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Oct 14, 2012 10:34 AM

Lower-moderate priced Italian in Manhattan?


I've tried searching the boards for Italian restaurant suggestions, but I seem to be finding posts that are either shorts-wearers or price-is-no-option, and I'm honestly a little overwhelmed by all the Italian restaurants out there.

If at all possible, we would like to keep our total food bill for 2 people to about $60-80 (though if it's really good and absolutely worth it, we would be willing to go up to $100). We don't usually order secondi's, so we'd probably be looking at 1 (maybe 2 if they're tiny) shared appetizer(s), 2 primi dishes, and 2 desserts. There needs to be at least a couple non-seafood options (allergy). We don't drink wine at all, but may enjoy 1 chocolatey cocktail each.

We would like go for a nice anniversary dinner, dressed in slacks and button-down shirts (really don't want to wear suit coats), in a quieter/calmer atmosphere (ie not super loud music and lots of banging and clamoring). I'm not really looking for the modern feel/look/atmosphere, but will put up with it if the food is worth it. We live on Roosevelt Island (near UES, F line), so certain areas like western West Village, Tribeca, and UWS are a little more inconvenient to get to.

I hope I've covered all the questions y'all normally end up asking.

Thank you for your help,
Rose and Jenn

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  1. Why is West Village inconvenient, the F stops right at West 4th street. Try Bar Pitti, right off that stop on 6th avenue.

    2 Replies
    1. re: AubWah

      "Western West Village" is inconvenient, ie by Hudson St, I assume.

      1. re: kathryn

        Kathryn, you're right - that is mostly what I meant. However, it was because I honestly forgot that you could still easily walk over there from the F train. The only time we've wandered west of Hudson, we were cut off from the F line by a 3 hour long parade.

    2. Does that $30-50pp include tax AND tip AND one cocktail? If so, you don't really have a lot of budget actually allotted to food.

      $50pp after tax and tip is about $38 for food. So $25 for 2.5-3 courses plus one $13 cocktail is very low for a not too loud, anniversary dinner.

      You might be able to do it at Hearth if one of your primi is their famous gnocchi ($11).

      1 Reply
      1. re: kathryn

        I meant $30-50 just for the food, not including tax, tip, or cocktail. I just mentioned the cocktail in case that rung a bell with anyone. I'm hoping for the primi to be $20ish. However, if it's just not possible overall with a quieter place, then that's a good thing to know as well, and we'll adjust our mental expectations accordingly.

      2. Interestingly, you could do Scarpetta, if you share one "primo piatto" ($16-19) and then have one pasta ($24-28) apiece. The desserts are $12 apiece, which puts you over budget, but still less (even if barely less) than $100: the most that combination of food would cost you, before tax and tip, is $99, and the least (including the 2 desserts, and figuring on one shared "primo piatto" and not two) is $88. And I think this may be the nice, quiet/calm anniversary dinner you're looking for, though the place does have a modern look (but not a harsh one).

        And it's much better than Hearth.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Pan

          I think Scarpetta is an excellent choice given the clarification on budget!

          Note that the appetizers vary greatly in size, though. The raw fish dishes are on the small size, for example, while the polenta and short ribs are pretty filling.

          Overall, I find the pasta sizes to be on the more generous size, and the bread basket is phenomenal, as are the free house-made chips at the bar. So you could do 2 appetizers, 2 pastas, and share 1 dessert, and still leave absolutely stuffed. Also if you are a chocolate fan, their chocolate cake is excellent.

        2. Via Emilia. Modenese food. If you ordered the most expensive apps and pastas you'd still be looking at <$50 a person for 3 courses. Great food. We've been at least a dozen times and have eaten every pasta (which are all plenty big - never tried a secondi).

          1 Reply
          1. re: Tubulus

            I was going to suggest Via Emilia (close to 23rd St and Union Square subways, 21st between 5th and Park). I believe they are still cash-only. Great pastas and dishes, reasonable prices, nice modern/mellow atmosphere.

          2. You could do Babbo for that price, certainly - Antipasti are generally around $15, Pastas in the low $20s (let's say $23 average - actually a bit cheaper than Scarpetta, and for my money superior) - desserts were $13 each as I recall. 1+2+2 of those and we're at $87. And it's right near the West 4th F Train stop.

            I don't know that they'd have any chocolately cocktails, though... but I suppose any decent bartender with crème de cacao behind the bar will be able to whip up a Brandy Alexander or something.

            3 Replies
            1. re: sgordon

              Babbo may not be the atmosphere they're looking for. I actually kind of liked the music, but I was upstairs, and it's pretty unusual to hear Guns 'n Roses in an upscale restaurant.

              1. re: Pan

                Or the Rolling Stones complete Let it Bleed album. One of the perks at dining at Babbo.

                1. re: RCC

                  Last time we were there it was an R.E.M.-fest. But then Mario and Michael Stipe are buddies...

                  They don't play romantic music, no, but the music is never particularly loud, either. It's very much in the background, perfectly conducive for talking, as opposed to more scenester / clubbier places...