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THE BEST: Low-priced Italian restaurant, Manhattan


phaelon56
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Intrepid eGulleteer Daniel recently undertook a trip to the Olive Garden restaurant in in Times Square. His meal report (scroll to page 5 of the thread to see the actual review and pictures) indicates that the food ain't so great and is not exactly cheap.

Times Square Olive Garden

The price range I'm interested in discussing to is not places that are perhaps a trifle cheaper than Babbo or Lupa. I'm talking about a ravioli entree that's $10 - $12... salads that are $4 - $7... spaghetti and meatballs for $8 - $11...

My NYC experience in this area is limited but I've always enjoyed my meals at the remarkably low priced

Frutti di Mare

So.... what are your nominations for best low to very moderately priced Italian restaurants in NYC?

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There's a very small place place on 11th Avenue off 65th Street in Brooklyn (Bensonhurst) called Mama Rao's that serves very nice pasta and veal dishes for next to nothing - excellent value for basic Italian-American fare. No relation to the Rao's on Pleasant Avenue, but does get its share of local politicos.

Edited by rich (log)

Rich Schulhoff

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When you consider the value proposition, although it costs a few dollars more than the rock-bottom of the budget Italian restaurant pool, Becco has got to be the best deal going.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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unless you like three kinds of saucy pastas dumped onto a single plate, avoid becco's Sinfonia di Pasta, which, loosely translated means "a bunch of saucy pasta dropped onto your plate at once by people who assume you need to rush off to get to a show."

conversely, study the menu for a moment and order something clever from the 25 buck a bottle wine list, and perhaps a long-time-cooked pork product, if they're offering it.

cheap? yes. better than OG? without a doubt. a good experience and great value? usually not so much, unless you order well.

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Monte's in the Village might about fit the bill. Salads for 2 for $9, Spaghetti and Meatballs for $11.50 and Ravioli for $10. Probably a bout a dollar too much on each entree to truely qualify. Only annoying think is that owner is too much into kissing and hugging, even the male patrons. Rocco in the same neighborhood is in a similiar price range and quality.

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Bianca's on Bleecker and 2nd is good and so is Max's. I go to the Max's uptown on 123rd and Amsterdam, not the out on Avenue C, but they're both good.

Pasta dishes are about 10 or so. Entrees a little more. Max's gets crowded. Have the parsley appetizer at Bianca's.

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I like Bianca, but isn't it a good deal more than $30/person?

I went to Max once (East Village location) and was distinctly underwhelmed. Everything was too salty.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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I don't think Bianca runs more than $25 per person - especially if you stick with one of the under $25 bottles of wine offered. Pastas are in the $9 - $12 range...very similar pricing to Celeste.

BTW, it's at #5 Bleecker, just west of the Bowery.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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I agree with Steven that Becco is a great value. But on the low end I would nominate the newly re-opened Foccaciaria, which not inhabits a mexican restaurant on 1st avenue, between 12th and 13th I believe. And of course its twin cousin in Brooklyn, Joe's of Avenue U.

Josh

Mr-Cutlets.com: your source for advice, excerpts, Cutlets news, and links to buy Meat Me in Manhattan: A Carnivore's Guide to New York!
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I would say Lupa (Thompson between Houston and Bleecker, part of Batali et al's empire), which has incredibly low prices for such high quality food. Big salads are 8 or 10 bucks. My favorite pasta (Bavette Cacio e Pepe) is about 11. Good deal.

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I would say Lupa and Becco do not belong in this thread. They are not low priced.

Becco's pasta special is what...$21.95... for three pastas. $22 is not especially cheap. Especially considering Becco usually includes two really cheap simple pastas, and one interesting special filled one like lobster ravioli. It's not a bad deal...because it also includes a nice antipasti as well. It's an okay deal. And the rest of the menu doesn't qualify as being low priced. So unless you all get the pasta special there isn't anything "low" priced. The wine list is very nicely priced as well. But all in all it is not a $10 for a nice plate of ravioli type of joint.

Lupa's pastas are meant as appetizers. If you get a pasta and a main dish you will spend at least $30 and that's without anything to drink. Not low priced in my opinion.

So far, not many reasonable OG alternatives have been mentioned. Was hoping there would be a lot more. I mentioned Trattoria Trecolori on the OG thread because it has the same or lower pricepoint as OGizzal (love that phrase, Daniel).

So where do you get some low-priced, good ravioli?

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Il Corallo Trattoria on Prince Street is pretty solid, and I've never spent more than $25/person on a full meal (wine, dessert and coffee included).

What about Regional (Broadway and 98th)?

"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

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Thinking about Amarone and Via Emilia (or Emiliana: I forget), the thing that springs to mind is that neither is so great that I'd call them "the best" anything. There must be hundreds of similar places in Manhattan that are about as good. But that's kind of the point. In many parts of Manhattan, it's hard to be more than a block away from a decent, cheap Italian place. You could almost walk into them at random and do better than the disgusting glop pictured in Daniel's Olive Garden review.

Edited by Sneakeater (log)
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And here's an RIP for two recently deceased good cheap Italian places in the Garment District: Veronica and the place near the west end of the block between 6th & 7th Aves. on the north side of W. 39th St. which is now a Kosher pizza place.

Edited by Sneakeater (log)
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Becco's "sinfonia di pasta" is $16.95 at lunchtime. That may be a little more -- maybe $2 more? -- than the cost of an antipasto and a pasta entree at a rock-bottom budget Italian restaurant, but at Becco you get a totally superior product: the antipasto is extensive and includes not only fresh mozzarella, high-quality marinated mushrooms and various other cold vegetable items, but also several kinds of cold seafood. For your pasta, you get three house-made fresh pastas, all of which are always several steps up the quality ladder from what you get at cheap Italian restaurants. In addition, the wine list at Becco is cheaper than at even the cheapest restaurants yet better than at restaurants costing three times as much. I often wind up spending less on a meal for four at Becco -- even at dinner when the sinfonia goes up to $21.95 -- than at purportedly cheaper restaurants because when you follow a real-world check-building model you can dine quite well on a restricted budget at Becco: an elaborate appetizer, three pastas, good wine, nice extras like their breadsticks and focaccia with bean puree (no charge), etc. So, yes, I consider it a good-value budget restaurant. I recommend it all the time to people on budgets who want to go out in the theater district and they mostly are very happy with what they get for their money at Becco.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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