I've never eaten in Little Italy. I thought the restaurants there were traps for out of towners. And so I was very surprised to have a pleasant lunch at Il Cortile. I went about 2:30 PM, and at that hour what I thought would be a glitzy tourist place was a neighborhood joint -- for a neighborhood I thought had died forty years ago and more. (Until yesterday I thought that "Mean Streets" was, though filmed in Little Italy, really about the Italian neighborhoods of Brooklyn.) My table was near the bar. Next to me, three priests from the church around the corner were enjoying a well deserved lunch after a very busy day. (It was Ash Wednesday.) At the bar, an old guy from the neighborhood was telling the bartender how he'd been cheated out of a few hundred dollars on his insurance. Later a woman wandered in, announced "It's crazy out there today!", greeted the staff, and left.
For lunch at Il Cortile, they have eight pastas at $12 and eight entrees at $ 15. I ordered capellini with shrimp. The waiters were friendly and attentive. First came a huge bread basket, including a hefty tomato foccaccia. Then came the pasta, with a rich pink frothy sauce made with tomato and vodka, topped with basil leaves and five big shrimp. And no, it wasn't the best pasta I've ever eaten. I probably won't go back for dinner, which is double the price. But it was good. And I will go back for lunch. And if you're thinking of finding a better deal in Little Italy.... fuggedaboutit