Recently some friends and I checked out a restaurant on the edge of the Meatpacking district in Chelsea called Scarpetta. It's a trendy restaurant serving nouvelle Italian cuisine, rather upscale and refined -- a place where the beautiful people congregate.
What else would you expect in this neighborhood?
Scarpetta surprised me, however, with its utter lack of pretentiousness. There was no music blasting and, while the place was crowded, it was also spacious and comfortable. Best of all, the service was outstanding and friendly and, most importantly, the food was amazing.
The restaurant doesn't have a huge menu but what it does serve, it does very well. Also, unlike many hip restaurants that charge top dollar for tiny portions, the entrees here are big and hearty. I ordered the Pappardelle, the pork and pasta dish with saffron. It was very tasty and beautifully prepared. My wife ordered the duck and foie gras ravioli and just raved over it. We also ordered spaghetti with tomato and basel as an appetizer and the sauce and basel were so fresh that it made our mouths tingle.
Scarpetta also has an excellent wine list, and we ordered a red wine (can't remember the vintage, alas), and the bread they served with the table was easily the best I've ever had at any restaurant ever (and I've eaten at Per Se).
So if you're looking for a classy night in Manhattan with good food, Scarpetta is a great bet.