Like most people in Manhattan, I get annoyed when I'm asked to come up with a great place for dinner that's a convenient few blocks away from either Penn Station or Grand Central. The city has so much to offer, but those two areas - hectic, full of tourists, midtown at it's worst - are relative culinary wastelands. Over time, I've found a few exceptions, and Aperitivo, a spacious, delicious pizza bar located only a few blocks away from Grand Central, is one of them.
The place is huge, with a large upstairs seating area, a downstairs lounge, and lots of outdoor space. It never feels empty - I went last Friday night, and at least 80% of the tables inside were taken - but there's also never a wait, which is in and of itself enough of a reason to stop by. The indoor space is appealing - lots of white, with warm blue and yellow lighting - and the outdoor space surprisingly roomy. But the best part is that the food, while nothing amazing, is consistently inexpensive and satisfying. I've tried the Tivo white pizza (warm ricotta sprinkled with prosciutto and fig compote) and the basic margherita (spicy tomato sauce with fresh mozzarella and basil). Both are delicious. If you're looking for something lighter, try the beet salad - huge chunks of red and golden beets tossed with asparagus, green beans, and goat cheese and sprinkled with a light, citrus-y vinaigrette.
Buried downtown, this place might seem just a bit above average, but located where it is - surrounded by office buildings and neon-lit clothing stores - it's a gem.
780 3rd Avenue (b/w 48 and 49)
golden and red beet salad
tivo white pizza
buffalo margherita pizza