NEW YORK -- You've been downtown all day, buying your way through all the funky little shops on East Seventh Street, St. Mark's Place and East Ninth Street. Now it's time to indulge your appetite -- with a gargantuan plate of pasta and a good glass of red wine. So where do you go?

No problem. Just as the East Village fashion retail scene has taken a turn for the better this past year, restaurant and cafe life is thriving. Some of the best places are Italian, and they're all fun, full of tasty eats and super cheap.

Orologio, which means clock in Italian, opened this summer at 162 Avenue A, between East 10th and East 11th Streets. Decorated with clocks in every size, shape and color, it serves up tasty Northern Italian fare -- knockout roasted potatoes, broccoli sauteed in garlic and thin-crust pizzas. Come summer, the front doors open to create a sidewalk cafe.

Two blocks south at 131 Avenue A, Zitella opened its doors a couple of months ago. Owned by four friends -- one of whom is the interior designer who decorated the space -- it's a warm, friendly place with a menu the owners say has "everything from simple Italian to simply twisted Italian." Try the warm spinach salad with sliced parmigiana cheese and the fresh ravioli, or just have some wine at the great little bar.

A little farther down is Pisces, at 95 Avenue A. A little bit pricier than its neighbors, it specializes in "trattoria fare with a Southwestern accent" (read: grilled fish and unusual pastas). The wine list is fairly extensive and the wait staff is helpful. In the warm weather, Pisces swings open its doors and becomes an open-air restaurant.

Mangia!

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