New York minutes/End of August 2011

The good: Frankie’s 17 on the Lower East Side, where we headed after the Eater/Food 52 Bib party and its clever tidbits and cocktails. The waiter was capable if disengaged, but the food more than compensated, especially the house-made cavatelli with Faicco’s hot sausage and sage butter. WIGB? If I were in the neighborhood; otherwise, it’s on to 570 with great anticipation. 17 Clinton Street, 212 253 2303.

The better: Coppelia on the West Village/Chelsea border, where we stopped for Saturday lunch after the Greenmarket and left impressed with everything. Usually an empty restaurant is a sloppy restaurant, but the staff could not have acted happier to serve us, and both the flounder tacos and the pork-stuffed Cubano were little masterpieces of balanced tastes and textures. The two breads that arrived first were also outstanding. Plus the place looks great, and the music was lively but not loud and not the inevitable Buena Vista Social Club. WIGB? Happily. 207 West 14th Street between Seventh and Eighth, 212 858 5001.

The great: Fedora in the West Village, where we scored a table after seeing “Tabloid” the night before hurricane lockdown and where we would have been happy to count that as our last meal if necessary. Everything sounded tantalizing and turned out to be more creative than it read. We just had three appetizers: Egg in a hole with tripe ragout and cheese was a little exercise in overkill, and the charred squid was dainty but gutsy. Best of all was what was described as cured char with potato pancake, avocado and tobiko, which turned out to be more like a dosa, with a light pancake enfolding the other ingredients. Brilliant. Add in good wine, great service and a tolerable noise level and there’s no question of WIGB. 239 West Fourth Street between West Tenth and Charles, 646 449 9336.

The spectacular: Torrisi Italian Specialties even at lunchtime, where we headed on a Di Palo’s run for the cheapest Illy in town. Bob is down on sandwiches but was pretty happy with the two-fisted Italian combo, stuffed with meats and cheese for all of $8. Broccoli rabe for $3 was even better, almost half the little bowl made of up garlic and hot peppers. But the knockout was the $10 eggplant Parmesan; exquisite is not a word you associate with that concoction, but this was a marvel of very thin, perfectly breaded-and-fried eggplant slices layered with just enough cheese and sauce. It was an architectural marvel as well as a taste sensation, as good as the best in Parma. The server also deserves points for  being so upbeat and accommodating even when the tiny place was packed. WIGB? In an unhyped second. 250 Mulberry Street, 212 965 0955. (Also have to rave about Di Palo’s, which has expanded its display cases and is now even easier to navigate and which is always a trip. The owner waited on us, giving us tastes of two pecorinos and a Parmigiano and taking his time explaining mozzarella and sausage options. Plus he calculated the tab to the penny before ringing it up on the old-fashioned register: $77.66, including six cans of Illy, half at $9.99, the rest at $8.99.)

The also-rans: A) Hecho en Dumbo turned out to be better than it had any right to be at brunch once we settled in at a quiet table and saw the menu was kinda gouge-y unless you want a honking margarita — I took one for the team and it definitely mellowed me out even before my exceptional torta of rajas con queso landed. Bob’s chilaquiles also redeemed the reputation of that dish, which is so often just dishwatery dull.

B) The New French in the West Village, where we wound up with three friends at one’s suggestion after Pearl was overrun early after “The Future” (and let me warn you — you’ll need more friends to understand how much that movie had going on). I had pretty much given up on the place since the chef went westward and the sidewalk stressed everyone else, but we did well, thanks to Bob braving the elements and getting us one o’ those sidewalk tables, risking the rain but saving our eardrums. And the cooking has held up. Cobb salad reinvented had no poultry but blue cheese dressing, all nicely done.

C) Ditch Plains on the Upper West Side, where we had a nice quiet early dinner and two half-bottles of red/white wine at $20 apiece. Excellent deviled eggs were set over chopped lettuce, which kept them stable and added crunch. And the option of bacon in a chopped salad was genius, especially when that means lardons. Bob was not as thrilled with his chicken with rice and beans, though; the side seemed lackluster.