going to be late, and they were wonderful about giving us a later reservation time and a smaller table-- even more impressive when I saw the line of people waiting out the door and on the sidewalk to get in.

                      The menu was just what I had been looking for: plenty of options, and amazingly inexpensive. Most of the bottles of wine were under $30, which was a welcome surprise.

                      I asked our waitress about the Tigelle Modenesi (which I had never encountered in my time in Italy) to find out whether there was any cheese involved in the dish, explaining that I had given up dairy for Lent. Not only did she assure me that the parmigiano that is served with the buns and prosciutto is on the side, but she also told me that all dishes are prepared to order and that any dish I wanted customized to be dairy-free could be done. We were off to an excellent start.

                      We selected a bottle of dolcetto d'alba, after going back and forth between that and a nero d'avola. At those prices, we figured, we could get the nero d'avola after polishing off the dolcetto, which is what we did. Both were lovely, unfussy wines.

                      For appetizers, we had an order of the tigelle, the steamed mussles, and a spinach salad with sundried tomato vinaigrette. Everything was just as it should be.

                      For our mains, two people had the veal and spinach ravioli in cream sauce, which they said were terrific. Another had the pappardelle with sausage ragout, and both she and her boyfriend were picking at it long after they were full. It was too good to leave. I had a braised lamb shank with cannellini beans and mixed vegetables, and it was just as a lamb shank should be: homey, hearty, fall off the bone tender, and with a delicious sauce that I couldn't stop sopping up with the bread left on the table.

                      We were too full to order dessert, so we stopped there. The desserts sounded just like the rest of the restaurant: unpretentious and just right. I couldn't help but laugh at the translation/description of tiramisu`, though, which was described as "Italian tiramisu`"-- not much help for anyone who doesn't know what tiramisu` is!

                      I should also mention that the wait staff was extremely friendly and attentive. Our water glasses never went empty, and they never cleared dishes before the whole table was through with any particular course, which I'm pretty sensitive about. The warmth that everyone who works at Da Andrea exudes is really a testament to the fact that this is a family owned and operated place.

                      All told, with two bottles of wine, tax, and tip, we walked out of there for $180 for the four of us. Even better, we all agreed that we really enjoyed everything we ate and would gladly come back.

                      So thanks for the recommendation! I'm looking forward to my next trip!