I’ve noticed a certain trend with my visitors lately. It’s their last night in the city, and we’re trying to decide where we should eat–what kind of food, what neighborhood, what would make their last meal in New York City special. Each of the past three times this has happened, we’ve ended up dining in Little Italy, and I can see why. It’s a unique part of the city that’s full of history (much like why people want to walk around Chinatown), the ambience is always fun and bustling, and there’s plenty of delicious food to be had.
On one of these occasions, I was with my boyfriend and we picked out Benito One from the many options on Mulberry Street because of its glowing Yelp reviews. The place is much smaller and quieter than other Little Italy establishments and doesn’t have the same kind of expansive outdoor seating as the other nearby restaurants. The decor, with its old family photographs on the wall, and the arrangement of the place, with tables fit every which way they can go, make it feel like you’re stepping back in time a little bit, rather than entering a modern Italian restaurant. It’s casual, it’s humble, and it feels like a family place.
The menu is quite large with all the Italian foods you can dream up from rice balls to chicken parmigiana to penne with vodka sauce. Interestingly enough, we only ordered one thing from the every day menu–the cold antipasto appetizer–and got everything else from the specials menus. They had a prix fixe menu option that day that sounded like such a steal, we couldn’t resist. For that, we ordered calamari marinara, linguine with clams, and veal piccata. I can’t remember the exact price, but I want to say it was around $20 to $25, which is a great deal for all that food. We also ordered a pasta dish that was one of the specials–ravioli in pink sauce (sounds weird, but it’s essentially tomato cream sauce).
The antipasto plate came with mozzarella, roasted peppers, prosciutto, grilled eggplant, olives, and assorted hard cheeses. Everything looked so good, we just dug right in, realizing quickly enough, that yup, we were about to have a ton of leftovers after that huge order we placed. We were both used to having our calamari appetizers being served fried, so this version served in a marinara sauce was new. By the time we actually got to the actual main dishes, we were so close to being stuffed. The ravioli with pink sauce was our favorite of the three and like champs, we powered through to eat all–well, almost all–of that one.
There really is something so lovely about slowing down for a bit, ordering plates and plates of cheeses and pasta and true, hearty comfort food, and enjoying the company you’re with. That’s something that’s easily done in Little Italy, and I can’t think of anything better for a goodbye meal with friends.
Cold anitpasto; prix fixe meal with calamari marinara, linguine with clams, veal piccata; ravioli in pink sauce
174 Mulberry St
New York, NY 10013