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89th And Broke

I'm a young professional living in Astoria (formerly of Williamsburg, the UES and Murray Hill - I move a lot!). I'm always looking for something fun to do or the best place to grab a drink and dinner at an affordable price around the city. Have a suggestion? Email me at Laura AT 89thandbroke DOT com.

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An Italian Surprise in Midtown Manhattan

Recently two of my favorite coworkers (actually, we’ve all since given our two weeks notice, so now they’re simply two of my favorite friends), decided to have a ladies-only dinner to catch up. Since two of the three (myself included) quit our jobs to go back school (hello poverty!), we let price dictate our destination.

I browsed Restaurant.com and purchased a certificate (at 70% off) to Luna Piena, located on the restaurant-laden block of 53rd between 2nd and 3rd Avenues. We were quickly seated, even without a reservation on a Friday night, and they had a small outdoor area in the front and a garden in the back, giving it a nice ambiance.

They started us out with freebies which I always love: bread, olive oil, olives and lentils – an interesting addition and one that I enthusiastically welcomed. We decided to split a bottle of Pinot Grigio which naturally increases the bill, but with our Restaurant.com certificate we felt it was well worth it. True to the reviews, their “specials” list was as long, if not longer, than their traditional menu, and while it all sounded delicious, we decided to stick to the regular menu.

My first love is gnocchi, so I naturally ordered that but with an arrabbiata sauce versus the bresaola with radicchio in a pink sauce. Alicia ordered linguine with clams and McKenna had the penne ala Siciliana (penne with eggplant, tomato sauce and buffalo mozzarella). All dishes ranged from $17-20 and all were delicious.

I was pretty much obsessed with my meal. The gnocchi were perfectly soft and fluffy and the sauce had just the right amount of chunk and spice to it. I devoured my dish and would order it again in a heartbeat. Alicia’s clams were still in their shell and cherry tomatoes were added into the mix. I liked the shells and tomatoes, although Alicia seemed to think that a few clams never made it into her pasta. And McKenna seemed to enjoy her dish which looked fresh and hearty.

We were so stuffed that we couldn’t even think about dessert, so we just asked for the check. With our bottle of wine, three dinners, tax and tip, minus our $25 certificate (which cost us $3), it came to $27 a person. Not bad for a Friday night (yes, we all went home afterward so this was our total cost for the evening). I’m not sure if I’d go here without a Restaurant.com certificate because although I absolutely adored my gnocchi, I’m not sure I could justify a full $20 on the dish…at least not on a grad school budget.

The Basics
Name: Luna Piena
Location: 243 e. 53rd Street
Who to take: Coworkers, ex-coworkers, friends, a date, family
Price: Definitely on the higher end (for this poor girl anyway). $$$
Overall: Loved it, and with a Restaurant.com certificate it’s very doable on a budget (maybe sans the wine). 4 Stars.

Luna Piena Ristorante Italiano on Urbanspoon

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