photo credit: Noah Devereaux
In the New York that we all know and affectionately tolerate, being “fun” and “social” usually involves spending a lot of money. It’s something that, like an Apple Terms And Conditions agreement, we just blindly accept in order to move on with our lives and not miss the C train. But Trapizzino is an Italian restaurant that defies New York math. It’s busy but never too crowded, and you can have a good sit-down meal for around $25 per person. Given the LES location, it should really be scenier and more expensive, but it’s just not. And that’s why we like it.
This place is part of a popular Italian chain, and the NYC location used to be counter-service, but is now a full-service sit-down spot. It’s named after its specialty dish, the trapizzino, which is a pocket of sourdough pizza crust that you can get with various different fillings. Each trapizzino is only $8, and you can choose from options like eggplant parm, braised oxtail, and one with stracciatella and anchovies that will both haunt your breath and inspire your dreams. You’ll want one or two for yourself, plus some appetizers to split with the table (like fried artichokes, or a big salad that’s only $6).
In both spirit and aesthetic, the dining room appears to be auditioning for the role of “set” in the eventual Call Me By Your Name 2: Lost In NYC. The walls are lined with decorative wine bottles that may or may not be filled with actual, drinkable liquid. There’s natural light, you can hear the sounds of the LES’s puppies and birthday parades coming in through the windows, and the ’80s rock playing on the speakers is somehow both cool and dorky at the same time. These things are all part of the easy-breezy Roman love story thing that makes this place worth keeping in mind for an affordable date, or dinner with a group of friends who’ve realized that splitting a $30 margherita pizza between five people is kind of bullsh*t.
While the trapizzini themselves do a good job of tricking you into thinking you’re not just eating pizza for the third night this week, none of the food here - with the possible exception of the stracciatella and anchovy trapizzino - is memorable enough to warrant a trip on its own. So use this restaurant like your MetroCard: often and willingly, but only as a means to something else, whether that’s impressing a date without spending your whole paycheck, or getting a casual meal with friends before going out. After all, this is New York, and if you’re not spending a lot of money on dinner here, you’ll have more to spend later.
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Carciofi Alla Giudia
These fried baby artichokes cost about the same as a load of laundry (washing and drying), and are about 400x more enjoyable. Squeeze the lemon over them for full effect.
A simple salad with some cheese and lemon dressing. It’s a generous portion for only $6.
Doppia Panna Trapizzino
This is our favorite trapizzino here. It has a ton of creamy, tangy stracciatella, plus some anchovies neatly placed on top. You’ll most likely still be thinking about this long after you leave the restaurant.
Coda Alla Vaccinara Trapizzino
Probably the most complex-tasting trapizzino we had. It’s filled with tender oxtail in a rich sauce with carrots, celery, and tomato.
Polpetta Al Sugo Trapizzino
This one has a big beefy meatball and a slightly sweet sauce. Like if a meatball sub went through an alternative phase.
Parmigiana Di Melazane Trapizzino
Have you had eggplant parm before? Was it served between two soft pizza crusts? Not a bad idea, it turns out. This is not a must-order, but it’s still pretty good.
Cacio e Pepe Suppli
They have a few risotto ball options, and this one is the best. Get an order or two and exercise your sharing skills.
On first glance, this looks like a rosemary and parmesan salad. But there are crispy fried potatoes in there, too, and if you mix it all together, it won’t taste like you went into the woods and started eating everything in sight.