Inexpensive meals with a little romance.
terrible about a cheap date? you ask. Isn't it the thought that
counts? Well, yes, but flattering lighting and ambient music can't
hurt, either. You'd be surprised how some places manage to conjure
romantic atmosphere on the skimpiest of shoestring budgets -- it's
all about scale (small) and service (friendly but not intrusive,
casual but not distracted). It's a subtle art, one that the teeny
panini-and-wine bar 'ino
has mastered with its supremely sensuous finger food: bruschetta
and panini lavished with creamy cheeses, pungent pestos, or a drizzle
of truffle oil ($2 to $7).
play : Jerked magret duck with guava-lime confit at A.
But 'ino's not the only place that wins big by thinking small:
When a joint has only five tables, like A, three is definitely
a crowd. A's French-Caribbean-inspired menu is as tiny as its unfussy
premises, but the mellow vibe and the nonstop reggae and ska invite
lingering long after the last bite of curried lamb pie with coconut
crème fraîche (one of only six dinner dishes, all in
the $7-to-$10 range). Like A, Snack,
the sweet little SoHo Greek café, is BYOB (though Snack has
applied for a liquor license). At night, the rough-hewn storefront
takes on a candlelit luster and a significantly expanded menu, with
substantial entrées like braised lamb stifado and vegetarian
moussaka ($10.95 to $12.95).
If you're a sucker for nostalgia and a connoisseur of Sicilian
pizza, take someone special to L&B Spumoni Gardens, a
62-year-old landmark in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, where locals and
pizza pilgrims line up for the signature square pie (a light, crunchy
crust, adorned with a bare minimum of mozzarella cheese beneath
a layer of tangy tomato sauce) and a paper cup of the house spumoni.
American Graffiti meets GoodFellas.