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Italian restaurants for people unfamiliar with Italian food?

argylesweater Mar 22, 2013 07:09 PM

This weekend I'm hosting some people who all recently moved to the US from India and don't have a lot of experience with Italian food, but are very keen to eat at an Italian restaurant while they are in town. One of them "heard that the Olive Garden in Times Square is very good" [he didn't know it's a chain in every pocket of America]. I can't let the Olive Garden happen, so where can I take them for similar low-to-moderate prices, vegetarian options, and a positive, flavorful experience? I know Little Italy is tourist-y, but it may appeal to them on that level and be more bearable than Times Square for me. Or somewhere else in lower Manhattan would be fine. Any suggestions would be great. Thanks!

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  1. c oliver RE: argylesweater Mar 22, 2013 07:18 PM

    If you're talking THIS weekend, then I suggest you go to Open Table and check out availability and then go back and forth between there and CH. Good luck.

    1. ipsedixit RE: argylesweater Mar 22, 2013 07:23 PM

      I think Carmine's might your criteria.

      It's basic, tourist-y type of red-sauce Italian place that is about 1 step above Olive Garden.

      1. Jay F RE: argylesweater Mar 22, 2013 07:37 PM

        I haven't been there in decades, but I used to enjoy Il Cortile on Mulberry Street, in what's left of Little Italy.


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          bob96 RE: argylesweater Mar 23, 2013 08:35 PM

          Not sure if by Italian you mean "Italian American" (which I suspect you and your guests do), or "Italian", typically food by Italian or Italianate chefs that references contemporary Italian cuisine, whether regional or innovative or both. If the former, Carmine's might be a good choice--certainly, the experience of family style service and abundance it provides can be entertaining and reflective of an Italian American tradition. Il Cortile used to be a cut above other places in Little Italy, so search the Manhattan board for an recent opinions. John's on East 12 St is very traditional, with somewhat variable food, but a very old and atmospheric scene. If the latter, then you;ve got a dauntingly wide range of choices. For a relaxed, non-touristy, and also old-fashioned meal (service and food) uptown, at fairly good quality levels, Quattro Gatti on East 81 and Third has been going strong for years.

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            Pan RE: argylesweater Mar 24, 2013 03:34 AM

            Take them to a place like Supper on E. 2 St. Don't pay attention to people steering you to Carmine's: It's not good.

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              alepenazzi RE: argylesweater Mar 24, 2013 09:00 AM

              I'd say any of the Felice restaurants (they have one on E 81st, one around E 60th and one in the financial district.
              Aurora SoHo or Quinto Quarto in the west village.. Reasonable prices, classic italian food (not italian/american) and nice and "italian-like" dining rooms..

              2 Replies
              1. re: alepenazzi
                UES Mayor RE: alepenazzi Mar 25, 2013 04:14 AM

                Felice is so overpriced for what you get.

                1. re: UES Mayor
                  alepenazzi RE: UES Mayor Mar 25, 2013 05:27 PM

                  Pastas are in the 12-18$ range and secondi in the 23-32$, I think it's priced as a normal mid-level restaurant in Manhattan... But the quality is good and the wine list has some really good italian wines that won't break the bank...

                  I personally like the ambience as well, but that's probably more of a personal matter..

              2. sgordon RE: argylesweater Mar 24, 2013 11:51 AM

                Locanda Verde
                Osteria Morini
                Cacio e Pepe
                Frankie's Spuntino

                (prices vary, though most of the above are pretty reasonable - "moderate" for NYC prices, at least.)

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                  plf515 RE: argylesweater Mar 24, 2013 12:56 PM

                  Another idea is Otto. I've enjoyed my meals there, it's not too expensive, and it's got a variety of food.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: plf515
                    Pan RE: plf515 Mar 24, 2013 05:14 PM

                    Otto is a good thought. If they go there, they should get a bunch of appetizers. Their policy of forcing all the appetizers to be ordered at once really bugs me, though. The last time I was there, we therefore over-ordered, and it's put me off from going back.

                    1. re: Pan
                      bob96 RE: Pan Mar 24, 2013 05:41 PM

                      All due respect to Otto, I cannot imagine this place as a successful or even accurate introduction to Italian food for an Indian family unfamiliar with it. It's a basically a frenzied bar/pizzeria,of a certian type, filled with noise: OP's guests might want a chance to sit and eat comfortably.

                      1. re: bob96
                        Pan RE: bob96 Mar 24, 2013 11:22 PM

                        I see your point. But if that's the case, Carmine's - also suggested in this thread - would certainly not be better.

                        1. re: bob96
                          argylesweater RE: bob96 Mar 26, 2013 04:46 PM

                          It wasn't a family, it was a group of computer programmers in their mid-20's. I don't think they would have minded the hustle of Otto, they may have enjoyed it! We didn't end up there, but thanks @plf515 for the recommendation! Will keep in mind for the future.

                          1. re: argylesweater
                            c oliver RE: argylesweater Mar 26, 2013 04:50 PM

                            Where DID you wind up please?

                            1. re: c oliver
                              argylesweater RE: c oliver Mar 26, 2013 05:04 PM

                              John's of 12th in East Village. See my other post above. :)

                    2. k
                      kathryn RE: argylesweater Mar 25, 2013 05:36 PM


                      1. chompchomp RE: argylesweater Mar 25, 2013 11:28 PM

                        How about Gnocco in the East Village? Delicious, affordable, lots of options.

                        1. linguafood RE: argylesweater Mar 25, 2013 11:39 PM


                          1 Reply
                          1. re: linguafood
                            rrems RE: linguafood Mar 26, 2013 06:47 AM

                            +1 for Crispo. Seems to fit all the requirements.

                            Unfortunately, the OP seems to have disappeared.

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                            argylesweater RE: argylesweater Mar 26, 2013 04:56 PM

                            Thanks everyone for all the replies! I needed recs for this past Sunday, and we ended up at John's of 12th St, which seemed to work out. Safe enough menu, not too price-y, easy location for everyone. The tricky thing I've found about entertaining people from India is that they are used to eating food with so many spices mixed in that they find the more subtle flavors of Euro/western cuisine a little boring. The palate is completely different, so it can be hard to meet their expectations (whatever those happen to be).

                            I hadn't expected such a response and it was really interesting to read the thoughtful considerations on what an intro Italian restaurant should be. There are great recommendations in here, and I'll have to keep some of these in mind for myself and for another time. Thanks again!

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: argylesweater
                              chompchomp RE: argylesweater Mar 26, 2013 05:55 PM

                              Fascinating! Thanks for the report back.

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