Connie’s Italian Diner

Ascending the stairs to Connie’s – an extension of Heartbreaker’s hole-in-the-wall pizzeria down on Russell Street – there’s a lot to take in, in the best way.

The space was previously a Korean restaurant, and the predecessor’s fish tank and lazy Susans are still here. But this is an Italian joint after all: there’s red vinyl everywhere; tables are draped in red-and-white checkered tablecloths; and old-school, black-and-white Italian sitcoms are beamed onto the wall.

For owners Zara and Michael Madrusan – who are also behind Bar Margaux, the Everleigh and Heartbreaker downstairs – the initial idea was to do a low-key pizzeria serving deep-dish “grandma pies”. Then they met chef Matteo D’Elia, who’d worked at Michelin-starred restaurants including Galvin at Windows and Bibendum.

D’Elia’s refined Italian offering might feature truffle arancini rolled in charcoal, a bone-in rib veal Milanese for two, and pastas available in full and half serves: tagliolini cacio e pepe, spaghettini alle vongole and “Bad Nonna’s lasagne”. The jewel in the dessert crown is the “tirami-sundae”, a tiramisu-soft-serve hybrid.

You can go full famiglia-style with a four-person feast of garlic Parker House rolls, the pasta of the day, rocket salad and a pitcher of Americano. Or grab a round of grandma’s feet and fill up on sides.

The wine list puts an emphasis on Italian drops, and Michael is pouring vintage barolo from his private collection, which you can get by the glass. For speed of service, cocktails come from the Madrusan’s own Everleigh Bottling Co; much of their sparkling range is on tap; and Martinis come straight out of the freezer, poured from half-liter bottles.

Connie’s is lit up by colorful leadlight pendants, a cluster of disco balls (even in the bathrooms) and a vintage jukebox loaded with Motown hits. It spills onto the rooftop terrace, which looks over Lonsdale Street and features a mural dedicated to the Italian amaro Cynar.

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