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Great meal, excellent experience (prefer pasta)

Hello NYers.

Sorry for what is probably a somewhat repetitive post. This is my first foray into the NYC board (we are Philadelphians), and I was so overwhelmed in trying to do some searching I thought I'd just try to put up a post of my own and see if I can harness your collective brainpower/tastebuds.

Two of us will be up in early November for an overnight, and are hunting for dinner options. We'll be staying at Madison/29th. We'd like to stick to a short cab or walk if possible.

Price isn't a major issue, though I don't think we're looking to spend top top top dollar (we'd prefer not to pass $100pp for food, but I'd consider it for a truly exceptional experience). The main thing is we're looking for a sure fire great experience. Our tastebuds lean italian, with top priority on pasta, but there's flexibility on that as well (with only caveat that we are lactose intolerant so French isn't always best for us). We are typically lighter eaters, so don't necesarrily care for a pound of pasta on the plate (though we haven't really embraced the two-bite course either).

One place we've considered is Butter just based on enjoying AG's personality on TV, but it seems reviews tend to be mixed here. I have always wanted to try Locanda Verde, but it looks like kind of a trek from our hotel.

Any help you guys & gals can provide would be invaluable!

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  1. Early November means a lot of the more popular Italian restaurants will already be booked up or have only early/late times left. Restaurants here open their books about a month in advance, and can quickly fill them up, if they are big names, like Babbo for example.

    What date are you looking for? Obviously weekdays are easier to book than weekend nights, and if you are flexible on what time you eat, you might be able to get into your top choices.

    If you can name the specific date, it's easier for us to type that into OpenTable and see what is available.

    Sounds like you have a preference for the east side?

    3 Replies
    1. re: kathryn

      thanks for the speedy reply! Dinner will be 11/9, which is a Friday night. I thought I might be in trouble with availability but the trip is kind of a last minute affair. I think we'd be a little bit flexilbe on timing, but would probably skew later as a 5:30-6:00 dinner doesn't hold a lot of appeal for us.

      Geographically, east side is probably preferred, but not required. I'd just like to keep it to a 5-10 min cab ride if possible, though I've stayed in that general part of Manhattan a few years back and seem to recall that it's didn't strike me as a culinary hotbed.

      1. re: tfalbo

        A Voce is geographically closest to you and the room is quite nice, but it's not my favorite.

        Ditto for SD26. It's good but not my favorite.

        Manzo, as suggested by Lacross-Gastronomic, is next closest, I believe. It is also very conveniently located near your hotel, on the west side of Madison Square Park, inside of Eataly.

        Note: don't try to book Manzo on OpenTable, it's only on UrbanSpoon, not sure why they didn't take the OpenTable page down but it still shows up in Google.

        Using UrbanSpoon, Manzo appear to have prime time tables (8pm) still available for your desired date, though, which is great!

        Maialino has a 10pm table available that night, not sure if it's too late for you.

        You might also want to look into Novita:

        1. re: kathryn

          We love Maialino and that was going to be my first suggestion. You might also try calling Maialino; sometimes they'll have an earlier table available that does not show up on Open Table. As for Manzo, another one of our favorites, if there is no table available for the night you want to go, sitting at the bar can be a wonderful experience. The bartenders are very knowledgeable and you get just as much service at the bar as you would at a table. Even more in my opinion as your wait person (the bartender) is always nearby.

          Buon appeitito!

    2. Have you considered Porsena? It is on East 7th just off of the Bowery near Cooper Union. It is an Italian restaurant with a pasta focus. I've been a couple of times and thoroughly enjoyed it. It isn't that far from you and would definitely fit in your budget.

      3 Replies
      1. re: klc137

        Possibly a slightly longer cab ride than the OP wants -- East Village on a Saturday night gets pretty congested. They do take reservations on UrbanSpoon, at least.

        1. re: kathryn

          They were looking at Butter and it is only a few blocks from there.

          1. re: klc137

            I did notice the proximity, and I used to follow the chef's blog onThe Atlantic, thinking it would potentially be a good fit for my wife given their consensual love of pasta. If we think we are comfortable gearing up for a trek, I'll have her take a look at the menu to see if it sparks her attention. Thanks for jogging my memory on this one!

