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Emilio's Ballato
Photograph: @Chefanthony_ballatosnyc

5 great outdoor dining spots in Little Italy

Little Italy is a culinary destination, from the many red sauce classics to one of the city's most popular pizza parlors.

By Bao Ong
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Little Italy may have a reputation for being a tourist trap, but it’s still unapologetically New York. From the longstanding Italian mom-and-pop shops to the restaurant workers waving you down to dine with them, it’s an experience like no other in the five boroughs. Between all the restaurants in Chinatown and the retail shops in Soho just steps away, you can still find some of the best Italian restaurants in NYC in this neighborhood. Here are the outdoor dining spots to check out now.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to Manhattan, NY

The best outdoor dining in Little Italy

Emilio's Ballato
Photograph: @Chefanthony_ballatosnyc

Emilio’s Ballato

4 out of 5 stars
Restaurants Italian Nolita

This red sauce classic has withstood the test of time, even when Houston Street felt like a no-man's land. Formal waiters peddle tender fried calamari and creamy mozzarella with roasted red peppers to hardly a peep of fanfare. Middle-aged, Sinatra-loving regulars dine on well-balanced veal saltimbocca and skillfully blended fettuccine or rigatoni bolognese. But the spot has also become popular once again with a younger crowd (depsite the private dining room, where the owner has hosted buddies like Denzel Washington, Lenny Kravitz and Russell Crowe).

Parm
Photograph: Courtesy Parm

Parm

4 out of 5 stars
Restaurants Italian Nolita

Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone started small with their first project together, a sandwich shop that opened in 2009, serving hoagies by day and tasting menus by night. While the duo has gone on to open glitzier establishments, Parm remains a democratic Italian-American deli we can all get behind with its sandwiches, sides, starters and comforting main dishes like baked ziti.

 

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Rubirosa
Paul Wagtouicz

Rubirosa

5 out of 5 stars
Restaurants Pizza Nolita

Owner Giuseppe Pappalardo of Staten Island pizzeria Joe & Pat's enlisted his son Angelo (Esca) as chef and pizzaiolo at this Italian restaurant, offering simple, thin-crust pizzas and classic red-sauce fare. Rubirosa's crisp yet pliable pies have a delicate char and a small ring of crackerlike crust around the edges. We've yet to go wrong with the no-frills vodka rendition, which boasts a layer of creamy, booze-spiked tomato sauce and a gooey patchwork of fresh mozzarella.

Ferrara
Photograph: Courtesy Ferrara/Steve Zavitz

Ferrara Bakery & Cafe

5 out of 5 stars
Restaurants Italian Little Italy

If you didn't order a cannoli, did you even go to Little Italy? Displayed alongside the carrot cakes and cheesecake, this iconic spot doles out one of the most popular cannolis in the neighborhood.

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Lombardi's
Photograph: @a.parrett

Lombardi’s

4 out of 5 stars
Restaurants Pizza Nolita

Gennario Lombardi opened his shop in Soho in 1905—reportedly 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.

How to find a taste of la dolce vita in New York City

Little Italy
Photograph: Shutterstock

Little Italy neighborhood guide

Things to do

What’s the deal with Little Italy?
Little Italy fills every tourist's must-see list—its romantic, old New York atmosphere is world famous and its authentic pasta dishes, served by the best Italian restaurants, can't be beat. The once-Italian enclave stretched from Canal to Houston Streets, between Lafayette Street and the Bowery, as immigrants from Naples and Sicily flooded the area in the 1880s. Now, it's mostly on the blocks surrounding Mulberry Street, where some of the trendiest clothing stores and the best bars in NYC are located, but what's left is still going strong. 

If you only do one thing

Eat. Pull up a chair at one of the neighborhood's oldest restaurants (Lombardi's or Angelo's of Mulberry Street) to experience Little Italy in the best way—through its food. And finish off a hearty meal with a cannoli from Caffé Palermo.

Go off the beaten track

Don't just eat Italian food and think you're done. Check out the Little Italy Street Art Project to see some impressive murals by a group of diverse artists. The initiative offers tours or you can go solo. 

On a sunny day
Take a historical walking tour to learn more about the neighborhood's history, its immigrant roots and how much of those roots still exist today. GPSMYCITY has a self-guided tour you can take right now.

On a rainy day

Shop its specialty stores (Di Palo's Fine Foods, Ferrara, and Alleva Dairy)

Get cultured

Check out the Italian American Museum's small permanent collection devoted to the history of Italian Americans.

Chill out

Grab a glass of wine at La Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels, which has an approachable list of vin that’s complemented by chef Eric Bolyard’s “fringe France” cooking. Otherwise, head over to The Randolph at Broome, a 1,500-square-foot dive that serves classic cocktails (think rickeys and fizzes) and frozen boozy slushies.

Nearest subway stations
Canal Street

What else is nearby? 

Soho, a shopping enclave full of high-end boutiques and buzzworthy pop-up shops, as well as a sea of street vendors touting designer knockoffs in the form of sunglasses, handbags and scarves. Though many of the art galleries that made Soho New York a contemporary-art hot spot are gone, some excellent art spaces remain. Walk along the cobblestone streets and find great New York restaurants, bars and things to do in this downtown neighborhood.

Corn ravioli at Locanda Verde
Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

The best Italian restaurants in NYC

Restaurants

Fun fact: New York City has the highest population of Italian-Americans in the United States, so it shouldn’t shock anyone that the city’s best Italian restaurants are among the best in the city. Whether you’re craving world-class New York pizza, want to take a pasta-loving date to one of the city's most romantic restaurants or are looking for a modern upgrade to a Little Italy mainstay, these are the best Italian restaurants NYC has to offer.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best restaurants in NYC

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The best shops in Little Italy and Nolita

Shopping

Nolita offers several standout boutiques, and many of them are our personal favorites. Among the best shops in the neighborhood, you’ll find stellar jewelry and shoe stores, which master the art of accessorizing. And in Little Italy, don’t pass up the chance to seek out the few remaining Italian food stores for fresh mozzarella and other delicacies once the shopping fatigue sets in.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to Little Italy and Nolita

Little Italy
Photograph: Shutterstock

The best things to do in Nolita and Little Italy, New York

Things to do

Drop below Houston to escape into one of Manhattan's most enchanted nabes. Meet friends for a cocktail, indulge yourself at one of the city's best Italian restaurants, and then head to one of these great events in Nolita and Little Italy. And don't miss September's two-week blowout for all things Italian during the Feast of San Gennaro.

RECOMMENDED: See the full guide to Nolita and Little Italy, New York

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