NY – Whenever a friend wants to meet up in the summertime, it’s always my goal to stay outside as much as possible. I love my neighborhood (“the Village”) so it’s wonderful to have so many amazing outdoor dining choices, all within walking distance. Here are four of my favs:
1. Gusto Ristorante Bar Americano in the West Village is my hands-down favorite. I’m there so often, I even met my husband there seven years ago. It’s perfect for lunch or dinner, but I can usually be found there in the time right between, in the post-lunch lull right before their popular “aperitivo” Happy Hour starts (when competition heats up for their prime people-watching tables right on Greenwich Ave). My favorite dishes are the avocado salad, the pasta with cacio e pepe, and their unique veal burger with smoked mozzarella, braised red onion, and frisee. But I’ll admit it’s their beautiful bar with their terrific Italian wine list (served by the quartino) that initially got me hooked. (It’s perpetually running into nearly every former cast member of HBO’s Sopranos there that finally landed me like a gasping starstruck fish.)
2. Bar Pitti is another classic in the neighborhood. I typically go for lunch and avoid their dinner madhouse. Bar Pitti (and its adjacent neighbor, Da Silvano) has been around so long, every time I go I’m bound to run into somebody I know. Their menu is simple and classic so it’s the perfect spot for a panino and some sautéed mushrooms on those days when you’re feeling casual but still want to show off your beautiful new shoes. Watching Hugh Jackman or Benjamin Bratt stroll by with their cute little kids is just a bonus.
3. Mekong, too, is an old-school “local” hangout. Originally located on Prince St in NoHo, Mekong cut its teeth as a local hotspot being mainstay Cafe Gitane’s exotic Asian counterpart. Now Mekong has an even bigger outdoor patio in the West Village on Sixth Ave and King St. Again, it’s a rare occurrence to visit Mekong and not see a familiar face, even if it’s Jane Krakowski or Famke Janssen (both “regulars” who live right nearby). Plus their light chicken salad (with shredded cabbage) and fried “butter calamari” are downright addictive.
4. If I happen to be on the east side though, then Gemma is always my first choice. Sometimes nothing beats a bottle of Provence rosé, basking in the sun on the Bowery. Its adjoining Bowery Hotel makes for great people-spotting too; you can play games trying to guess who’s going to pop out of the big blacked-out SUV pulling up to the hotel’s red carpet entryway (if it’s Sam Ronson or an Olsen, drink twice). Gemma’s brick oven makes the pizza a must; alongside their kale salad, what more could you ask for?
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