Midtown East (staying at Elysee). Walk to dinner.
We will stay 3 nights in February (not valentine's) at the Elysee.
We'd like to walk to dinner and have one Italian, one "best" and one semi-casual.
Price won't be a factor.
Ideas with hotel being on east 54th between Park and Madison.
Lunch ideas would be great too.
Are you really sure you're not willing to take some kind of transportation in at least one direction, even if that means a cab, which won't add all _that_ much to your expense if you're already patronizing an upscale restaurant? And how far are you willing to walk? New Yorkers generally are fine with walking a mile or so if they are of average fitness and it's not really nasty weather (and, in case they want to wear non-walking shoes, they have a place to easily change them before entering the restaurant); your mileage (literally) may vary.
Felidia is probably the closest "big name" Italian place near there, at 243 E. 58th St. between 2nd and 3rd. I wasn't very impressed when I had lunch there, but that was ages ago (in the 1990s, I believe), so have a look at more current discussions and make a decision.
Another Italian restaurant not far from there that's been getting some play on these boards lately is Scalinatella, at 201 E 61st St., corner of 3rd Av., but people also warn that their specials are much more expensive than menu items and that their food is generally overpriced.
A bit further, there's Marea, 240 Central Park S. (59 St., just east of Columbus Circle). I will go there for the first time on the 26th, but there's been plenty of discussion on these boards.
My current favorite Italian restaurant in New York, Ai Fiori, in the Setai Hotel at 400 5th Av. between 36th and 37th Sts., stretches "walking distance" to near the breaking point.
Aside from these places (not all of which are open for lunch), a couple of non-Italian lunch ideas occur to me you may or may not consider walkable:
The Modern, or the Bar at the Modern (both in the Museum of Modern Art though accessible by a separate entrance: 9 W. 53rd between 5th and 6th).
Jean Georges (in the hotel on Central Park West just north of Columbus Circle).
Have a wonderful time in New York!
I know that people on this board have had good things to say about Scalinatella, but to me it's everything bad about the Old Skool NYC Restaurant Scene that the newer places have replaced.
I'd hop on a train Downtown and get away from that shit. You'll eat better, and feel much less taken advantage of.
If you really care about walking to dinner from the Elysee, the Monkey Bar, while it has gone very far downhill, is still edible.
I should add that I had a dinner at La Mangeoire recently that I was perfectly happy with. Bill's -- right across the street from the Elysee -- is not really worth bothering with.
I 2nd the recommendations for The Modern. Good for your "best" meal if you are in the formal dining room. Semi-casual for lunch in the Bar Room, maybe.
Would also add on Ma Peche. Also semi-casual for lunch and dinner.
Rockefeller Center is a short walk away and has Bouchon Bakery, Jacques Torres, Wichcraft, Blue Bottle, and La Maison du Chocolat by the way, for breakfast/lunch/snacks.
I recommend you leave leave the neighborhood for Italian.
See also these previous conversations re: restaurants near the Waldorf / Elysee / New York Palace / etc:
The problem I think we New Yorkers are having with your preference of walking everywhere is that the neighborhood you are going to be staying in is a neighborhood primarily of offices and casual breakfast/lunch places for busy office workers. Yes, there are some good high-end places not too far from where you'll be, and it's a damn sight less unpleasant than the huge crowds of (almost exclusively) tourists near Times Square, but there are better experiences to be had by going to restaurants further downtown several times and walking around those neighborhoods (yeah, even in 3 days, a couple of subway round trips is a reasonable idea). You'll be near the E, which goes on the West Side down to World Trade Center, and the 6, which goes down the East Side to Bowling Green. There are some fun neighborhoods you can easily access that way, without dealing with the very heavy surface traffic that sometimes clogs the streets in Midtown.
Within a 10 blocks of your hotel:
Italian: Felidia, Marea
Best: Le Bernardin, La Grenouille, The Modern Dining Room
Semi-casual: The Modern Bar Room, Ma Peche, Benoit
Michel Richard's new restaurant in space currently occupied by Gilt is also scheduled to open in February.