I ate at a “$2” restaurant

 The new thing: I ate at a restaurant because I had a coupon.

Here’s how it happened: I got an email from restaurant.com about a special deal: Buy a $2 coupon and get $25 off a meal. Scrolling through the list of participating restaurants, I laughed when I saw a local Italian place that I diss every time I drive by it. It’s housed in a nondescript brick building with an entrance that’s below street level. “Who would ever eat there?” I’d say to my husband. “The restaurant’s in the basement!”

Its website featured a few glossy close-ups of old-school dishes with captions like  “giant homemade stuffed meatball” and “chicken with broccoli rabe—I like it with hot cherry peppers too.” (Wait, who’s saying that??)  There was also a panoramic shot of the glittering Manhattan skyline at night—an odd graphic since the restaurant is in Union, New Jersey!

The place’s tagline, “Where friends become family and family become friends,” made me think Tony and Carmela Soprano would enjoy eating there.

Ultimately, my love of a good discount superseded my irrational dislike of a restaurant I’d never eaten at, so I bought a coupon and took my family there Friday night.

It turned out the Sopranos were right.

The food was delicious and comforting, nicely cooked and flavorful. While there was nothing particularly innovative about the menu—they stuck to Italian standards—they did them well. My husband (chicken with Portobello mushrooms),  son (linguini with mussels), and I (salmon Florentine) were well-fed and happy. The staff was welcoming. They poured generous glasses of the house wine. There was live entertainment! And the place was packed.

It was the best $2 I ever spent.

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