To begin, let's look at 44th Street between Broadway and Eighth Avenue. On this street, there are five theatres, The Shubert featuring Chicago, The Helen Hayes featuring The Last Night of Ballyhoo, The Majestic featuring The Phantom of the Opera, The St. James featuring High Society, and The Broadhurst with The Judas Kiss.
With tickets in hand to one of these shows, what's on West 44th to appeal to your hunger, thirst and pocketbook?
The best choices... Seafood Tasting: Blue Point and Malpeque oysters, jumbo shrimp, lobster medallions, top neck clams and Maryland lump crab meat served on shaved ice with cocktail sauce, horseradish, lemon and oyster crackers is $13.50 at lunch and $15 at dinner. It's a winner and easily enough for two. For main course or appetizer, pick Sardi's famous cannelloni au gratin, a combination of beef, chicken and sweet pork sausage rolled in a French crepe with a Sherry-flavored tomato cream meat sauce...delicious! The spinach cannelloni au gratin with spinach and ricotta cheese filling rolled into a French crepe with supreme sauce is great, too. Both are $24 as a main course and $12 as an appetizer. Just want a salad? The appetizing Cobb salad (available only at lunch), with all manner of mouthwatering chopped ingredients, is your best bet.
For dessert, order the profiteroles filled with vanilla ice cream, topped with an intense chocolate fudge sauce and finished with a shower of slivered toasted almonds. Prices are a little high at dinner. Service is excellent. ($$$)
Be prepared! The portions are gigantic. You're advised to share them. It's the "family style" approach. Order a hefty cocktail ($7) or wine, and immediately a big basket of hearty breads appears - crusty peasant bread, two kinds of foccacia, rye, sesame sticks; you get the idea.
For an appetizer, you'll love the fried calamari with marinara sauce. The highly mounded platterful will easily serve 6 people! You can't go wrong with the eggplant parmigiana, ample to serve 4 appetizer servings, 2 main dish servings. The dish is a 4-inch high layering of the thinnest, tenderest slices of eggplant that you've ever encountered, in a light egg batter, covered with savory tomato sauce and topped with mozzarella cheese. The lasagna, too, is a memorable, delicious dish. Don't miss the beautiful, healthy salads, including the winning Caesar. Wines are reasonable - buying a bottle, of course, is cheaper than buying by the glass.
Dessert? Certainly! Either the creamy tiramisu, presented in its own serving bowl, or the chocolate coated cannoli would be my choice.
Carmine's is open all day, everyday. An impressive bar is ready when you want to meet friends. Reservations are suggested for group dining. ($$)
John's is the place for great pizza. It's made before your eyes at two open, wood-burning pizza ovens in the dining room. You can have the basic Margherita pizza with mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce for $10 small, $11.50 large. Add any number of pizza toppings for an extra charge.
Unique here are the "Pete's-A-Rolls," $7, six to an order. They are little rolled buns made from John's fabulous homemade dough, stuffed to your order, with fresh sausage-spiced with fennel (this sausage is super!); spinach with mozzarella cheese; or peppers, onions and mushrooms with mozzarella cheese. These fun-to-eat little goodies are great with drinks.
Calzone lovers will revel in the giant half-moon pocket of dough stuffed with fresh ricotta and mozzarella cheeses, $12... side of tomato sauce $1.50. It's an excellent dish to share.
This is a spacious, dramatic place... a sleeper on West 44th. John's Pizzeria is open everyday for lunch and dinner, 11:30am-11:30pm. Sunday open at 1 p.m. ($)
Written by Marilyn Hansen with M.J. Boyer
The dollar sign indicates the approximate cost of dining for two persons, excluding beverages, tax and gratuity.