Mon-Fri, noon-midnight; Sat-Sun, 11am-midnight
C, E at 23rd St.; 1 at 23rd St.; 1 at 18th St.
American Express, MasterCard, Visa
5th St. to 34th St., Sixth Ave. to Tenth Ave.
At first glance this spot seems like a forgotten old family-run gem, but on closer inspection you'll find that the "mom and pop" actually run a mini-restaurant empire that includes a number of Chelsea eateries. Despite the décor's effort to lend the space gravitas, 1999 is its year of establishment. The trappings almost seem too tongue-in-cheek to be genuine anyway, with red-and-white checked tablecloths, wood paneling, a Sinatra-spewing jukebox, year-round Christmas lights, and intentionally retro northern Italian specialties that try to emulate the way Mama might have made them. And they are successful facsimiles, most of the time. Penne with slightly sweet tomato sauce and soft, comforting meatballs are sure to conjure good memories, and chicken Tello, boneless pieces sautéed in garlic and white wine with mushrooms and sausage, does earthy, juicy justice to the bird. Fish fares fine, too, especially a shrimp and scallop combo, served with a touch of tomato sauce and buttery broccoli. But cheesy gnocchi borders on gummy and the too-light cream in the cannoli renders it as authentic as the décor. But the locals who dine here seem to be forgiving. After all, even moms have their bad days.Recommended Dishes
Calamari fritti, $10.95; penne with meat balls, $16.95; chicken Tello, $17.95