Cuozzo and Bruni Offer Penny Pinching Advice

Posted by R.K. Gella

It’s that time of year, and the crystal balls have officially been removed from storage, but while the industry gurus are crying their predictions for ’09, it seems frugality will be one trend following us into January.

At the New York Post, Steve Couzzo offered some advice on dining well in a lethargic economy.  Although “dining well” is relative, his dollar stretching strategies are geared towards diners who want to stray from the $60.00 ribeye, but don’t consider eating out of styrofoam a worthwhile evening.

Cuozzo recommends:

  • avoiding prix fixe only restaurants, you can’t maneuver a price set in concrete
  • choose a pasta course over a second course as a main in Italian restaurants

As marvelous as Italianized meat and fish main courses can be, most aren’t that different from similar ones in American, French or even Japanese places. (Black cod is black cod, whether it’s drizzled with soy or olive oil.) But truly fine pasta can’t easily be replicated in non-Italian restaurants, and it’s commanding the most creative energy in the best Italian kitchens.

  • dine at Mexican and Indian restaurants, it’s rare that their menus will take you to the cleaners
  • enjoy mussels as a main course

Usually offered as a first course, they’re often enough for a main. They take luxuriously forever to finish because you must open their shells one at a time.

Over at the New York Times, Bruni has done a service for thrifty daters by seeking out meals for two under a $100 in Manhattan.

Cost is always on my mind when I dine out in New York City, but usually in a narrow, targeted way. I ask myself whether a restaurant’s rib-eye warrants a $38 tariff, whether its markup on wine is conventional or criminal, whether the overall pleasure the restaurant provides is commensurate with the price it charges.

I don’t set spending ceilings, the way most diners do…But on a recent week, that’s precisely what I did.

Prediction for the New Year: a series of published manuals on how to dine economically in 2009.

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