December 30, 2008 | Ask Gael

My out-of-town friends seek lunchtime perfection.

Dear Gael,

A longtime friend has asked me for lunch recommendations for herself and three of her friends who refer to their group as “The Theatre Ladies.” These four women have been meeting in New York annually for more than 10 years. Their motivation is: the theatre and the never-ending choice of restaurants.

 Coming from Charleston SC, Cohasset, Massachusetts, Waterford, Connecticut and the DC area, they stay at the Marriott Marquis at Broadway and 46th Street and take their chances on the plays they can see, using the TKTS booth at Times Square. Lady Luck is part of the fun, they say, but not for lunch.

Their deal at the Marriott provides them with a buffet breakfast and an hors d’oeuvre buffet in the late afternoon-early evening. So, they’re on their own for lunch and in need of your suggestions. Although they’re partial to restaurants within walking distance of the hotel, they’re not afraid to hail a taxi.

Your recommendation last year of “Jean-Georges” (which I passed along to them) was such a hit that they hope to reprise it this time and they wait in anticipation for your suggestions for their remaining 4 days.

Love, Naomi

Dear Naomi,

        Everyone who knows it loves chef Michael White’s Convivio in Tudor City for highly original as well as traditional southern Italian food. We order sfizi (little bowls) to share and one of the lush pastas to follow. Lunch Monday thru Friday 12 to 2 p.m.

         A tasting menu at Devi (8 East 18th Street) solves my usual dilemma of what and how to order from the typically dauntingly vast Indian menu of similarly saucey offerings. Here the gifted chefs have it all organized in small portions with unusual chutneys and vegetables dishes and something fabulous from the Tandoori. Lunch Monday to Friday noon to 2.

        I love Harold Moore’s cooking at Commerce (50 Commerce Street) on a charming Village street although the noise can be forbidding. I’ve not yet tasted his brunch but it ought to be good too. Sundays only 11 to 4.

        Choose vegetables or the sensational ferro soup, the braised rib, a small cut of lasagna or any of daily changing Assaggi (Italian for tastes) on chef Cesare Casella’s inexpensive menu at Salumeria Rosi, a fancy grocery at 283 Amsterdam just north of 73rd Street. 212 877 4800. Noon to 3 eight days a week.  Best reserve.

        I love Tom Valenti’s lush American cooking at Oeust on Broadway at 83rd Street.  I have never tasted his Sunday only brunch (11 to 2) but I would bet on it, too. 

        None of these are secret discoveries…so best reserve ahead.

Break an egg,



Patina Restaurant Group