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Recommended Italian Restaurant for <$50?

Long time lurker, first time poster. A few friends and I are visiting NYC later this month, and we're looking for a good Italian restaurant, preferably for dinner but open to lunch ideas as well. I've read about places like Babbo and Scarpetta, but we're on a pretty tight budget so we're hoping to find a place where we can eat for under $50, excluding drinks - is this possible at either restaurant? If not, any other restaurants to recommend? Here are the criteria...

Must Have: Great Italian food, < $50 per person excluding drinks, no pizza joints (we're doing that separately).

Nice to Have: Location in or around Little Italy (one of the friends really wants to go there, and we're only going to be in NYC for a few days, so it'd be nice to kill two birds with one stone), more casual than dressy atmosphere.

Thanks in advance!

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  1. Look into Peasant, which is in Nolita, and a short walk from Little Italy.

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    Peasant
    194 Elizabeth Street, New York, NY 10012

    1. Does $50 include tax & tip? It's the difference between a $50 menu price and a $38 one, a pretty major difference - the cost of an app or dessert, potentially.

      If that doesn't include t/t, Caffe Falai and Peasant would be my top options. Babbo and Scarpetta are pretty much out of the equation, unless you're going to skip dessert and limit yourself to pastas for your main courses. But mind you, at many of the better Italian restaurants, pasta courses aren't huge. They're sized with a four-course "traditional" Italian meal in mind - app, pasta, entree, dessert. The "big honkin' plates of pasta" type of place is more of an Italian-American thing.

      On the cheaper end, Frankies 17 Spuntino (or the new Frankies 570 Spuntino) is/are fantastic. Every dish is under $20, IIRC, and the wine is decently priced. Their cavatelli with sausage is a (well-deserved) classic, worth going just for that.

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      Babbo
      110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

      Frankies 17 Spuntino
      17 Clinton St, New York, NY 10002

      Caffe Falai
      265 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10012

      Peasant
      194 Elizabeth Street, New York, NY 10012

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

      Frankies 570 Spuntino
      570 Hudson St, New York, NY 10014

      1 Reply
      1. re: sgordon

        I second Frankies 570, Rubirosso is a good one also.

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        Rubirosa
        235 Mulberry St, New York, NY 10012

        Frankies 570 Spuntino
        570 Hudson St, New York, NY 10014

      2. If the $50 does not include tax and tip, you could squeak by at Maialano or Ciano if you avoid the most expensive dishes. Either of these would be a great choice. Otherwise, Ciano offers a $20 lunch special that is a steal. Spina is another option, with a huge selection of house-made pastas and a small list of main courses. If you like beer, Spina has some excellent ones on tap.

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        Ciano
        45 E 22nd St, New York, NY 10010

        Spina
        175 Avenue B, New York, NY 10009

        Maialino
        2 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10010

        1. Thanks for the responses so far, this is great! To answer the question about the price limit, unfortunately the $50 does include tax and tip. However, there are a couple people in the group that are willing to go beyond that, so maybe only a third or half of the menu needs to fit within that price range. Also, don't worry about including dessert, we'd likely go elsewhere and therefore I'm treating it as a separate expense.

          I figured that Babbo and Scarpetta wouldn't work, but it was a little hard to tell from the prices on the menu. Oh well, there's always next time!

          Peasant and Spina both sound like they could work, and they have fairly different menus so it might just be based on what people feel like eating that day. Is it recommended that I make reservations for either restaurant for a weekend dinner?

          Any other suggestions out there for restaurants in Little Italy, or within walking distance?

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          Babbo
          110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

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

          Spina
          175 Avenue B, New York, NY 10009

          1 Reply
          1. re: mellowpa

            Torrisi Italian specialties is very popular, and is close to Little Italy, but their $50 prix fixe dinner exceeds your budget. Other reasonably priced Italian options (outside Little Italy) include cacio et vino, frankie's sputino, gnocco and the del posto lunch prix fixe.

            Some old Little Italy threads that might help:
            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/746561
            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/785765

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            Frankies 17 Spuntino
            17 Clinton St, New York, NY 10002

            Del Posto
            85 10th Avenue, New York, NY 10011

            Gnocco
            337 East 10th Street, New York, NY 10009

            Cacio e Vino
            80 2nd Avenue, New York, NY 10003

            Torrisi Italian Specialties
            250 Mulberry St, New York, NY 10012

            Frankies 570 Spuntino
            570 Hudson St, New York, NY 10014

          2. If you want something charmingly off-the-beaten-path, check out Malatesta in the West Village. It's particularly lovely on a nice evening when you can sit outside.

            Everything that I have had there was good, though the pastas are particularly excellent (nicely al dente, good sauces). To boot, the wine list is pretty reasonable. Caveat: Cash Only.

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            Malatesta
            649 Washington St, New York, NY 10014

            1 Reply
            1. re: asgaynor

              I did not love Malatesta on the one occasion I was there. The food was just OK and the service was awful. After perhaps an hour and a half -- much of which was spent waiting and waiting to be served -- the waiter asked us to clear out to make room. Would not go back...Cacio e Vino might work for the OP.