Review : Raffaele (1055 1ST AVE 56TH/57TH , 212-750-3232)
We had dinner at Raffaele the other day. It's a Southern Italian perhaps Sicilian place on the Upper East Side. Mostly frequented by blue haired older folks in the neighborhood as walk in traffic. It didn't appear that people really used the reservation book much. The interior is kind of campy : black and white tile floors, red walls, and goofy Italianesque paintings on the wall. For some odd reason, there is usually a motorcycle parked outside the restaurants front window, and I suspect it's the owners or something. It really looks dorky there.
Without reservations , we walked in and were seated promptly and there did seem to a constant hubub of traffic. They brought us some bread, which was a nice spectrum of various types of starch. We started with stuffed/fried squash flowers ($12). I'd seen these in a farmers market but had never tried them. Like most cheese filled, breaded and deep fried things, they were tasty but not anything unusual.
Next up was a large plate of squid ink fresh tagliatelle with shrimp and mussels ($19). It was very tasty and filling. The squid ink actually seemed to have a little flavor too, slightly briny. The dish doesn't look so appealing but is worth getting. It was pretty good value too.
Then we had the quail ($27) in a raisin, pinenut, and balsalmic dressing. It was a little fussy, and not that much food, but it was still pretty good. Although they note this on the menu as being boneless...it is chock full of lots of annoying bones. I probably would not get this again, but its good.
The food here is pretty good, and it has a fan base of older couples, but the service is pretty weak. For the price points they charge, there's a case that the front of the house should be able to speak English. And bring the right food that you order. And tell you what the actual prices are on specials. Etc.
I might go back, but there are a lot of good places in the city, and at the $100 a couple price point, there is a lot of competition, and good food is just not enough to get repeat biz.