It’s time to get your friends together, but you really don’t want to deal with cooking, serving or cleaning up. Fortunately, New York City has a wide range of choices when it comes to holding a small dinner in a restaurant. Have your party your way while enjoying the benefits of chef expertise and a beautiful setting where you can enjoy relaxed conversation and company.
Cozy and private yet very much a part of the restaurant itself, The Arnold Whiskey Room at The Ribbon on the Upper West Side provides a historical setting for the restaurant’s comfort food. The room is dedicated to mobster Kingpin Arnold Rothstein, one of the organized crime leaders in the early 20th century. Rothstein also built the Franconia Hotel, where the restaurant is located. Photos of Arnold’s mobster buddies and clippings from the famous “Black Sox Scandal of 1919 and the infamous World Series” are posted around the room. Try the restaurant’s Buffalo-style cauliflower and rotisserie chicken and, if you come on the right day, it’s a must to order Blue Ribbon’s acclaimed fried chicken. You’ll swear you never had anything like it before. Catch the spirit of the room and order one of the “Fancy Whiskeys and other brown spirits” that provide the liquid backdrop.
The Ribbon (courtesy The Ribbon)
Pasta sensation Rezdôra has an upstairs area suitable for a personal gathering. Seat your group around the spacious round table and treat yourself to a customized pasta tasting from Michelin-star Chef Stefano Secchi. With dishes rooted in the traditions of Emilia Romagna, creatively named options include “Grandma Walking Through the Forest in Emilia” made with cappelletti verdi and roasted leek stuffing and “Cow Grazing in ‘Emilia Romagna,” a rich sirloin steak with sauces of the region. Rezdôra, the Modenese word for grandmother, honors the Nonna who typically hand rolls pasta. A farm-to-table focus takes advantage of the restaurant’s proximity to the Greenmarket while also incorporating specialty products imported from Italy. The private room itself is rustic in spirit, reminiscent of Italian osterias.
Rezdora's pasta (courtesy Rezdora)
Soho’s famous Charlie Bird makes it easy to bring the gang together with their lovely private dining room. Vintage and comfort go hand-in-hand here. The custom-built walnut table was handcrafted to fit the space and sits against exposed brick walls with vintage light fixtures overhead. The room allows for a truly customized dining experience: your choice of wines can be stored in the room’s hidden wine vaults, and a dedicated sound system lets you dine to your own playlist. Dinner is typically served family-style and reflects the freshest of the season, like farro salad with pistachio and pecorino, cavatelli with spicy pork ragu, and olive oil gelato.
Charlie Bird (©Robyn Lehr)
The East Pole
On the Upper East Side, family-owned East Pole satisfies your wanderlust with a private room outfitted with maps dating from the 1800s from the collection of the Royal Geographic Society. Appropriately called The Map Room, the dining space features a long farmhouse table suitable for gathering all your friends and an exterior copper bar area if you’d like to start the evening with a private cocktail. The cuisine is American comfort with seafood choices, veggies and the like adhering to a farm-to-table philosophy; however, you’ll be visually transported to other parts of the world in this elegant escapist setting. Consistent with the personalized experience at the restaurant below, private dining starts with a plate of grilled cheese sandwiches with house-made pickles along with The East Pole’s signature radishes.
The East Pole's Map Room (courtesy The East Pole)
If you love Alain Ducasse’s Benoit brasserie, you’ll really go crazy over L’Officine, the restaurant’s stunning 12-seat room set in a 19th-century apothecary. Brought over from Bordeaux by boat and one of Ducasse’s most treasured possessions, the space has intricately carved dark walnut woodwork, a Brand Van Egmond lighting sculpture and floor-to-ceiling black and white photos of Paris by Jean-Michel Berts. Order all your French favorites from soupe a l’oignon to steak tartare and imagine yourself somewhere in the City of Lights, far away from the streets of the Big Apple.
Benoit's L'Officine (courtesy Benoit)
Chef Joey Campanaro has been offering his brand of comfort food to West Village diners since he opened The Little Owl to great acclaim. Market Table, his second endeavor, is a cozy spot for small-group dining, set in the warren of streets just west of Seventh Avenue. The intimate private dining room at Market Table is hidden underneath the busy, market-driven restaurant in what was formerly a wine cellar. The room’s vaulted ceilings and candles create a warm, intimate setting for dishes like braised veal breast pot-au-feu, sauteed Nova Scotia halibut and fresh-from-the-Greenmarket cauliflower with curried yogurt and squash with spicy pickled apples and sage.
Market Table (courtesy Blackfoot Hospitality)