Nothing about the East Village feels like going to your grandmother’s house. Not the clanking, crowded L train to get there, not the sparsely lit thoroughfare that is Avenue A. And certainly not walking through a bar to get to her front door.

But once you pull aside a curtain at the back of The Garret East, press a doorbell and step inside Dinnertable, there’s another kind of comfort that surrounds you. The new 20-seat speakeasy dining room behind a faux wooden cottage door is the kind of effortlessly cool artsy space (a painting of red lips on a dinner plate, a Moleskine notebook mural) that is the NYC version of home. It’s the worn-in cool of The Doors and Otis Redding, where friends gather under low-hung Edison bulb fixtures to pass the night with glasses of biodynamic wine (though don’t miss the excellent trio of cocktails).

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The family dinner vibe comes from married chefs Scott Tacinelli and Angie Rito, most recently of Quality Italian and long before then a life of Italian family dinners. That touchstone gives them the kind of insights you dare not mention as a child to the cook, as Tacinelli whispers conspiratorially over the Lasagna Bolo for Two ($40). By standing up the six rolls of pasta sheets in rosebud-like swirls, every portion has those coveted crispy edges, while the substitution of Italian sausage for pork in Tacinelli’s grandmother’s otherwise traditional bolognaise gives the dish a savory edge to cut through the sweet tomato sauce.

Among the appetizers, a tartare made with smoked short rib ($12) gets a dab of horseradish sauce and a housemade marble-rye cracker instead of toast, its genius twofold: crisp texture, no sogginess. Their take on the Caesar salad ($11) gets a springtime tang from chrysanthemum leaves, and is made with enough anchovies to be pleasantly funky, tempered with a cloud of freshly shaved Parmesan. Skip the baked mussels, which arrived gritty with pepperoni-infused rice that ended up echoing the brininess with salt, while the Sicilian potato dumplings just didn’t achieve the beautiful simplicity of another Italian classic, cacio e pepe.

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But you don’t want to fill up on appetizers anyway, not when the desserts are two throwback treats that definitely never graced grandma’s table — though busy parents’ freezer is another story. There aren’t enough chocolate tacos being made, and Dinnertable’s gets a grown-up touch with espresso ice cream filling. But the real treat is their take on the Pillsbury Toaster Strudel: puff pastry piped full of an almond-clementine-oregano-honey filling and served alongside a robiola glacee and a miniature pitcher of glaze, so you won’t have to thieve an extra packet and leave your brother with a naked pastry on Monday morning. It’s tough to improve on childhood, but Dinnertable just may have pulled it off.


206 Ave. A (through a back door at The Garret)
Tuesday-Sunday, 5:30-11:30 p.m.
No reservations