English is Italian – New York, NY
On Tuesday night, four of us headed to English Is Italian located in Midtown (622 Third Ave., at 40th St). The chef there is Todd English who also has Olive’s in the W Hotel. English is Italian opened this past year so I was really looking forward to trying it out.
As always, my paranoia made me early so the host directed me to the bar for a drink while I waited for my friends. The walk there is quite impressive. Unlike pretty much every other restaurant in New York, English is Italian is very large and open. I actually felt like I could have been in suburbia though the atmosphere is still very New York. The bar itself sits on a high-up porch that overlooks the main dining area. It has your normal bar but also has many lounge areas to relax in. For a Tuesday night, there was just the right amount of people to create a nice but fun atmosphere for after work drinks.
My disappointment came when I opened the drinks menu. The cheapest glass of red wine was $10! Now I can appreciate the bar wanting to serve only good wines, but I believe you can find good wines at all price ranges and they should have been able to offer something at $7 or $8. This is an Italian restaurant after all! At these prices I opted for a vodka martini ($11)—might as well get more bang for my buck!
My friends then arrived and we moved onto the dining area. Just as the room is so large, so are all the tables, plates, etc. I felt like Goldie Locks sitting at Pappa Bear’s table! We laughed when we realized the “charger” plates on the table were actually our plates to eat on! But I thought that aspect was fun. It was fun being Goldie Locks.
So the way English is Italian works, you do not order your own dishes. Instead, the table as a whole orders either the two course meal ($34/person) or three course meal ($39/person) and the waiters just start bringing on the food. All dishes are family style, and you get about 3-4 items per course. We chose the three course meal and it was a tremendous amount of food!
Now I am horrible with understanding accents so I did not catch all the items, but here is my best try:
Blah Blah Rice & Cheese Balls
Blah Blah Lamb Chops
Chicken Patee, Blah Blah, and Hummus Dips with BreadPasta
Fettuccini Alfredo with Mushrooms
Ravioli Stuffed with Sweet Potato
Risotto with Blah Blah and Squid
Lamb Shank with Blah Blah and Blah Blah (something spicy and something squashy)
Salmon with Blah Blah
40 Garlic Chicken
The dishes were hit or miss. The Blah Blah Lamb Chops were all fat—or at least my piece was. The Fettuccini Alfredo with Mushrooms was ordinary. And I liked the 40 Garlic Chicken, but it tasted just like what I make at home with out much effort. On the upside, I LOVED the Risotto with Blah Blah and Squid. The “Blah Blah” was something green—an herb—and the dish was just sooo good. I also loved being able to taste a wide variety of dishes. Overall, we ate about 10 dishes.
My synopsis? I liked English is Italian but I did think it was overpriced. Including a bottle of wine, the price-fix meal, tax and tip, it came out to $62/person. Add on our pre-dinner drinks and it was $74/person. Especially for a week night, I was a bit flabbergasted by this! If I pay that much for dinner, I want something more in the quality. Although I loved trying out so many different dishes, 75% of them were not fabulous enough on their own.
I do think this is a good restaurant to take clients to when on an expense account (then who cares how overpriced it is?). And I would consider going back to the bar for after work drinks. I thought it was tacky how expensive their wines by the glass were, but I did like the atmosphere. Unfortunately, there just are not many good non-touristy bar/lounges in mid-town so I might be willing to pay a couple extra bucks for that aspect. I also think their bar is a good option for a first date—they even serve some food so you can eat up if your first date gitters are making you drink too much wine!