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WHAT IS THE BEST CHOICE FOR AN ITALIAN EXPERIENCE?

j
jilkat25 Sep 20, 2013 06:40 AM

My 30 year old son and I are taking a short trip to New York in early November and I'm trying to figure out the best way to get a weekday Italian fix. I definitely want something we can write home about! Should I try to score a high-end rez, go for quantity (pasta/wine coma) at a reasonable price, or crawl across Manhattan noshing and shopping? I don't want to waste time or money on unworthy calories and I don't want anything I can imitate at home. Ideas? Faves?

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  1. Spiritchaser RE: jilkat25 Sep 20, 2013 08:35 AM

    Well if you want high end Italian then you would be looking at a place like Babbo but rezs can be tough, Del Posto is also a good choice. A new place getting a lot of buzz (some for good reasons some for bad) is Carbone, they are doing kind of a retro classic NY red sauce place.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Spiritchaser
      financialdistrictresident RE: Spiritchaser Sep 21, 2013 06:17 AM

      Carbone looks good. Might be too sceney for us:

      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/893927
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/899733

      Spiritchaser, I'm confused . . there are also posts from 2006?

      I guess I'm not the only one who is confused:

      http://nyfoodee.tumblr.com/post/46776...

      This is making me want to head to Brooklyn and eat at Frost :)

    2. zeeEats RE: jilkat25 Sep 20, 2013 08:37 AM

      1. Where will you be staying and how far are you willing to travel?
      2. You specified that you wanted to get a weekday fix, but are you looking to dine for lunch or dinner?
      3. What is your budget exactly?

      If you want to have an "experience" and enjoy food that you could not recreate at home, I'd suggest:
      - Torrisi Italian Specialties (reasonably priced multi-course meal, for food that is Italian in spirit but globally inspired in soul; open for lunch and dinner)
      - Del Posto (I'm not sure where you've traveling from, but this is as ritzy as it gets for Italian in the city. Lunch prix-fixe during the week is hard to beat)
      - L'Apicio, L'Artusi, Dell'anima, Perla, Charlie Bird are all fun and modern places

      Just avoid all the overpriced Italian joints clustered around midtown and the theater district, unless you were serious about "going for quantity"...

      1 Reply
      1. re: zeeEats
        j
        jilkat25 RE: zeeEats Sep 22, 2013 10:21 PM

        Yeah, I've heard Torrisi is excellent! I had my mind set on Del Posto until I started reading about Babbo. My daughter and I were in NYC last year and went to Eataly, but we got there too late to try everything we wanted to try.Tried a few things but we were rushed. I definitely want to steer clear of anything like a tourist mill (quantity over quality) I can get that here (Dallas.) But, if it was truly awesome red sauce and pasta I'd go for it. My mother in law was first generation Italian American (Chicago) and could really churn out great all day "Sunday gravy," meatballs, brazeoles, etc. but I don't think she ever heard of most of the things on the menu at Del Posto!
        I'll look up all the ones you mentioned! Thank you!

      2. Motosport RE: jilkat25 Sep 20, 2013 08:46 AM

        If you are looking for an "Italian Experience" you may want to skip the fancier places like Del Posto (which is all around excellent) which will have more emphasis on "high end" than Italian.
        Three places we like for fabulous food and a continental experience.
        I Trulli
        Da Ciro
        Marcony
        All have excellent fresh pasta.

        1. sgordon RE: jilkat25 Sep 20, 2013 10:09 AM

          I think Babbo is, hands down, the best option. Some of their best items - like, the octopus in limoncello, or the lamb's tongue vinaigrette, are for sure things you wouldn't be making at home. And their prices are actually quite reasonable for the quality - very few entrees are over thirty, a rarity at higher-end places these days. That said, it's a VERY tough rez to get, but I think it's worth doing the phone / redial dance, and if it doesn't work out there are a number of other good options - but I managed to get a prime time (7:30) Saturday night table for October 19th just yesterday. I had to redial, like, thirty times to get through, and then wait on hold for four minutes listening to scratchy old opera recordings, so you need to be patient. But it's not impossible. If it's a weeknight, it might be even easier. And if you're okay dining early (like, 5:30) or late (say, 10PM or after) - even for weekends you can usually find those tables on Opentable the morning they become available.

          After Babbo, I'd recommend:
          Lincoln - very creative. They're also a great lunch option, as their prix fixe is reasonably priced.
          Del Posto - again, a good lunch option (splurge the extra $10 to make it a four-course meal over the standard lunch three) though a more refined atmosphere than Babbo. Dinner is quite expensive - their prix fixe is going up to $126 in November, I believe.

