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Photograph: Courtesy of Major Food Group

The 16 best Little Italy restaurants in NYC

The best restaurants in NYC’s Little Italy boast legendary pastries and some of New York’s best pizza.

Written by
Rachel Pelz
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Little Italy, once a sprawling immigrant neighborhood, now technically only occupies three blocks of Mulberry Street, but the history and reach of its red sauce joints can be found in nearby Nolita, Soho and Chinatown

When its streets are crowded with tourists, Little Italy can feel a little overwhelming. Which storefront has the best cannoli, and where can you really get the best slice of pizza in New York? We’ve rounded up the absolute best restaurants in Little Italy so you can find sandwiches piled high with capicola, heaping plates of old-world pasta and the best bakeries for cannoli and pignolis. 

Whether you’re in the neighborhood for The Feast of San Gennaro or the nearby New Museum, this is your no-fail guide to Little Italy dining.  

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best restaurants in NYC

Best Little Italy restaurants

  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Nolita
  • price 2 of 4

Peasant’s always-satisfying pasta dishes have kept this restaurant on Little Italy’s best-of lists for years. These days, we head straight for their newly-opened wine room, a candle-lit space in the restaurant’s old wine cellar. Much of the menu is served straight from Peasant’s open-fire hearth, with hits including lamb merguez, smoked linguine with clams and pizza with sopressata and ‘nduja.

  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Little Italy
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Want to get your pasta fix while wearing a sweaty t-shirt from walking around all day? Head to Aunt Jake’s, where the pasta is fresh and no one will judge you for not having a collar. All the pastas are made in-house and designed to be mixed and matched with sauces including arrabiata, lamb ragu and roasted garlic pecorino. Sure, this spot hasn’t been around for a hundred years, but the service is friendly and the food comes out fast. (Gluten-free folks, take note, because they’ve got options for you, too.)

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  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Little Italy

Okay, okay, this place is a total tourist trap, but you’re in Little Italy—you’ve gotta have a cannoli! Caffe Palermo, home of Baby John, the self-proclaimed (and, ahem, trademarked) “Cannoli King®,” is famous for a reason. Go classic with a plain or chocolate-dipped pastry shell filled with cream, or try the cheese cone, a cannoli-inspired dessert made with an almond cone and cheesecake filling. 

  • Restaurants
  • Bakeries
  • Nolita
  • price 1 of 4

This long-standing Little Italy bakery has been peddling crusty loaves to New York restaurant clients and consumers since 1903. Among the many carby offerings, you must try their line-inducing deli sandwiches, which include roast beef on an onion roll, eggplant parm and chicken with prosciutto and mozz. 

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  • Restaurants
  • Bakeries
  • Little Italy

While many come to Little Italy for Parisi Bakery’s stacked sandwiches or Di Palo’s cheeses, Caffe Roma, to us, is one of the neighborhood’s most charming destinations. Open since 1891, this Little Italy institution offers pignoli cookies and cannolis with a side of history, seen through details like wire heart-shaped stools, quaint floor tiles and chocolatey wood walls. Caffe Roma is a rare neighborhood respite where you can sit down and read a book with your espresso.

  • Restaurants
  • Pizza
  • Nolita
  • price 2 of 4

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 cracker-like 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.

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  • Restaurants
  • Thai
  • Nolita
  • price 2 of 4

The Michelin-starred Thai restaurant Uncle Boons has opened a, well, sister restaurant with this takeout spin-off. The chef-owners Ann Redding and Matt Danzer are keeping the meals wallet-friendly, too: Main plates—like a spicy lobster omelet and fried chicken laab–all cash in under $30. The compact spot retains a dash of vintage decor left over from Mr. Donahue’s (the owners’ former restaurant), with a wood-paneled counter, an exposed-brick wall and throwback posters. 

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Nolita
  • price 1 of 4

When your first restaurant goes platinum, all eyes are trained on your next project. Torrisi and Carbone unspooled theirs in two parts, turning their original venue into a serious restaurant (all tasting menus) and moving its casual half into Parm. The cozy annex is an ode to the Italian-American deli. While the menu reads as well-worn as the space, the food is a thrill, prepared by grease-spattered cooks in white paper caps who happen to have high-end restaurant résumés.

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  • Restaurants
  • Vietnamese
  • Little Italy
  • price 1 of 4

Known to its fans as “the jewelry store one,” this tiny Chinatown takeout operation does indeed share space with an accessories counter. Regardless, the cheap prices, succulent pork preparations and crispy-chewy bread that’s baked in-house are worth taking a walk for.

  • Restaurants
  • Pizza
  • Nolita
  • price 2 of 4

Gennario Lombardi opened his shop in Soho in 1905—the first pizzeria in the U.S. It’s hard to vouch for how the pizzas tasted over a century ago, but there’s definitely more elbow room after a modern renovation. Still, Lombardi’s continues to bake a hot contender for best pie.

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  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Nolita
  • price 2 of 4

Pasquale Jones, a sequel to Ryan Hardy, Grant Reynolds and Robert Bohr’s jaunty, wine-charged Soho spot Charlie Bird, is a touch warmer than its neo-Italian brethren like Café Altro Paradiso. That might be due to Reynolds’s graciously priced wine list or to the actual glow emanating from a pair of wood-burning ovens in the open kitchen, promising pizza within. Manned by San Francisco chef Tim Caspare, those roaring hearths produce one of the city’s best pies: The clam pizza, a char-puffed beauty covered in briny littlenecks, wilted rapini and a delicate garlicky cream.

  • Restaurants
  • Delis
  • Little Italy
  • price 1 of 4

Bari Musacchio—Rubirosa’s longtime general manager—tackles the old-fashioned boil-and-bake technique at this diner upgrade. Musacchio’s operation is, like in the olden days, small batch and labor-intensive: Slow-rising dough rings are set on burlap-covered boards and given a spin in a rotating tray oven, resulting in springy-yet-crusty vehicles for spreads like beet-horseradish, cucumber-dill and wasabi-tobiko cream cheeses.

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  • Restaurants
  • Hawaiian
  • Little Italy
  • price 2 of 4

At this fast-casual Chinatown concept from Michael Jong Lim, Hawaiian poké (raw-fish salad) is inspired by Japanese ingredients and techniques. The sea-to-table bowls on offer include goma-shoyu tuna with garlic chips, spicy hamachi with chili chutney and a sushi-grade Scottish salmon with Szechuan-spiced mayonnaise and daikon. If you’re counting carbs, you can swap the rice base for Asian greens and herbs.

  • Restaurants
  • Australian
  • Little Italy
  • price 2 of 4

The flat white is the biggest thing to come out of Australian coffeehouse culture, but this shop serves up a bonzer breakfast menu, too. Try the banana walnut bread with espresso mascarpone or–another Australian phenomenon–smashed avocado toast with pickled shallots and chilies. 

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