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Ernie’s Italian Chophouse revolves as much around its restaurateur’s likable personality as the excellent food coming out of its kitchen. Ernie Patti is the modern-day version of that maître d’ who knows every customer’s name and seems like every diner has done his family an honor. The menu is executed by chef Gary Wood, who has cooked at the likes of 32 East and Max’s Grille. The interior is simple, a drop ceiling, gray walls, black and white table cloths, and a forest pattern on the windows to keep the light forever dim. Dinners begin with ciabatta bread and house-marinated olives soaked in lemon and thyme just long enough to take on a fresh, woody flavor without overpowering the briny fruit. The clams in the appetizer are baked in the shells with a crust of garlicky breadcrumbs and a lemon butter sauce that taste of the sea. The beet salad looks as bright as it tastes, with paper-thin slices of sweet beets covered in arugula and shaved leeks, all dressed in a tangy vinaigrette, there just enough to bring out the freshness of the vegetables. The skirt steak comes sliced and fanned across the plate. It’s filet-tender, with just salt and pepper to bring out the beef and an accompanying salad of greens, tomatoes, blue cheese, and potatoes. The cannoli is stuffed with filling both light and rich, the shell crackling with every bite. A mountain of bread pudding tastes of cream and butter and vanilla and stayed crispy on the top, with an underdone caramel sauce below. The dishes make it one of the best Italian joints around, but it’s that friendly New Yorker working the room, thanking everybody for stopping by, that will really bring people back to Ernie’s house.