I've had two terrific, fairly priced Italian meals in the last two weeks at a restaurant owned by a celebrity chef. Excellent pastas, solicitous service, superb if slightly oversalted skirt steak, extraordinarily delicious pork tenderloin, and killer sorbets and gelato for dessert. Oh yeah, the foccaccia rocks, too.
Now if they would only do something about the piano player. He can play, but he seems like he should be playing at Doubles, or some other bar on the upper east side. But the restaurant is blessedly quiet. You can converse easily with your dining companions.
Pastas are $12-15, main courses are all less than $23. The tasting menu is $41.
I'm not going to tell you the name of the celebrity chef or even the name of the restaurant. This restaurant only takes reservations starting at ten in the morning for the same day, and it hasn't been full either time I've been there.
Call this number, 212-672-0390, listen to the silly music that plays while you wait for someone to answer, eat there, and tell me what you think.