Recently returned from a 2 1/2 week stay on the UWS.The restaurants reviewed here were all new to us as my wife and I had not been to NYC for about 5 years. We did go to a number of our long time favorites which I will not review here other than to say that we noticed a definite change in the ages of the waitstaff. All the older staff has been replaced with young faces, the inevitability of change.
Eataly: We heeded the warning of potentially large crowds and went for lunch on a weekday, arriving at opening time to look around the entire store first. At about 11:30 we went to be seated and since only a few tables taken we were seated immediately. I expected good food and was not disappointed. We had a pizza first and then one of the specials of the day, tagliatelli made with squid ink and containing calamari and mixed seafood. Both were outstanding, done to perfection. By the time we had finished the restaurant was full and there was a long line waiting for a table. The entire store was also crowded.
Salumeria Rossi: We took a friend to dinner and enjoyed it very much. Excellent ingredients and ample portions served in the style of tapas. The half portion of meats was enough for the three of us and the brussel sprouts were great.
Fratelli la Bufala, Broadway & 76th: Relatively new, having opened a few weeks ago. we ordered a pizza which was very good and a bowl of the Zuppe Di Fave E Formaggio Di Bufala. This was really good but was a small portion for the price. They are still experiencing problems with the service. Some of the staff seems to have no clue that they should be working instead of standing around.
Don Antonio, 309 W 50th St Btwn 8th & 9th Ave: This was the worst place where we have eaten in a long time. We got there for lunch around noon and there were only 2 other tables taken at that time. I ordered a pizza and my wife ordered a panini. Seems simple enough, right? The place started to fill up and finally most tables were taken. After about a half hour I noticed that we were the only table that had no food. Upon questioning the waiter I was told that there was a problem with our order. It seemed that the cook did not know how to make the panini and someone from the outside had to be reached to tell him how to do it. The waiter then brought the pizza which we intended to share. It arrived a soggy mess, wet all the way to the outer crust. Too much sauce on tissue paper thin crust that was lacking in flavor and crispness. Before you tell me that the crust is thin in Napoli be aware that we have been to Napoli numerous times and know what the pizza there is like. Finally the panini arrived and as my wife cut into it one end collapes as it has no filling for one-third of the panini. She opened it up and the filling is not what she ordered. Now I asked to speak to the manager on duty and he told my wife that is the way they make it. I thought blood was going to shoot from her eyes and she told him in no uncertain terms that he has insulted her. They took the panini off the bill and it was returned uneaten. During our visit two other tables had complaints and sent food back. If the cook does not know how to make the menu items why is he cooking? This is ultimately a problem with management and must be resolved if this place intends to survive. As for now I think Don Antonio is over-hyped and I suggest you stay away.
Saravanaa Bhavan, Amsterdam between 79th & 80th: On previous trips we have enjoyed the food at their original location on Lexington and found the location on Amsterdam to be a welcome addition to the UWS.
Europan Bakery & Cafe, Broadway & 78th: Very good baked goods and sandwiches. Worth a try if you need something quick and simple.
Celeste, 502 Amsterdam between 84th & 85th: This was the gem of the visit. We found it on a walk along Amsterdam one evening. Curiosity was piqued when we saw the large group of people outside waiting for a table. I got a card and investigated on line for reviews. We returned the next evening early as suggested and got a table right away. The place filled up quickly. We both liked our dinners so much that we returned two other evenings, something we never do in a city with so many places to try. One of the dinners my wife had was grilled lamb chops which were tender and tasteful. I liked the pastas so much that I didn’t get a chance to try the pizza but it looked like it was done right. Prices are reasonable and service fine. I had an enjoyable conversation with the owner whom I found to be pleasant and humorous. Be prepared to do things his way. Cash only, no reservations. Go before 7 unless you are willing to wait.