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Best Italian for "Classic" Italian?

Hi all - I'm back again to get some expert opinion/advice on a restaurant for my girlfriend's birthday...

I put "classic" in quotes, not because I'm looking for real/authentic Italian, but because I don't know how else to describe the type of Italian she likes...

She likes straight-forward, simple pasta dishes - like bolognese , pomodoro, vodka sauces, etc. One of her favorite restaurants is Bianca on Bleecker Street (http://www.biancanyc.com/home.html), which is great and all, but since it's her birthday I'd love to take her somewhere a little nicer.

I made a reservation at Babbo - but after looking over the menu this seems much more my taste than hers...

Any tips would be greatly appreciated!

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  1. Believe it or not, the closest you're going to come to that kind of food on the high end is Del Posto.

    (High-end Italian restaurants tend not to serve that kind of stuff.)

    She might like Osteria Morini -- but I'm not sure that's up to Birthday Level.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Sneakeater

      Very interesting; I had assumed Del Posto was out of the question given its reputation as a 'higher-end' Babbo (in terms of price anyway). I'll take a look at it... and thanks for the other rec.

      I figured that high-end Italian restaurants don't ordinarily serve pasta vodka, but I figured if anyone would know it would be someone on this forum

      1. re: Sneakeater

        "Believe it or not, the closest you're going to come to that kind of food on the high end is Del Posto."

        I got a very different vibe from the OP. A Vodka sauce at Del Posto? I don't think you would ever find that on the menu. I gathered that the OP was looking for more "classic" Italian-American/rustic food. Del Posto serves a somewhat more authentic Italian menu; such as you might find in a higher end restaurant in Italy. If the OP thinks Babbo is out of the running, then I would venture to guess Del Posto would be also.

        @strikesoutswinging: I don't have a suggestion off the top of my head, but perhaps if you give us a bit more info on her likes and dislikes, I can come up with a suggestion or two.

        1. re: ttoommyy

          I said "the closest". Not "right on target." High-end restaurants just don't serve the exact kind of food he's talking about.

          I think that Del Posto's menu is much more middle-of-the-road than Babbo's, which skews toward the inventive.

          I think, for example, that DP's hundred-layer lasagna would be JUST what the OP's girlfriend would like. Sure, some other things on the menu would be more of a stretch. But there would be things she'd like. Contrast that with Babbo, where practically everything on the menu would terrify her.

          1. re: Sneakeater

            Babbo wouldn't frighten her unless the noise did. Imho Babbo serves the best Bolognese I've ever had in a restaurant.

            1. re: ChefJune

              I may hang out in less sophisticated crowds than you (you're a chef, after all), but I know people who would only have to see the three words "lamb's brain ravioli" on a menu in order to bolt.

      2. Lincoln makes a great bolognese, carbonara, linguine alle vongole, and has also prepared a simple pomodoro for a friend of mine upon request.

        The rest of the menu is more creative but I think your girlfriend would enjoy the classic side dishes like the gnocchi and the eggplant parm. The menu changes daily but the staff tries its best to accommodate requests for simpler dishes.

        Also consider Il Mulino. I haven't been there yet but the restaurant seems to get good reviews and the menu might be what you're looking for.

        1. I'd stick with Babbo and share some pastas.

          A lot of the dishes seem fancy and nontraditional, and some of them are, but many of them are really just excellent versions of dishes you'd find on many "classic" Italian-American menus. For example, at a quick glance I see linguine with clam sauce, orecchiette with sausage and broccoli rabe, pappardelle bolognese.

          I don't think you'll find vodka or alfredo sauces on any restaurant menu that is worthy of a special occasion.

          1. I recommend you consider Scarpetta where she can have the s paghetti w/ tomato (much loved here, but oft debated for its 24 dollar price tag) and you can get something like pasta w/ rabbit or black cod. And you can start with delicious soup or something like that. I esp like bar dinig there, even for bdays.

            I agree that she might love Osteria Morini's pastas, but its a bit loud/unromantic for a bday.

            And while this is very casual/inexpensive, i can't even count how many women hav told me that their fav place is Malatesta: some simple pasta and wine and tiramisu there, combined with a surprisingly nice gift might be an even more special night than at the higher-end places.

            Cheers and please report back

            1. Parma. 80th and 3rd. Same menu for 30 years.

              Nice service. Good entrees. Great pasta.

