102208lugocaffe.jpgLocated on 33rd Street near Madison Square Garden, Lugo Caffe is the new "restaurant translation" of the Lugo Menswear store in Nolita. The 150-seater is on a mission to inspire an entire "Lugo Tailored Lifestyle," where you'll wear their clothes, eat their food and, presumably, have a Lugo priest give you last rites. And if places like Mars 2112 can synergize aliens, why not a fusion of fashion and food?

Designer Jun Aziki (Forge) has affected a mod Italian café where thick wooden window blinds block out the dreary surroundings as you sip an aperitivo while pretending to read Il Tempo (newspapers provided). Chef Greg Lombardi, who helmed the kitchen when the place was Tupelo Grill, has a "comfort-food" menu featuring your usual suspects: antipasti, grilled pizzas, pastas, meat and fish. Owner John Meadow says the place is "more about filling a void than creating something new," and, considering the dining dead zone around Madison Square Garden, it seems like a good strategy to lure in the high-end, pre-event crowd.

At a preview lunch yesterday, standouts were the ravioli with spinach, ricotta, and stewed tomatoes, and the Pizza Robiola: truffle oil and sea salt. Misfires included the Roasted Beets and Grilled Zucchini & Pignoli (under-seasoned) and the fried Artichokes Alla Lugo, which were bland and actually uncomfortable to chew, with sharp points jabbing your mouth. But the Eggplant Caponata and the Grilled Portobello definitely delivered. And with Cheyenne Diner no longer an option, where else are you going to go before this weekend's Postage Stamp Mega Event? (Besides Houlihan's.)

Photo and additional reporting by Elisa Winter.