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Whether you’re cracking into a $75 butter-poached lobster atop a crisp white tablecloth or slurping up thick strands of sauce-laden spaghetti in a tried-and-true, family-run spot, few culinary genres are as universally satisfying to the human palate as Italian cuisine. Thankfully, New York City’s bubbling ratatui-like cultural melting pot has long been responsible for churning out a never-ending thread of talented chefs with a hankering for all things Italiano. Discerning citydwellers, in turn, continue to reap the benefits, from langoustine crudo to shrimp scampi and all the mangia-worthy creations in between. The next time you’re craving a seasoned, sophisticated take on Nonna’s kitchen comforts, check out these ten stellar Italian mainstays.
Don’t be deterred by the often extensive wait times at this rustic, cozy, and ultra-in demand all-day West Village gastroteca from celebrated chefs and co-owners Jody Williams and Rita Sodi of Buvette and I Sodi fame. Inside, tarnished wood and whitewashed exposed brick form a sun-drenched backdrop for foodies in the know to feast on crusty bread slathered with cultured butter and briny anchovies, charred octopus with tangy green olive pesto, and Sicilian meatballs flecked with juicy raisins. As expected, the wine list provides a comprehensive tour of Italy’s viticultural wonders while the cocktails, a mix of sultry classics, refreshing aperitivos, and thoughtful Negroni variations, makes good use of luscious Italian amari.
With its tuxedoed waters, recessed pressed tin ceilings, and gleaming tiled floors inspired by The Godfather, this six-year-old red sauce temple from restaurant titans Major Food Group is straight out of central casting. The menu, a stalwart collection of Italian-American staples exhibiting just a touch of 21st-century flair, only enhances the illusion that Tony Soprano might be breaking bread with Henry Hill in a corner two-top. The spicy rigatoni vodka is a universally acknowledged must, as are the belt-busting veal parmesan and lobster fra diavolo, while the tableside Caesar is the icing on the theatrical cake. The streamlined, Euro-dominated wine program leaves little to be desired but one might consider kicking things off with a classic Manhattan—when in Rome, as they say.
Far from a mere local gem, Joe and Lidia Bastianich’s palatial Westside award-winner is widely considered one of the top Italian fine-dining spots in the country. From the handsome drapery, crystal centerpieces, and plush cream-hued club chairs to Executive Chef Melissa J. Rodriguez’s luxurious yet refined three- to eight-course tasting menus, old world New York elegance shines through every last detail. Rodriguez’s vision comes alive with each bite of agnolotti di coniglio, the small, supple pouches bursting with tender braised rabbit and nutty Parmigiano-Reggiano, or spoonful of rich Tuscan shellfish stew, served with a delectable squid ink fritter to soak up all that intoxicatingly aromatic broth. There’s even a vegan menu loaded with creative seasonal dishes sure to catch even the most carnivorous diner’s eye.
Generations of Brooklynites have been singing this homey little trattoria’s praises since it opened its cheerful yellow-framed door back in 1998 and the Park Slope destination continues to draw newcomers with its roster of farm-to-table Italian favorites. Vintage wallpaper, a pressed tin ceiling, and low-hanging chandeliers set a warm, familial vibe, the ideal environment for washing down cheffy comforts like silky spaghetti dotted with Manila clams, garlic, and fiery chili peppers or succulent, crispy-skinned Galletto alla Diavola made with young Bobo chicken and served atop bright cherry tomato Panzanella. And don’t forget to save room for dessert—the torta di pere e cioccolato, a steamy pear tart filled with bittersweet chocolate chunks, shines next to a velvety scoop of homemade vanilla ice cream.
Pasta maestro Missy Robbins might be the driving force behind this beguiling Williamsburg auto body shop turned sunlit trattoria but there’s much more on offer here than pink peppercorn- and parmesan-laced mafaldine and pillowy ricotta gnocchi. Alongside her masterful ability to transform flour, eggs, and water into delicate strands of deliciousness, the decorated A Voce vet showcases her depth with a lineup that runs the gamut from plump Sicilian olives ablaze with garlic and chiles to hearty veal steak, herbaceous leg of lamb, and, perhaps most impressively, wood-fired seafood creations like grilled blowfish tails glistening under a blanket of lemon salmoriglio and fragrant cracked coriander. Come for the penne, stay for the pesce.
