Any suggestions on where to have a mid-week dinner on the West Side within a twenty block radius or so of the Museum of Natural History (Central Park West, 77th-80th)? This request is more convenience and location-driven than dining-driven, though I trust no one would ever recommend a bad place to eat.
We will be five or six, ranging in age from 12 to 80. We would like to take our older, but still vigorous hostess, who lives near the Museum, out to dinner. Since one of our other meals during this Manhattan visit will be Jewel Bako, we probably don't need more Oriental, nor will this be a super-splurge.
Given the number and our desire to talk and catch up, a relatively quiet place, where we can hear each other would be ideal. We will probably be grazing rather than having five full multi-course dinners so a place that is casual enough to accommodate that preference would be ideal. We would probably prefer to keep our schedules loose so restaurants that can furnish a table for 5 - 6 around 7 PM and not require the commitment of a reservation would probably be ideal.
Possible cuisines in the neighborhood: Italian, Greek/Turkish, fish, Mediterranean generally, Latino but not Mexican. We are all reasonably omnivorous.
I know there is a somewhat lugubriously formal Italian place that begins with an "S", on 77th. That is not what I have in mind. Two places that have been recommended are Isabella on the corner of 77th & Columbus and Calle Ocho also on Columbus. The Isabella site has a remarkably protean history. Was a Cuban place called Victor's there at one point? I checked out the menu of Isabella and it reminds me a lot of a restaurant at that location from about 15-20 years ago. I don't think it had the same name, but perhaps Isabella has been around that long? Might it be too noisy? I don't know Calle Ocho, at 446 Columbus (at 81st), 212-873-5025, but I suspect it will be too hard-surfaced, brassy and noisy, though around 7 it might not be as bad as later in the evening.
Other suggestions I have found are Flor de Mayo at 82/Amsterdam. Recommended for roast chicken, fried plantains and price.
Can anybody tell me more about Thias, a Greek place on 77th Street just in from Columbus. Is it basically your average Greek or does it have anything unusual?
Another recommendation is Sambuca on 72nd and CPW, Italian. What exactly is the recommended dish, veal sorrentino?