Neighborhood: Greenwich Village
Address: 181 Thompson St.
How hard is it to get in?Difficult. Walk-ins are rarely accepted and reservations usually need to be booked several weeks in advance.
Wallet stress: Very high
Get this: Tortellini al Ragu
Skip that: The cocktails.
Does it live up to the hype?: For the service and decor alone, yes. The food was exceptional (though overpriced).

The Carbone story is well known by now: Mario Batali and Daniel Boulud protégés Mario Carbone and Rich Torrisi, along with restaurateur Jeff Zalaznick, decide to reimagine the red sauce italian spot for Lower Manhattan. The menu is what you'd have found in Italian Williamsburg in the '90s (or '50s, for that matter), with staples like veal parmesan and baked clams. After our $17(!) cocktails, we started with the delicious sizzling pancetta, followed by tortellini (the meal's highlight), and ending with the veal parmesan (huge, and served on the bone). While everything was certainly tasty, the cost wasn't commensurate with what we were eating. The cocktails, for instance, have no real right to be $17, and the veal, though wonderful and more than enough for three people, was too expensive for what a simple dish it was.

But while the food offers a more upscale version of tried-and-true American-Italian classics, the service and decor were absolutely impeccable. Our server Marco was the ultimate pro, dressed in a "one of a kind" oxblood Zac Posen suit. He took care of our every need and told some fantastic anecdotes about his life in the food biz. He even personally flambéed our impossibly decadent (and probably unnecessary) Bananas Foster desert. Also impressive was the wine: Passopisciaro Scinniri Rosso, a moderately-priced, full-bodied bottle recommended by our sever, was a perfect pairing with our meal. —Nathan Reese