Ask the Critics: Help Me Find a Middlebrow Restaurant for a Big Party


Fran S. asks: I’m looking for someplace for a big party (12 people) to go for dinner, ideally on the West Side. Nothing fancy — a family place, but not a chain. The catch? People in the party don’t eat anything but Italian or American food — think “middlebrow.” Thanks!

Dear Fran: OK, so we’ve got several challenges here, ranging from size to location to finicky eaters. But luckily, New York City is big enough that there’s always a restaurant for someone, and I’ve got some spots that I think will please both you and your guests. Or at least I hope so!

Carmine’s in Times Square immediately comes to mind because it’s a huge space and serves decent (not great) Italian food, family-style. It’s honestly somewhat middlebrow and usually packed with tourists, but they all seem to be enjoying it while they’re there. I’ve been a couple times and haven’t been totally wowed, but if you stick to simple dishes, I think you’ll be fine. All in all, I think this is a safe bet.

Another spot to consider is the new Manhattan branch of Zero Otto Nove, the Arthur Avenue pizzeria and Italian restaurant. The new Flatiron location is vast (and wasn’t that full on two recent visits), making dining in a big group easy. I haven’t had much of the menu beyond the pizzas, but those were quite tasty, and the fare is certainly accessible.

Mercato in Midtown West might be another good option, but the space is smaller, so you’d definitely want to call ahead. But it’s a nice setting that’s fairly under-the-radar and offers a homey vibe and good Italian food.

Finally, if you want to go American, I’d suggest Landmarc. It’s another big restaurant with good food that’s still very likable by picky eaters. There are daily pasta specials, plus steaks and salads … and even sweetbreads for you if you are yearning for something more challenging. It’s less middlebrow, but still caters to a range of tastes.