Written by Hulda Lawrence
5 Napkin Burger at 630 Ninth Avenue, on the corner of 45th Street, (212) 757-2277, is the newly installed restaurant where once Jezebel was. From its name, this large place with windows all around is emphasizing its burgers, but they are only a part of the menu. It is informal with lots of space between tables and a nice sense of informality. There are huge meat hooks hanging from the ceiling, the noise level is on the high side, and the many wines and beers by the glass as well as a long list of bourbons predict a happy time.
We began with a Berry Cosmo for me and a Frozen Strawberry Mojito for my companion. As we enjoyed them, Robert Guardino, the in-change partner, came by and insisted we try the Tennessee Tea of Jack Daniels, vermouth and homemade ginger ale and The French Quarter of Jim Beam, cointreau, lemon and bitters. With the burgers we sipped 5 napkin draft beer as called "Nut Brown Ale" and it was very good. There are many draft and bottled beers and ales with wine by the glass from $7; beers start at $5.50.
Of course, we had to have the signature 5 Napkin Burger which was embellished with cheese, carmelized onions and rosemary aioli on a soft white roll and served with delicious salted French fries which stayed warm throughout. The burgers come in many varieties, like Lamb Kofta, Cheddar-Bacon, Ahi Tuna and Veggie Burger from $9.95; the 5 Napkin Burger is $13.75.
Salads include Szechuan Chicken, Chipotle Beef and a 5 napkin with Beef.
For our starter, we chose Crab Louis with Crackers and Cucumbers ($12.75) and found it fine. There are Chicken Noodle and Matzo Ball soups; Warm Artichoke & Mozzarella Dip; Hand Cut Pork Chili, Fresh Oysters and BLT Salad. We shared Sushi Maki of Shrimp Tempura at $13.95 and Lobster Roll Sliders at $19.75 as entrees. Both were great. Other entrees are Chicken Pazanella, Barbecued Baby Back Ribs, Omelette Florentine and Steak Diane from $11.50.
Desserts are very tempting and we selected a delicious 7 Layer Blackout Cake and Espresso Brownie Sundae. New York Style Cheesecake and Blueberry Pie are other desserts. All desserts are $7. There are shakes and floats with such delights as Black & White Malted, Piña Colada, Root Beer Float and Dark & Stormy Float (rum raisin Ice Cream and Saranac Ginger). Floats start at $5.50.
The restaurant is open every day, Monday through Sunday. The dinner menu is similar to the lunch menu with the addition of a raw bar.
Giovanni Ristorante at 47 West 55th Street, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, (212) 262-2828, has been attracting discriminating diners or 15 years. New chef Patrick Nuti from Firenze has added his particular touches to a menu of considerable variety, with 500 bottles of wine which can be paired with his food.
When we visited the restaurant recently it was good to realize that there was plenty of room between the tables and the bar was through an archway where imbibers could eat and sip while sitting on comfortable chairs with backs. We began with cocktailsa Negroni for my companion and a Cosmopolitan with Grey Goose vodka for me. Chef Nuti brought us tastes of several appetizers. Delicious was fresh Mozzarella alla Caprese with the freshest of tomatoes and fresh basil. We sampled Bresaola con Patate Bottite, Prezzemolo e olio Tartufato (the traditional cured beef from the Trentino area) and an exceptional Butternut Squash Soup with Amaretti Cookies and Carmelized Balsamic Vinegar. The soup was served in a small pumpkin. Other appetizers include Carpaccio, Wild Mushrooms sautéed over soft polenta and pecorino cheese, and Steamed Mussels with chardonnay and sun dried tomatoes. The antipasti start at $10.50 for the soup to $17.75 for Caesar Salad with grilled chicken.
If salad is your preference there are several from which to choose. Tricolore combines rucola, endive and radicchio with lemon vinaigrette. There is also Frisee with gorgonzola, speck and balsamic vinaigrette, House Salad with organic mesclun greens and balsamic vinegar; and another of watercress, goat cheese and sun dried tomatoes in a garlic vinaigrette. Salads are $9.50 each.
For our entrees we shared Scaloppine di itello al Pinot Grigio and Risotto al Funghi e Tartufo. The risotto was delicious and the veal was tender and tasty. Other entrees include Prime Sirloin with fresh thyme; Sea Bass in a light broth of wine, lemon and tomato; Pistachio crusted Salmon with soft polenta; organic Breast of Chicken with sage; and an exceptional group of pasta dishes from ravioli to tagliolini with wild boar and tagliatelle alle Bolognese. $17.75 to $29 for the risotto.
Our wine was Morellino, an excellent red wine from Tuscany. With a cellar of 500 wines it is best to have your waiter suggest which wines to order and what is available by the glass.
There is a prix fixe three-course lunch and pre-theatre dinner from 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. with a light entrée of filet of sea bass in a cherry tomato sauce.
Upstairs at Giovanni there are two party rooms. The Card Room serves up to 70 people and the Club Room accommodates 30 people.
Hours: Daily from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.
The dollar sign indicates the approximate cost of dining for two persons, excluding beverages, tax and gratuity.