The folks from Memorial Sloan Kettering, Weill-Cornell Medical, and Rockefeller University working in the micro-micro-neighborhood around 65th Street and First Avenue feast at tasty ethnic joints and cozy trattorias.
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• Mediterraneo The lighting is seductive and the soundtrack sexy at this popular Italian spot. Take a seat at the long bar, put a bottle on the corporate Amex — the list ranges from simple Chiantis to pricey Tuscans — and graze on generous appetizers that double as mains, like raw-artichoke salad with lemon and fresh Parmesan and velvety carpaccio on a bed of peppery arugula. 1260 Second Ave., at 66th St.; 212-734-7407.
• Totoya Daytime dining is a tranquil affair at this conversation-friendly Japanese eatery. The interior’s cool and dark, so sit by the street-side windows to catch some late winter rays as you sample nontraditional sushi rolls like the oyster tempura, teriyaki-marinated eel and mango, and the Upper East Side–appropriate “Sunday Morning” (smoked salmon and cream cheese, naturally). 1144 First Ave., at 63rd St.; 212-751-6123.
• Portofino Grille Fake starlight and Amalfi watercolors lend a kitschy yet homey feel to this country-style ristorante. Ask for a table by one of the fireplaces and chat over steaming bowls of pasta e fagioli, the house’s superb spaghetti and meatballs, and a glass of rustic Montepulciano. 1162 First Ave., nr. 64th St.; 212-832-4141.
• Ming’s Garden Dim sum is the draw at this sparse but neat and clean hole-in-the-wall. Share favorites like sweet red-bean buns, crackly fried pork rolls, and delicate dumplings filled with minced scallop, shrimp, and asparagus. If you’re still hungry, snack on the irresistible Cantonese-style spareribs, lacquered to perfection with hot barbecue honey. 1205 First Ave., at 65th St.; 212-396-2800.
• John’s Pizzeria Crowd into a worn wooden booth and share a steaming pie at this old-school standby. John’s offers an array of toppings from anchovies to sun-dried tomatoes, but the simplest slices — the classic margherita; the sauceless pizza bianca, covered in a blizzard of ricotta and mozzarella — are the best. 408 E. 64th St., nr. First Ave.; 212-935-2895.
• 879 Taco Colored Christmas lights and neon beer signs make for a festive, roadside-border-bar vibe at this tiny Tex-Mex joint. The prices are low, the portions huge: Pig out on rich steak enchiladas buried under a crust of melted cheese or soft fajitas bursting with pulled pork, grilled onions, and spicy peppers. Wash it all down with a cold Corona and a couple of fresh limes. 1229 First Ave., nr. 66th St.; 212-879-8226.
• Gotham Coffee House Brick walls and iconic black-and-white prints of Paris add to the bohemian charm at this comfy but crowded coffeehouse. Relax with your reading over a hazelnut cappuccino and a turkey-avocado club on Blue Ribbon Bakery bread — or skip straight to the decadent desserts, from gooey pecan pie and mammoth chocolate-chip cookies to the addictive “almond pretzel,” a twist of puff pastry sprinkled with nuts and dipped in a dark-chocolate shell. 1298 Second Ave., at 68th St.; 212-717-0457.
• Caffe Med Avoid the noontime crowd of teens from nearby Talent High School by toting your laptop to this jazz-themed café for a late lunch. Take advantage of the free wi-fi while you nibble panini — we like the Parma ham with Fontina and the prosciutto with tangy Gorgonzola, pressed between fluffy focaccia slices. Don’t miss the gelato — ask for a scoop each of chocolate, hazelnut, and vanilla with candied cherries. 1268 Second Ave., nr. 66th St.; 212-744-5370.
• Ravagh Persian home cooking just like madar used to make. Order a traditional starter — favorites include pickled vegetable torshi, sour-cherry rice, and fried chickpea dumplings — and top it off with succulent grilled kebabs of yogurt-marinated lamb and lemon-saffron Cornish hen. 1237 First Ave., nr. 67th St.; 212-861-7900.
• Pongal This Pan-Indian place is a vegetarian’s takeout dream: Roam the subcontinent from Punjabi vegetable fritters and Gujarati green lentil stew to southern dosai crêpes filled with curried onions and potatoes. Two helpings of chile-spiced cashews make for an excellent afternoon snack. 1154 First Ave., at 63rd St.; 212-355-4600.
• Asia Grill Skip straight to the noodle dishes at this bustling haunt. Bun xao, Vietnam’s answer to pad Thai, comes steaming with fried egg and crisp vegetables; cold vermicelli serves as a backdrop to textures both crunchy (cucumber, bean sprouts, peanuts) and sticky (spareribs in plum sauce). The banana pudding travels well, but the tempura-fried green-tea ice cream is unbeatable. 1239 Second Ave., at 65th St.; 212-753-9818.
• Bagelworks The bagels at this specialty counter run the gamut from traditional (pumpernickel, blueberry, cinnamon raisin) to inventive (jalapeño cheese, corn, spinach). Select an appropriate spread — blue cheese for the black Russian, perhaps, or melted butter over chocolate chip — and a cup of their strong black coffee to warm you up once you’re back at the office. 1229 First Ave., nr. 66th St.; 212-744-6444.