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UES/UWS: Best (somewhat casual) Italian for 1st Date

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Hello again fellow 'hounds, back with anothercry for help.

So tomorrow I'm investigating a few options for a 1st date. One would be to grab dinner and then head into central park for the Summerstage event going on (Maria Rita is performing, a fabulous jazzy Brazilian musician). My date just recently moved to NY, loves Italian, but has little experience eating here...ie. she thinks Little Italy is good. Unfortunately for me, the UES & UWS are the 2 areas I spend the least amount of time eating. I like 'cesca but it's a bit too expensive/formal for a 1st date. Any suggestions?

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    1. On the UWS, try Spiga. It's a very solid, new-school Italian restaurant. I've been a long-time fan of the place for its meat and pasta preparations (less strong on fish) and sometimes innovative cuisine. The current menu is a little less experimental than it has been in the past (no more cantaloupe sorbet with prosciutto, alas). But the no-cream creamed asparagus soup and breast of duck cooked with seasonal cherries over a bed of sweet potato gratin on a recent visit were both fantastic. Meat does have a tendency to be a bit oversalted. Wines by the glass used to be kept too warm, but this problem seems to have been resolved. Fantastic desserts. Their lemon mascarpone mousse sets the standard for me.

      The atm is on the casual side, dark enough to be romantic. Noise level is loud enough to tide over any rough patches in conversation, but not so loud in most parts of the room that you'll have trouble hearing one another. (Try to get one of the seats by the windows on the left when you walk in.)

      But be forewarned. They accept only Amex or cash.