          Carbone and Torrisi are worth considering, but keep in mind that both skew a bit more "Italian American" than pure Italian.

          19 Replies
          1. re: sgordon
            b
            barberinibee RE: sgordon Sep 20, 2013 01:08 PM

            I just looked at Torrisi's food menu and wine list (not a single Italian wine on the premises). If people eat at a restaurant that serves pasta (even if they are serving it with corn), people in Manhattan think this is an Italian experience?

            1. re: barberinibee
              zeeEats RE: barberinibee Sep 20, 2013 01:53 PM

              I really like what the Torrisi and Carbone boys are doing at Torrisi Italian Specialties. Sure, their wine list skews more towards Californian and the cooking may be only Italian in concept (with flavor and style influences from all over the world), but the food is outstanding and quite edgy.

              barberinibee, what do you think is an Italian experience anyway? Traditional red sauce joints? I'm of the opinion that "people in Manhattan" prefer great food over tacky and tired cliches any day.

              1. re: zeeEats
                b
                barberinibee RE: zeeEats Sep 20, 2013 02:14 PM

                Hi zee,

                I live in Italy, so I think the Italian experience of eating is partaking of food and wine of Italy.

                Having never been to Torrisi, and being curious, I just did some googling, and ended up reading this article in NY Mag

                http://www.grubstreet.com/2012/08/roc...

                Really does look to me like the owners are totally focused on tacky and tired cliches. ("Moves.") When I do get back to Manhattan, usually a couple of times a year, I am struck by how little the food scene there has to do with eating good food (let alone "great") and how much more it has to do with gimmicks. Which isn't to say the food is bad, but the gimmicks rule.

                I think it is time to invent a new word special to NYC to replace "foodie" that conveys more accurately that people are looking for restaurant experiences that reflect back at them their own ideas about taste.

                I think the chef Paul Pairet (in Shanghai) has captured that weird relationship to food with the concept of "pscyho taste." He's said "the perception of the meal should be completely based on you.” You know, like: If it's Italian to you, the fact that is has nothing to do with Italy except psychologically, is irrelevant.

                I guess. I don't live there anymore.

                1. re: barberinibee
                  zeeEats RE: barberinibee Sep 20, 2013 02:58 PM

                  Funny that you based your entire perception of a restaurant based on a single Grubstreet article. Keep in mind that Torrisi Italian Specialties and Carbone are totally different restaurants, in concept, style, pricing, everything. But you are entitled to your own opinions of the two chefs/owners, whatever they may be.

                  It's too bad that you care so little about the dining scene in NYC, compared to your oh-so-sophisticated Italy. The OP asked for recommendations in Manhattan, on the Manhattan board - did it ever occur to you that she was visiting NYC and not Italy? I was merely trying to suggest a few places that would make for a special "experience" for any visitor.

                  1. re: zeeEats
                    l
                    Lacrosse_Gastronomic RE: zeeEats Sep 20, 2013 04:56 PM

                    Well said. I find it curious that anyone would criticize a restaurant that he or she has never visited.

                    1. re: Lacrosse_Gastronomic
                      f
                      foodwhisperer RE: Lacrosse_Gastronomic Sep 20, 2013 10:37 PM

                      Well said, to a degree. Zee Eats and many others, as soon as a place serves a good red sauce, or a seafood marinara, or lasagna, it's tagged as italian American. Red sauce is so very Italian, as is oil and garlic and truffles and sausage etc. Different regions different dishes. But pasta will be found everywhere. San Marzano tomatoes are delicious, and cheese oh the cheese.Anyway, I agree the OP is in nyc and wants the Italian experience.
                      I too recommend Babbo, Marea, but also Bar Pitti, and Osteria Morini, Torisi Specialties for a snack, and Motorino for pizza.

                  2. re: barberinibee
                    financialdistrictresident RE: barberinibee Sep 20, 2013 04:34 PM

                    We like this Italian restaurant (more on Outer Boroughs Board):

                    http://www.ilpaiolonyc.com/

                    We loved Falai. Sadly (for us), Chef Mauro Buffo is now back in Italy. He is the Executive Chef at Restaurant 1500, Vigilius Mountain Resort:

                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/233792

                    SO has been to Babbo. I have not. I really enjoyed Lupa. Haven't been in ages, too hard to get a reservation (SO won't dine at the bar). I like simplicity. Difficult reservations (Babbo, MomoFoko, etc.) don't work for me.

