Bronx favorite Roberto’s has been around for more than two decades, serving chef Roberto Pacuillo’s Italian American cooking. Any of the cartoccio pastas — cooked in foil on the grill — are worth ordering, like a fusilli with clams, mussels, shrimp, and tomatoes. Rabbit, too, is another specialty of the chef’s. But when visiting the romantic and old-school space, be sure to check the chalkboard of specials, which tend to best anything on the regular menu.
The spot sports a fashionably cookie-cutter decor—exposed brick, globe lights, hulking marble bar, you know the drill—but the true draw to the space is the talented Ignacio Mattos, the imaginative Uruguayan-born chef cooking in this Mediterranean-tinged spot. Simple, yet thoughtful fare perfect for a stunning meal any night of the week
You're back in that one Paris café you particularly loved, right down to the tiny tables, soft lighting, and rare mix of rare, half-and-half mix of tourists and locals. Go for hearty mains like gigot d'agneau (leg of lamb) or one of the croque monsieurs, and maybe skip the buzzed-about chocolate mousse—it was lackluster on a recent visit—in favor of sweet tarte tatin. Chef-owner Jody Williams takes a lot of pride in her list: go for rosé with friends over brunch or open a well-priced bottle of something from the Loire Valley to sip with charcuterie in the evening.
Piccola Cucina Osteria
The restaurant itself is in a confined space, so you will likely end up sitting directly beside another table. As a result the restaurant can be a bit loud as it is a tight space with music, and other peoples conversations nearby. However, this is part of the atmosphere. The food is also excellent. In particular the reinvented aubergine parmigiana is fantastic, and is an interesting take on a classic. Beyond that, the rest of the menu, along with the staff and the setting, provide a memorable and authentic Italian experience.
Red Hook Tavern
This would be the perfect place to pop in for drinks and snacks if seats were a little easier to come by. Red Hook Tavern has been hopping since day one (on a recent visit, the wait for two seats at the bar was nearly an hour) with no signs of slowing. Why does a place with every outward appearance of being a casual neighboorhood joint have folks flocking just to put their names in when it opens at 5pm? It’s from the team behind nearby perennial favorite Hometown Bar-B-Que.
Boucherie Union Square
This place was extremely noisy on a Friday night. There's a little bit of very low bass guitar music that serves only to bring up the volume of the talking. To carry on a conversation at the table, we resorted to texting. The table was small, but normal for NYC. The mussels were also small and should have worked out more. Duck confit was average. However, the salmon was very good. Overall, if you order the right thing, it can be very good. There are better French restaurants in Manhattan though, and ones with a more relaxing atmosphere.