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looking for cozy italian place

Hi, new poster here, but I read the guidelines and i'll try to be as specific as possible

I'm looking for an Italian place, and the first place I searched for on here was Little italy, and so far everyone said to avoid it at all costs.

I'm also bringing a date, so I'm looking for a place where it's not super crowded to the point we can't hear each other, but also a place where we're not the only ones in the room.

I'm also a college student, so... something not too expensive would be nice: under 35 dollars with tip for two people?

And probably most important of all... something in either the village, chelsea, or even somewhere near the MET? We haven't decided what we're doing yet, but one of these three locations is our destination.

thanks ahead of time!

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  1. Hi, tom and welcome. A $35 total for 2 people will be difficult to do in a sit-down restaurant with decent food (assuming about $7 of this goes to tip). It shouldn't be, but it is. If you really want pasta, and don't mind bringing your date somewhere very casual (and I mean very casual) and without table service, I recommend Pepe Rosso on Sullivan St. just south of Houston. It's a hole-in-the-wall with a few seats and you bus your own table- but the pasta is quite good, and definitely better than anything I've tried on Mulberry St. in the past 15 years. At any other inexpensive place in Manhattan you'd be lucky to get two basic pasta dishes and come out with enough cash for a tip after tax. At Pepe Rosso, you will be able to get an antipasto and salad to share, as well as your two pastas.
    One other option I can think of is to go to Otto Pizzeria and have a pizza each, that should come to about the right total.
    My favorite inexpensive Italian restaurant in the city is Malatesta Trattoria in the far west village (their spaghetti alla chitarra is killer) but you will need about $45 (cash only) to do that one properly, as their pasta portions aren't that big and you'll probably need an appetizer along with them.
    For more info on any of these, you can search this board by clicking the link on the top of the page next to where it says "Manhattan" and typing in any of these names, and you'll find many comments, I'm sure.
    I would also suggest that you stick with downtown if good Italian is what you're looking for. You definitely won't find it anywhere near that price in the neighborhood of the Met.
    Good luck!

    2 Replies
    1. re: vvvindaloo

      thanks for the recommendation for Malatesta Trattoria, I'll definitely consider it. And you're right about the whole alcohol thing, she and I don't drink plus we're underage :P 20, 19.

      1. re: tom007gw

        You're welcome, let us know how it goes.

    2. hi...i agree w/ vvindaloo that 35 bucks will be very difficult, and that Malatesta is a lovely idea...

      i also like Cacio e Vino in the East Village (2nd Ave/4th St)...they have pizzas and Sicilians specialties...it's about the same price range as Malatesta...you could split an appetizer and salad and pizza, but once you toss in two glasses wine and tip, you'll be at 50 bucks...but it's a charming place and somewhere where just splitting an appetizer and pizza would be fun...

      1. In terms of near the Met - that's my neighborhood and I just can't think of any Italian place nearby that would fit your budget, unfortunately. It tends to be an expensive neighborhood in which to eat. I checked Cafe Grazie, but the pastas are in the $20 range, so that wouldn't work. Looks like you've gotten some good recs in the other neighborhoods, though. Have fun!

        1. 'ino might be your best bet for that price point.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Lucia

            I just thought it might be a little weird to take someone to a wine bar when you don't really have room for wine in your budget. The bruschette really add up, and they won't be able to afford enough of them to be satisfied, IMO. If they each get a panino, they may be able to squeeze in one glass of wine. I got the impression that the OP was looking for a more "traditional" Italian meal, and was not expecting to spend half of the $ on alcohol. But maybe he'll come back and let us know what he thinks of these recs so far...

            1. re: Lucia

              'ino is not really a dinner place. I mean, you surely can MAKE a dinner out of the food, but for a celebration dinner, it wouldn't work for me...

            2. yikes...that is hard! I always go to franks trattoria which is a pizza place but a restaurant in the back and im itlaian and i find their food to be fantastic....little old itlaian lady cooking on the background...its family favorite!
              1st ave between 22nd and 21st

              1. Pepe Verde on Hudson Street is very inexpensive but has a nice atmosphere. The food is not gourmet, but it's filling, Italian, inexpensive and cozy. You can make a cozy day of it in the West villeage too, including Magnolia Bakery (NOT on a weekend) a random coffee shop, Corner Bistro for a burger, etc.

