Time is running out for my City Shuffle Diner’s Deck cards (I only have until Dec. 31st to use them all), so I’m trying to make an effort to hit up the most enticing places before the year’s end.
I was in the mood for simple Italian this week, and while I can’t say that John’s of 12th Street in the East Village was one of my top picks from the deck, it did seem to fit the bill. So I headed down a few blocks for some classic pasta dishes.
The restaurant is pretty old looking, but it’s kind of cool, especially in the back with a candle centerpiece made with 70 years of dripped and dried wax. At least the menu fits the dÃ©cor – very casual and reasonably priced. The limited menu contains pastas, some chicken and veal dishes and seafood options, with the average price running about $14. The cards always have a few recommended dishes that I try to go by (especially if I’m having trouble picking between entrees, which is more often than not), and at John’s of 12th Street, the pappardelle with Tuscan meat sauce, baked lasagna and garlic bread made on the list.
There were a ton of specials that night, including the pappardelle, so I decided to go with that. My sister had the baked lasagna and we both started with the garlic bread. The garlic bread I could do without. There was nothing special about it, it wasn’t very garlicky (which could be a good thing if you’re on a date) and there was just no pizzazz.
Cait’s baked lasagna was good, but we both agreed that the tomato sauce almost tasted too-homemade. I know that sounds ridiculous, but it needed more salt or something. It tasted just like pureed tomatoes. But with some added red chili flakes and salt it turned out to be quite good. My dish was awesome. The Tuscan meat sauce was made of beef and pork simmered for over 6 hours in a red wine sauce, and it was outstanding. It almost tasted like Southern barbeque on top of the pasta (in a good way) and there was enough meat to make one or two hamburgers. Needless to say I could not finish it, but it made wonderful lunch leftovers the next day.
This is a great place to visit if you’re in the mood for rustic Italian that won’t hurt your wallet, similar to Max or Frank. With our two entrees (one being a special, which usually means it’s more expensive) and garlic bread, the total bill was about $33. Take away $10 with our card and it was only $23 + tip. We were pretty pleased with the food we received for the price we paid.
The BasicsName: Johnâ€™s of 12th Street Location: 302 e. 12th Street between 1st and 2nd Avenues Who to bring: Family, Friends, a casual date Price: Everything was under $20, $$-$$$. Overall: Good quality Italian for a reasonable price. 4 Stars.