The Serious Eats World Headquarters is smack in the middle of LIttle Italy, land of infinite $10 lunch specials at tourist-magnet red-sauce restaurants. But are any of them any good? We decided to take advantage of every $10 Italian lunch special in the nabe, without further adieu.
We started with Benito 1, mostly because we love the bepectacled chef statue that beckons you into the restaurant from the street (see below). At Benito 1 you get soup or salad, a pasta, and a choice of either chicken parm, eggplant parm, or chicken marsala, all for $9.95. You can't a deal like that in any other neighborhood in Manhattan, I would wager.
I started with the minestrone, which, with a little salt and grated cheese, was an okay bowl of soup.
Spaghetti with marinara featured surprisingly al dente pasta and a marinara sauce that you would be oohing and ahhing over, to be polite, if you were served it at an Italian's friends grandmother's house; anywhere else you'd be perfectly happy if not exactly thrilled.
This salad was a wee bit tired, with nothing fresh about it.
Rigatoni Bolognese again had al dente rigatoni and a tasty, if not exactly meat-laden, sauce.
Pasta with clam sauce had more garlic chips in it than clams, but it was appropriately and minimally sauced. (In Kenyon, Ohio, where my son went to school, this would be the best plate of pasta in town.)
I don't know if the sausage in the sausage and peppers was housemade, but it may well have come from the neighborhood. In any case, it's a tasty plate of food; but then again I've never met sausage and peppers I didn't like.
Chicken parm tends to make me happy, unless it's one of those patties made up of ground chicken parts. Mercifully, this one wasn't. In fact, if I come back again to Benito's 1 this is what I'm having.
Chicken francese had a light eggy sheath and a light brown sauce. It's the chicken francese I remember eating growing up; I liked it then and I like it now.
Thanks, Benito; you cooked us a good meal, worth cent money of the $9.95 you charged us. Your proximity to our office will undoubtedly beckon us again. But we'll be moving on to check out all your competitors.
174 Mulberry Street, New York NY 10013 (map)