Flatiron Lunch: Contorno’s Serves Up Decent Italian In Holiday Inn Lobby

Every Friday we go south of the ML boundaries in search of a delicious lunch. Sometimes it’s Murray Hill south or the Flatiron District, sometimes Gramercy and everything in between- but we just like to call it Flatiron Lunch.

I realize that I am going to take some flack for this one, but yes, that is a Holiday Inn sign peaking out in the corner of the above photo, and yes, Contorno’s is an Italian restaurant in a Holiday Inn lobby. It’s always fun when we are able to bring you a restaurant in a non-traditional, almost hidden location (in my book, nothing will top El Sabroso), and Contorno’s not only qualifies as an unexpected and worthwhile lunch destination, but also brings better-than-average Italian food to the table at ML prices.

Once you get through (and over the fact that you are in) the Holiday Inn lobby, you arrive at Contorno’s. The interior is pretty much exactly what you would expect from a restaurant in a Holiday Inn lobby: over-designed and uninspired. The oversized chandelier and mural on the wall won’t instill confidence.

During my first attempt to try Contorno’s, I was vetoed by friends when they saw it was in the lobby of a Holiday Inn. Seriously, they got there before me and left before I even arrived. There have been a few notable changes since Contorno’s opened in February (and my first attempt to go), so it was worth a proper look. The seasonal menu changed from the Winter to Spring, which meant that polenta fries served with the sandwiches changed to French fries. I consider this a downgrade, but not the worst. In better news, the prices have fallen since the opening, from $10 to $6.95-$8.95. If in doubt about the menu, check their website.

My friend that was willing to rescind her veto met me there to pick up our to-go order. The first item we dug into was the ricotta gnocchi with sweet Italian sausage and broccoli rabe. While the portion was small for $7.95, it was better quality than the pasta you could get at a generic pizza place. The sausage was crumbled and tasty, the broccoli rabe provided a nice bite and the dish was loaded with sautéed onions. I am not sure what additional ingredients they added to the pasta, but there was a nice buttery/cheesy coating over the whole dish.

Next, we tried the grilled chicken and broccoli rabe panini ($8.95). This sandwich wasn’t pressed like we have come to expect of a panini, but the fillings were hot and the ciabatta bread did the trick. I noticed that the chicken was layered to make sure that chicken went to the edges of the bread — a nice touch. The sandwich also had sauce similar to the pasta which added a great texture that brought everything together; granted, it did create a bit of a mess, because the sandwich became slippery.

We also tried what they call the “A-B-C Grilled Cheese” sandwich ($7.95), which features apples, double-smoked bacon, New York State Cheddar, lettuce and tomatoes on multi-grain bread. Nothing in particular stood out as bad in this sandwich, but nothing was that great either. The cheese seemed like average cheddar slices (bad), but the bacon was super crispy (good).

It is important to note that all four sandwich/burger options come with a large side of French fries. Ours weren’t quite crispy by the time we picked up our food, but if you act quickly, these fries have potential.

I am glad that with the post-opening seasonal changes at Contorno’s brought the prices down from the original threshold of $10. It makes entering the Holiday Inn a worthwhile venture, something I know many NY’ers and ML’ers will have trouble stomaching.

The + (What someone who likes this place would say)

  • I like to surprise my co-workers with crazy venues, and Holiday Inn works for me!
  • Hot, big sandwich made with good ingredients and french fries is a good deal.
  • The food has more ingredients and layers than the menu lets on.

The – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)

  • I am a New Yorker, and I won’t eat in a Holiday Inn.
  • My local pizza place has better sandwiches and pastas.
  • I won’t eat generic Italian food.

Contorno’s, 30 West 31st btw Broadway and 5th Ave., (212) 760-0301

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