Red-and-green checkered tablecloths outfit La Fontanella's dining room, the most intimate on the street with seating for 38. But don't let that fool you into thinking this is a stuffy spot for formal tete-a-tete dinners. With its casual bar, sidewalk seating, collection of mismatched pitchers and charming ambiance, La Fontanella specializes in come-as-you-are dining.
Signed photos of Dennis Farina, Oliver North and a former cardinal, among others, sing tomato-tinged praises for Franco and Maria Gamberale's menu. Since opening up shop in 1971, the husband-and-wife team has taken turns in the kitchen since they took over in 1986 and are quick to insist that no guest is rushed out.
Relax over a warm basket of bread from D'Amato's bakery and dishes of the Gamberale's own invention like pollo alla fontanella, a half-chicken stuffed with garlic and herbs then breaded, baked and served with pasta and vegetables. Pollo alla scarpara, a dish Franco named after the Italian word for shoemaker, layers chicken in white wine with mushrooms over pasta. Veal, fish and daily specials beef up the menu, though if you can't make up your mind, the cheese and spinach ravioli with pesto is a big draw.
Average cost: $10-$20
Centerstage Reviewer: Kate Schwartz
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