Caffe San Marco
15 Charles St. Ste. 211
New York, NY 10014-3011
Daily 9:00am- 3:00am
1, 2 at Christopher St.-Sheridan Sq.
This small café located in Greenwich Village specializes in Italian food with prices between $9 and $12 per entrée or appetizer. The menu features a nice selection of pasta dishes and pizzas, cold antipasti and soups. The portions are large, and typically, if you cannot find something on the menu that pleases you, they will whip up something (as long as you describe it exactly). Some of the most pleasing dishes are the tortellini alfredo, the focaccia San Marco (breaded chicken breast, sauce and mozzarella between two circles of focaccia bread) and the penne with vodka sauce.
As for liquor, the selection is excellent, ranging from desert wines to shots to mixed drinks. The house wines (especially the red) are more than adequate, and a good value when dining with a larger group – get the liter, it’s worth it. Caffe San Marco also features the very best Long Island Iced Tea I’ve found anywhere.
The desserts are, for the most part, apparently provided by the same company which most Italian restaurants use (or so I’ve found working in the business), so they are nothing to sing about and nothing to frown at, either. If you do get something sweet, order a cappuccino or espresso with your dessert. This restaurant has GREAT coffees, served in large mugs and well prepared. Actually, skip dessert and have a nice cappuccino and a bit of Frangelico to top off your meal.
The real appeal of Caffe San Marco, however, is the ambiance. This place is always empty. I’ve never seen it with more than three different groups of diners at any one time. So, it’s quiet and has a roomy feeling. The lighting is low, and there are statues and paintings everywhere. Except for the music selections (which is sometimes fitting Italian opera, but usually anything from Country to Pop), this restaurant makes for a wonderful date.
They have both indoor and outdoor seating, and smoking is allowed in all areas. You only must ask for an ashtray as they are not laid out on the tables. There is no limit to the time you can just sit, and you will not be made to feel like a freeloader for taking up a table for four hours with nothing but drinks. Part of the magic of this establishment is the casual, easygoing staff and owner. You can do your own thing, and they will still treat you like family.
If you come in more than once, you will be welcomed by the owner, Michael, as if you and he have known each other for years. He greets all women with a kiss on the cheek and all men with a hearty handshake. He runs the establishment loosely, letting his staff do their jobs, and occasionally going from table to table greeting customers. You will usually find him at the corner table talking to his friends.
For me, he is the real appeal of San Marco, having taken very good care of me back in the days when I had no money to eat and would munch on free bread while my friends ordered dinner. He’d come over to chit chat and finally he’d ask why I wasn’t eating. When I’d tell him I had no money, he’d shake his head and rush back into the kitchen to fix me something. It was never big, usually soup or antipasti, but it was so sweet of him, and so I’ve always gone back, and I always leave a generous tip. He will, if he knows you well, treat you to a drink or two during the course of the evening. As not to offend, it is necessary to finish everything given gratis, even if it’s not to your liking.
Every time I’m in the Village, I’ll make a quick stop in, even if just for a drink and pleasantries with Michael. If I had stars to give, I’d give Caffe San Marco all five.