New York minutes/July 2007

The pretty good: Malatesta Trattoria, where uptown friends lured us deep into the West Village on a Friday night and where we should have known “quirky” meant no credit cards. The place is one of their favorites, and it was easy to see why: the room is very Italy-charming, not deafening, and the service was that rare blend of relaxed but attentive. The food was almost beside the point, although Nancy’s lamb chops did look straight out of Tom Jones. The gnocchi she ordered as a shared appetizer were better than either my special fettucine with infinitesimal lobster and alleged shiitakes or my consort’s tagliatelle with unnamed meat ragu. But the crostini were ample and the tiramisu and panna cotta were fine and the prosecco and wine kept coming. I didn’t even mind the inevitable baby Jesus rolling up at the next table. WIGB? Probably, but with cash next time. 649 Washington Street at Christopher, 212 741 1207.

The not as bad as it’s sounded: Provence, where we met friends for Saturday lunch just for the alluring space and walked away happy no matter what the critics had warned. As we headed there from the N train I was laughing that our back-to-back destinations were previewing our trip to both Tuscany and Provence, but the menu turned out to reflect very little of the latter. My poor consort and one friend wound up with slightly overgrilled shrimp on a sloppy pile of summer squash with shaved fennel and citrus, although her husband didn’t complain about the merguez sandwich. I scored with mussels and frites even though the promised chorizo was MIA in the brodo; the garlicky mayonnaise with the crisp and salty fries made up for that. The cheese plate was dainty but perfect, and a rhubarb-lemon tart made the others happy. Best of all was the bottle of picpoul we shared. WIGB? Absolutely, assuming it survives (it was pretty empty); it’s cheaper than a ticket to Nice this summer. 38 MacDougal Street, 212 475 7500.

The cacophonous: Dean’s Pizzeria, where in the name of something new I stupidly lured friends for the most aurally excruciating experience. The food and service and huge room were actually acceptable, but Jesus, do 5,000 human larvae ever crank out some serious din. We sat in the back (big mistake) and shared an okay bottle of Italian white, a respectable mushroom-sausage pizza (way heavy on the latter) and a “multicolore” salad with surprisingly good ingredients, starting with baby wild arugula. WIGB? Undoubtedly, but late, after the spawners have gone home. 215 West 85th Street, 212 875 1100.