Fred French, the Donald Trump of the twenties, called his ambitious Tudor City development a "city within a city." Today, the enclave continues to manage nicely, with its two small parks, a post office, a corner bodega, even a fancy racing-bike shop, and-amazingly-no Starbucks. But what's a city within a city without a serious Italian restaurant? That's where partners Scott Conant and Chris Cannon (pictured) come in. L'Impero, their new trattoria in a landmarked Tudor City building, features a polished, sophisticated design by Vicente Wolf and a mouthwatering menu drawn from Conant's kitchen experience at San Domenico, Chianti, and City Eatery. Signature dishes like warm Maine-lobster salad, braised duck-and-foie gras agnolotti, and roast free-range baby goat, as well as some new creations inspired by a recent tasting-and-cooking tour through Italy, should draw a crowd of interlopers from more Zip Codes than Mr. French could ever have imagined.
45 Tudor City
· Cuisine: Italian
It's gotten to the point where you can't think of rotisserie chicken without acknowledging the superiority of the rapidly multiplying-and cheap-
Peruvian-style roasted birds marinated in beer and rubbed with a spice mix more closely guarded than Colonel Sanders's. Park Slope has Coco Roco and Cocina Cuzco; Jackson Heights, Rego Park, and even the Upper East Side have branches of Pio Pio. And now Brooklyn's never-say-quit Smith Street strip has Mancora, a Peruvian restaurant specializing in seafood as well as rotisserie chicken. Owner Shahed Ahmed, who used to be a manager at Cocina Cuzco, says he's striving for a slightly more upscale dining experience. That means linen napkins and tablecloths, Peruvian-style shrimp cocktail, and grilled lamb chops, but not higher prices -- $7.95 buys a whole bird, and another four bucks gets you yuca and plantains.
176 Smith Street, Cobble Hill
· Cuisine: Peruvian
Antipasti, meze, tapas, canapés-they're all dialects in the international language of grazing, one that Israeli-born restaurateur Dan Lerner speaks fluently. "It's my favorite way to eat," he says. But at Azafrán (Spanish for "saffron"), Lerner and partner Noam Peri stick to Spanish tapas, which they offer in tasting and sharing portions. They traveled to the Basque country to pluck two promising young chefs from San Sebastián's famed Escuela de Cocina Luis Irizar, where the cooks were trained in the traditional arts of garlic shrimp, tortilla española, and ham croquettes, not to mention paella and gazpacho. Also on offer: an extensive selection of Spanish cured hams, chorizos, cheeses, and sherries.
77 Warren Street
· Cuisine: Spanish
After igniting the Dublin food world in the late nineties and suffering a series of setbacks more recently-like losing all seven of his restaurants amid assorted allegations of debt, rent arrears, and art theft-Conrad Gallagher, the bad boy of Irish cuisine, has come to New York for a fresh start. He's found it at Traffic, a stylish new lounge where the fusty Beekman Bar & Books used to be. Gallagher swaps hard-won Michelin stars and Chef of the Year status for faux-ostrich ivory banquettes, D.J.'s, and a menu that keeps things simple by listing only two prices: $10 for "starters" and "ends" (foie gras terrine, bitter-chocolate spring rolls) and $20 for "middles" like mini filet mignon with goat-cheese ravioli.
889 First Avenue, at 50th Street
· Cuisine: Continental
If you're from Brooklyn or the Bronx, you probably already know how to pronounce the name of this cheaper southern Italian spinoff of Peasant: It's ah-BEETS, as in pizza. That's the specialty of the house, baked in a beautiful wood-burning brick oven and served "by the yard." There's also wild boar lasagna, razor clams oreganata, and, in a break with old-world pizzeria tradition, an on-premises ATM machine.
217 Eldridge Street
· Cuisine: Pizza, Italian
From the owner of the Loisaida café comes this new crimson-walled wine-and-cheese bar next door, where locals and Clinton Street nightcrawlers can sip sangria and wine cocktails and snack on platters of fromage. In coming months, it'll be a good spot to while away the inevitable wait for a table at Wylie Dufresne's new place around the corner.
155 Rivington Street
· Cuisine: Wine & cheese
The Park Slope sibling of Fort Greene's popular Loulou has a romantic vibe, a charming Breton hostess, and a kitchen that skirts bistro boredom with offbeat selections like shrimp-stuffed artichokes and duck-confit-salad pizza. Menus are presented on old French album covers and the check arrives in a dish of jelly beans, flourishes sure to please the D.J. and the toddler in your party.
337 Fifth Avenue, at 4th Street, Brooklyn
· Cuisine: French-Italian
Out like a light: in one radical redesign, owner Charlie Palmer has dispensed with Alva's Edison-inspired lightbulb theme and reconceived his Flatiron-district property with walnut beams, vanilla walls, and sea-green-and-blue-hued fabrics and banquettes. When the doors reopen September 12, expect a streamlined menu of five appetizers, five entrées, and five desserts; available only as a $25 three-course prix fixe.
36 East 22nd Street
· Cuisine: American