                    1. re: financialdistrictresident
                      ttoommyy RE: financialdistrictresident Sep 20, 2013 05:22 PM

                      It's not as difficult to get a lunch reservation at Babbo, if lunch is an option for you.

                      1. re: ttoommyy
                        financialdistrictresident RE: ttoommyy Sep 20, 2013 05:33 PM

                        Thanks, ttoommyy.

                        I only eat fish and poultry, can I still enjoy Babbo?

                        I've read about the pasta with mint. And I think lamb . . .

                        I haven't been to Lupa in ages. So good. Our server suggested the pan seared trout with pear, radicchio, etc. (I think that was the dish, it's been a long time). Said she thought it was one of the best dishes and most people didn't choose it.

                        1. re: financialdistrictresident
                          ttoommyy RE: financialdistrictresident Sep 20, 2013 07:42 PM

                          "I only eat fish and poultry, can I still enjoy Babbo?"

                          Do you also eat vegetables and dairy? If so, most certainly!
                          http://www.babbonyc.com/menu/lunch/

                          1. re: financialdistrictresident
                            sgordon RE: financialdistrictresident Sep 21, 2013 11:01 AM

                            "I only eat fish and poultry, can I still enjoy Babbo?"

                            Absolutely. I haven't checked out the lunch menu yet but at dinner you could have a seafood feast - start with the octopus with limoncello (their best-selling dish, deservedly so) then continue with either the spaghetti & lobster or the black spaghetti & rock shrimp, or one of the vegetarian pastas (I'm partial to the goat cheese tortellini) - finish with one of the seafood entrees. There's a great scallop special right now with a spicy corn vinaigrette. Only one I find skippable is the calamari - I find there's more sauce than squid on the plate, and it's a bit less interesting than some of the other seafood options. There are also some great poultry secondi - partial to the duck and squab, personally, though preparations change seasonally on some items so it varies.

                            The mint pasta does have lamb, yes.

                            1. re: sgordon
                              j
                              jilkat25 RE: sgordon Sep 23, 2013 01:40 AM

                              YUM to all you mentioned!

                        2. re: financialdistrictresident
                          sgordon RE: financialdistrictresident Sep 21, 2013 12:29 PM

                          To give credit where it's due: Mauro Buffo was no slouch in the kitchen, but the dishes he was executing were Chef Falai's creations. Actually, a few very interesting Chef de Cuisines have been through Falai's kitchen - depending what year you dined there, it could have been Buffo, Matteo Boglione (who later ran the not-quite-as-good-but-he-sure-tried-hard Il Matto, and the solid Church & White) and Fredrik Berselius, who's now the "enfant terrible" behind Aska in Williamsburg. Also Tom Block who I think was overseas for awhile somewhere, not sure what he's up to these days. (If you couldn't tell... I was a regular...)

                          1. re: sgordon
                            financialdistrictresident RE: sgordon Sep 22, 2013 07:28 AM

                            Thanks, sgordon.

                            Will have SO check out Aska (if he hasn't already).

                            Miss Falai . . .thinking about their passion fruit souffle and foie gras trilogy. Memorable dish and dessert that are still top of mind.

                            1. re: financialdistrictresident
                              sgordon RE: financialdistrictresident Sep 22, 2013 08:51 AM

                              I do too, a great loss to the neighborhood / dining scene in general. (Though I was more partial to the raspberry soufflé with black truffle gelato, personally...)

                            2. re: sgordon
                              f
                              foodwhisperer RE: sgordon Sep 23, 2013 04:56 PM

                              I used to like Falai on Clinton St. very creative

                          2. re: barberinibee
                            financialdistrictresident RE: barberinibee Sep 20, 2013 05:10 PM

                            barberinbee, I understand your sentiment. I left the city for a few years (returning to visit friends and, of course, eat). It's a NYC thing. Following the trend and scene, form over substance, etc.

                            I look forward to eating in Italy, I have not yet been.

                            Where do you eat when you are here several times a year?

                      2. re: sgordon
                        j
                        jilkat25 RE: sgordon Sep 22, 2013 10:43 PM

                        I read the menu at Babbo and a bunch of reviews and it sounds awesome! I would definitely try the octopus! Believe it or not, I recently did try making it at home (sous vide,then grilled) and it was okay but I'm really anxious to try it made by a great chef with skills I don't have! Never tried lamb's tongue and I'm not even sure I could get it here without jumping through hoops!
                        I think I'm really looking to do dinner so we can just head back to the hotel and sleep off all the food and wine.