              2 Replies
                1. re: arepo

                  <Trattoria Trecolori>

                  definitely NOT birthday worthy!

              1. Mailino's pastas are good and the room is nice. Not too expensive.

                1. Bianca is also my favorite Italian place (and I'm a girl). Between Del Posto and Babbo, I would suggest Babbo, if nothing else because it is significantly cheaper (I took my husband to Del Posto for his bday, and while delicious and memorable, it was an investment meal) and you can do the pasta tasting which will prob be more up her alley if she likes pasta. As for some of the other suggestions, I lived a block away from Malatesta and went there quite a bit though only because I lived a block away -- the food is inferior to Bianca and the atmosphere about the same. I was very disappointed in Scarpetta but perhaps we ordered wrong? Another place, not mentioned here, that I was disappointed in was Il Buco Alimentaria.

                  Supper in the East Village is a similar vibe to Bianca and the food is solid, very slightly more expensive. If you are looking a change of scenery it could be an option though they do not take reservations.

                  Torrisi Italian Specialties was fantastic though it is not exactly red sauce.

                  I have also had good meals at Corsino, Spasso, and L'Artusi in the West Village.

                  Gemma at the Bowery Hotel was solid. Frankies Spuntino is always a great option (highly recommend the sausage cavatelli).

                  Also, Locanda Verde was good but it is may be loud and the service is spotty.

                  I have also heard great things about al fiori and maialino though I have been to those yet.

                  Hope this helps.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: wvilny

                    Oh and I forgot -- we just did a girlfriend's birthday dinner at Porsena and it was great. All five pasta dishes that arrived were delicious. I had the canneloni which was reminiscent but more delicious than Bianca's lasagna. It's not fancy (as many on my list aren't), but I think very fancy restaurant plus classic style pasta often just don't go together. For my birthdays, a delicious meal, good service, lots of wine, not being rushed, is all that I want.

                  2. Best pasta in New York is Osteria Morini -- 218 Lafayette Street -- eat at Bar in the corner --

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: nybroker

                      The balsamic glaze squirted on the pasta at Osteria Morini made me think I was in Olive Garden, not Italy!

                      1. re: DavyTheFatBoy

                        Why? I've seen that done in Italy, especially in the Emilia Romagna region. And was it a glaze or just a thick, aged balsmico? I find a lot of the food a Osteria Morini to be pretty true to its Italian roots.

                    2. Based on your post and all the suggestions CH'ers made, I add the following: I can't see how your gf wouldn't like Babbo, regardless of what she usually likes. There are "tomato sauce dishes" at Babbo.
                      ----- Po has a good tasting menu that you can customize. They have good pasta with sausage ragu, one with duck ragu. The meatballs are good too.
                      ------Lavagna has good food but might not seem fancy enough.
                      ----ACAPELLA has exactly the kind of food she likes, it is not a "new" Cool place, it is old school, nice decor, feels like a birthday place. It's in the heart of Tribeca.
                      -----Ponti's also might be good
                      ----Il Cantinori for sure
                      ---- Morandi might even be good

                      1. Del Posto has a sick Bolognese! However, looking for vodka sauce at a high-end restaurant may be greeted with as much enthusiasm as requesting a McDonald's cheeseburger.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: ieatanddrinkwell

                          Haha yeah I'll probably avoid asking for the special 'off the menu' vodka sauce wherever I go...

                          Thanks for all the responses. A lot of great options listed, some I had never heard of before. I'm going to keep to Babbo for now and look through all of these suggestions, thanks again!

                        2. Vodka sauce and red sauce I'm thinking Rubirosa. Quite good but its far from high end.

                          I agree with everyone that you should be fine at the high end places like DP, Scarpetta, and I would even throw in Marea to the mix where you have simple but great dishes like cheese ravioli with pesto

                          1. Thought I would post on update:

                            I ended up taking her to Malatesta Trattoria ( 649 Washington Street ) based on a recommendation below. The reviews online made it look in line with her tastes and, in fact, she loved the meal. The spinach gnocchi and veal meatballs in particular were standouts.

                            I thought the atmosphere was a bit loud, but she really liked it - to each his/her own.

                            Thanks again everyone for all the recommendations; they didn't go to waste as I'll keep these places in mind when it's time to pick a place for MY birthday!

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: strikeoutswinging

                              Thanks for reporting back; so often people do not. Glad your girlfriend enjoyed the meal, as that is what was most important. Cheers.