food 09.21.09

Neighborhood Faves
Plus: A Request

In this series, MUG looks at neighborhood restaurants that have reliable food, where you don't have to book four-weeks-to-the-day ahead, where they're happy to see you, and where you'll get decent value for your money.

i Trulli, 122 E. 27th [Park/Lex] 212.481.7372
Cuisine: Apulian
Average entree: Pastas, $21; Mains, $30
A fireplace in the winter, a terrace in the summer, the pastas (handmade in house), veggies, olive oil, and wines of the region all make for a delightful, non-standard-issue celebration of Italy.

Blue Smoke, 116 E. 27th [Park/Lex] 212.447.7733
Cuisine: Barbecue
Average entree: $20
NYC Culinary Rule: Danny Meyer restaurants open wobbly. Corollary: It all turns out well. It's been years since Blue Smoke opened (to, putting it mildly, tepid reviews) but it now smokes up some fine barbecue – once you accept that barbecue invariably launches a thousand arguments.

Molly's, 287 3rd [22nd/23rd] 212.889.3361
Cuisine: Pub
Average entree: $16
This 'shebeen' (roughly: speakeasy) boasts a wood-burning fireplace, serves a textbook pint of Guinness, worthy burgers and Shepherd's pie. At peak capacity it can lose some of its charm, but the rest of the time it's the perfect Irish pub.

WEST 90s
Gennaro, 665 Amst [92nd/93rd] 212.665.5348
Cuisine: Italian
Average entree: $15
Yes, it's crowded, they don't take reservations, and it's cash only. But for many years now, first in a teensy room, later expanded, Gennaro has been sending out pastas, and things like lamb shank, of a quality far surpassing its humble origins or its modest prices. We note some grumbling about service and waiters wanting to turn tables, but that's the tradeoff. All in all, an UWS jewel.

Gabriela's, 688 Columbus [93rd/94th] 212.961.9600
Cuisine: Mexican
Average entree: $18
When we first reviewed Gabriela's in 1995, the Yucatan-style rotisserie half chicken (plus two sides, tortillas and salsa) was $4.95, one of the most satisfying budget meals in town. Now, it's $14.95. Ah, well, it's still a fine bird, served with a choice of two moles, plus sides. You can have cochinita pibil (roast pork to you) or hew to the usual suspects: burritos, enchiladas, and fajitas. A robust list of tequilas helps import the Mexican sun.

Tournesol, 50-12 Vernon Blvd. [50th Ave.] 718.472.4355
Cuisine: French
Average entree: $17
Just a guess, but the first thing that comes to your mind when you think Long Island City isn't French cooking. Still, this bistro is a cheery, casual spot with onion soup, escargots, hanger steak, and grilled chicken, comme il faut. Expect crowds. Amex only.

Manducatis, 13-27 Jackson [47th Ave.] 718.729.4602
Cuisine: Italian
Average entree: $18
It's been over 30 years since Vincenzo and Ida Cerbone first opened their eatery – and we're happy to report that the outside is still as unprepossessing as ever, so it always feels like a surprise, or a secret, when you tuck into the robustly flavored pastas and mains like Shrimp alla Ida (a signature dish). The wine list, too has its share of pleasant surprises.

Previous Neighborhood Faves
West 40s, Ft. Greene, W. Village
West 70s, East 70s, Tribeca
Lower East Side, West 100s, Corona
East 40s, Chelsea, Brooklyn Heights

A Request
Somehow, five years have gone by since our roundup of good house painters and it's time to freshen things up. This is an area where we could really use your help: if you have someone you'd like to recommend let us know with a few words about why you liked their work/service/price etc. Thank you!

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