Someone -- and the search function is failing me today, so my apologies for not giving credit where it's due -- pointed me to Roberto Passon when I enquired about a place in Midtown West to host a mid-priced business lunch.
Well, mysterious New York chowhound, thank you -- it was delicious.
Would that we had places in Orange County where one could have a three-course Italian lunch for $13!
I entertained a group of 8 and the food was excellent. I did put a word in the server's ear about time limitation, because one of the 8 had mentioned that a previous lunch there had been slow as molasses uphill in January, but we were in and out in an hour and a quarter (including time for stragglers to show up from Times Square).
A few people had the Caesar salad and pronounced it very good (though nobody wanted the anchovy fillet -- and only a strict sense of decorum kept me from plucking it right off their plates). A few people had the rigatoni with sausage, which had a light cream sauce that actually stuck to the pasta (so many places, it's either lumpy and heavy, or it pools in the bottom in a useless mass).
Me, I had the octopus with white beans, which was astoundingly good -- the octopus was the most tender I've ever eaten, and being part Italian, I have eaten a LOT of octopus. Everybody else was astonished ("you're eating what??") but it disappeared in short order.
For mains, one person had chicken saltimbocca, several of us had planked salmon with garlic spinach and onion confit, and a few others had an Angus steak, all delicious. The salmon was a little greasy -- that's my only complaint.
Desserts -- a tiramisu that looked light and fluffy, a citrus panna cotta that I wish I'd ordered, and a couple of cheesecakes, but most of us had creme brulee that was delicious -- and a very large serving.
We didn't drink (can't drink on the company dime, alas), so the bill for 8 of us, after iced teas and sodas and coffees came to $122 plus tax and tip.
Service was very nice -- as I said, I hinted at the need to be out of the restaurant by 1:30 and they took the hint. Service wasn't rushed, nor did I have to flail around trying to get anyone's attention. The only two minor niggly points I'll raise are that I hate it when staff sit in the dining room and do things like peel vegetables or roll napkins, and our server was a little hard to understand -- a thick Eastern European accent. Since she didn't need to recite any specials, this wasn't so bad.
Oddly -- and if you read my post on the Tristate board about my weekend in Tarrytown, you'll see that this wasn't the only place for this to happen -- the restaurant was absolutely, 100% devoid of other customers until about 1:15, when another table straggled in. I know it was Monday, but it's on a busy corner in Midtown. I just don't get it... the food is good enough on its own to draw people in, and the prix-fixe price for a three-course lunch ought to have the phones ringing off the hook for tables.
So, to the still-anonymous benefactor (FIX THAT SEARCH, ARGH!), thank you -- as they say in Lutheran church newsletters, "a good time was had by all".
741 9th Avenue, New York, NY 10019