      2. Ciano and Manzo are close to your hotel.

        1. I think, within a 10-block radius, you can do either Ai Fiori (will push your budget) or Ciano.

          ETA: Reservations still available on OpenTable for both.

          1 Reply
          1. re: kyph0515

            You can get a $92 4-course prix fixe at Ai Fiori, and it's a big restaurant with plenty of room (and therefore, a likely reservation), and definitely plenty of room between tables. I think our friend from Philadelphia should consider it. The menus are here: http://www.aifiorinyc.com/index.php?a...

          2. I had a very nice meal at Pulino (corner of Bowery and Houston) not too long ago. Geographically it's just a few blocks from Butter... a short cab ride from where you'll be staying, or you can even take the 6 train a couple of stops.

            The wild boar pasta that I had isn't on the menu at the moment, but our group enjoyed the pizza tirolese, calamari, gnocchi, and ravioli.
            Right now, there is availability on Open Table for the night you'll be here (11/9).

            1. Thanks everyone. These are excellent recommendations! Just what I was looking for.

              I actually just called Maialino, and unfortunately their OpenTable is a fair representation of what's actually available 11/9. That looked great to me (perfect actually), but 10:00pm is most likely a tiny bit later than we'd want (we don't mind eating between 9:45-10:00, but sitting that late is probably more for the 25 year old versions of us, not the current version). We'll see what my beautiful wife has to say about it though.

              In an effort to narrow these guys down a little bit, maybe you can provide a tiny bit more detail. The only other thing that is important to us, given the many options, we prefer a slightly more spaced out environment (who doesn't?). But we have been to a few nicer places where tables are on top of each other, and depending on who we've wound up next to, that has been the most (unfortunately) memorable part of the meal. So to the extent that any of these places give you a little bit of elbow room, we'd love to know that. Or feel free to introduce any new places into the fray.

              Thanks again! This is perfect.

              3 Replies
              1. re: tfalbo

                "but sitting that late is probably more for the 25 year old versions of us, not the current version). We'll see what my beautiful wife has to say about it though."

                I hear you loud and clear tfalbo. :)

                I would take Manzo off the list if you are looking for elbow room. Obviously, you will not get that sitting at the bar and I seem to remember their tables being close to one another (though I have never sat at one).

                1. re: tfalbo

                  You said 10 was on the late side for dining. But if you are looking for a comfortable space with some elbow room, I think Maialino fits perfectly. I'm long past the 25 yr old version of myself, but I enjoy dining at the later hours. Actually more peaceful then as its past the dinner rush. I think dinner at 10 at Maialino would be perfect.

                  1. re: Bkeats

                    Yeah, i had a very similar thought - the timing is a shame especially since you clarified you were looking for space - less so with the banquettes along the wall - but the center-of-room tables at mailaino are generously spaced for nyc.

                    on a recent trip we showed up early for our reservation and were at the bar (very very nice, quite mixed crowd, we were wrapt eavesdropping on a conversation between two finance types who were clearly together and a much older lady who was obviously a local/regular. long story short we could have eaten our whole meal or a course at the bar as much as a half an hour before our reservation - we chose to drink and wait, and theres no guarantee this would be an option for you, but if 10pm is only slighlty too late, maybe take the reservation and show up a bit early? worst case you have a drink)

                2. We ended up with a reservation at Novita. It was the most compelling combo of cost/proximity/pasta/not needing to get decked out (we are taking a train into town), so we'll face the raucousness with joy... when in Rome.

                  But I am going to hit up Manzo for sure while my S.O. is tied up. My love of raw beef and her disdain for it make this a great opportunity to kill some time with a mid afternoon snack as I'm wandering through Eataly.

                  And we are also going to try and see if there is a cancellation at Maialino, as that would have been our #1 choice for dinner.

                  But thanks for all of your recommendations. This was a very tough decision and every single recommendation got strong consideration (I actually made a spreadsheet!).

                  I'll be sure to report back, if you've got any interest in a Philadelphian's opinion (we take our Italian seriously here).

                  I hope everyone is staying safe and that Sandy took it easy on you!!! (Obviously the fact that I am posting this points to how lucky I am compared to a lot of my neighbors)

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: tfalbo

                    I'm a Philly person too and I have yet to find a better Italian restaurant than Crispo's at 14th bet 7 & 8.
                    Problem is getting a reservation. It is definitely a happening place and tends to be loud, but man, is it ever worth it!