Designer and restaurateur Jerry Kleiner staked his claim in 1999 with Gioco
, a cozy spot that features rustic Italian dishes. A homey atmosphere permeates the restaurant, which was once a speakeasy in the Al Capone days of prohibition. A long room boasts warm lighting, tan walls and exposed brick defined by the flourishes of Kleiner’s expert design, including walls of stacked wine bottles and large mirrors that create a sleek feeling.
Just around the corner from the Roosevelt L stop, this classy Italian venue seems to be the perfect third date restaurant–the kind of place you take someone you like and want to talk to until your jaw is tired. Families also gravitate to Gioco; this is a terrific choice for a big get-together, and several rooms in the back can accommodate private parties. The setting is comfortable and hip, accentuated by honey-yellow lights and house music, and the menu mixes the exotic (confit of rabbit, anyone?) with standard faves like pizze al forno, pastas and various fillets. The braised pork, lamb chops and gnocchi come highly recommended. There's citrus-scented creme brulee and chocolate hazelnut torte for dessert. If you arrive early, have a seat at the lovely little bar. There's a wide selection of beverages, including ten different types of grappas to choose from.
A surprisingly well priced and unsurprisingly tantalizing Sunday brunch includes dishes like the Brioche Alla Francese (banana-stuffed brioche French toast with marscapone, candied walnuts and maple syrup, with two eggs any style.)
Average cost: $21-$30
Centerstage Reviewer: Abigail Derecho