I had lunch recently at two midtown Italian places: Bice and Artusi.
Bice was very much as I expected. I had veal and spinach ravioli with mushroom sauce, and a dessert of spumoncino (like a rum raisin custard) with banana ice cream. Both were good, but unremarkable. The ravioli did not have a distinctive taste of veal, and although I believed that they made their own pasta "fresh daily" (we were somewhat suspicious of those 4 or 5 pastas on the menu that didn't have this claim) they didn't have that "homemade" taste or texture. The dessert was a very interesting combination of flavors, but the ice cream was not great and I wasn't a huge fan of the custard's texture. (Maybe a semifreddo? Like frozen cool whip, only without the plastic feeling or taste). The pasta was very expensive for what it was (almost every pasta was over $20). The room was nice, but the service was not very good -- I can't put my finger on why, but I didn't feel like a valued customer.
Artusi, on the other hand, was excellent. It was in the same vein -- a midtown expense account place, but the service was gracious, and the food was excellent. I had an arugula salad with red onions, and my only complaint was that they could have used more mature arugula -- I like that bite that older arugula has, and the baby can be a little mild. My gnocchi in gorgonzola cream sauce was heavenly, though --- tender fluffy pillows that melt in the mouth. This tasted like homemade pasta. For dessert, I had a coconut panna cotta with chocolate sauce. I have never had panna cotta before, so I can't comment on it's authenticity, but it was delicious and I loved the texture --firmer than jell-o, but amazingly smooth and creamy. It was around the same prices as Bice (maybe a little less expensive, and the antipasti were less expensive) but overall much better, especially when you factor in service.
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