Lots of big ’90s things aren’t around anymore: beepers, Ask Jeeves, synchronized dancing to The Macarena. The original version of Coco Pazzo, on the Upper East Side, also reached peak popularity in the ’90s and then closed a decade ago. Unlike many other hits from that era, this spot is back - now serving casual lunch and more upscale dinner in Soho. But in the current world of NYC Italian restaurants, there’s nothing that makes the new Coco Pazzo worth going out of your way to experience again.
The food here - ranging from salads and seafood appetizers to pastas and shareable entrees - is all fine. The most interesting dishes are in the piatto unico (one dish meal) section of the menu. As the name suggests, these consist of different things on a single plate: there’s a pasta element, like linguini with clam ragu, plus a portion of meat or seafood, like baked clams. The pastas are better than their accompanying sides across the board, but at least this setup allows you to taste various parts of the menu without spending a lot of money (all of them are around $20). Share a couple of these entrees, plus the four-cheese baked rigatoni, and you’ll have an enjoyable meal here. But know that whatever you order, you’ll think back on your dinner less like Seinfeld , and more like those multicolored iMacs - you enjoyed them in the moment, but you probably haven’t missed them too much since.
Like the food here, the space and service at Coco Pazzo won’t make anyone mad. Some things are carved tableside, there’s jazz playing at a low volume, and four different servers will check on you every couple of minutes. It’s a decent option for the times when you care more about a restaurant being inoffensive than having incredible food - like a dinner with your in-laws, or lunch with an old coworker who might be able to help you get a job. Sure, it’s not that memorable, but it still comes in handy. Unlike that beeper you haven't turned on since 2001.
This salad mainly just tastes like lemon, and while it will help cut through all the other rich things on your table, we wish there was more parmesan to help balance it out.
The outside of the octopus is charred too much, which makes it really salty and masks the taste of the octopus itself. However, we’d happily order a full plate of the mashed potatoes with burrata that are served on the side.
These are some very good little fish. They’re stuffed with ground pistachios, grilled, and served with a little salad of citrus fruit and herbs. There are a lot of different flavors happening on this plate, but they all work well together.
The baked rigatoni has four different types of cheese and some herbed breadcrumbs on top. It’s the best thing here.
We like the meat sauce-y pappardelle, but the brisket on the side is basically a bad version of pot roast.
This is our favorite of the one-plate pasta entrees. The same stuffed sardines you’ll find in Coco Pazzo’s best appetizer are served alongside some very good bucatini.
If you’re feeling some combination of hungry and cost-conscious, get this roasted chicken. The three-pound bird is carved tableside and served with a huge plate of roasted potatoes and salad. It’s $29 and could be shared by at least three people.
Put a pot of broth that’s loaded with seafood in front of us, and we’re usually happy. But when we had this, the broth was so hot that the seafood had been overcooked by the time the stew cooled enough to eat.