April 1, 2009 | Ask Gael
We want something Special and Italian

New Yorkers love Michael White's rustic cooking at Convivio.  Photo: Steven Richter 
New Yorkers love Michael White's rustic cooking at Convivio.  Photo: Steven Richter

Dear Gael,

It goes without saying that you are our favorite food critic – why else would we be writing to you?

We will be coming to NYC for Easter weekend with a very dear friend whose birthday happens to be on April 12th.

We would love to take her somewhere special that is Italian, but recent reviews have been very confusing.  We have always loved Babbo, had a great dinner last summer at Insieme, and also enjoye L’Impero when Scott Conant was still there.  Alto’s room looks beautiful but Michael White appears to be long-gone and occupied with Marea.

What is best now?

Best regards,

Gloria and Richard Bass, Montreal


Dear Gloria and Richard Bass, 

L'Impero has been redesigned as Convivio with a wonderful new menu by Michael White We have gone back again and again and though the service sometimes seems a little too laidback and whimsical the food is exceptional.  There is a $59 four-course prix fixe that is perfect for a special evening... but we like to order a la carte a few sfizi small dishes for the table to share, then antipasti and pastas. Click here to read my BITE on Convivio.   

Insieme is also a favorite of mine.  I love Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich's Romanesque Lupa more than Babbo though it can be noisy...and Esca, their fish restaurant on 43rd Street just west of Ninth  is wonderful the freshest fish imaginable, inventive cruda, great pastas  We often go before or after the theater.  My guy, the Road Food Warrior, invariably orders the razor clam cruda and Rita's bucatini with baby octopus.     

The two of us live right near Cesare Casella's new Salumeria Rosi, and we go at least once a week if we can snag a table it is tiny and booked a month ahead.  I have had a friend complain about too tiny portions but we share everything small tastes of many things at small prices, especially the vegetables never missing the zuppe di ferro, the lasagna and the bucatini.  This may not be the place for a special celebration but for the two if you one day... maybe lunchtime.  

Have you been to Scott Conant's new Scarpetta on 14th Street?  If you loved his food at L'Impero but will be happy to find many of Scott’s hit parade here.  

Buon appetito,



Patina Restaurant Group

Providing a continuous lifeline to homebound elderly New Yorkers