Marea or Scarpetta or Peasant
Taking some friends out, and looking specifically for Italian. It's relatively short notice, so Babbo, Locanda Verde, Maialino, etc. are out of the question, but I was able to snag a reservation at Marea, and the other two still have openings.
I realize that they're all quite different styles and price points, but my rationale is...
Marea: one of them is here for business meetings, and may have to go back to work after dinner. This is in midtown west, in the mid-50s, which gives Marea the edge for convenience. I'm a little concerned about the high price point, combined with mixed reviews (many of which seem to imply it's not worth the $$$$). As an alternative, I could move the Italian to another night, and find something else in midtown for this night, but the only places I can think of are Ma Peche, Modern, Seasonal (Danji would be close enough but the potential for a long wait negates the convenience factor). We've already done these three in previous visits though, so I was hoping for something different. Any suggestions? Low end, high end, doesn't matter.
Scarpetta: I've resisted this place for some time--not sure why, but the fact that it's a mini-chain makes me think corporate and really turns me off. The menu does look good, though, and looks right up the ally of one of the friends who is joining us. I'm quite confident that they'd like it.
Peasant: selfishly, this one is just most appealing to me, although I'd still like to try the others.
I went to Marea last night. It really is a very impressive and highly enjoyable dining experience. Service is relaxed and not rushed. The seafood is infinite. The restaurant is not packed with tourists (at least last night) like Maialino. The seating is comfortable. You feel wonderful dining here.
I have been lucky enough to have dined at all three. Here are my thoughts:
1. Marea is fine dining. I found it to be excellent, but the atmosphere is nothing like that of Scarpetta and Peasant. If you are looking for something like Osteria Morini, Maialino, Locanda Verde...this is not your place for this occasion. Is it worth a trip? Absolutely...while not Per Se level, it borders more on a fine dining night than not. The dishes are highly refined (for Italian food -- not rustic at all), and it would be hard to feel overdressed in a place like Marea (as opposed to under dressed...if I walked in with jeans and a casual button down I'd personally feel out of place).
2. Scarpetta is fantastic, but a step down from fine dining (in all the right ways). The food is delicious, and the atmosphere balances being "lively" but not annoying quite well. This is not a place I would say is a "regular" spot...meaning, on a Tue night I wouldn't turn to my wife or friends and say, hey, let's go to Scarpetta. That said, it's not a place where prices suggest it's only fine dining/special occasion. If you are taking friends from out of town, I think it is a really smart choice...less refined than Marea, more refined than Peasant. That's because...
3. Peasant is great rustic food. Peasant is a place that, if I lived close to it, would consider it the perfect neighborhood place to go on a weekday (or weekend) for a meal. It's not as crazy as Morini (which I enjoy very much, but is more touristy and loud with people taking pics of food etc), but puts out rustic dishes which are ever bit as good if not better. I love the atmosphere, and have always had great service. It's particularly a favorite when the cold weather sets in given the wood fired oven, etc. If you are looking for a place to eat good rustic food and catch up with old friends over conversations where you will be laughing out loud, etc, this would be my choice (assuming you are not trying to impress with something stylish, too).
Another spot worth consideration is Barbuto...it's ever so slightly more refined than Peasant in some way, even though Waxman focuses on down to earth food. And that also has a very cool atmosphere.
Thanks for the replies. Never heard of Vice Versa, I'll look into it, thanks.
I haven't been to any of White's restaurants--Im curious how you guys would describe his cooking at Marea, especially. Does his food tend to be more refined and subtle (a la Le Bernardin) or does he go for big flavors?