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Intimate birthday dinner under $50/pp (incl. tax+tip) downtown

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Looking for an intimate restaurant with excellent pasta (either creative OR amazing fresh pasta) to celebrate a date's 28th birthday this weekend. i.e. Basta Pasta would be considered creative even though they don't use fresh pasta.

Budget limit: under $50/pp including tax+tip+beverages
Location: downtown (anywhere below 23rd St)
Atmosphere: intimate with dim lighting (like Cafe Cluny)
Must have: some sort of seafood or squid-ink pasta

I'm currently considering Bianca, which fit the bill quite well, but would love more suggestions mainly because Bianca doesn't take reservations. How's Morandi? I like the ambiance - it's more birthday appropriate than Bianca, but how is their pasta?

Restaurants we're not considering: Greenwich Grill (just went there), Basta Pasta (too bright), Il Corallo Trattoria (love them but a bit too informal for a birthday), Inatteso (love their pasta, but not their decor).

I've researched quite a few threads, but still haven't been able to come up with something that I'm thrilled about. Would greatly appreciate your help! Thanks.

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  1. I probably should have changed the title of this post to "Best Budget Pasta" or something like that, since no one's commented so far. Is what I'm looking for impossible? Sorry my budget is so small.

    1. Po is delicious.

      1 Reply
      1. re: mch

        Po's a great suggestion, but unfortunately they failed to impress me the last time I went. Maybe my expectations were set too high, but everything tasted just ok, not amazing. I'd been meaning to give them another try since they might have had an off night, but don't want to risk it for a special occasion.

      2. Try Le Zie - the price point is in your range and the atmosphere seems to be what you are looking for.

        Morandi's pasta is not very good in my opinion - more an atmosphere place.

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        Morandi
        211 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10014

        Le Zie
        172 7th Ave, New York, NY 10011

        1. Apizz

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          Apizz
          217 Eldridge St., New York, NY 10002

          3 Replies
          1. re: chow_gal

            Apizz would be great if you can make the budget work for you. Depends what you're drinking, I guess. If no wine, then maybe you can do Scarpetta or Faustina. None of these are "budget" places, but they are reasonably priced, serve excellent food, and are great for dates.

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            Apizz
            217 Eldridge St., New York, NY 10002

            Scarpetta
            355 West 14th Street, New York, NY 10014

            1. re: thousandrobots

              Thanks for all the recommendations so far. Apizz sounds exactly like what I'm looking for, but I'm worried about the quality of the food alone given some lukewarm online reviews. Has anyone been to some combination of Apizz, Il Corallo Trattoria, Scarpetta, Faustina, Po, Bianca, and/or Inatteso and can comment on how their pasta compare to each other? My personal ranking on how refined the execution of the pasta is of the bunch goes:
              1. Inatesso (most refined)
              2. Po
              3. Bianca
              4. Il Corallo Trattoria (least refined)
              Where would Apizz, Scarpetta, and Faustina fit on this list? Would greatly appreciate if someone can help fill in the blanks. Thanks!

              A friend just suggested TriBeCafe (the new Tokyo Bar) above B Flat, which I'm considering as well. It's super low key, and the drinks are very well priced which is enticing. My ultimate decision looks to be an Italian Fresh Pasta vs. Wafu Pasta (Japanese-style pasta) battle. Thanks in advance for helping me choose a worthy contender for Italian Fresh Pasta!

              1. re: Noodle fanatic

                Scarpetta would easily be first among that group, but it's also more expensive than the others.

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                Scarpetta
                355 West 14th Street, New York, NY 10014

          2. malatesta trattoria

            6 Replies
            1. re: InSearchOfTacos

              InSearchOfTacos - I was looking at Malatesta too. Where does their pasta rank in terms of refinement in execution? (See my post 3 up)

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              Malatesta
              649 Washington St, New York, NY 10014

              1. re: Noodle fanatic

                i have been to po (several years ago) and apizz (few months ago)- malatesta's pasta is probably not the most refined in the city, but it is incredibly delicious and enjoyable. i got the gnocchi and sampled the ravioli- both of which were very good, especially considering the price point. the restaurant is also intimate, if not a bit cramped. the desserts were also very good. i love malatesta and cant wait to be back- it's a great value restaurant. i loved apizz too but i cant afford to go there too often.

                1. re: InSearchOfTacos

                  The next time you have a chance, would love for you to try out Bianca and Il Corallo and report back on this thread how they compare to Malatesta. Those 2 are my go to budget pasta restaurants, Bianca being really cute and cozy for a date, and Il Corallo being the low-key cheap dinner with a close friend. Malatesta is close to where I live, so I'll definitely give them a try some time!

                  1. re: Noodle fanatic

                    awesome, bianca has been on my to-try list for a long time, but il corallo was under my radar- definitely try malatesta and let us know what you think! what are your favorite dishes at bianca? now i feel inspired to go this weekend

                    1. re: InSearchOfTacos

                      I must admit I've only been to Bianca once, but we got the Tagliolini Frutti Di Mare ($11.50) and Tagliatelle Bolognese ($9.50) and both were fantastic for the price. Check yelp to see what other people loved.

                      Must reiterate that Il Corallo is down market and their pasta is only average. I wouldn't go out of my way to eat there, although they're great if you live in the neighborhood and want a lowkey meal. Not much ambiance. (I go there when I don't feel like having to look cute.) I almost always get the Taglierini Sorrento (fresh thin black noodles with shrimp, crab meat, scallops, clams, fresh chopped tomato, parsley, olive oil, white wine and garlic sauce) for $13.95 even though they have over 20 pasta dishes to choose from.

                      I'd love to find more restaurants with reasonably priced well-executed pasta dishes. I haven't been to Otto in years, but I think they're supposed to be really good for budget pasta as well.

                      1. re: Noodle fanatic

                        i think youll like malatesta- i also thought paprika in the east village is a good solid option when you feel like a casual meal. when i went to otto the first time, i was unimpressed. tried it a second time and am still unimpressed- don't want to try it again. the pasta is fine but the service is horrific and overall i just dont feel like spending any more time or money there. i liked po quite a bit too, been meaning to go again. also i love lavagna and supper in the east village- spina is also supposed to be quite good. maybe give those a try