• HOURS: Daily 3 to 6pm; 9pm to close
• PRICES: $3 beers, wine by the glass, $5 martinis; Food specials between $3 and $5.
Admittedly, the menu at Panevino is a little scary. It’s huge, which is rarely a good sign. And when you read it closely you see that most dishes are just slight variations on other dishes—for instance, spaghetti tarantina is spaghetti pomodoro with a few mussels and calamari tossed on it and a little heat added to the sauce.
In total, there are seven tomato sauce-topped pastas. Yes, tomato sauce is fundamental to Italian cooking, but look at it. All appearances point to a menu conceived, in the grand tradition of the Olive Garden, with efficiency in mind.
But Panevino is taking care in the kitchen. I know that because I’ve tried its foundation dish, spaghetti pomodoro—pasta, tomato sauce, a little basil. It’s a dish where bad ingredients and sloppy technique are impossible to hide. And I liked it a lot. The pasta had that very slight crunch, and the tomato sauce walked the sweet/acid line perfectly, and just enough amount of oil was added so that it lubed up well to the spaghetti. To say a very obvious thing when describing good Italian food, it reminded me of eating spaghetti pomodoro in Italy. Only Panevino served me approximately four times the amount of pasta I would have received in the motherland.
Which is why, when I return, I’ll return for happy hour. The happy hour menu includes small plates of pasta (they’re still pretty big)—penne al pesto, fusilli with spicy Italian sausage and that ubiquitous tomato sauce—for $5. House wines are $3, bruschetta is $3…it’s a good situation. With lots of white subway tile behind a pretty bar and a dining room that opens out onto a streetside patio, Panevino also offers something we don’t see enough of on Broadway. That something is charm.