50 W 77th St
City: New York, NY
Phone: (212) 769-9191
Site: Visit the restaurant site
Area: West 70s
Walk down a flight of steps into a large semi-subterranean room with a carpeted floor. The anonymous space could be anywhere in the U.S but it's on the UWS. Welcome to Scaletta Ristorante. This place has been around for eons, attracting a mostly older crowd who don't mind the non-existent décor or relatively high prices and love the relative quiet thanks to widely spaced tables and the absence of music. Scaletta is a great choice for a group event and can handle up to 250 guests in what they refer to as "flexible event space." It's also a fine, if not exciting, choice for those who want to eat after a visit to the American Museum of Natural History or New York Historical Society--even an early evening stroll through Central Park. Some folks bring the kids but Scaletta has neither the menu nor ambiance for small fry so it might be smart to look elsewhere although family gatherings are theoretically encouraged.
For a birthday, Bat or Bar Mitzvah or anniversary bash, the restaurant offers three and four-course prix fixe deals as well as an h'ors d'oeuvres only menu, any of which can be personalized to suit. Vegetarian options are easy to include. You can arrange for a pre-priced, staffed, open bar--pricing depends on the number of hours.
For non-event diners, there are the usual salads (Caesar, tri-colore, mixed green) as well as lots of pastas, fried calamari and baked clams. Rigatoni with broccoli rabe and sausage is $21; linguine with red or white clam sauce hits $25. Carnivores can chow down on the $35 veal chop, New York strip steak or veal scaloppini which brings two thin slices of meat beneath somewhat underseasoned eggplant and cheese for $29. The chicken breast with sausage and mushrooms in a "rosemary balsamic sauce" is juicier than expected. The menu also offers chicken Diavolo although this devil is only an imp, as the mustard peppercorn sauce is tame. Salmon, shrimp scampi and two or three other fish offerings are available and perfectly fine if unremarkable.
Service by waiters who have been around long enough so that nothing would surprise them is efficient and they make no attempt to rush you out if you linger of the weakish coffee. There is a full bar with wines avaiable by glass or bottle. You can order classic cocktails (think martini or Cosmopolitan) but this is not a place to expect razzle-dazzle from the bartender. On the plus side, dessert choices are broad--chocolate mousse in a chocolate shell, cheesecake, a sort of mille-feuille with strawberries and more-- and not bad although some are a little too sweet.
In a city that has many wonderful Italian restaurants, Scaletta does not make the campanile ring. However, it has a large coterie of devoted followers who know they can count on familiar, well-loved dishes. The restaurant is open for dinner starting at 5 PM and stays open until 10 PM. All major credit cards accepted; reservations are a good idea.
Review By: Mari Gold