Frank Sinatra ate here. Well, it's the kind of place he probably would have dined at had it opened before he died. Should you still need a celebrity endorsement, take a look at the walls, which are lined with more head shots than a Hollywood casting agency can claim: Jim Belushi, Nicolas Cage and Sophia Loren have all cozied up to the white tablecloths.
La Scarola is not the place to play Russian roulette with reservations. Most nights, the reveling crowd spills out to Grand Avenue underneath the oxidizing sign that bears the restaurant's namesake escarole leaf. Most Italian restaurants are dark, Ficus-lined grottos lit by red glass encased candles, but La Scarola is a clean, well-lit place. The tables are packed in like the furniture in an economy stateroom on an ocean cruiser, creating a close sense of community. Then again, you'd never see Tony Soprano in here. He'd fear being overheard trading exploits of murder and therapy.
The pasta & fagiole (pasta and beans) soup with the anise perfume of basil and toothsome cannelloni beans make it worth the slurp, while the great veal marsala, $19.95, glistens in a rich wine broth with mushroom chunks. They're joined by everything from shrimp tossed in penne alla vodka to eggplant parmigiana. Desserts stick with tried-and-true classics: tiramisu, cannoli, spumoni.
Average cost: $21-$30
Centerstage Reviewer: Michael Nagrant