                        1. re: sgordon
                          j
                          jilkat25 RE: sgordon Sep 23, 2013 01:31 AM

                          Great advice!

                        2. chompchomp RE: jilkat25 Sep 20, 2013 10:18 AM

                          Most pasta dishes that Michael White makes you cannot make at home (bone marrow with red wine braised octopus yada yada) and it is delicioussss.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: chompchomp
                            ttoommyy RE: chompchomp Sep 20, 2013 10:41 AM

                            "Most pasta dishes that Michael White makes you cannot make at home (bone marrow with red wine braised octopus yada yada) and it is delicioussss."

                            While this example is not your everyday meal at home, I would venture to guess there are quite a few home cooks here on CH that could make that dish. :)

                            1. re: ttoommyy
                              zeeEats RE: ttoommyy Sep 20, 2013 11:48 AM

                              Marea is definitely extraordinary - plus they offer a 2 course menu for lunch for around $45.

                              Michael White also does great pastas at his more casual, Roman trattoria downtown on Lafayette. Osteria Morini also serves both lunch and dinner.

                              1. re: ttoommyy
                                financialdistrictresident RE: ttoommyy Sep 20, 2013 04:41 PM

                                :)

                                Many of us have some cooking skills.

                                SO makes delicious risotto. I hesitate to order it out because it's never as good as his. And risotto is a fairly simple dish to make.

                            2. l
                              Lacrosse_Gastronomic RE: jilkat25 Sep 20, 2013 10:39 AM

                              Depends on what you're looking for:

                              Del Posto - luxury ingredients
                              Lincoln - innovation
                              Marea - seafood
                              Perla - rustic
                              Carbone - Italian-American parm red sauce
                              Babbo - accessible broad menu

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Lacrosse_Gastronomic
                                j
                                jilkat25 RE: Lacrosse_Gastronomic Sep 22, 2013 10:53 PM

                                Maybe we should just plan to do all Italian, all week while we're in the city, LOL! Too many choices, all excellent!

                              2. b
                                barberinibee RE: jilkat25 Sep 20, 2013 12:57 PM

                                What can you imitate at home? Where are you from? Do you make your own stuffed pasta? What kind of fish dishes? Crudo?

                                I don't consider noshing an Italian experience (but shopping is).

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: barberinibee
                                  j
                                  jilkat25 RE: barberinibee Sep 23, 2013 12:35 AM

                                  I'm actually just an experienced (over 50 years) home cook from Texas. I make stuffed pastas and dumplings of all kinds (because they are my favorite things!) I'm known best for being able to make any kind of seafood. I recently did an octopus sous vide then grilled it. It was alright and my family liked it but next time I cook it I'll just make takoyaki, braise it, or straight up grill it outside and be done with it.
                                  What I'm saying is I can cook just about anything, but whether my family would appreciate the effort and expense, I don't know. My younger daughter and husband (who is Italian American, and I even cooked with his grandmother who was from Italy) like to seek out the #1's wherever we go. My son is more flexible and won't ask to go to Le Bernardin or whatever, but if I take him there, he'll enjoy it! My kids are all adults.
                                  What I don't do often are desserts. They just aren't worth the effort unless it's the holidays or we're having a dinner party or something. And since I'm mostly cooking for my older daughter (who lives at home), her boyfriend, and my husband, no-one really cares if I garnish the appetizer with micro-greens or whether I've made the puff pastry from scratch, I save my appetite for those things for someone else to make and serve to us (and wash the dishes, etc.),
                                  Yeah, you're right. Noshing is not an Italian experience and it wouldn't be my choice for Italian in New York, but it's an option. I wouldn't mind a good cannolo that week.
                                  By the way, we are planning a full day of wandering around Chinatown and the Lower East Side, and will possibly run over to Julianna's in Brooklyn for a pizza..I also made a reservation at JUNGSIK. I hope it's as good as people are saying. We have great Asian food here, but most of the Korean here wouldn't be described as upscale.
                                  Honestly, the reason I haven't had outstanding Italian is that most Italian comfort food I do make at home. My Italian American mother in law was also a very good cook! But she wasn't Mario Batali.

                                  1. re: jilkat25
                                    h
                                    harryharry RE: jilkat25 Sep 23, 2013 01:50 PM

                                    Consider Chinatown in Flushing - It's quite awesome! and a good day trip on the subway, partially elevated line.

