Italian Restaurant NYC Quattro Gatti or Four Cats

Great for Locals and Vistors

Italian Restaurant New York Quattro Gatti

While it's true that finding good Italian restaurants in New York is about as difficult as walking around the block, finding one as unique and satisfying as Quattro Gatti is exceptional and unlikely to happen by chance. The Four Cats, names after a painting by Picasso, doesn't come looking for you.

First, tucked in just east of the intersection of 81st Street and 3rd Avenue, it's a little off the beaten path. Tourists don't come looking this far from Times Square. But if you are a New Yorker or a visitor wishing for something more special than tourist fare of whatever quality, it's worth a short bus ride up 3rd Avenue or a nice walk from the 77th Street Station on the Lexington Avenue Subway line.

Quattro Gatti (Four Cats) has an official address of 205 East 81st Street, Telephone: (212) 570-1073. By all means, call for reservations. Locals love this place, and it gets busy. In case you get stuck, there are some great nearby options I will include at the end of this article.

The "quattro gatti" are in a Picasso painting. The walls of dining room are filled with unique copies of mostly early 20th Century art without once resorting to the clichéd work often seen hanging in popular spots. Adding immeasurably to the pleasures of the space are the favorable acoustics, i.e., you can actually hear your companions words at a normal volume, an advantage not to take lightly in a city where the competition to jam as many tables and chairs into every square foot as possible is in full swing.

Quattro Gatti offers a genuine Italian home cooking environment. This includes excellent dishes featuring the freshest ingredients, a great wine list and service very much unlike any other place I am familiar with in New York after 20 years. The gentlemen waiting tables (and they were all men on my last visit) are veterans of the business, not aspiring actors or models working for rent between gigs. All of these guys actually have some miles on them. And they are friendly, and in my experience so far, all actually from Italy.

On our last visit, a friend thought one of the waiters looked like Howard Duff (old time actor, a legend, last seen by me in Kramer vs Kramer as Dustin Hoffman's lawyer). When he caught us sizing him up, he came over and talked at length about a variety of things, including his coming to the U.S. from Amalfi. As a person who'd like to make the opposite move some day, I asked him why he did it, and he explained about coming here to marry his American wife and staying. The conversation was neither rushed nor pretentious or like any I'd expect in any other New York restaurant. The rest of the staff, from manager to coat check, was equally casual and easy.

The menu is traditional, like one you would see in Italy, except the English is perfect. That said, the preparation is anything but as expected. As with all great Italian chefs, the flavors are accented without overstatement. Subtlety is beauty in Italian food. There is plenty of variety, from the antipasti to the meat dishes. Making a decision from many good choices may be your greatest challenge. After having dined at some of our most famous New York restaurants, I can honestly say that Quattro Gatti's preparations are equal to any of them in flavor and presentation and accomplished without the mechanical efficiency of the higher price locations.

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Alternatives

Change your mind? Your dinner date suddenly informs you that he or she is the only person in the Western Hemisphere who hates Italian Food? Forgot to make a reservation?

Here are some nearby favorites"

Gobo, an up to date Asian restaurant is kitty corner across 3rd Avenue. Pleasant with a fine menu.

Beyoglu, even better, but don't try to pronounce it, is directly across 81st Street. Great Turkish food and available meze style (think Turkish tapas), and at very attractive prices. Can be a bit noisy, but the diners are happy.

Tiramisu, another fine Italian restaurant, if not quite up to QG quality, is just a block away at 1410 3rd Avenue, on the corner of 80th and 3rd.


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Comments 1 comment

Matei 21 months ago

Heck yeah this is exclaty what I needed.

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