Mon-Sat, 11am-11pm; Sun, 4pm-11pm
C, E at 23rd St.
American Express, MasterCard, Visa
14th St. to 35th St., Sixth Ave. to West Side Hwy.
Despite a takeout heritage, Pepe Giallo takes the old-world trattoria experience to heart, as evidenced by a menu that proudly prohibits skim milk, Diet Coke, and decaf coffee. The closely set tables are more cozy than claustrophobic, especially in the lovely back garden. As befits the restaurant's proximity to West Chelsea galleries, the prints and oil paintings hanging in the rustic front room are of a higher-than-usual caliber. Artful yet inexpensive decorative touches prevail, like the kraft paper lunch bags that serve as the overhead light shades. The same kind of bold simplicity characterizes the menu. Large panini head up the selections, including a buttery prosciutto di Parma served with fresh mozzarella. First-course salads and pastas include arugula topped with a generous mound of moist tuna, tart black olives, and crisp white beans and a thickly sauced, sweet penne vodka with pancetta. A handful of fish, chicken, and veal entrees make up the second plates, anchored by the Tuscan staples of stewed tomato, olive, garlic, and parsley that dignify the hearty codfish Livornese. A small wine list and a full complement of coffees and desserts further dispel any final notions of Pepe Giallo being just another joint.Recommended Dishes
Lunch: Tomato, mozzarella, arugula, and basil panini, $8; penne vodka, $9; cod Livornese $15