Sun, 4pm-10:30pm; Mon-Thu, 4pm-11pm; Fri-Sat, 4pm-11:30pm
4, 5, 6, L, N, Q, R at 14th St.-Union Sq.; L at First Ave.
Houston St. to 23rd St., Ave. D to Fifth Ave.
Open since 1908, John's is an old-world rarity in a neighborhood where new restaurants are forever cropping up, and classic neighborhood standbys, like Life Café, are rarely much more than 20 years old. This classic Italian restaurant looks and feels as if it hasn't changed much since the early days, with its well-worn original tile floors, red leather banquettes and a candle that has been burning and collecting ever-expanding drippings since 1937. Then there are the friendly, mostly older waiters. While it claims to offer both Northern and Southern Italian food, make no mistake: This is a red sauce and red wine kind of place, known mostly for heavy, traditional Sunday-family-dinner fare, like spaghetti topped with hearty meatballs; homemade meat lasagne, with a hint of nutmeg; chicken and eggplant Parmigiana perfectly well-done around the edges; and seafood swimming in garlicky marinara sauce. The saltimbocca alla Romana—veal lightly battered, marinated in Marsala wine, and layered with prosciutto and mozzarella over sautéed escarole—is a tender, decadent blend of textures and flavors. While the food here isn't unusual, it is always fresh, and arrives in healthy portions, which should probably ensure at least another century in business.Recommended Dishes
Saltimboca alla Romana, $21.95; chicken or eggplant alla Parmigiana, $18.95; baked homemade lasagne, $18.95; shrimp and calamari marinara, $21.95