There are a few reasons why Quartino is always packed: The atmosphere is loud and lively, the food is universally appealing, and the prices are shockingly reasonable. Everything here is served family style, with a stack of plates in the middle of the table encouraging diners to share whatever comes out of the kitchen.
As is the case in Italy, any meal here should start with wine. Divided into light, medium and full-bodied whites and reds, wine can be ordered by the carafe, half carafe or quarter carafe (also known as a quartino), with many full carafes costing less than $20. Once it's time to eat, start with the sinfully creamy cheese fondue ($9.50), followed by a salad of heirloom tomatoes and some minestrone soup. Then move onto pizza, with choices ranging from the simple margherita to the soprano, topped with veal meatballs, giardiniera, basil and red chilis. Pasta choices, all under $11, include braised pork ravioli, linguini with clams, penne with vodka sauce, and tortellini with alfredo, peas and proscuitto.
Still hungry? No problem. Seafood entrees like scallops, salmon and crisp calamari, and meat dishes like short ribs, veal Milanese and pork chops are also on this rustic Italian menu. Order everything at once or one dish at a time; Quartino is without pretense and just wants its guests to enjoy their food and each other's company.
If you've saved room for dessert, best of luck choosing between the housemade tiramisu and canolis, profiteroles, gelato-based concoctions and dark chocolate fondue. As it turns out, this whole "sharing" thing may be easier said than done.
Average cost: $21-$30
Centerstage Reviewer: Erica Walkup