Vintage New York dining: retro-style restaurants
Step back in time and fill up on classic dishes with these new retro-style restaurants in New York City.
Tue May 7 2013
Cocktail bars harkening back to vintage New York have become the norm, with old-fashioned tipples and repurposed trappings popping up in almost every new watering hole. But Caesar salads tossed by tux-clad waiters? Juicy burgers served with a side of jukebox tunes? Here are four new retro-style restaurants dishing out classic food, with a side of nostalgia.
Photograph: Filip Wolak
Spicy rigatoni vodka at Carbone
Honoring Gotham’s legendary red-sauce relics (Rao’s, Bamonte’s) are nostalgia specialists Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone, with their high-profile revamp of historic Rocco’s Ristorante. The theatrical blockbuster—as staged as a Bachelor proposal—upgrades bygone material with fine-dining extravagance and smooth service, drawing a crowd of scenesters, big spenders and gastronauts.
The digs: Embroidered green curtains and stained-glass lamps summon the spirit of the 1950s, but Torrisi and Carbone inject downtown glamour into the navy-walled space with sepia-toned paintings curated by Vito Schnabel (son of artist Julian). Vintage hits by the Temptations and Billy Joel play until 11:30pm, when the soundtrack switches to ’90s hip-hop.
The grub: Suave, tuxedo-clad waiters—Bronx accents intact, but their burgundy threads designed by Zac Posen—tote an avalanche of complimentary extras: chunks of chianti-infused Parm, olive-oil-soaked “Grandma Bread” and slivers of smoky prosciutto. Order the Caesar salad ($17) and servers prepare it tableside, deftly tossing crunchy lettuce with a piquant anchovy sauce and garlicky croutons. Next up, über-rich rigatoni alla vodka ($24)—a spicy and transcendent rendition of the hackneyed form—hits the table, followed by sticky cherry-pepper ribs, their caramelized sweetness balanced by fiery jalapeño ($29). And those lavish whole cakes you’ve been eyeing as they’re paraded around the room on a silver tray? Go for a slice of Nutella tiramisu ($12), garnished with a hefty sugar-glazed ladyfinger. 181 Thompson St between Bleecker and W Houston Sts (212-254-3000, carbonenewyork.com)