                1 Reply
                1. re: NAtiveNewYorker

                  I thought of Pepe Verde, as well, bc their seating situation is a little bit more comfortable. But Pepe Rosso's food is and always has been significantly better. I've never understood why that is, but I find it to be consistently true.

                2. You could get out of Max (Ave B & 4th St) for $45 which I think is the cheapest you'll get (save Sbarro's). It is crowded, though, as are the other places mentioned here in the Village and lower neighborhoods. I agree with MMRuth: you're out of luck finding something like that near the Met.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: jakew8

                    Seconding Max, and I can vouch that with careful ordering you can get out of there for about $38 for two. By "careful", I mean really careful--you'd have to split an order of garlic bread to start (or another starter for a couple of bucks more), get two pastas and drink water, and tip 15% (I'm not endorsing a 15% tip, mind you). On the upside, if you order the lasagne, which I highly recommend (if you like dense, meaty brick-like lasagne, which I do), you will have enough left over for another meal. If you can forego the starter, you can tip 20% and drink soda. It's cutting it close, but it can be done, you won't leave hungry and I really love this place (with the disclaimer that I love this place given its price point)...

                    p.s. about Little Italy--I think you need to stay far far away from Little Italy at your price point. I have had some isolated good meals there, but my experience has been that the restaurants there are masters at hidden charges coupled with naked (and aggressive) upselling. I have yet to walk out of a restaurant in Little Italy without spending 30-50% more than I had intended.

                  2. Try Paprika. It's small, cozy, has dim lighting, and has never been supercrowded for me. It's on St Marks between First and Avenue A. Most of the pastas and entrees are under $15. The menu is small but I think they do what they do well. They also have a prix fixe for $12.95.


                    1 Reply
                    1. re: kathryn

                      FYI - Prix fixe is now $15 - 2 course

                    2. I agree with the other hounds who feel $35 for two persons is REALLY tight, especially for a special dinner.

                      I was going to suggest Assenzio on East 4th Street (near 1st Ave). It's Sardinian, and the food is delicious, the atmosphere is casual and friendly, and it's pretty reasonably priced for New York in the 21st Century, but I don't think you can do it for $35 for two.

                      1. Near the Met you can try Triangolo, 83rd bet 1st and 2nd aves. You can check the menu at menupages.com. The food is good and the room and service are nice. The pasta dishes are around $14. It's a neighborhood place, I went there with my husband on a date when we first met and I liked very much, since then we went back many times and it has always been good. It's nothing to write home about it, but it's a good bet within your budget.

                        1. Sapore or Da Andrea.

                          1. I'd say go to Da Andrea...we just had a wonderful and inexpensive meal there...(on Hudson between Perry and 11th) Just order two appetizers and one pasta dish...the portions are large...we had the mussels in tomato broth and the Octopus salad as our first course and shared the squid ink tagliolini ...you can check out their menu on line at http://www.biassanot.com/ to see if it fit's your budget....fun atmosphere too.

                            1. Have you ever consider doing a brunch or lunch instead? If that's ok with you, you have a lot more options at the $35 price point.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: kobetobiko

                                yeah, i think we're doing lunch, not dinner :)

                              2. I recommend Il Corallo Trattoria on prince st.- inexpensive pastas (i want to say about $13 and under), pizzas & salads. good size portions too, considering the prices. and you might just make the price point....lots of choices too. i love the place.

                                it is on the small side and gets crowded, but you can definitely still have a conversation.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: PhishFoodie

                                  I had no idea that Il Corrallo was so affordable, PF. Especially in that location. I've never been there, nor do I hear much about it. What's good?

                                2. Hey, don't be discouraged by your price point! We are all on a budget these days.

                                  On the upper east side, not too far from the MET, try Sotto Cinque (86th btw 2nd & 1st).
                                  It has a nice atmosphere for what you are asking and in your price range.

                                  1. Either Cacio e Pepe or Perbacco in the East Village are really great and not too expensive!

                                    1. Chelsea - Le Zie

                                      Village (Greenwich): Bar Pitti (this will be crowded on a weekend or a sunny evening)

                                      1. I'm surprised no one has mentioned Bianca yet - may be one of the cheapest of the options mentioned, and it's cozy... sometimes a little too much so. It's in the LES, off the Bleecker stop.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: janethepain

                                          love bianca. definitely a great italian spot. just remember cash only.

                                          1. re: fein

                                            please tell me more about Bianca...what do you order there?...i've been to Von wine bar many times and passed Bianca and been curious but i've never eaten there...