Where to dine in New York City? Too many choices. My first choice was Felidia, Lidia Bastianich’s flagship restaurant. I was lucky to dine at Felidia and meet Lidia herself at a business meal nearly twenty years ago and I remembered it being outrageously good authentic Italian. But without an expense account this time, I couldn’t get my sweetie to go for this splurge. So I poured over The Michelin Guide to discover Bastianich’s spinoff restaurant, Becco in the theatre district.
The Michelin description that caught my eye was: Becco, a Bastianich-owned (Lidia and son Joseph, judge on MasterChef) restaurant. “Bargain hunters should indulge in the $25 wine selection, $22.95 dinner prix-fixe, or try the sinfonia di pasta, an unlimited amount of the chef’s three daily pastas”. This fed right into my sweetie’s bargain sensiblity and my curiosity about their brilliant marketing strategy. As we passed by theatre stalwarts, Orso and Joe Allen’s, I remembered why I love New York. Great restaurants, one after another are there for the taking, provided your credit card won’t max out. When we walked into Becco, it was crowded at 8:30, long after the theatre crowd had departed. There were several homey rooms that made you feel as though you were dining in Italy. You notice crowded tables and many wine racks lining the walls. As soon as we sat down, we were served a bowl of various kinds of Italian olives, a delicious bean dip and a basket of crusty Italian bread and crispy breadsticks.
The wine menu listed at least 50 bottles of Italian wine, all $25. Wow! I’ve never seen this before! I imagine that Bastianich is importing a lot of Italian wine for all her restaurants, so she can buy a variety of wines at low prices. This results in bargains for her diners and an entire bottle of wine for my budget instead of two $12 glasses of wine. Nice!
I ordered the $22.95 Sinfonia di Pasta which included the Antipasto Misto or a Caesar Salad and was pleasantly surprised. A few minutes later, I was served an antipasto plate that was quite plentiful and high quality. I enjoyed marinated veggies – mushroom, roasted pepper, eggplant, yellow beet, a fresh oven-dried tomato, bocconcini mozzarella, cannellini beans and haricot vert with a horseradish sauce. In two separate bowls I was served marinated octopus with red onion and what I thought was a piece of salt cod known as baccala. Very impressive value for a starter course.
It was wonderful to be serenaded by a continual flow of waiters serving freshly made pasta. Tonight’s offerings were a freshly made spaghetti with a fresh tomato sauce. a mushroom and ricotta ravioli that is made fresh every day and rigatoni in a bolognese sauce. The quality was superb! This is not the fussy plated meal of specialty ingredients I would have eaten at Felidia, but the quality of the fresh and simple ingredients made it a delicious and affordable meal – even in New York City.
I was impressed thinking about how much fresh pasta must be made each day to serve these hungry and plentiful diners. The waiter told me that the spaghetti and ravioli are made fresh every day on the premises.
The next time you are in New York City, make a reservation at Becco. It’s an easy walk from Times Square at 355 W. 46th Street. Come hungry, eat, drink and be very happy when your bill arrives. Better yet, go early and walk down the street to see a famous Broadway show for the full New York experience.
Ciao & Mangia Bene!