Benito One (New York City)

*Picture from Benito One’s website.

Something great about great businesses, restaurants in particular, is the number of different ways they can be presented. You can have the everyman’s chain restaurant, the flashy town hotspot that eats up press coverage, and the low-key establishment that has been there forever and doesn’t consume much space in either literal or media terms. There are contenders in each of these categories; in appropriate order: P.F. Chang’s, Artisanal, and Benito One. The latter has had the same chefs, Fausto and Luis, making pretty much the same food for 35 years. It is a small, cozy restaurant in the heart of Little Italy. It sits among dozens of purveyors of Italian food, Italian groceries, and tourist goods that tend to be more interesting than the “My Mom Is Hotter Than Yours” baby onesies you’ll find in Chinatown. The staff is less likely to come out and coax you in from the street than their neighboring establishments. I can understand the pushiness of their competitors: I feel bad for anyone who tries to compete with Benito One.

I always order the same thing. My first dish is the Carciofo Ripieno: an artichoke baked in low heat with lemon, cheese, and breadcrumbs for an hour. The meat becomes plump on the leaves and the heart is tender. It’s sort of like the texture I’d expect good meat to have if I ate it. Sometimes I’ll order the roasted peppers, which are piled with garlic pieces and don’t contain mozzarella. Most things at Benito One have garlic in them, so don’t go there if you don’t like flavor.

I always order the Tortellini Panna: cheese tortellini. The cheese is ripe, rich, and not too sweet. It’s made in a wonderful cream sauce and you can ask for as much of their high-grade Parmesan as you want. My dad always orders the veal parmesan. I asked him what I should say on here and he said: “fantastic, big, tender. It’s not overcooked. Sometimes restaurants will overcook it. The cheese and sauce are good too.”

As with B&H, the people have spoken. Benito One has been in business for a long time and doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. In fact, one of the waiters told me it was the site for a scene on The Sopranos. I’d eat there every week if I could.

My Rating: 10
Recommended Dish: Carciofo Ripieno
Atmosphere: It’s unpretentious, but you should wear something nice to be in the presence of such excellent food. The fantastic food, the intimate atmosphere, and the 1940’s music will impress your date.
Price Range: $25-$50 per person.
Clientele: Everyone, but Little Italy in general is a hotspot for young people.

174 Mulberry Street
New York, NY 10013

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