128 W 26th St between Sixth and Seventh Aves (212-243-8183). Subway: F, V, 1 to 23rd St. Mon--Wed noon--10pm; Thu, Fri noon--11pm; Sat 5--11pm. Average main course: $19.
Hearing the waitstaff sing “Happy Birthday” isn’t usually a good omen at a new restaurant. But somehow, the staff at Tre Dici managed to serenade a nearby table without ruining our appetite. It helped to know that the endearing performance was for a regular (good to know they have regulars); more encouraging was that the kitchen didn’t miss a beat in the process. Chef Giuseppe Fanelli sent out plenty of flavorful rustic dishes during one recent meal including half-moons of al dente agnolotti packed with shredded kobe beef and a parchment pillow snipped open tableside to reveal luscious striped bass (pictured). When we asked if they had tiramisu, the server winced for a moment and then steered us instead toward a terrific cake made of 27 crpes, divided by layers of soft cream. The only serious mishap all evening, in fact, was a 13-ingredient chopped salad that looked like a grade-school art project; tiny cubes of underdressed beets and other earthy vegetables (cauliflower, asparagus, mushrooms) were molded into a tower, wrapped with zucchini leaves and surrounded by endive in a sunbeam pattern.—TONY