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 Italian food is the best 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 pitch-perfect risotto for two. 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 new seafoodcentric Marea, his third and most ambitious venture with partner Chris Cannon. 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 Torrisi and 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 20-year-old restaurant is still tough to get into on a Saturday night. Seasonal produce shapes the menu of executive chef Joel Hough. Dunk the warm country bread in Umbrian 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.
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 charred octopus tentacle served with tangy romesco 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 rich, crumbly brown-butter plum cake.
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 2014—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, pappardelle with veal bolognese and a wood-fired leg of lamb with Roman spices. A small adjacent take-out café will serve pastries, frittatas and focacce, 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.
In the #trending slang lexicon of 2015, basic is not a compliment—it’s a dig to the banal, extra-regular-ness of everything from fur-lined Ugg boots to pumpkin-spice lattes. Basic cooking is no exception, redolent with whiffs of home kitchens and hands-on Sauté 101 classes. But 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. The glass-fronted Grove Street gastroteca (named after the Tuscan thoroughfare where Sodi once lived) is a chestnut’s throw from West Village charmers Buvette and I Sodi, where, respectively, Williams and Sodi took the reins as downtown’s doyennes of comfort food done excellently.
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Trattoria Machiavelli’s space sweeps you off noisy Columbus Avenue and into Renaissance Italy, with high ceilings, heavy wooden tables, large black and white floor tiles and cross-frame chairs with pillows, not to mention sidewalk seating. Chef Gian Pietro Ferro (Fiorella, Osteria al Doge) offers up classic Italian cuisine, even producing handmade fresh pasta on-site. The menu is so extensive, with sections for carne, pesce, pasta, risotto and pizza, plus appetizers and daily specials, one wonders how the kitchen manages it all. The wine list is similarly infinite, featuring a wide range of Italian options such as a purple, tannins-heavy 2011 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo from Cerulli Spinozzi. The fritto misto ($13.95) is a pile of crispy shrimp, calamari and show-stealing, buttery baby scallops, plus carrot and zucchini slices. The carpaccio di manzo ($16.95) is delicately arranged like flower petals on a plate, topped with arugula, fennel, shavings of grana padano and truffle oil lightly coating the thinly sliced beef. The ravioli of the cacio e mele con stufato d'agnello ($25.95) is loaded with ricotta, although it’s hard to detect the presence of the apple, and lamb ragù is spooned on top. The risotto vecchia Milano ($23.95) is pooled on a plate, wealthy with sweet fennel sausage and saffron. Unfortunately, neither dish arrives particularly hot. Skip dessert and instead sip a digestif: The torta della nonna ($10.95),a traditional pastry filled with cream and layered with p
Venue says: “Authentic Italian Specialities. Watch us hand roll fresh pasta (the traditional Italian way) in the pasta room behind the bar!”