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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In walking distance to the Barclay Center, Brooklyn’s Bella Gioia is reminiscent of an underground eating club I once saw on an episode of Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown. Weathered crates lined exposed brick, adding to the European charm and open kitchen. Bella Gioia’s 5-10pm dinnertime is ideal for the after work diner. make sure to watch the clock because the kitchen stops serving at 8:45pm and is subject to change daily. Our server worked the room like a ballerina touching each table with a welcoming energy. With Italian accent in tow she pronounced everything on the menu with authenticity, making me want to reach for my Rosetta Stone. The sharable arancini ($9) was rich and flavorful enough to stand alone, only to be enhanced by the four dipping sauces and our red wine. Entrées missed the mark on flavor, texture and temperature. Ravioli de Cacocciuli ($19) served artichoke two ways, filling and fried – the subtle flavor of the filling was bumped up by the salt level of the tomato crème and the fried artichoke topper should have its own place on the menu since it was so good, however the ravioli’s pasta was thick and lacked that melt-in-your-mouth feel. Speaking of lacking, the Scallopini al Marsala ($23) lacked heat – the veal and sauce were room temperature to touch and the creamy polenta was bland. Dessert was a delicious dense chocolate cake ($10) swirled with a passion fruit drizzle. Overall, Bella Gioia has potential and great service, but can lack in final det
Venue says: “Voted as one of the top 10 best Italian restaurants in Brooklyn, we invite you to come in and truly taste the difference of Sicily.”