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An excellent restaurant for special occassion dining is Cafe Boulud on E. 76th Street. The ambience, service and food cannot be beat. The menu is always inspired and chock full of seasonal fare. The quality of service and menu are far better than anything at Bar Boulud on the West Side. Cafe Boulud is probably best suited to smaller celebrations for adults as the atmosphere is chic and upscale in a very New York kind of way--but without being at all intimidating, making a great choice for an anniversary dinner.
For a family gathering, Carmine's cannot be beat. It is located in the 90's on Broadway, and while there is a another location in the theater district, the uptown location is more spacious. Everything is served is massive quantities, family style and it's all delicious. The atmosphere is casual, relaxed, and unfailingly festive. Bring the kids and tuck in to the hot antipasto platter and then go for the steak pizzaiol'. Service is attentive and speedy. Be prepared to bring home leftovers to enjoy the next day!
New York City has a too many great restaurants for great occasions. Sometimes it may be too difficult to choose when there are hundreds if not thousands of restaurants to choose from. RestaurantPics, a visual restaurant guide, has managed to only feature some of the top and most popular restaurants in Manhattan. This site might help you narrow your alternatives as each listed restaurant is a well-known restaurant.