Does Frank’s New Italian Spot, Sauce, Pass The Second-Date Test?

Last year, Allison Hertzberg recommended the neighborhood’s best first-date bars. But what about the second date? We asked Allison to go on one at Sauce, the new restaurant from Frank Prisinzano of Frank, Lil’ Frankie’s, and Supper.

Photos: Noah Fecks

When picking a dinner spot for that ever-so-important second date, a few things should come to mind: charm, lighting and affordability (so: the same things you look for in an apartment). Located on the other side of the tracks (across Houston Street) on the corner of Rivington and Allen Streets, Sauce serves up the same homestyle Italian food and pay-what-you-drink wine as its sister restaurants in the East Village. It also happens to be the perfect “I’m trying not to look like I’m trying” spot for a second date.

First off, the restaurant focuses on small plates – meaning that when you run out of things to say, you can talk about the food. Ordering one entrée only gets you so far, but ordering six small plates makes for a cornucopia of banter about what’s good, what’s not, and what looks like raw sewage (luckily nothing on our plates did).

Sauce is also great for gauging whether your date is cool, and by cool I mean eats meat. I dig vegetarians in all of their skinny splendor, but my idea of a good time is flannel, wood paneling, and a meatfest. Had my date been wearing flannel, I would’ve hit the trifecta. With its in-house butcher, Sauce is not for the faint of appetite; it’s for a couple willing to throw down and share that rib-eye for two. If your date is a picky eater and orders everything “on the side,” then this place isn’t for them, and they probably aren’t for you.

The other upside of Sauce is that most of the food is prepared so quickly that you may have cleaned your plates within an hour of taking your seat. If you’re thinking that doesn’t leave you with enough time to talk, consider this: What if after that boozy first date, you’ve sobered up and are wondering why you agreed to a second date in the first place? If you’re at Le Bernardin, you could be on lockdown for three hours, and no matter how delightful your dover sole with celery foam is, you might be wishing you were somewhere more casual. Plus, since Sauce lets you crack a bottle of wine and pay by the quarter depending on how much you drink, there’s no need to down the whole bottle and make bad decisions.

I know what you’re thinking: “This all sounds great, but how much will it cost me?” Well, we paid $60 (note: cash only) for two glasses of wine and four plates of food, not including the salad that was given to us on the house. At that price, there wasn’t even a need for my date to do the “fake reach.”

If you’re not sold on Sauce, or are one of those people who pretends to not like Italian food because you think eating pasta will make you fat, try any of the options below:

  • Graffiti Food and Wine Bar – Indian-Asian fusion. Communal seating means you can eavesdrop on your neighbors during inevitable conversation lulls.
  • Pylos – Chic Greek food. If your second date turns into an overnight date, as it sometimes does, Pylos has a great brunch.
  • The Redhead – Bacon peanut brittle. Enough said.
  • Back Forty – Grassfed burgers are all the rage, and who knows, your date might consider a trip to Avenue B an adventure.

Have any other suggestions for second-date destinations? Tip us off.