Joe Allen, 326 West 46th Street, (212) 581-6464, is the kind of place you wish was in your own neighborhood. Its big bar, warm brick accents, dark green walls lined with framed theatre posters, and friendly service make everyone feel at home.
The menu here is strictly à la carte; there is no prix fixe dinner. Appetizers range from a mixed bruschetta plate ($7) to buffalo wings with bleu cheese dip ($5.50) and provençal fish soup with grilled garlic bread ($5.50).
Recommended entrees are flavorful meatloaf with mashed potatoes and gravy ($13), grilled mahi mahi with pineapple salsa on sauteed spinach ($17) and vegetable ravioli with julienne vegetables and parmesan ($12). You can get sides of french fries ($3), corn on the cob ($3.50) and sauteed spinach ($3.50). The sauteed spinach is great, fragrant with olive oil and garlic.
Desserts are the kind mother used to make - that is, if she was a good home cook. The hot fudge pudding cake with vanilla ice cream and fudge sauce ($5.50) is delicious and plentiful enough for two; likewise the pear and blueberry cobbler served with a generous dollop of real whipped cream.
Wines are reasonably priced. There is an impressive list of beers available: pilseners, lagers and ales as well as specialty styles. Joe Allen is open every day. Visa and Mastercard only. $$
Hours: Joe Allen is open every day all day. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday 12:00 p.m.-11:45 p.m. Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday: 11:30 a.m.-11:45 p.m.
Sit down in the beamed, brick-walled dining room, and, upon ordering your drink, you will be presented with a big basket of house-made bread, foccacia, breadsticks, and wafer-thin parchment-like bread. A sheer delight!
There is no prix fixe menu; everything is à la carte. Beginning with appetizers, the artichokes cooked in olive oil and garlic ($13) are a signature dish here. They are wonderful as are the grilled mixed vegetables ($11).
From the pasta menu are green lasagne vèrde made with large squares of spinach pasta with a light tomato rosemary sauce ($10) and fettuccine al ragu with tomato and meat sauce ($16).
Entrees include veal scalloppine with Marsala ($21), pollo Lattanzi which is a half chicken with rosemary, garlic ($17) and fish of the day ($23).
Typical Italian desserts are available, such as strawberries with zabalione ($8) and a memorable house-made classic Napoleon ($8).
After 8:00 p.m., a traditional Roman Jewish menu is available in addition to the regular menu. This historically-themed menu offers braised beef shank with polenta ($24), grilled lamb chops with rosemary garlic ($27) and filet of sole with endive and vinegar ($23).
Extensive wine list with an in-depth Italian selection. Service bar.
Lattanzi is closed Sunday. Lunch: Monday-Friday, 12:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Dinner Monday - Friday: 5:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m. Dinner 4:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m. on Saturday. American Express. $$$
Hours: Lattanzi: Lunch: Monday-Friday, 12:00 p.m.-2:30 p.m. Dinner: Monday-Friday 5:00 p.m.-12 a.m. Dinner Saturday: 4:00 p.m.-12:00 a.m. Closed Sunday.
Les Sans Culottes West, 347 West 46th Street, (212) 247-4284, is a cozy, colorful casual French restaurant decorated with vintage French travel posters that serves all of the familiar bistro favorites. On the $19.95 prix fixe dinner menu, the signature Sans Culottes hearty appetizer of a big basket of fresh vegetables, a stand of varied country sausages, a flavorful chef's paté and crusty bread will quickly assuage your hunger. You'll have a great time cutting, slicing and eating.
Entrees range from grilled baby rack of lamb, shell steak grilled in red wine sauce, sea scallops with lobster sauce and grilled salmon with basil sauce. Desserts are included on the prix fixe menu; try the smooth chocolate mousse, crème brûlée or refreshing fresh fruit salad. There is a good selection of reasonably priced wines. Service is congenial and prompt.
First courses such as coquille St. Jacques, a generous portion with a memorable sauce, snails in garlic butter, or onion quiche are $4.95 extra.
Hours: Les Sans Culottes West is open 7 every day. Lunch: 11:45 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Dinner: 4:45 p.m.-11:45 p.m.
ORSO, 322 West 46th Street, (212) 489-7212, is a refined rustic, Tuscan-inspired Italian restaurant with pale gold stucco walls and pale olive woodwork. There is an open kitchen in the rear and a skylight over the back dining room. After ordering your drink, a hard-crusted loaf and a bowl of soft white bean puree flavored with olive oil and garlic is placed before you.
The menu changes every day and is the same at lunch and dinner. Every item is à la carte; there is no prix fixe. To begin, there is always a soup of the day ($6.50). The small pizzas ($12.50) are delicious, with thin, crisp crusts, enough for one person as a main dish, ample for two as an appetizer. The Orso pizza is made with spicy Italian sausage, tomato and smoked mozzarella - great! Pasta offerings range from quill-shaped pasta with chicken, grilled leeks, fontina cheese and cream ($19.50) to thin noodles with prosciutto, zucchini, basil, tomato sauce and mozzarella ($16.50). A risotto and a gnocchi selection are on the menu every day at $17.50 and $16.50, respectively.
Entrees range from the Orso signature dish of sliced pan fried calf's liver with artichoke, onions, sage and balsamic vinegar ($18.50) to grilled vegetable plate with portobello mushrooms ($18.50) and grilled cornish hen with pancetta, roast hazelnuts and gorgonzola polenta ($18.50). Side dishes are available: white beans with rosemary and garlic oil ($4) or sauteed broccoli rabe with garlic oil ($4). Choose a dessert from fresh fruit ($5), coffee gelato, ($4.50), tiramisu, ($5.50), or chocolate pistachio and anise almond biscuits with dessert wine ($6.50).
Hours: Orso is open every day all day.Lunch: 12:00 p.m. through dinner, ending at 11:00 p.m. Call for dinner reservations one week in advance.
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.