Best Italian Restaurant - 2001
Santino's on Downing
Readers' Choice: Carmine's on Penn
The menu says that "only grandma could make it better," but we don't see how even she could improve on the food at Santino's on Downing. Chef/owner Santino "Sonny" Rando's marinara, for example, is the red sauce of dreams, slow-simmered until the fresh, herb-enhanced tomatoes cook down into a thick, rich liquid. It's just the right consistency for ladling over Rando's cheese-packed shells; throw in a few of his wickedly salty, oil-slicked, garlic-packed rolls and a glass of top-shelf Italian wine from his well-chosen list and you have the most comforting of Italian meals. But don't think Rando can't see beyond red: Other items on the menu offer a grand tour of his prowess with sauces, from mushroom-imbued creams to Sicilian-inspired lemon-based dreams. Forget grandma's house -- it's to Santino's we go for impressive Italian fare in an intimate, inviting setting.