My son and I walked into Trattoria Dopo Teatro in December 2005. It was mostly an act of desperation: we were hungry, and in the Theater District it’s hard to find anything much better than Olive Garden. I was surprised to find very respectable standard Italian fare and designer pizzas prepared in a wood-burning oven, all prepared conscientiously in spite of the crushing load of tourists on their way to a show.
The other night, we actually made a 6:15 p.m. reservation, though I don’t know why we bothered. We found a long line snaking out the door. After about 15 minutes, we finally got to the hostess station, and told her we had a reservation. “So does everyone else,” she said. It seemed almost random—like winning the lottery—when another hostess picked us out of the scrum of hapless souls waiting around the bar, and took us to a table.
Last time, we were seated at a two-top near the front window, so I hadn’t appreciated the size of the place. There’s a rabbit’s warren of rooms on two levels, with names like “The Secret Garden,” “The Theater Room,” “The American Room,” “The Grappa Room,” and “The Wine Cellar.” They must be able to accommodate hundreds of people. Despite that, the kitchen manages to do a solid job while turning out the orders quickly.
Mezze Luni ai Porcini
I truly enjoyed half-moon ravioli stuffed with ground veal in a porcini mushroom sauce ($19.50)
Mezzi Rigatoni alla Siciliana (left); Calamari Sabbiati (right)
My son didn’t much care for the half rigatoni in a light tomato sauce topped with eggplant, mozzarella and basil ($16.00). But the kitchen did well by baby calamari ($10.50), which were delicately sautéed and topped with breadcrumbs, in a generous portion for an appetizer.
The orders came out fast, but you had better know what you want, because you have only slim odds of flagging down a server later on. Near the end of the pre-theater rush, we saw the beginning of a transformation. Plain wooden table tops with paper placemats gave way to white tablecloths for those who would dine after 8:00 p.m., when things slow down considerably.
I can’t claim that there is anything unique about Trattoria Dopo Teatro, but for a meal before a show, it’s a solid option in a neighborhood where so many of the restaurants aren’t even worth writing about. And after curtain time, it might actually be a place worth hanging around.
Trattoria Dopo Teatro (125 W. 44th Street between Broadway & 6th Avenue, Theater District)