Past Reviews

One thing is certain. When you're going to the theatre, you'll want to eat and drink. Whether meeting someone before curtain for a quick bite, tucking into heartier sustenance, or joining the ebullient after-theatre crowd for a drink, the conviviality of dining is part of the excitement of the Broadway theatre experience.

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?

Sardi's Sardi's, 234 West 44th Street, (212) 221-8440, is the renowned old-timer, now energized by new management and a talented new chef. Stop by for a drink at the cozy bar and spread creamy soft cheddar right from the crock on Ritz crackers. In the deep maroon dining room, with its walls lined with caricatures of leading Broadway stars and notables, sit down and choose from the a la carte menu at lunch or dinner. Actually, Sardi's is open all day - you can come in at any time. Remember, too, you don't have to order a complete meal - just order what you want.

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. ($$$)

Ollie's Hankering for Chinese? Ollie's Noodle Shop Grille is the answer, just steps off Broadway, 200B West 44th Street, (212) 921-5988. A big, noisy place, quiet in the off hours, Ollie's is a good place to meet for a drink. Order a cocktail for only $3.95, Polynesian drinks, wine or beer in the bar or in the two-level dining room. The BBQ spareribs are recommended, and you can jazz them up to your own taste with condiments. The satisfying big noodle bowls are a real value. You can choose your own noodles - imagine that! Try mai fun, chow fun, cellophane noodle, udon noodle, spinach noodle or egg noodle! Noodle bowls range from $5.95 to $7.25. Prices are the same day and night. Not a place for dessert. If you want something sweet, order a Piña Colada! A great place to bring the family or a crowd of hungry teenagers, as the servings are large, and the prices overall are reasonable. ($)

Carmine's When I first went into Carmine's, 200 West 44th Street, (212) 221-3800, I could hardly believe how big the place was and how many people were eating there. It had the atmosphere of a huge party - so many groups of people were enjoying themselves.

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 Getting closer to Eighth Avenue, you might walk right by John's Pizzeria at 260 West 44th Street (212) 391-7560. The entrance is dark and unobtrusive. The bright Broadway memorabilia store, Theatre Circle, is right next door. Step inside and you're in for an architectural treat of soaring space with a rose-stained glass ceiling and balcony. Believe it or not, John's Pizzeria was once a church! At the big curved bar, you'll find a wide selection of beers and microbrews on tap, as well as all your favorite spirits and a well-priced wine list.

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 Restaurant Revue Ratings

The dollar sign indicates the approximate cost of dining for two persons, excluding beverages, tax and gratuity.

$ Inexpensive $25
$$ Moderate $50
$$$ Expensive $100
$$$$ Very Expensive $150

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