Ennio & Michael

Ennio & Michael
539 LaGuardia Place

I was invited to dinner at Ennio & Michael last week and am embarrassed to say I'd never heard of it before. When I found out its location, I was surprised at the dozens of times I've walked by it without knowing it/giving it a chance.

The room is rather boring. A tacky mirror here, some boring artwork there - it basically has no heart when it comes to decor. Though they did put up some drapes to cover the elementary school ceiling tiles.

The service, however, is very good without being overbearing, i.e., laid on thick...though the servers congeniality (and accents) were no doubt legit.

Food, most importantly, was in most cases very good though there are certain areas it needs to know what its strengths and weaknesses are. I think we discovered them both.

We were given a complimentary order of zucchini fritti which were fine, not too greasy, not too tasty either. I'd never recommend paying the $7.50 for them, but as a complimentary starter...fine.

Sue Anne ordered the Asparagi alla parmigiana ($9.50) - an out of season dish that was prepared simply (baked, not sauteed) and well. The grated parmagiano had a nice crispiness to it. It also added a good amount of saltiness to the dish - a good thing.

Doug ordered the Cozze alla Posillipo ($12.50). These were mussels in red wine and garlic sauce. They were served with hot peppers that made the dish come alive. Otherwise, the sauce itself was a bit boring though the mussels were fine. Good value overall though. Nice portions and fairly priced.

I ordered the Spiedini alla Romana ($9.75). This is the first restaurant I've seen prepare Spiedini the way (or at least similar in the way) that Aldo's in Wyckoff, NJ does it. Frankly, Aldo's does it a little better but that might be just because it's the version that the bar was set to for me. This version was really good though. Mozzarella breaded and covered in an anchovy and caper sauce. Yum. The version at Aldo's (for those keeping score) is more like a bechamel, but also with anchovy/caper flavor.

Sue Anne had the house made lasagne - a special in the traditional style. It was delicious. Doug had mentioned before we sat down that he'd heard that if there was a lasagne on the menu, to order it. Holy cow was this good. Definitely recommended.

Doug had the Costolette di Agnello al Rosmarino (rack of lamb, rosemary) ($29.75). This was a healthy serving of lamb - 6 ribs, but it was slightly overcooked. The potato wedges it was served with were bland and boring and not even salted well. Pretty sad. This dish is the most expensive item on the menu and though it was good/passable and the portion size was better than average, I'd pass on it next time and order something else from the lengthy main course menu or stick with the reasonally priced pastas.

I opted to do just that. I chose the Rigatoni all Ennio - chopped sausage, onion, peas and mushroom in creamy pink sauce ($16.50). Is it Babbo good. No, but it's also not $18.00 or more. And the serving sizes (if that's your gauge) is hefty. Very tasty, not cloying and well cooked. I couldn't finish the portion only because I'd eaten so much already.

The cannolis were huge and unbelievable. Right up there with the best I've had. The other desserts (tiramisu, raspberry torte, etc.) are not worth your while.

It's not on the menu but ask for the Tostoni(sp?) with espresso. Goodness. This was EXCELLENT. The layer of espresso on top just seals the deal and really brought an end to a good meal.

Last thing to note...this place is perfect for an easy going alternative to anything in Little Italy (much more civilized and better tasting) or many of the options on the nearby strip of Bleecker. College kids looking for a date place or even a place to bring your parents (they are paying enough already for NYU tuition) might do well here. It's not trying too hard (note: decor) but offers good food and good service in a quiet, often underused part of downtown.


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