The 10 Most Delicious Italian Restaurants in NYC
There is something you should know about me and it's that I don't like to try the same restaurant twice--unless it is incredible. One of my all time favorite restaurants in New York City is Morandi and I not only go there all the time, I love bringing guests and friends because I'm so confident that they will love it as well. I treated myself to an amazing 21st birthday lunch there, so it was the site of my first legal drink and as I sat outside at a table alone, sipping prosecco and nibbling on cacio e pepe, I could not have felt more blissful. I get almost the same thing every time I go: a glass of Tuscan red wine, usually a Montepulciano; a starter of the fried artichokes with lemon; a main of either cacio e pepe or the pici al limone, both of which are some of my favorite meals to date; and sometimes I'll end with a dessert of tiramisu and a glass of moscato d'asti. The ambiance is at once cozy and spacious and lends itself to being the kind of place you could spend the whole night eating and drinking and laughing with a group of good friends.
As a good indication of the Italian authenticity of this delicious restaurant, I'll tell you about the time I brought my friend Ashley there. Ashley is currently getting her PhD as a historian studying the Medici in Renaissance Italy and she has spent the past several years living intermittently in Florence, which is where we met. Needless to say, and in a totally earned way, she is an Italian food snob because she has lived off of the real deal. When I took her to Gradisca the first time, that night there was a table set off to the side where we noticed an old woman hand rolling pasta, happily making the food we were going to eat by hand. Ashley, delighted, went up and began speaking with her in Italian and the two hit it off right away. Ten points for ambiance. We both ordered a glass of wine, an appetizer to split, and an entree to split, thinking it would be the right amount. We we wrong. As we sopped up every bit of the truffle gnocchi with the bread, in true Italian fashion, we ordered a second serving and devoured that, too. We left with that truly contended full feeling that only hearty hand-made pasta can give you. And next time Ashley was in New York, we went back, and will probably go back the next time she's here as well.
There are two locations of this East Village staple, each within blocks of each other, both of them just as delicious as the other. My favorite is the original, especially if you can grab one of the few tables outside, where you can enjoy a warm spring or summer evening over a delicious meal watching the trendy people pass on Bond Street.
I just tried Lupa recently and I found out about it while in search of a very specific dish, AKA one of my all time favorite meals: cacio e pepe. I'm pretty sure if I had to choose one thing to eat for the rest of my life, it would be a dish of cacio e pepe. It's such a simple concept, just cheese, pepper, butter, and pasta, but I swear to you it is like crack. So I was Googling to find the best cacio e pepe in the city and I came upon Lupa, a Roman osteria that is possibly one of the first places to introduce this dish to NYC (cacio e pepe is a traditionally Roman dish). I had to try it for myself--and I was not disappointed one bit. It was creamy al dente perfection. The restaurant is pretty popular and not huge, as it's located in the village, so you'll want to plan ahead for this one.
Another restaurant that I have only recently discovered, I could see Maialino being another go-to if it weren't for the hefty prices. I chose it for brunch to try their rendition of cacio e pepe scrambled eggs (yes, I'm obsessed with cacio e pepe, I know) and was pleased to realize that it's located in one of my favorite spots in the city at the Gramercy Park Hotel. For this alone, I knew it would be good. The brunch was delicious and the restaurant itself has a great sunny setting next the the park. I can't wait to go back and try it for dinner, I'm sure it will impress.
East Village and Midtown
While working in Midtown this past year I was on the hunt for a decent lunch place near Bryant Park and while Googling, found Alidoro. It is an Italian sandwich shop fit to rival those that I ate at regularly while studying abroad in Florence and I went there every other day for months, getting the vegetarian Mona Lisa sandwich every time. All of the ingredients are fresh and authentic and even the bottled water is imported Acqua Panna. And one of favorite parts? The sandwiches are big enough that I could eat one half for lunch and the other half for dinner.
As Forbes describes it, "the most authentic sidewalk cafe in New York," Bar Pitti is the place to go for the hand-written chalkboard menu, the waiter who grew up in Italy, and the food that is as mouthwatering as it is uncomplicated. It has a reputation as a place to spot celebrities and for good reason since they're there for its delicious fare and unpretentious ambiance just like the rest of us.
A classic downtown go-to, Babbo is a Mario Batali restaurant that remains highly rated for its phenomenal pasta and warm atmosphere. Most nights it will be packed with a crowd of happy guests and it can be hard to get a table but it's well worth it.
Do you want to try the best gelato and arguably the best ice cream you have ever tasted? Not to hype it up too much but oh my god, Amorino gelato is incredible. The company was started in Italy has locations in various places throughout Europe and the U.S. and each location I've ever tried retained that creamy gelato deliciousness. I get the same thing every time: a small cone of chocolate, raspberry, and speculoos. It's not a restaurant, per se, but it definitely deserves a spot on the list.
Flatiron and Financial District
Okay, including Eataly may seem pandering, but stick with me here. It really is one of the best places in the city to get some incredibly good Italian fare, whether you sit down at one of the counters and order pasta and wine, or stop in for paninis at lunchtime, or grab a cone of gelato for a sweet treat. When I studied abroad I would occasionally grocery shop at the one in Florence and I still go there in New York when I want real Italian food. And now that there's a location downtown it's easier than ever to get some Mulino Bianco Abbracci cookies which I was introduced to freshman year by my Italian suitemate and have been obsessed with ever since.