149 Sullivan Street, near the corner of Houston, 212-677-4555
For those fortunate enough to live south of Houston, SoHo can feel like a village. So I learned when I visited my 2-year-old nephew and his parents, who have lived for over a decade in an apartment on Thompson. Each time I visit them, their home makes me realize that tiny apartments are to SoHo what Jimmy Choo or Manolo Blahnik are to shoes — extremely expensive. Nevertheless, like all their denizens, they spend most of their time outdoors.
And they eat in restaurants like Pepe Rosso, a place no bigger than their own shoebox apartment. More kitchen than dining room — and both are small — Pepe Rosso offers good, unfussy pasta, panini, salads, and a limited number of main dishes (secondi piatti). While waiting for four panini to go, the eight diners that the tables seat all had plates of penne, rigatoni, and spaghetti dressed in sauces whose colors indicated the cooks use fresh ingredients. I ordered variously kinds of panini — prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, salame, grilled vegetables — that all turned out very tasty. We ate them and swilled a couple of bottles of good Chablis surreptitiously at one end of a nearby playground while my nephew scrambled over the vast expanse of a brightly painted jungle gym. Passing rock stars and supermodels eyed our boisterous urban picnic with envy. I love New York.