I flew FCO-JFK in February 2000. My trip was actually not that great. Sorry to be a downer. I was showed in the VERY back of the plane, in the middle. My friend and I were reading the service cards, and noticed that there were 404 seats in the plane we were in (742), and strangely enough, there were a set of four seats in the back, thus making us the 403, and 404. The seats reclined about and inch, because there was a wall behind us. The F/A's at the begining were very nice and plesant, the second we left Rome, the one female stewardess treated me very poorly, looking down on me because of my age, even though I payed a full fare ADULT ticket like everyone else. If they don't want to treat me like an adult, then I shouldn't have to pay an adult fare! Sorry, anyway... The seats are just as old as the plane, but they due. They are blue in the front section, a very ugly yellow in the middle (thats where I sat from JFK - MXP), and red in the back (thats where I sat from FCO - JFK).
At the airport in JFK, when they were still in terminal 4, they had a seperate line for Rome flights. Food is tolerable, but nothing to rave about. All Alitalia flights are non-smoking, enforced by the cigarrate with the cross through it on the seat headrest covers. FCO is a very large airport, and hard to get around, but not to bad, just like any other airport, but in Italian.
Hope your friend enjoys his trip, and hopefully Alitalia's service will go up when they get their 777's. Oh yeah, the saying goes, Alitalia: Always Late In Taking-off, Always Late In Arriving.