Originally Posted by SoCal2NYC
Lupa must have changed then. That was where they'd send you if you couldn't walk in to Babbo or Otto.
I've been eating at Lupa for seven or eight years now, and while the popularity has been steadily increasing, it's always been that way if you wanted a reservation, 30 days to the numerical date. The Open Table innovation is recent, and if anything has made it more annoying. Walking in is completely different, there's a much lesser chance that you'll be seated in the rear room which has white tablecloths and is where we need to sit with my girlfriend's mother. The front room varies, we've walked in on a Saturday at 9 and sat within 10 minutes and waited 90 on a Wednesday.
Babbo has been getting easier to walk in for the last year or so. I don't like it anywhere nearly as much as Lupa. Also enjoyed Del Posto when it first opened (the trattoria, not the main restaurant), but feel that it's fallen off significantly.
There are some better small west village places that are excellent, but they're dwarfed by the number of red sauce places that abound around Bleecker.
I've never been a huge fan of Frank, on 2nd Avenue. Lil Frankie's, is, dollar for dollar a much better option, in my opinion. The menu at Frank is dominated by Brooklyn based Southern Italian cooking.
If you want to make a trip for Italian, Queen, in Brooklyn Heights, is excellent. Lunch there can be a scene, with most of the lawyers from the courts headed there during lunch breaks. Dinner is an amazing cross section of Brooklyn society. The food is amazingly well sourced, well prepared, and the menu changes frequently based upon seasonal availability. They don't rape you on the specials, a la Mulino.
Most men will be extremely comfortable in dark jeans and a sport coat in 90% of the restaurants in NYC, especially in the spring. Very few, if any, restaurants below 14th Street require a jacket, I believe that Il Mulino will be the only place that one would feel uncomfortable in less than a suit. San Domenico would necessitate a suit, in my opinion. NY is an extremely casual city, in my opinion. While you can definitely dress better than this, no one will blink an eye if you choose not to. Babbo is one of the most casual NYC 3* restaurants.
If you're looking for innovative cooking, including tripe and variety meats, while Babbo and Del Posto will satisfy this craving, you're better off in another ethnic vicinity. Korean restaurants generally offer many variations on these dishes. Try Woo Chon, on 36th Street for traditional cooking. For some of the most innovative and seasonal cooking, eat at Momofuku Ssam Bar, Ko, or Momofuku Noodle Bar, in that order.