Long before Robert De Niro co- founded the Tribeca Film Festival in 2002, he was credited with consolidating the revival of this industrial area near the southern tip of Manhattan. And he didn't do it by making movies. He did it by investing in restaurants: Tribeca Grill, Nobu and Nobu Next Door.
Between April 25 and May 7, the festival will screen 174 features and 100 shorts from 40 countries -- including 91 world premieres -- starting at 10 in the morning and going well into the night. With concerts, street fairs and outdoor screenings, the place will be even buzzier than normal. Here are my dining recommendations:
De Niro holds court usually at Tribeca Grill, where the industry elite claim table turf during the festival. However, the large bar at the center of the restaurant is open to walk-in mortals. Too bad the food isn't so great since the departure of chef Don Pintabona (who recently started cooking at Dani, west of Soho).
Nobu continues to attract the gold-plated BlackBerry set. It's almost entirely booked for dinner (though not lunch) throughout the festival, so either call to see if there are cancellations or try Nobu Next Door, though its no-reservations policy often translates into long lines.
Tribeca Grill, 375 Greenwich St., (1) (212) 941-3900. Nobu, 105 Hudson St., (1) (212) 219-0500. Next Door Nobu
, same address, (1) (212) 334-4445.
True to Type
Landmarc. If you want the features that typify Tribeca restaurants -- tin ceilings, exposed brick walls, industrial tubing -- but not the fuss that attends Tribeca Grill, give Landmarc a try. Marc Murphy is the motorcycle-riding chef who finally landed his own space after years working at others. You are guaranteed a decent burger, hefty salads and a great vibe, both in the downstairs cafe (try the goat-cheese profiteroles) and bar, and the restaurant upstairs. If the weather allows, the tables on the street make for good people watching. 179 W. Broadway, (1) (212) 343-3883.
The Odeon. This neighborhood pioneer celebrated its 25th anniversary this year, and its brasserie-meets-'50s-diner feel remains comforting to those who landed here after partying in the '80s at Danceteria. American fare is consistently average. Keep it simple. 145 W. Broadway, (1) (212) 233-0507.
Bouley Bakery and Market. David Bouley is Tribeca's most famous culinary son. His high-end French restaurant, Bouley, is just as fussy, pretentious and delicious in its new Tribeca location as in the old one. Odds are slim that you'll want to spend the necessary three or four hours here before or after a film; ditto for his Austro-Hungarian restaurant Danube around the corner.
You'll do better at the new Bouley Bakery and Market, with its tiny upstairs lair -- the chef's ode to simple French fare. It seats barely 30 and takes no reservations, but if you're lucky, you can get the best roast chicken in New York. 130 W. Broadway, (1) (212) 608-5829.
Roc. Insiders who like Italian and don't want the Goodfella's feel of Tribeca Grill should enjoy Roc: The corner space feels like a downtown-casual slice of Milan. This is classic Italian fare, from risotto and solid pastas to veal chops. Nothing is superlative, but the kitchen is comfortably sure of itself. 190-A Duane St., (1) (212) 625-3333.
Finding Its Soul
The Harrison. After last year's failure of Pace, a large- scale Italian eatery, the Red Cat/Mermaid Inn team have put all their Tribeca efforts into the Harrison. Brian Bistrong, lately of Citarella, is the third chef at the helm. Yet unlike other places with revolving kitchen doors, the Harrison may finally be finding its soul as an old-fashioned ``continental'' restaurant: a little Italian, a little French, a little American sensitively prepared. The risotto with mushrooms the other night was wonderfully woodsy. Nicely spaced tables (you can really talk) and great service make this the smart Tribeca Grill alternative. 355 Greenwich St., (1) (212) 274-9310.
Blaue Gans. Chef Kurt Gutenbrunner isn't sure if he'd prefer running a beer hall or a restaurant, but this is the place for a fine selection of German and Austrian beers and some strudel before or after a show. 139 Duane St., (1) (212) 571-8880.
More Tribeca Spots
Turks & Frogs Tribeca. The city's newest -- perhaps best -- Turkish restaurant is strewn with antiques (most for sale); plush leather couches await in the rear's red lounge. Start with cold or hot mezze (appetizers) and freshly baked bread for dipping. For entrees, there's manti (lamb-and-mint-stuffed dumplings in tangy yogurt sauce), grilled seafood or savory chunks of lamb over pureed baby eggplant. Choose from a small selection of Turkish whites or reds. 458 Greenwich St., (1) (212) 966-4774.
Sosa Borella. Next door to Turks & Frogs is Tribeca's Argentine outpost. The coolest thing about Sosa Borella's airy, loft-like dining room with huge windows and wooden wine-case decor is that it's absolutely not chic. The space is relaxing and family-friendly (children younger than 12 eat for free Sundays and Mondays). The sangria-and-steak menu is straightforward, portions are generous. Dessert highlight: fig ice-cream garnished with mint and strawberries and served with a pour of port. 460 Greenwich St., (1) (212) 431-5093.
Giorgione 508. This sleekly designed spinoff of the popular Giorgione around the block is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Pastas are winning, including ravioli with ricotta and marjoram in a buttery-tasting sauce of red and yellow cherry tomatoes, or mushroom lasagna touched with truffle oil. For mains, try grilled rib-eye in a galaxy of roasted root vegetables or branzino with braised carrots and peas, all courtesy of chef Alex Schindler. 508 Greenwich St. (1) (212) 219-2444.
66. Jean-Georges Vongerichten twists mostly Chinese standards to create a few duds and many surprises: e-fu noodles with half-cracked lobster chunks in a sauce spiked by the flavor, not just the heat, of green chile, and a sensuous, refreshing bowl of diced hamachi (yellowtail) and mango. Solitary diners may perch at the elegant counter (Richard Meier designed the place) to down edgy dim sum and soup dumplings between screenings. 241 Church St., (1) (212) 925-0202.
Tribeca supports a thriving, stylish, welcome-all bar scene. Dylan Prime boasts a handsome, dimly lit room with tables and a long, curving bar. Seek out Farrah, who can whip up the best bourbon Manhattan in Manhattan as well as ``pie-tinis,'' the star of which is a chocolaty Dylan Mud Pie. 62 Laight St., (1) (212) 334-4783.
If you're in a margarita mood, the restaurant Centrico is just the place, a flashy space offering multiple variations on the classic from frozen to fruity, with a staggering selection of tequilas and mescals as well. 211 W. Broadway, (1) (212) 431- 0700.
There's no doubt what Grace is all about, with its mile-long bar and bottles galore, but there's an exposed-brick room in the back with skylights where you may order nibbles to balance the imbibing. 114 Franklin St., (1) (212) 343-4200.
Bubble Lounge, an effervescent champagne bar for a somewhat younger crowd, has a zigzag bar, colorful sofas and cushioned chairs everywhere. 228 W. Broadway, (1) (212) 431-3433.
If you want to impress, go to Brandy Library, a 1930s-style lounge in sable wood and amber lighting, complete with mustachioed piano player. Those bookshelves surrounding you hold just about every spirit available, from the affably affordable to $380 shots of 1900 Armagnac. 25 N. Moore St., (1) (212) 226-5545.
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