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Corn ravioli at Locanda Verde
Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

The best Italian restaurants in NYC

The best Italian restaurants in NYC span red-sauce joints to fine dining favorites

By Bao Ong and Time Out contributors
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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

A stellar Italian restaurant we welcomed it into Time Out Market

Felice 56

Restaurants Italian Midtown West

The Sant Ambroeus Hospitality Group is known for its group of stylish Italian restaurants. From breakfast to dinner, the menu here takes on a Tuscan theme with cappuccinos by Lavazza and cacio e pepe by Executive Chef Adrian Kercuku. Located just off Fifth Avenue from numerous shops, the sprawling space has an airy feel with lime-washed finishes and a watercolor painting by anchoring the main dining room.

Best Italian restaurants in NYC

Photograph: Filip Wolak

1. Via Carota

4 out of 5 stars
Restaurants Italian West Village

The soulful Italian plates served at Via Carota, the first joint effort from chef power couple Jody Williams and Rita Sodi—at once rustic, sophisticated and heart-swelling—proves simple food can be anything but basic. Via Carot'as elegant ease feels like an extension of the chefs's other nearby hits, Buvette and I Sodi. The pastas are satisfying but our favorite items include the chopped steak and a seemingly-simple-yet-delicious salad. 

Don Angie
Photograph: Ashley Sears

2. Don Angie

Restaurants Italian West Village

Quality Italian's chef power couple Angie Rito (Torrisi Italian Specialties) and Scott Tacinelli (Quality Meats) turn out modern Italian-American plates at this small corner trattoria in the Village. Lit solely by warm globe lights and candles at night, the romantic spot serves inventive plates like a decadent, deconstructed lasagna for two, prime rib braciole, and two-toned pasta alongside Campari- and Cocchi-based cocktails.  

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Lilia
Photograph: Cayla Zahoran

3. Lilia

Restaurants Italian Williamsburg

The food world welcomed 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 serves pastries and panini, before converting to a cocktail bar at night.

Bucatini Cacio e Pepe at Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria
Photograph: Josh Wool

4. Il Buco

Restaurants Italian Noho

The old-world charm of well-worn communal tables, dangling copper cookware and flickering lamps may help explain why a 26-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.

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Photograph: Filip Wolak

5. Carbone

Restaurants Italian Greenwich Village

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 Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone have made such dramatic improvements, you’ll barely recognize anything.

Pasquale Jones
Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

6. Pasquale Jones

Restaurants Italian Nolita

Pasquale Jones, a sequel to Ryan Hardy's wine-charged Soho spot Charlie Bird, is a place that's good for any night of the week. That might be due to Reynolds’s graciously priced wine list or the wood-burning ovens producing one of the city's best clam pizzas, a char-puffed beauty covered in briny littlenecks, parsley and a delicate garlicky cream.

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Braised rabbit at al di là
Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

7. al di là

Restaurants Italian Park Slope

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.

Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson; Regular pie
Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

8. Di Fara Pizza

Restaurants Pizza Midwood

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.

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I Sodi
Photograph: Courtesy of I Sodi

9. I Sodi

Restaurants Italian West Village

This hidden Italian-food gem is overseen by former fashion executive Rita Sodi. The toque’s homey menu favors simple dishes like a delicious cacio e pepe or a lemony artichoke salad with shaved Parmigiano. You'll leave comforted by all the Tuscan-inspired dishes.

10. Frankies 457 Spuntino

Restaurants Italian Carroll Gardens
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.
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Marea
Photograph: Courtesy Marea

11. Marea

Restaurants Italian Midtown West

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. An upmarket shrine to the simple pleasures of the Italian coastline, the project is a gutsy gamble from a chef with bravado to burn.

Fried artichokes at Maialino
Photograph: Filip Wolak

12. Maialino

Restaurants Italian Gramercy

Danny Meyer’s first full-on foray into Italian cuisine focuses on the foods of Rome. The menu sets a new standard with faithful facsimiles of dishes specific to the area. Antipasti include burrata with spicy tripe and pecorino. 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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13. Juliana's

Restaurants Pizza Brooklyn Heights

Patsy Grimaldi is nothing short of a New York icon. After learning how to make pizza from his uncle who owned Patsy’s Pizzeria, he went on to open Grimaldi’s Pizzeria in Brooklyn. The pizza mogul sold his shop in the late 90’s, but came out of retirement in 2012 when Grimaldi’s new owners moved the restaurant next door. So be it the story of how Juliana’s was born, Patsy’s next chapter in his book of ‘za.

Rao's
Photograph: Tova Carlin

14. Rao’s

Restaurants Italian East Harlem

If you thought getting a table at Per Se was tough, try getting into Rao’s. On second thought, don’t. Rao’s (pronounced “RAY-ohs”) is really a private club without the dues. To eat here, you’ll need a personal invite from one of the heavy hitters who “owns” a table. These CEOs, actors, politicians, news personalities and neighborhood old-timers established a long-standing arrangement with the late, legendary owner Frankie “No” Pellegrino, and that's what ensures a seat at one of the ten tables. In fact, reading this review is probably the closest you’ll get to Rao’s.

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Lucali
? Gurwin Photography, Jeffrey Gurwin

15. Lucali

Restaurants Pizza Carroll Gardens

Brooklyn’s pizza legacies are legion—from Grimaldi’s in Dumbo to Ditmas Park’s fabled Di Fara. To this noble lineup add Lucali. The artisanal intent at the candlelit pizzeria is visible in the flour-dashed marble counter where the dough is punched and stretched, and in the brick oven from which it later emerges crisp and blistered. There are just two items on Lucali’s menu: pies and calzones, adorned with milky, elastic mozzarella and simple toppings like chewy rounds of pepperoni or slivers of artichoke. There’s no wine list, but the unobtrusive staff will happily extract a cork from your own bottle—Grimaldi’s could learn a thing or two.

Photograph: Cayla Zahoran

16. Bar Primi

Restaurants Italian East Village

Andrew Carmellini’s Bowery venture doesn’t just go small—he goes primi. Piccolini, antipasti and house-made pastas (ruffled-bell campanelle, ear-shaped orecchiette) all share menu real estate with grass-fed hanger steak, grilled branzino and lemon chicken.

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Rubirosa
Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

17. Rubirosa

Restaurants Pizza Nolita

This family-run restaurant helped usher in Mulberry Street's red-sauce revival, 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.

Dante
Photograph: Courtesy Dante

18. Dante

Bars Cocktail bars Greenwich Village

Come for the negronis and stay for the fun vibes and small plates. It's the simple, pleasure-seeking ideology that embodies Dante, the beloved MacDougal Street Italian café turned small plates restaurant and cocktail bar in 2015.

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Gottino
Photograph: Jeffrey Gurwin

19. Gottino

Restaurants Italian West Village

With its long marble bar, piddling five tables and menu of choice Italian nibbles, Gottino isn't so much a restaurant as a very well-accoutred wine bar. Divided into salumi and cheese on one side, and prepared bites on the other, the menu provides multiple opportunities for memorable bites. Thick-cut cacciatorini (cured pork sausage) luxuriates in a shallow pool of olive oil infused with oregano and garlic, while in another wee dish, sardines keep company with fennel, pine nuts and raisins.

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