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Jul 18, 2008 02:49 PM

Midtown East business dinner - Convivio?

Hi all,

I'm looking for a restaurant for a business dinner for six people in Midtown East, specifically in the low to mid 40-street numbers (more specifically, around 42nd between 1st and Lex, plus or minus maybe 4-5 blocks). Other parameters would include:

- Upscale, $35-40 entrees, or $125 pp overall
- Not too loud so the group can talk
- Good wine list

I'd found two myself by searching through threads, but couldn't answer a few key questions:

Convivio, formerly L'Impero (42nd between 1st and 2nd) - what's the new place like? is the menu as good as before? is it quiet or raucous?

Patroon (46th between 3rd and Lex) - seems promising but is it loud?

Thoughts very welcome on these two, or any other alternatives in the area.

Thanks a lot!

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  1. Pampano is another possibility - though it may be a bit too far up for you - I think it's 49th. There is a lot of room between tables, and I've often seen tables of your size there.

    1. While we haven't yet eaten at Convivio, I liked L'Impero a lot. We ate there twice after Chef Michael White took over the kitchen, and I think his style of Italian cuisine is delicious. No reason to think that won't be the case with Convivio. As far as the noise level is concerned, it's neither tomb-like nor raucous but certainly conversation-friendly.

      Here's a short rave review of Convivio. along with a photo of the newly-refurbished space, by Ruth Reichl, former "NY Times" restaurant critic and now Editor-in-Chief of "Gourmet":

      The new website is not operational yet, but MenuPages has the menu:

      Btw, the correct location for Convivio is Tudor City Pl, b/t 42nd & 43rd Sts.

      6 Replies
      1. re: RGR

        convivio sounds great, but I'm starting to worry that it's too casual, what with those red banquettes and the entrées topping out at ~$29. Unfortunately, such things matter for this dinner, beyond just the quality of the food.

        I think we could venture up to around 49th. What else is up there besides pampano?

        Thanks for the help so far!

        1. re: anj

          It's a bit further north, but you could look into Alto - same executive chef.

          1. re: anj

            You did mention Patroon, but I haven't been there. Smith & Wollensky is on the corner of 3rd & 49th, but best as I can recall since it's been ages since we've eaten there, it's loud. Other than these, you really need to go into the 50's and further west for very upscale with refined atmospherics.

            I agree with MMRuth's Alto suggestion. It's on 53rd, b/t Madison & 5th.


            The Four Seasons is closer to your geographical target, on 52nd, b/t Lex & Park. Most of the mains are in the $50's.


            Oceana, which just received 3 stars from Bruni, is on 54th, b/t Park & Madison.


            Aquavit is on 55th, b/t Park & Madison.


            The Modern is on 54th, b/t 5th & 6th.


          2. re: RGR

            we ate there on Tuesday night. it is great. should be just right for a business meeting since the tables are well spaced and round.

            1. re: martyl9

              When you say the tables are round, I presume you are referring to the ones in the semi-circular booths because looking at the photo that accompanies the Reichl review (see link in my upthread post), the tables along the banquettes are all square and are quite close to one another. Also, this view of the main dining area was taken from the upper level. In the foreground, one can see a semi-circular booth up there. What's the rest of the table configuration like?

              1. re: RGR

                the square banquettes are on the south old; no change there from the old room. the two round tables are along the middle wall that seperates the room from the kitchen entrance area. the up stairs area seems to have been painted with the same spacing of the tables. couldn't see the back of that area since it was closed for a private party. basicly, the tables for two that ran down the middle of the main room have been removed.

          3. this is terrific; thanks all!

            will be sure to report back wherever we end up.

            1. hi, i'm the OP. i was posting under SO's username by accident.

              anyway, had dinner at convivio last night and am happy to report that we had a fantastic experience. there was a little bit of confusion while making the reservation, in part due to their (anachronistic?) desire that we fax them a form with a credit card number to hold the booked table. in trying to make sure the fax got through, i ended up with two reservations at different times, but they noticed the double booking, called me and sorted it out apologetically. weird, but no skin off my back.

              that early mis-step (and i hesitate to call it even that) was quickly counteracted by warm and accommodating service in two instances on site. first, we'd booked for six, but our group shrank down to four at the last minute. the team at the front of the room didn't bat an eye and handled the change graciously. second, halfway through our meal, a large and raucous party invaded the cordoned-off space next to us. we asked to switch tables and were moved immediately. in both cases, i was very pleased with the rapidity and grace of their response. over the rest of the evening, service was perfectly understated and invisible, allowing us to focus on our meal and conversation with minimal interruption.

              i hadn't eaten at L'Impero, the former incarnation, but Convivio serves terrific, robust southern italian cuisine. the polipetti antipasto features perfectly braised octopus on a bed of moist polenta and a tomato-based gravy. the octopus is stunningly tender, with just the tiniest bit of chewiness to make it texturally interesting. outstanding.

              a fusilli primi with a neapolitan ragu of pork shoulder is nicely balanced between the sweetness and acidity of its tomato base and the salty, savory contribution of the pork. the al dente fusilli is nicely resistant, in line with the hearty nature of the dish. a pouring of fonduta (didn't catch the name; menu says it's an italian kashkaval) lends a luxurious contrast to the sharp sauce.

              we enjoyed two bottles of a wine whose name i didn't catch (i think greco di tufo?). a dining partner mentioned that the wine list is exclusively italian.

              it wasn't appropriate to ask about my companions' meals, but they all seemed equally happy. the porchetta all romana (suckling pig with pig cracklings) looked especially delicious.

              all in all, Convivio is a great place in a neighborhood that seems relatively bereft of upscale business-friendly options.