                                2. Ziggy41 RE: jilkat25 Sep 21, 2013 04:58 AM

                                  The OP's head must be spinning right now with so many great choices. So I'll make it worse...
                                  No one mentioned Maialino for the Roman classics
                                  No mentions of Costata for the crudo, the pastas, the Costata (rib eye)
                                  Scarpetta we like
                                  And for something more casual trattoria-like I'll thrown in Mercato for the mostly Southern specialties. An all Italian crew (except for busboys and a bartender) and good food

                                  16 Replies
                                  1. re: Ziggy41
                                    financialdistrictresident RE: Ziggy41 Sep 21, 2013 05:33 AM

                                    Maialino is a good suggestion. I have not been, SO has been several times including when they first opened:

                                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/668394

                                    Menu:

                                    http://www.maialinonyc.com/#/menus/

                                    1. re: financialdistrictresident
                                      financialdistrictresident RE: financialdistrictresident Sep 21, 2013 06:15 AM

                                      Not many recent posts on this Board about Maiailino other than brunch.

                                      Yelp perspective:

                                      http://www.yelp.com/biz/maialino-new-...

                                      I had lunch at Locande Verde when they first opened. I have not been for dinner. My understanding is it's more of a scene and we're not into that.

                                      1. re: financialdistrictresident
                                        ttoommyy RE: financialdistrictresident Sep 21, 2013 06:20 AM

                                        "I had lunch at Locande Verde when they first opened. I have not been for dinner. My understanding is it's more of a scene and we're not into that."

                                        Absolutely true, in my opinion. We went once this past year; the food was very good, but the service was horrible. It is definitely "a scene." Have not been back and don't plan to, despite how good the food was.

                                        Maialino is wonderful for lunch and dinner. If you go on the weekend during brunch, there are many non-typical brunch offerings to choose from. The egg dishes and such are just run of the mill and you can get them at many other places. The best bets at Maialino are the Roman-style dishes.

                                        1. re: ttoommyy
                                          financialdistrictresident RE: ttoommyy Sep 21, 2013 06:38 AM

                                          Thanks, ttoommyy.

                                          I have not been to Maialino. Might be a possibility for Christmas Eve dinner since Ciano is closed. We really enjoyed Ciano.

                                          I need to take a look at Maialino's menu to see if it will work for me. I only eat poultry and fish.

                                          1. re: ttoommyy
                                            f
                                            foodwhisperer RE: ttoommyy Sep 22, 2013 01:42 PM

                                            LV definietly a scene
                                            bad service with an attitude
                                            food is Ok nothing memorable or special
                                            food is overpriced
                                            place is loud
                                            I only have gone more than once because friends insist on going there.
                                            OP: Mario Batali's Babbo, then you can write home about the food and see Mario on TV when you get home.

                                            1. re: foodwhisperer
                                              j
                                              jilkat25 RE: foodwhisperer Sep 23, 2013 12:50 AM

                                              Haha, I know! I wasn't expecting to see Mario (unless I can talk my son into trying to get into "The Chew" audience for a taping! (Not going to happen...) I read on the Babbo website that they "import all [our] pastas," so I doubt there are house-made pastas there regularly. But, I could write home about it!
                                              I'm crossing LV off the list. Doesn't sound like what we want. It's gotta be about the food, not "the scene."

                                              1. re: jilkat25
                                                ttoommyy RE: jilkat25 Sep 23, 2013 03:59 AM

                                                Your best chance to see Mario (if you really want to) is to go to his restaurant Otto for lunch and sit at the bar. His office is there (he lives across the street) and he is often seen at the end of the bar having lunch, conducting business or both. Otto is excellent for sharing small dishes and plates of many various antipasti. The pastas are also very good, as are their pizzas, but they are very thin crusted (good to know before ordering one). That said, Otto is our favorite casual Italian restaurant in NYC.

                                                1. re: ttoommyy
                                                  j
                                                  jilkat25 RE: ttoommyy Sep 23, 2013 10:48 AM

                                                  Excellent, ttoommyy! I'll wear my crocs! If it turns out to be lunch, that's my new top choice! BTW, I wouldn't actually speak to Mario. I'm too shy and he's too cool.

                                                  1. re: jilkat25
                                                    Monica RE: jilkat25 Sep 23, 2013 10:55 AM

                                                    Haha, this reminds me. I was entering Jean Georges few months ago and saw Jean George standing next to the reception desk which had an entrance to either kitchen or office. I blurted out, Hi to him...he said hi but I think he thought maybe I was one of his employees or someone he knew because he walked right back into his room.

