It wasn’t that bad a walk from 75 Rockefeller Plaza to the theatre district’s “Restaurant Row”. If you didn't know, I’m not the fastest walker, so I sometimes opt out of cross town hikes. But after work, good luck finding a cab in midtown Manhattan.
Truth is, walking is good. It was after all a cool, spring Thursday evening… and I, along with 50,000 other New Yorkers in my 3 block area were scurrying across the city to get somewhere. To meet a girlfriend, catch a movie, get in on an happy hour cocktail… or in my case, to meet some friends before an 8pm curtain of the hit Broadway play, “Three Days of Rain”.
I was familiar with restaurant row from my early trips to NYC. It was on this street I recorded Madonna, Gwyneth Paltow, Harrision Ford and scores of other celebs in a great recording studio, then called The Warehouse. Down the street I heard my dear friend Julie Nemitz (Madelung) perform her flawless cabaret show at the (in)famous “Don’t Tell Mamas” and had sipped vodka and sang along with the piano player at the Russian joint a few doors down. I love this street.
So when my friends suggested the Italian spot “Orso”, I was intrigued. I didn’t know it.
My wife Jami and I arrived at almost the exact time, which was a miracle considering the traffic at 6:30… she in a cab, André on foot. But low and behold at 6:30, there we were at the door walking in.
Orso is a great call for pre-theatre meals simply because of it’s proximity to the theatres themselves. While some of the other extremely touristy spots on this street cater to nothing but visitors, Orso was loaded with locals from the neighborhood as well as Broadway cast members dining with parents and friends (the lead from Hairspray dined at the table next to ours with her folks).
Let me say that Orso is not a spot uttered with the names of the restaurant elite in New York. It’s not that place. This is your neighborhood, solid, delicious, I’ve got theater tickets kinda place. That said, there is a lot I like about Orso.
First off, any place that doesn’t have bread plates is A-OK in my book. As all who travel to Italy know, the bread belongs on the table… creating a crumb pile on the tablecloth.
The menu at Orso is printed daily, and changes often. The left side of the menu is printed in Italian, the right deciphered in English. There are no daily specials as the menu serves as an ever-changing selection of goodies.
What the menu revealed was mainly four areas… a starter/salad area with 10 or so options (salad with apples, walnuts and goat cheese, thinly sliced veal with tuna sauce, buffalo milk mozzarella)…. a good selection of authentic pizzas (sausage, basil and tomato, prosciutto)…. a strong list of homemade pastas (linguini with clams, rigatoni with meat sauce, ravioli, wild mushroom risotto)… and a gathering of hearty entrees (pan seared sea scallops, roasted pork chops, grilled lamb loin, free-range chicken).
Again, let me say that Orso is no Babbo, Po, Lupa, Del Posto or Felidia. But what I can’t do is knock the place. The food is delicious in a homespun sort of way. The service was prompt, the wine and cocktails never fell empty and the food was just right. You could do a lot worse on restaurant row.
I can’t particularly recommend one dish over another here as the menu changes so often, but I can recommend Orso as a pre-theatre, no gamble eating choice. In by 6:30, out by 7:45 with drinks, salads, entrees and desserts is truly admirable these days… and to do it without feeling rushed is pure skill. If you find yourself on West 46th looking for a nice meal with good wine and good friends… finding a table at Orso is a great way to kick off your evening.
322 West 46th Street (between Eighth and Ninth avenues),
New York City, NY 10036-3801
RESERVATIONS ARE SUGGESTED AT ALL TIMES. THEY ARE TAKEN UP TO 1 MONTH IN ADVANCE STARTING AT 11:00 A.M. DAILY. PLEASE NOTE THAT PRE-THEATER BOOKS VERY QUICKLY. THE MENU IS PRINTED TWICE DAILY AND IS THEREFORE SUBJECT TO CHANGE. ORSO ACCEPTS VISA AND MASTERCARD ONLY. WHILE THERE IS NO AFFILIATION, THERE ARE TWO PARKING LOTS LOCATED ACROSS THE STREET FROM ORSO RESTAURANT.
Andre's Tip: there is no bar here, so if you are looking for a drink only, check out B. Smith's next door. Reservations are essential if you are holding tickets to a show...