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FOOD & WINE

Quality Italian: Fun food before or after the theater

May 25, 2015
Signature dish at Quality Italian
Signature dish at Quality Italian

Signature dish at Quality Italian

Quality Italian is worth a visit for more than the chicken paramigiana.

Despite its name, Quality Italian defies your expectations of the usual Italian restaurant. It’s really a steakhouse with an Italian twist. Portions are so large you can share them with friends. That, and the eatery’s lively atmosphere, make you feel as if you’ve been invited to a surprise party.

After checking in with the receptionist, we ascended a winding marble staircase leading to the dining room above Sixth Avenue (that had a lovely ground floor bar beneath with a garage-type door opening up to the street).

The tastefully decorated room was clubby in color tones but contemporary/industrial in decor with natural light filtering in from the street. With a choice of both round and rectangular tables, it was abuzz on a Saturday night with a mix of theatergoers, tourists, families and locals (We even spotted celebrity Dr. Drew on our way out).

Lively dining room at Quality Italian

Lively dining room at Quality Italian

Soon after we were seated, we were served a pan of warm, salted, pull-apart rosemary rolls with a side of olive oil.

The bread pan

Rosemary Rolls

However, what “drew” us to the restaurant was its picture-worthy signature dish: chicken parmigiana. Again the dish was unconventional. It wasn’t a pizza, per se because it had no crust. Rather, it was oven-baked chicken parmigiana, breaded on both sides, pressed into the pan to attain a round shape, and then sliced into wedges. Drizzled on top with cheese and tomato sauce, it was served on a two-story elevated pie stand. Underneath it was a choice of condiments and spices as well as arugula and a honey sauce.

Chicken Parmagiana

Pièce de résistance – Chicken Parmagiana

Garnishings under the pie

Zesty garnishings under the pie

Not only was the pie gargantuan in diameter but it also had the thickness of Sicilian pizza. The menu said it was sized for two (at $29 per person) but it served as a main course for four hearty eaters–with a few slices left over to take home.

One of the reasons we didn’t inadvertently over-order was that our waiter, Ernesto, was extremely helpful in guiding us through the extensive offerings on the menu. He was so self-assured with the “quality” of the food he was serving that he encouraged us to try dishes with the guarantee of taking them back to the kitchen for something else in case we didn’t like them. (We didn’t have to exercise that option).

We also shared:

  • Eggplant Polpetta, roasted eggplant molded into meatball shapes, topped with burrata and a sauce of San Marzano tomatoes
Eggplant polpetta

Eggplant polpetta

  • Corn gnudi, a type of gnocchi made with ricotta cheese (instead of potato) and dusted with corn flour, served in a butter sauce flavored with pistachio, basil and black pepper
Corn gnudi

Corn gnudi

  • Baked clams topped with thin baked pasta, our least favorite because they were a little too dry and flavorless
Baked clams

Baked clams

  • Light and crispy soft shell crab with fresh tomato and parsley topping
Crispy soft shell crab

Crispy soft shell crab

The corn crème brûlée was a totally amazing, a side of creamed corn covered with a thin burnt sugar topping that was so rich and delicious it could have been eaten as dessert. We were so taken by this creamy custard concoction that we uncharacteristically neglected to photograph it!

Except for the disappointing baked clams, we enjoyed every thing we ordered as well as the interesting cocktails before dinner. The made-in-house gelatos were perfect for dessert.

Coconut gelato with straciatella

Coconut gelato with straciatella

The location of the restaurant, attentive service, authentic “quality” ingredients and eclectic menu make it a great choice before or after a Broadway show. While probably not as well-suited for a romantic dinner for two, it’s perfect for an entertaining lunch or dinner with a group of food-loving friends who like to share. The whimsical menu was interesting enough that we are eager to return to taste the homemade pastas and steak served on a wooden plank (which the people at the table next to us seemed to be enjoying as much as we relished our pizza!).


IF YOU GO

Quality Italian

57 West 57th Street (entry on Sixth Avenue between 57th and 58th)

  • Reply
    Marilyn Jones
    May 25, 2015 at 4:30 pm

    Everything looks so mouth-watering!!! It does sound like a great place to meet a group of friends and try lots of different dishes!!

  • Reply
    santafetraveler
    May 25, 2015 at 8:48 pm

    Two of my favorite things in an Italian restaurant are chicken Parmesan and eggplant. I would have been a happy camper. So want to try that chicken!

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      May 25, 2015 at 8:53 pm

      Actually, I love eggplant, chicken parmigiana and anything with tomato sauce:-)

      • Reply
        Laura
        May 26, 2015 at 7:40 pm

        Me too!

  • Reply
    Muza-chan
    May 26, 2015 at 9:54 am

    Delicious…

  • Reply
    Rachel
    May 27, 2015 at 7:07 am

    Wow, that all looks good! Is their “shtick” all about shaping food to look like other food? The “pizza” and the “meatballs” give that impression.

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      May 27, 2015 at 8:09 am

      Didn’t notice that except for those two dishes. Maybe it was more the element of surprise. Things aren’t what they seem to be:-)?

  • Reply
    Johanna
    May 28, 2015 at 1:13 am

    Sounds a great place to try lots of different things – ohh a little Italian would go down very nicely for lunch right now 😉

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      May 28, 2015 at 9:28 am

      This is definitely a place where “the more the merrier.” 🙂

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