                                                    1. re: Monica
                                                      j
                                                      jilkat25 RE: Monica Sep 23, 2013 01:46 PM

                                                      Haha! Great story! You can legitimately say you "met" him, though!

                                                2. re: jilkat25
                                                  sgordon RE: jilkat25 Sep 23, 2013 01:42 PM

                                                  I'm pretty sure all pastas are made in house - that could have been something from a long time ago when they first opened. Some parts of their website haven't been updated in forever. If I recall in Frank Bruni's last NYT review he said something about all pastas being made in house.

                                                  They import the flour, I'm sure, but I don't think I've ever had a pasta course there made with dried pasta.

                                                  1. re: sgordon
                                                    j
                                                    jilkat25 RE: sgordon Sep 23, 2013 01:50 PM

                                                    Hi, sgordon! I actually thought that while I was reading the piece on the Babbo website. I couldn't imagine all their pastas being dried even if they were the "best" imports as described. I mean, even the mom and pop pasta houses up the street roll their own.

                                                    1. re: jilkat25
                                                      ttoommyy RE: jilkat25 Sep 23, 2013 01:55 PM

                                                      But using dried pasta is not a bad thing. They are two different animals. Dried pasta is not the inferior version of handmade pasta. If you like a good al dente pasta, then you have to used dried. You will not get an al dente pasta from a handmade pasta.

                                                      1. re: ttoommyy
                                                        j
                                                        jilkat25 RE: ttoommyy Sep 23, 2013 02:28 PM

                                                        I agree, ttoommyy, just trying to get an idea of who does what. I made some great malfalda this weekend that I had picked up at Eataly last year (I had been saving it until I had my ticket booked to go back to New York.) My favorite pastas are the wide flat noodles like quadrucci (?) or what I call handkerchief pasta, sort of "rough cut" wide noodles.There's probably a better name for them that I don't know. Pappardelle is a good substitute for me usually. That is what I'll be looking for on any menu I happen to order from. I think Babbo has one with seafood, if I recall correctly, and I have seen some yummy-sounding ones with braised short-ribs and things on other menus. I don't care if it's dried or fresh, I like it all :).

                                                  2. re: jilkat25
                                                    s
                                                    stuartlafonda RE: jilkat25 Sep 23, 2013 02:22 PM

                                                    I vote Babbo, a place I go about two or three times a year and always enjoy. Delicious food, generous portions (on most items) and good prices for the quality of product and skill of execution. When I was there last November I walked in and there was Joe Bastianch arms folded, scowl on his face looking the place over. I actually spoke to him for a few minutes and he was very pleasant. I really enjoyed Marea, and Perla is excellent but I'd go Babbo, and if a reservation is a problem, do lunch.

                                          2. re: Ziggy41
                                            j
                                            jilkat25 RE: Ziggy41 Sep 23, 2013 12:38 AM

                                            I've heard Maialino is wonderful! Definitely on my short list! Thanks!

                                          3. j
                                            jilkat25 RE: jilkat25 Sep 22, 2013 08:47 PM

                                            Oh, thanks, Guys!! I didn't think my question had posted since I've been having computer issues all weekend (still am!) I'll read your responses now! Y'all are great!!

                                            1. j
                                              jilkat25 RE: jilkat25 Sep 22, 2013 09:22 PM

                                              As I start reading, I can already see there are issues with the post. I'm not sure what is happening but it looks like my original post didn't route right from my awful computer. Honestly, I thought my question had just vanished and not made it onto Chowhound at all. Sorry for the confusion!

                                              Yes, my question is from last Friday (not 2006) and was about where to get a great Italian meal in Manhattan with my son (30.) We're staying at the Hilton near 53rd and 6th Avenue. I'm looking for a dinner meal, mostly because I expect we'll be really stuffed afterward and will just want to call it a day at that point. As far as budget, well, I'm not going to worry about it too much since Dad is treating us and I know he's ok within reality (including wine, tips maybe $500 max) but obviously $200 for the two of us is more reasonable. After all, it is a "once in a lifetime" thing. If we found a $50 meal that blew us away, that would be great! I'm considering Babbo, Del Posto, Marea, Scalini Fedeli, Locanda Verde,Torrisi and Carbone, but it doesn't have to be in that realm. I'm kinda leaning toward Babbo (after I had promised myself last year I would make it to Del Posto next time I was in New York.) Babbo sounds like our kind of place (do they still play Led Zeppelin in the background?) but, I'm a bit more of a "foodie" than my son, so he might just like a giant noodle-fest: pasta in red sauce, salad, bread, "cheap" wine, etc., but of a better quality than Ma's kitchen (Carbone?)...I'm open to all options. He said to me tonight the same thing I was thinking which was "I don't think I've ever had that amazing Italian meal of my dreams."

