The best restaurants in Little Italy and Nolita

Which restaurants in Little Italy and Nolita stand out from the sea of red-sauce joints and trendy eateries? Check out our critic-approved selection.

Though Manhattan’s traditional Italian stronghold is being squeezed out by Chinatown and Nolita, there are still some good Italian restaurants in Little Italy, including a venerable pizza joint, and new-school spots like Torrisi Italian Specialties and Parm are revitalizing the locale. There are also some culinary gems in Nolita.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to Little Italy and Nolita

Café Habana

Nolita’s fashion-forward crowd storms this chrome corner fixture for the jumping scene and addictive grilled corn: char-grilled golden ears doused in fresh mayo and generously sprinkled with chili powder and grated cotija cheese. Staples include a respectable Cubano and crisp beer-battered catfish with spicy mayo. For dessert, try the eggy caramel flan. Those not willing to suffer the wait for a table can hit the takeout annex next door—you can get that corn, on a stick, to go.

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Chinatown & Little Italy

Da Nico

If out-of-town guests insist on visiting Little Italy, steer them toward charming Da Nico. The solid red-sauce fare includes spaghetti with a chunky bolognese and entrées like hearty veal chops and salmon, simply grilled and spritzed with lemon. Keep an eye on the brick oven in the restaurant’s foyer—crisp pizzas emerge from it, topped with sweet sauce and plenty of melted mozzarella. If that doesn’t quell your rumbling belly, the gratis plate of piping-hot zeppole just might.

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Chinatown & Little Italy

Il Cortile

If you find yourself blinded by the lights of Little Italy and afraid to choose from among the multitude of indistinguishable ristorantes, don’t panic; just set a course for this sprawling eatery, which can be counted on to deliver a gratifying meal. The neoclassical décor is a bit more Secaucus than Sicily, but the dishes are 100% Italian. Request a table in the glass-enclosed atrium, enjoy the enthusiastic service from a friendly wait staff, and come hungry: the offerings here are hearty and huge.

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Chinatown & Little Italy

Lombardi’s

Gennario Lombardi opened his shop in Soho in 1905—the first pizzeria in the U.S. It’s hard to vouch for how the pizzas tasted a century ago, but there’s more elbow room now after a renovation, if not the charm of the old joint. Still, Lombardi’s continues to bake a hot contender for best pie.

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Chinatown & Little Italy

Parm

Critics' pick

James Beard noms Mario Carbone and Rich Torrisi open their highly anticipated spin-off, Parm, next door to Torrisi Italian Specialties. The retro canteen took over sandwich operations (including meatball, chicken and eggplant parms) from the original restaurant, plus the pair will also offer refined takes on red-sauce classics (like chicken francese). Office lunchers can take a hero to go from the front take out counter, while diners can settle into seats at the back for a full meal or opt for classic cocktails at the bar.

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Nolita

Peasant

Critics' pick

The dining room at Peasant, one of downtown’s most celebrated Italian restaurants, is equal parts rustic and urban chic. Cement floors and metal chairs give the place an unfinished edge, while the gaping brick-oven and lengthy wooden bar provide the telltale old-world notes. Dishes that emerge from the fire are particularly good. This includes gooey speck-wrapped bocconcini (mozzarella), which arrive at the table bubbly and molten. Choose the succulent proteins, like the fork-tender porchetta or gamey lamb with smooth polenta, over the disappointingly gummy gnocchi, dressed with an otherwise pleasant creamy rabbit ragù.

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Chinatown & Little Italy

Rubirosa

Critics' pick

Owner Giuseppe Pappalardo of Staten Island pizzeria Joe & Pat's has enlisted his son Angelo (Esca) as chef and pizzaiolo at this Italian restaurant, offering simple, thin-crust pies and classic red-sauce fare such as veal scaloppine.

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Nolita

Torrisi Italian Specialties

Critics' pick

Good old-fashioned Italian-American food, eclipsed of late by the real-deal regional cooking of Italy, found an unlikely savior when this spiffy deli opened its doors on Mulberry Street. What started off as a hoagie shop—serving top-notch chicken parmigiana and roasted-turkey sandwiches—morphed over time into one of the city's most groundbreaking restaurants. Young chefs Mario Carbone and Rich Torrisi, veterans of Cafe Boulud and Del Posto, lionize the Little Italy pantry, celebrating domestic ingredients like Progresso bread crumbs and La Quercia prosciutto in a $63 nightly prix fixe that's among the best deals in town. Tony Soprano wouldn't know what to make of this food—grilled seafood salad in a zingy pepperoni vinaigrette; striped bass sauced in an upmarket clam chowder. But we wouldn't have it any other way.

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Nolita

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