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Insieme nice enough for special bday dinner?

  • v

Hi Chowers,

I used the board search function to find out that Insieme is a good choice for dinner after a show at Studio 54. I checked and liked the menu. However, the pictures of it worry me - it looks like a coffee shop.

It's for my Dad's 60th birthday, so I want it to feel like a special place - doesn't have to be ornate; I just don't want it to feel like Katz's or a Brugger's.

Any thoughts on whether Insieme will give us that special occasion ambiance that I'm after?


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  1. It's a little stark looking, but in a cool (as in bordering on chilly, not "cool") sense, not a chintzy, coffee shop sense. the lighting is actually very nice, which helps matters some, as do the window treatments. that's certainly not my decor of choice, but it doesn't detract from the food, which was excellent on my last visit. really nice pre-amuse bouche of canapes, a soup amuse bouche and no disappointments among the dishes we shared. can't vouch for dessert, since we opted for dessert wines on their own instead.

    2 Replies
    1. re: david sprague

      Thanks so much David! That is helpful. If anyone has any alternatives that have special ambiance, I'd welcome those. I was also considering Da Tomasso.

      1. re: Vbr05

        i'd steer away from da tomasso, which has always struck me as just so-so. il gattopardo on 54th is very good, if quite expensive, and does an especially good job with fish. basso est on 56/b'way is also nice. they do a dish -- which i cannot recall the proper italian name for -- that's sort of a lobster canneloni, and i love that. both have a much nicer vibe than insieme

    2. I was there a few months ago for my brother's birthday. The food was very good, and the service was good, also. However, I am not a fan of the decor, and felt that a chef/management team such as theirs should have done a better job at making the surroundings feel more upscale. I, for one, felt the room was a little bit too bare and plain. It was tasteful, and certainly nothing diner-like, but nowhere near as charming or "special-feeling" as Hearth. In the end, I felt a little bit sorry that I hadn't chosen a more impressive place (as far as I know, my brother was perfectly happy with it).
      Should you ultimately decide to change your reservation, I recommend A Voce as a comparably-priced modern upscale Italian restaurant.

      1. After a matinee? On what day? Not Sunday, I hope, as they are closed. I like Insieme, but have to agree the space is a bit sterile-though how many will you be? They have booths along one wall that I think have a bit nicer feel.
        ViceVersa is a nice room but the food is a little less inventive than Insieme-very good, but more standard.
        The dining room at the Modern is a great space...I've enjoyed my two times there, but others have not...
        You aren't that far from Jean Georges for that matter-and you may be in the mood for French food after Sunday in the Park.

        1 Reply
        1. re: David W

          The booths are definitely more cozy-looking, though I'd say they are just about large enough for 4 friendly people :)

        2. I've had the same worry, but I realized after david sprague's post that it sounds like their other place, Hearth, which feels a lot like a coffee shop: it's the bare table tops, polyurathane over wood. At Hearth I eat at the kitchen counter, and that's why: talking to the cooks warms things up.

          1 Reply
          1. re: jolivore

            I really have to disagree. To my mind, you couldn't find a warmer atmosphere than Hearth if you tried, whereas Insieme is possibly the starkest upscale restaurant I have ever eaten at. There is no comparison. I also don't see how Hearth could possibly feel like a coffee shop- dim lighting, candles, plenty of wood and the friendliest service I have ever encountered.

          2. We haven't been to Insieme, but if you're concerned about the stark decor and want to stick with Italian food, you might consider L'Impero, a short cab ride away from Studio 54, on Tudor City Pl., b/t 42nd & 43rd Sts. The contemporary Italian cuisine is delicious, the wine list is excellent, service is friendly and capable, and the space has understated elegant decor. Definitely a fine place to celebrate a special occasion.


            Happy Birthday to your dad and Buon Apetito!

            1. Insieme is more than nice enough for a special birthday dinner.

              Marco Canora's Italian dishes are very good and Paul Grieco's wine recommendations are always head on at any price point.

              The decor is a bit hotelish for me, but definitely classy and very celebratory. These guys knows how to make their customers feel more than satisfied.

              You and your dad will have a good time at Insieme.

              1. It doesn't look anything like a coffee shop; it's actually very elegant in a modern / post-modern way (think clean lines, sort of high end Eames-ian). It definitely won't feel like Katz's.

                I personally don't find it cold--or at least not any more so than Le Bernardin.

                4 Replies
                1. re: cimui

                  I agree. I actually find it quite warm, relaxing and espcially easy to focus on the food, which is very good and often times even excellent.

                  1. re: thegreekone

                    Thank you to everyone who replied. I did end up going with Insieme and my family had a fantastic experience there. We actually were not crazy about the food - I don't know how their lasagna won best in the city last year; it was very unpleasant to eat with odd crunchy bits throughout - but the service was outstanding.

                    It was for my Dad's 60th birthday, which also happened to be my brother's 24th. My mom had privately told our waiter that it was my dad's birthday, so if there was any special thing they could do to the dessert, she would appreciate it. When it was time to order desserts, my parents each ordered a dessert, and my brother and I ordered one to share. When the dessert course was served, there were four desserts, so we all had one, and both my father's *and* my brother's had "Happy Birthday" written in chocolate sauce across the top of their plates. My family was astonished and asking how they knew it was my brother's birthday. The host said, "Oh, it was just the word on the street." !! I think perhaps the waiter saw me pass a wrapped present to my brother, this was really the only mention of his birthday as my parents had given him their present earlier.

                    The high level of service (many other little details besides the one above) made it a really memorable meal, and the desserts were fantastic.

                    If anyone is mulling over a similar question to the one I had originally, I would definitely recommend Insieme as a place to share a special meal. Thanks again to all the Chowhounds who replied.

                    1. re: Vbr05

                      I am glad to hear that you had such a good time and that your dad's birthday went well. What did you think of the decor, btw?

                      1. re: vvvindaloo

                        Good question! I thought it was as others had described - minimalist but classy and celebratory, like a very dry champagne, perhaps. We sat in the last booth on the side, which had gossamer-like gold threads hanging from the ceilings behind our heads as a separator between the other booths.

                        It was bigger than how the pictures I had seen online made it seem - I was expecting a small square space that would accentuate any coffee-shop feel, when in fact it was a longer, more rectangular space that felt more elegant than I had imagined.

                        The service was really the star, though. I meant to add to my first post that there was no charge for the fourth dessert, which had not been ordered but they included so my brother could have his own "Happy Birthday" plate. The chef also sent two mini-courses which were complimentary, an amuse bouche plate and four soups in little drinking cups. I'm not sure if they do that with all their diners or if it was because my mom chatted with the chef (who was on his smoke break, poor guy, she's very friendly) before the restaurant opened at 5:30.

                        Off-topic, but I would also recommend Sunday in the Park with George - wow.