                                              I hate that I have to wait to try to get a reservation until I'm within the 30-days-out window at both Babbo and Del Posto.

                                              1. j
                                                jilkat25 RE: jilkat25 Sep 23, 2013 01:59 AM

                                                Thank you, Everyone!

                                                1. mrbigshotno.1 RE: jilkat25 Sep 23, 2013 04:29 AM

                                                  For me, Sophia Loren around 1970 would have been a great Italian experience!

                                                  7 Replies
                                                  1. re: mrbigshotno.1
                                                    j
                                                    jilkat25 RE: mrbigshotno.1 Sep 23, 2013 08:44 PM

                                                    Ya, my husband (mrbigshotno.2) would have agreed at the time. Then he met me and forgot all about Sophia. :)

                                                    1. re: jilkat25
                                                      ttoommyy RE: jilkat25 Sep 24, 2013 03:46 AM

                                                      Sorry. Once she gets a hold on you, men can never forget Sophia!

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                                                        jilkat25 RE: ttoommyy Sep 24, 2013 04:38 AM

                                                        You're right, of course. I still hear him sigh whenever she graces the tv screen.

                                                        1. re: jilkat25
                                                          ttoommyy RE: jilkat25 Sep 24, 2013 06:57 AM

                                                          I'm gay... and she even fills my cannelloni!
                                                          OK, that was a bit graphic, but you get it. She was also my mother's favorite actress, so that plays on my heartstrings as well.

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                                                            jilkat25 RE: ttoommyy Sep 24, 2013 07:52 AM

                                                            That's great! I'm not and I think she's pretty spectacular!

                                                    2. re: mrbigshotno.1
                                                      mrbigshotno.1 RE: mrbigshotno.1 Sep 29, 2013 01:00 PM

                                                      Couldn't help it.

                                                      http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-4-ug1-E-ro4...

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                                                        jilkat25 RE: mrbigshotno.1 Oct 2, 2013 10:49 AM

                                                        mrbigshotno.1 OMGLOLOL!! What a babe! The pit-hair adds to her Old World elegance, n'est-ce pas?

                                                    3. b
                                                      bronwen RE: jilkat25 Sep 23, 2013 07:53 AM

                                                      Il Mulino is spectacular, but it's pretty expensive.

                                                      4 Replies
                                                      1. re: bronwen
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                                                        jilkat25 RE: bronwen Sep 23, 2013 10:52 AM

                                                        Thanks, bronwen. Is the Uptown location as good as the Greenwich Village one? The one on East 60th isn't far from our hotel. I hear reservations are hard to come by at Il Mulino.

                                                        1. re: bronwen
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                                                          stuartlafonda RE: bronwen Sep 23, 2013 02:45 PM

                                                          I will beg to differ. Il Miulino has not been spectacular in 20 years, if ever. Now, it is nothing more than an expensive chain restaurant. The original was famous for one thing, the waiter orally reciting the specials and not mentioning that some were triple the typical entree price. It is where I learned not to be embarrassed to ask the price of a special. Not to mention the original was one windowless (if I remember correctly)unattractive tiny room with the people from the bar being forced to wait beyond their reservation time practically being in the lap of the people at the closeest table, mine one time!

                                                          1. re: stuartlafonda
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                                                            Sneakeater RE: stuartlafonda Sep 23, 2013 03:03 PM

                                                            It has a window -- but they keep the blinds closed.

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                                                              foodwhisperer RE: stuartlafonda Sep 23, 2013 04:58 PM

                                                              il Mulino had been sold. The original owner opened a place on 20th St, il Mulino Trattoria, I really have to try it. He (Gino)made Il Mulino great.

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                                                            jilkat25 RE: jilkat25 Oct 4, 2013 06:59 PM

                                                            Hi, All! By some stroke of luck and timing I managed to get a 7:30 rez at Babbo! We may still walk around Little Italy at some point and eat snacks and pastries, but our big Italian night will be Babbo! Thanks for all the outstanding suggestions! If we find ourselves still craving good ol' pasta and red, I'll re-read the notes I've taken from all your recommendations! Cheers!

