I don't claim to have eaten in every Italian resturant in America, but I've eaten in hundreds, if not thousands of them, and all of the heavyweights. It is these big-city destination restaurants that I will confine myself to in this list; no good will come of opining on the local red-sauce joints so beloved by their towns and neighborhoods.
Frank Stitt, the godfather of Southern fine dining, does a magnificent job channeling regional Italian cooking at this Birmingham restaurant, one of the best in the South.
The final word on Italian luxury food in the midwest, Tony Mantuano's gorgeous restaurant remains one of the country's greatest dining experiences, what fantastic, constantly changing food, impeccable service, and a striking room.
Mario Batali's flagship hasn't lost its fastball; its vivid, ballsy take on Italian food continues to constantly change and impress.
It's a happy fact that one of the best modern Italian restaurants in the country should land in Philadelphia, home of some of the best old-school ones. Vetri's pastas are the star of the show, but not a single item -- not one morel, not one meatball -- lacks some shimmer of greatness.
This small, superb restaurant on the Fillmore wharf produces some of the best Italian food in the country -- more than outshinining its more famous sister, A16. No other bay area Italian restaurant combines technique, imagination, and ingredients in quite the same way.
Ken Orringer and Jamie Bisonnette's salumi temple is one of the very best in the US. Simply put, if you are into great cured meats, you have to go here.
Wood-fired artisanal pizzas are the name of the game at this instant Bay Area classic, but the pastas are if possible even better. You can't get simplified, perfectly executed rustic Italian food better anywhere on the west coast.
Known, rightly, as the city's most admired Italian restaurant, the secret of Marea is that Michael White's pastas, and not the restaurant's fish entrees. How could they not be anti-climactic after the "Sultan of Spaghetti's" signature dishes?
It's genearlly under the national food media's radar, but Bar La Grassa is one of the best Italian restaurants in the country, its simple menu reflecting the zen of Italy, where everyone cooks the same dishes, but a few places just do it much, much better.
Former Per Se chef Jonathan Benno brings his precision and brilliance to the famously informal food of Italy. It should be a mismatch, but both sides benefit from this odd marriage, and Benno's commitment to changing the menu from region to region adds another level of interest. A truly special restaurant.
Paul Bartolotta's eponymous Vegas restaurant features wonderful, rustic Italian coastal cooking, but what makes it so unique is the seafood itself, which is flown in directly from the Adriatic every day -- and which includes some items not to be found anywhere else in the US.
There is no better Italian restaurant in New Orleans thanJohn Besh's Domenica in the CBD. Under the care of its young chef, Alon Shaya, the salumi program has reached stellar heights, and the pizza is fabulous too.
Lucia is deservedly the most popular and admired Italian restaurant in Dallas. And the reason is that the food, while it looks and feels rustic, actually draws on creativity and skill of a kind you would never find in the Italian countryside. This is a contemporary classic, and Dallas knows it.
Fabio Trabocchi once ran Washington's best-ever Italian restaurant in Maestro; now, in a less exalted (and expensive) space, he is still doing some of the country's best Italian cooking.
The first, best, and most enduring of Mario Batali's restaurants changed the face of Italian cooking in America, giving it a rock-and-roll vitalilty and snout-to-tail, pepper-powered gusto. The world may have caught up with it, but this remains one of the country's great restaurants.