Australian restauranteurs Linden Pride and Natalie Hudson managed to pull off one of the greatest glow-ups in industry history when they purchased this century-old MacDougal Street institution in 2015, transforming it from a venerable yet somewhat unremarkable neighborhood espresso stop-off into the crown jewel of this year’s recently announced World's 50 Best Bars list. And it’s not just the extensive assortment of expertly crafted Negroni variations that keep the pint-sized hideaway perpetually packed with Dante diehards. On any given night, shareable plates of handmade pappardelle ragu scattered with braised wild boar, bright saffron tagliarini with blue crab, and baked orzo teeming with mouthwatering pork and beef meatballs stream out of the kitchen with gusto, delighting cocktail-sippers and fitting right in with the whitewashed space’s breezy, charmingly understated decor.
There’s no such thing as a bad dish at this Michelin-starred Columbus Circle fixture from prolific chef-owner Michael White (Ai Fiori, Vaucluse, Osteria Morini, Nicoletta), but the seafood—ocean-fresh Scottish langoustine crudo, Norwegian king crab topped with Kaluga caviar, buttery olive oil-poached monkfish, red wine-braised octopus nestled in a bed of tightly curled fusilli—undoubtedly steals the show. And the buzzy street level dining room, featuring glossy walnut paneling from floor to ceiling and massive picture windows facing Central Park, is as effortlessly dapper as White’s finessed cuisine.
Lauded chef Andew Carmellini helms this all-day TriBeCa taverna, attracting a healthy mix of date night-bound regulars, business lunchers, and breakfast-seeking out-of-towners from the attached Greenwich Hotel—an American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts property. Carmellini’s food is every bit as indulgent as New York-accented Italian fare should be, with highlights like duck egg crostini with wild mushroom ragu, milk-fed veal chops with zucchini al forno, and the cult-favorite “my grandmother’s ravioli,” a shallow bowl of perfect squares bulging with short rib, veal, and pork butt suspended in a sea of San Marzano tomatoes, leading the dinner charge. For the full experience, snag an outdoor table on a sunny afternoon and wash down your late lunch with a pasta-friendly glass (or two) of devilishly effervescent Lambrusco.
Gourmands with big appetites flock to this posh Fifth Avenue stunner from internationally acclaimed chef-owner Michael White, basking in the urbane grey, mahogany, and sky blue palette and devouring delicacies like Nova Scotia lobster terrine, flaky poached Atlantic halibut with green garlic and chanterelles, and roasted lamb saddle, served fork-tender beside a mound of nutty fregola. Then, of course, there’s the pasta—ravioli stuffed with short rib and boschetto cheese beneath a snowfall of burgundy truffles, orecchiette spiced up with lamb sausage and bitter broccoli rabe, and toothsome kabocha squash gnocchi dressed in brown butter sage and peppered with pumpkin seeds for crunch. For dessert, don’t sleep on the vanilla rice pudding. Mundane as it looks on paper, a surprise smattering of aromatic roasted pears and creamy maple gelato puts this humble finisher in an entirely new tax bracket.
Another smash success from the hitmakers at Major Food Group, this Meatpacking District oasis brings the slick mid-century cool of the Italian Riviera to the modern day banks of the Hudson River. Playful tropical cocktails like the Capri Sun (tequila, passion fruit, tiki spices), colorful flatware, striking glass walls, and lush palm fronds complement beachy, well-honed dishes like cecina, a type of chickpea pancake, crowned with spicy Calabrian tuna tartare, lobster fettuccine in a fiery arrabbiata sauce, and swordfish dogana with green tomato and olive relish. And curiously enough, the whole shebang is gluten-free, adding to the light and airy summertime vibe.