1 at 79th St.; B, C at 81st St.-Museum of Natural History
American Express, MasterCard, Visa
69th St. to 89th St., Central Park West to Riverside Dr.
This strip of Amsterdam Avenue is a densely packed, virtual Epcot Center of eateries, and it must be hard for a candlelit keyhole of a restaurant like Bettola to get noticed. Then again, maybe standing out is not the point. With its overstuffed red leather banquette, exposed brick, and Casanova-friendly mood lighting, Bettola’s brand of Italian is rustico generico, presented to a crowd that doesn’t know the difference and probably doesn’t care. That’s not to say that the kitchen doesn’t care—the flickering log-burning oven turns out excellent baked dishes like gooey, burrata-smothered asparagus, slick with truffle oil. Charred fatty pockets on the succulent grilled lamb chops benefit from a grease-cutting, sweet-tart balsamic reduction and a bed of toothsome Swiss chard. Even carbophobes can feast on the small but dense rectangle of lasagna, the thinnest of pasta sheets draped over chunky Bolognese. The one nod to the Mediterranean may be the parchment-thin wood-fired pizzas, which bear more resemblance to crunchy sauce-splotched pita chips than they do to the pillowy industrial slices at the city’s lesser pie joints.Brunch
Sat.–Sun., 11 a.m.–4 p.m.Recommended Dishes
Asparagi al forno, $10