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Jun 3, 2008 02:16 PM

REVIEW: Roberto Passon (50 St/9 Av)

Someone -- and the search function is failing me today, so my apologies for not giving credit where it's due -- pointed me to Roberto Passon when I enquired about a place in Midtown West to host a mid-priced business lunch.

Well, mysterious New York chowhound, thank you -- it was delicious.

Would that we had places in Orange County where one could have a three-course Italian lunch for $13!

I entertained a group of 8 and the food was excellent. I did put a word in the server's ear about time limitation, because one of the 8 had mentioned that a previous lunch there had been slow as molasses uphill in January, but we were in and out in an hour and a quarter (including time for stragglers to show up from Times Square).

A few people had the Caesar salad and pronounced it very good (though nobody wanted the anchovy fillet -- and only a strict sense of decorum kept me from plucking it right off their plates). A few people had the rigatoni with sausage, which had a light cream sauce that actually stuck to the pasta (so many places, it's either lumpy and heavy, or it pools in the bottom in a useless mass).

Me, I had the octopus with white beans, which was astoundingly good -- the octopus was the most tender I've ever eaten, and being part Italian, I have eaten a LOT of octopus. Everybody else was astonished ("you're eating what??") but it disappeared in short order.

For mains, one person had chicken saltimbocca, several of us had planked salmon with garlic spinach and onion confit, and a few others had an Angus steak, all delicious. The salmon was a little greasy -- that's my only complaint.

Desserts -- a tiramisu that looked light and fluffy, a citrus panna cotta that I wish I'd ordered, and a couple of cheesecakes, but most of us had creme brulee that was delicious -- and a very large serving.

We didn't drink (can't drink on the company dime, alas), so the bill for 8 of us, after iced teas and sodas and coffees came to $122 plus tax and tip.

Service was very nice -- as I said, I hinted at the need to be out of the restaurant by 1:30 and they took the hint. Service wasn't rushed, nor did I have to flail around trying to get anyone's attention. The only two minor niggly points I'll raise are that I hate it when staff sit in the dining room and do things like peel vegetables or roll napkins, and our server was a little hard to understand -- a thick Eastern European accent. Since she didn't need to recite any specials, this wasn't so bad.

Oddly -- and if you read my post on the Tristate board about my weekend in Tarrytown, you'll see that this wasn't the only place for this to happen -- the restaurant was absolutely, 100% devoid of other customers until about 1:15, when another table straggled in. I know it was Monday, but it's on a busy corner in Midtown. I just don't get it... the food is good enough on its own to draw people in, and the prix-fixe price for a three-course lunch ought to have the phones ringing off the hook for tables.

So, to the still-anonymous benefactor (FIX THAT SEARCH, ARGH!), thank you -- as they say in Lutheran church newsletters, "a good time was had by all".

Roberto Passon
741 9th Avenue, New York, NY 10019

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  1. I had dinner there tonight, as part of a party of eight. My food was very good - crispy fried calamari with fried zucchini (though the zucchini wasn't quite as crisp). I thought the carbonara was excellent - it's the first time I've ever eaten it in a restaurant, and decided to try it based on the raves from my dining companions who'd had it before. the prices seemed very reasonable to me. And, for what it's worth, Hung of Top Chef was having dinner there.

    11 Replies
    1. re: MMRuth

      Funny...I was eying the carbonara just the other day, Ruth. Can you describe it for me?

      Glad you liked Roberto Passon, DUG. I've been a fan since he was at Le Zie.

      1. re: a_and_w

        It was just a well executed carbonara - nice smokey flavor - I'm not sure if they used guanciale or pancetta. I did add quite a bit of pepper to mine.

        1. re: MMRuth

          Oooh...and no cream, correct? I might have to grab some tonight...

          1. re: a_and_w

            No cream that I could discern. I do put a bit of parsley in mine, which this didn't have.

            1. re: MMRuth

              Tried it last night -- yum! The pasta was cooked a perfect al dente, and mine came with strip bacon and what tasted to me like chunks of guanciale. Not quite Lupa, which is my gold standard, but still delicious. Beet salad was tasty, as well -- an almost identical version to Le Zie's.

              1. re: a_and_w

                Oh good. I'd forgotten about the strip of bacon on top. I'll have to try it at Lupa next time I go.

                1. re: a_and_w

                  MMRuth mentioned the beet salad. It made me think of the beet pasta at Gigino, ( Tuscan dish). Has anyone ever tasted beet pasta there or anywhere else? It's one of my favorite dishes

        2. re: MMRuth

          I have several excellent meals at Roberto Passon, but none recently. Glad to hear they are still going strong. Thanks for the review!

          1. re: uwsgrazer

            hi uwsgrazer, not only is Roberto Passon the uber chef at Roberto Passon but also atScarlatto 250 W.47th and Le Zie 172 Seventh Ave, a very good Veetian resto. i think you'd like both spots.

            1. re: PAULSCOHEN

              Hey, thanks for the tip. Are the other two comparable in terms of things like food, atmosphere and cost? Do they differ much (apart from one having Venetian fare)?

              1. re: uwsgrazer

                Food is VERY similar at Roberto Passon and Le Zie. Many of the same dishes are on both menus with only minor variations. The atmosphere is a bit more hip/upscale at Roberto Passon. Both are typically crowded and lively.

        3. This is one of my favorite neighborhood Italian places to go to (with Lavanga in the EV a close second). Thanks for the review - I think it was spot on. The octopus is one of my favorites there, as is the fettuccini with mushrooms.

          1. The original comment has been removed
            1. Looks great. We would be going on Saturday for lunch. No pix fixe.

              Anyone eaten from their ala carte brunch menus?

              1. Srialporte: I regularly eat lunch here but did do the brunch once..good and quite inexpensive so worth a shot.