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Trattoria Dopo Teatro: Fine Italian Food in the Theater District

August 15, 2008 - by Richard Jay Scholem
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CLOSED. There’s no more exciting place to be in Manhattan than the Theater District during the hour or so before the performances begin. The teeming, animated crowds spill over the sidewalks into the streets. There’s electricity in the air.

There’s a large, Theater District restaurant that captures that energy as well as serving some mighty good Italian food. The sprawling Trattoria Dopo Teatro just east of Times Square on 44th Street is a convenient, big, bustling and deservedly successful spot whose modest sized storefront gives no hint of the handsome multi-leveled restaurant within. diners.

The sizable menu offers a combination of Italian golden oldies and more creative modern dishes. Conventional, conservative patrons will find all the lasagna, spaghetti, scaloppini, ravioli, and risotto they want while more adventurous eaters can target the salmon and ricotta cheese filled crepes, the Panzanella or Tuscan Bread salad, Teatro’s signature open ravioli or the pastiera Napoletana, a traditional Naples grain-ricotta pie. A voluminous Italian-dominated wine list meshes well with the menu. (Though the white wine would yield more flavor if it wasn’t quite so cold).

Our twelve dishes (4 appetizers, 4 entrees, 4 desserts) produced no strikeouts. That light-as-air Panzanella salad with its soft crumbled bread (not croutons), greens, tomatoes and onions was the standout starter. But these homemade salmon crepes (think mild quesadillas), the homemade pasta stuffed with spinach and ricotta and especially the Gamberi e farro, a marvelous, generous portion of baby shrimp sautéed with barley, scallions and radicchio in a white wine sauce also had their adherents. A fine, fresh, flaky salmon fillet, atop a bed of spinach and thin, tender, white veal scaloppini led the non pasta main courses. Two good pasta picks that got even better with a shake or two of salt were that open ravioli filled with sautéed lobster chunks and the housemade fricelli pasta laced with sautéed shrimp, calamari and striped bass in a zippy tomato sauce crowned with arugula.

Aside from a dryish chocolate almond cake, all desserts—from the fluffy, airy, housemade tiramisu, the rich apple pie covered with custard cream and the chocolate soufflé (thick flourless chocolate cake) with vanilla ice cream—were excellent. Trattoria Dopo Teatro, 125 W. 44th St., 212-869-2849

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