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Restaurant for young couple, $100 total

Hey all, my brother asked me if I could find a place for him and his girlfriend on Valentine's Day. I'm not sure what to expect in terms of reservations since it's so close, but I figure I'd get some input from you guys. They are both 19, so they're looking for a restaurant with a crowd that is more on the young side, but food is obviously the most important. They like Italian, Japanese, Mediterranean food in general, etc...not many limits. I don't think either intend to be completely decked out, so anywhere they'd look terribly out of place in a nice shirt (and probably jeans, although I'm not sure) and dress probably isn't a good choice. Would Alto be a good choice? The restaurant itself seems very modern but all I know about is that I drool over the menu quite often. I also looked at Locanda Verde since it's moderately placed and they could go pretty far with $100 (certainly more so than at Alto anyway) considering they are not old enough to drink. My brother also linked me to a place called Sakagura since his girlfriend loves Japanese, but I haven't been. They don't need anywhere terribly hip, just somewhere where they're not surrounded by 50 year old Wall Street types (no offense). Thoughts my suggestions, other places?

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  1. Valentine's Day is generally a terrible night for dining out; most restaurants increase their menu prices drastically. And while Alto is certainly one of the best high-end Italian restaurants in NYC, it is also one of the most expensive. With their Valentine's Day four course prix fixe dinner, you're looking at about $330 for two with no wine or beverages after tax and tip. On top of that, Alto has a very formal, fine dining setting, so it wouldn't suit your request.

    If you want to stick with Italian, I would suggest Lupa, but it'll probably be impossible to get reservations now. Ditto for Locanda Verde. Both may have overpriced Valentine's Day menus as well.

    If your brother likes izakayas, then Sakagura is an excellent choice. However, the raison d'ĂȘtre of the restaurant is drinking sake.

    2 Replies
    1. re: hcbk0702

      Eesh! Wasn't aware the prices were that jacked up for Valentine's Day.

      Yeah, I told him that this was likely the case with overpriced menus and reservations. I've read a number of your reviews, but don't recall seeing Lupa. Have you been? I was thinking Casa Mono might be a good choice as well.

      1. re: alexinct

        I think Lupa is a great idea. They can probably get in with a little wait and I think $100 will go quite far without booze there. Great food!
        JeremyEG

    2. I see availability at 9:00 at Marseille on Opentable. You'd have to call to find out what the V-day menu will be, but their prix-fixe on most holidays is a bargain, so I doubt it would be over the budget. Great food, great atmosphere, mixed-age clientele. Da Andrea is another possibility, but again you would have to call for details.

      2 Replies
      1. re: rrems

        Marseille looks wonderful, thank you! This seems good budget and food wise; I will definitely tell him that one. Any dishes in particular you'd recommend?

        1. re: alexinct

          This depends on whether they have a special menu or not, but from the regular menu my favorite is the lamb couscous, though everything is very good. There are often daily specials which are usually worthwhile.

      2. Maybe a lower east side Italian tapas place like Bacaro or Sorella? Not the same level as a Locanda or Alto, but both super cool and a hip, v-day spots. Question is, can you get a reservation... Might be tough.

        www.immaculateinfatuation.com

        3 Replies
        1. re: iFat

          Yeah, from hcbk said above, Alto's not a good choice for them price or setting wise. I think they'd be quite comfortable at places along the lines of Sorella and Bacaro from the looks of things. Thanks for your suggestion!

          1. re: alexinct

            Not sure on availability at all, but I think Apiary fits the big perfectly. It's in the East Village in a fun area, great food quality and low prices in comparison. It's kind of upscale American. Plus it's a design-y space. I guess they wouldn't be ordering wine but the sommelier, Brett Feore, is a very cool guy! They should talk to him regardless.

            http://www.StrumErika.com

            1. re: foodie4life

              How about La Lanterna di Vittorio in Greenwich Village? The ambiance is very cozy and romantic, and they sit either in the garden in the back or in the jazz room in the basement. The crowd is casual, the menu is large and extensive, and the food is pretty good. Great desserts too. The prices are extremely reasonable.

        2. Neither of these are fancy or romantic, but Frank (they're taking reservations for parties of 2 that night, and from twitter it seems like they still have availability) or Malatesta would be my choices. Young crowds, casual, cheap, great food.

          1. ha..how about ammos? right on vanderbilt and 45nd

            1. Northern Spy Food Co? Well under the $100 and a really cool space

              1. How about Frank or Max? Perbacco does a pretty sweet $40 tasting menu...
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