This can't really be the place several Chowhounds have given such high praise to. It can't be.
The place was cozy (snug) enough for our intentions...which was to get together with 4 of my wife's college friends for our annual Christmas/New Years get-together. It fulfilled the requirements: Italian, cheap and near Rockefeller Center. So that was good.
The food, on the other hand, was ok. Anyone could cook the same meals better at home.
The calamari was pretty atrocious, and no doubt the "frozen in a bag" variety. The marinara was weak but passable.
The Mozzarella en Carozza was pretty darn good but didn't come with any marinara. The Caesar salad was very good with not so subtle flavors of anchovy. Gnocchi looked okay. Chicken Parm was average (very salty) for one of these joints.
Service was weak. We let them know that we were in no rush, i.e., not the Theater-going crowd, which the most-likely stoned maitre d' was happy to hear.
We were given our salads and entrees about 60 seconds apart, which clearly there was no room for both on the table...so...the server (not the waiter) literally put our appetizers on top of our salads. Unbelievable. Unacceptable. Inexcusable. We were literally holding our plates while eating off of another. He quickly ran off not to be seen for quite awhile.
Eventually we got them to take away our dishes and things were fine. Our entrees then took quite some time to get to us. But when they did, things worked out fine.
Dessert was disappointing. The cheesecake looked delicious, but upon tasting, it was the traditional italian ricotta variety, which can be good, I just found it to be very dry.
Overall it met our requirements for the dinner. But I'd be hard pressed to ever go back there unless I was living out of town and came in to see the tree/a play with my (future) kids.
Note: It is very child-friendly. I see why the place is jam packed. Its non threatening for non-foodies, out of towners, parents with kids and budget conscious folks.
Oh...and the Jack Daniels and Cokes (were perfect).