Lanza’s Restaurant, an old-school red sauce joint in the East Village, has been serving customers veal scaloppine and spaghetti and meatballs since 1904. If you have doubts, swing by and you may run into the younger siblings of the very same customers. “Younger,” of course, in the relative sense here. It’s for this reason, after passing by the restaurant for many years, I never stepped inside. Last week, I decided it was time to change that. And the result?
It was mixed, which is much better than I expected. My order of spaghetti and meatballs ($12.50; pictured at top) was a good example. The meatballs were tender yet flavorful; like what an Italian-American grandma would make if she had a gentler touch. The sauce was also bright with a rustic chunkiness, but too bad the pasta was a tad overcooked.
The BF decided to take advantage of the lunch prix fixe (2 courses for $16.50) and started with the mozarella and tomatoes. The menu claimed the mozarella was homemade, but so dense and rubbery, I’d be doubtful if this was true unless it was produced at a factory by that name.
His linguine al olio, aglio e vongole (an extra $2.95), however, was cooked right and while the sauce needed a shake or two of salt, after adjusting, it was quite satisfying as a hot bowl of pasta with lots of olive oil and sautéed garlic can be. However, I doubt the clams were “freshly shucked” as the menu attests.
It’s not a destination restaurant by any means, but for an affordable, homey, Italian meal you don’t have time or the desire to make at home, Lanza’s works in a pinch. Just don’t expect perfection. Again, everything is relative.
168 1st Ave (b/n 10th & 11th St; map)
New York, NY 10009