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 some of the finest you can get off the motherland. 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.
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Best Italian restaurants in NYC
With four-star ambitions and prices to match, Mario Batali’s cavernous restaurant has become nothing less than the city’s top destination for refined, upscale Italian cuisine. The clubby dining room, serenaded nightly by a twinkling pianist on a grand piano feels like the lobby of a very opulent grand hotel. The most showstopping dishes, intended for sharing, include hunks of lamb and veal and creamy Bauletti with sheep's milk ricotta. The all-Italian wine list is suitably encyclopedic and exorbitantly priced.
Michael White, who built a national reputation at Fiamma in New York and Las Vegas, only to see his fledgling empire squashed overnight in a partnership meltdown, returned stronger than he left. The chef strives to continue the comeback that began at Convivio and Alto with the seafoodcentric Marea. An upmarket shrine to the simple pleasures of the Italian coastline, the project is a gutsy gamble from a chef with bravado to burn.
The Italian-American supper clubs immortalized in mob movies and sepia-toned photos were never as dreamy as they seemed. The young guns behind Carbone, though, have moved beyond sentimentality in their homage to these restaurants by flipping the whole genre onto its head. The enormous menu reads like an encyclopedia of red-checkered classics. But co-chefs co-chefs Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone have made such dramatic improvements, you’ll barely recognize anything.
The old-world charm of well-worn communal tables, dangling copper cookware and flickering lamps may help explain why a 23-year-old restaurant is still tough to get into on a Saturday night. Seasonal produce shapes the menu of executive chef Roger Martinez. Dunk the warm country bread in Umbrian, Ligurian and Sicilian olive oils produced exclusively for Il Buco. You’ll have no trouble finding a wine to match your meal; Il Buco’s list is one of the city’s best.
Aspiring restaurateurs in Park Slope should study this convivial Fifth Avenue pioneer. Though it opened in 1998, al di là remains unsurpassed in the neighborhood. Affable owner Emiliano Coppa handles the inevitable wait (due to the limited reservations policy) with panache. The wait is worth it for co-owner and chef Anna Klinger’s northern-Italian dishes. It would be hard to improve on her braised rabbit with black olives on steaming polenta; even simple pastas, such as the homemade tagliatelle al ragù, are superb.
The painstakingly crafted Neapolitan pies—cracker-thin crust with a pleasing char and a subtle Parmesan zing—are widely considered among the city's best; dough is made fresh several times a day. To keep kids occupied during what feels like an interminable wait, point out the window boxes full of herbs used to flavor the sauce.
Owner Robert De Niro swapped his train-wreck trattoria, Ago, for this blockbuster replacement helmed by chef Andrew Carmellini (A Voce). Carmellini’s bold family-style fare is best enjoyed as a bacchanalian banquet. A single order of oven-roasted bone marrow with truffle gremolata won’t last long in the middle of the table. Nor will the chef’s ravioli—as delicate as silk handkerchiefs and oozing pungent robiola. Locanda is the rare Italian restaurant with desserts worth saving room for: Try the apple pie fantasia with apple cranberry compote, bayleaf gelato and oatmeal streusel.
This casual spuntino was an instant classic when it debuted in Carroll Gardens in 2004. The mavericks behind the place—collectively referred to as “the Franks” Castronovo and Falcinelli—turn out an impressive selection of cheeses, antipasti and cured meats, distinctive salads and exceptional pastas to a mostly local crowd. Cavatelli with hot sausage and browned sage butter is a staple, as are the flawless meatballs—feather-light orbs stuffed into a sandwich or served solo, lavished with raisins and pine nuts.
The food world welcomes back Missy Robbins—who earned Michelin stars for her work at A Voce and A Voce Columbus before departing in spring 2013—with this pasta-focused eatery. Robbins revamps a former auto-body shop as a 70-seat dining room decorated with handmade tiles, natural-wood tables and iron-casement windows. From an open kitchen, Robbins oversees rustic plates like cacio e pepe frittelle, spaghetti with anchovies and a wood-fired leg of lamb with Roman spices. A small adjacent take-out café will serve pastries and panini, before converting to a cocktail bar at night.
Danny Meyer’s first full-on foray into Italian cuisine focuses on the foods of Rome. The menu, from chef Nick Anderer, sets a new standard with faithful facsimiles of dishes specific to the area. Antipasti include delicate baby artichokes—deep-fried in olive oil—served with a pungent anchovy-bread sauce. Among the pastas that follow is an excellent spaghetti alla carbonara with egg yolks, guanciale and heaps of black pepper. Entrées, like the namesake Maialino, a golden, fennel-rubbed piglet haunch presented with potatoes basted in pig fat, are a reminder of just how seductive authenticity can be.
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Amoun Moroccan Mediterranean Cuisine & Lounge
It’s possible to taste the flavors of Marrakech without ever leaving New York City at this authentic Moroccan restaurant in the East Village. Start with a meze plate of hummus, baba ghanoush and bakoula, a spinach-chickpea spread ($13.95). For the main course, you might try a tagine, or slow-simmered Moroccan stew, either with lamb shank, chickpeas and apricots ($22.75) or chicken, preserved lemon and olives ($16.95). Other entrees include couscous with chicken, caramelized onions, raisins and chickpeas ($16.95), a mixed grill of lamb, chicken and merguez sausage ($19.75) and chicken bastilla, a phyllo pastry filled with meat, almonds, eggs and herbs and topped with cinnamon sugar ($18.75). Satisfy a sweet tooth with baklava ($7), homemade fig ice cream ($6.50) or kunafa, a traditional cheese pastry ($7). Freshly brewed Turkish coffee ($3.50) or Moroccan mint tea ($4) might be nice, or you can finish the meal with some hookah, if you’re so inclined.
Venue says: “Enjoy authentic home-made cuisine and a chill lounge experience for late nights. Celebrate the weekend with belly dancing performances.”