                                                            3 Replies
                                                            1. re: jilkat25
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                                                              kathryn RE: jilkat25 Oct 4, 2013 07:21 PM

                                                              Our favorite Babbo dishes:

                                                              Grilled octopus
                                                              Warm Lamb's tongue
                                                              Warm Tripe
                                                              Crispy Pig's foot

                                                              Mint Love Letters
                                                              Goose Liver Ravioli

                                                              Duck
                                                              Rabbit
                                                              Lamb chops
                                                              Sweetbreads
                                                              Pork chop

                                                              Seasonal crostata
                                                              Gelati assortment
                                                              Semifreddo

                                                              I'd advise 2 apps, 2 pastas, 1 main to be shared, and room for dessert, for a party of two.

                                                              1. re: jilkat25
                                                                sgordon RE: jilkat25 Oct 4, 2013 10:57 PM

                                                                Great luck! Funny, I have a 7:30 rez myself coming up for a Saturday night. Took 29 redials to get through.

                                                                Kathryn's suggestions are good - the octopus and lamb's tongue are standout apps, and I'm pretty fond of the testa as well. I do like the tripe, but it's basically a sauce with a big hunk of bread. I also like the sardines, but it's fairly small - sometimes we might get it as a third app.

                                                                For pastas, the goose liver ravioli is great, but quite decadent. You could split one order as an "intermezzo" course between apps and entrees, it's so rich eating a whole plate of it solo would be a bit much. I also like the beef cheek ravioli and the goat cheese tortellini quite a bit.

                                                                For entrees, I love the sweetbreads and rabbit, lamb is always great. See what specials they have as well, they're often good. One main I'd probably take a pass on is the calamari - it's a pretty straightforward red sauce dish. A good red sauce, but there's more sauce than protein on the plate.

                                                                For dessert, the crostata is fantastic, a must. When we go as a two-top, we tend to order more savories - say, two or three apps, one pasta, two entrees, and just one dessert to split. But that's usually the one.

                                                                1. re: sgordon
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                                                                  jilkat25 RE: sgordon Oct 5, 2013 04:54 AM

                                                                  Great suggestions! I'm definitely planning on getting the octopus with limoncello, the sweetbreads, and possibly the lamb's tongue or the sardines. Might get the pappardelle with wild boar, beef cheek ravioli, or the gnocchi. Or, sharing the goose liver ravioli as an intermezzo would be a good idea. I'll let my son get whatever secondi he wants or override anything I want, and we'll check out the specials. How is the branzino? Guinea hen? I'd like to try the Babbo greens, too. Do they let you get desserts to go? We might take a couple with to eat later when we aren't so stuffed, which I know we will be! One would definitely be the crostata, and although I usually don't care for chocolate, that cake with orange sounds good, not too rich. Or maybe we'll just order some cheese. The trouble is, of course, I want to try everything on the menu!

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                                                                Lamericano RE: jilkat25 Nov 16, 2013 05:34 AM

                                                                I realize this thread died a few weeks ago, but reading through, I see Scalini Fedeli mentioned.
                                                                I ate there a few nights ago with some couples/friends after hearing about it for years and I have to say, we just had no idea what to make of it.
                                                                The food was amateur. The service was attentive but silly, with a waiter who felt it was his job to entertain our table, an Eastern European staff pretending to be Italian exclaiming "Bravo!" whenever we asked for something, a hostess in the worst 1980s Sergio Valente knockoff jeans with stringy, dirty hair and bad makeup (Honestly, we thought she wandered in off the street to use the bathroom until we realized she was the hostess. The rest of the staff wears dark suits), everything we ordered came with a slightly different version of the same light brown sauce: light brown sauce with a little cream; light brown sauce with a little spice; sweet light brown sauce; salty light brown sauce, etc. Everything on the table had this sauce on the dish.

                                                                Nothing was any good by today's standards of Italian food and it was expensive at over $900 for the 6 of us.

                                                                The place was packed and it gets rave reviews all over Yelp and Zagats, so evidently it has its crowd.

                                                                It's a huge mistake to put this place in the same category as Locanda Verde, Lupa, Morini, etc.

                                                                It's basically a Little Italy restaurant in a nicer setting in TriBeCa.

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: Lamericano
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                                                                  Sneakeater RE: Lamericano Nov 16, 2013 07:43 PM

                                                                  I sometimes get the feeling that this kind of bad throwback is what people are looking for when they ask for "authentic" Italian restaurants. (Not jilkat, apparently.)

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