Yes, some of the hottest places in town are Italian restaurants: Babbo, Morini, Locanda Verde, Rosemary's. But before then, Italian was a second-class citizen in the restaurant world. But it was still first-class in flavor.
Come for the decor, stay for the meatballs -- and for the love of god, ignore the promise of vegan food on the sign. This is pure old-school italian which resembles nothing so much as the restaurant where Michael Corleone kills Solozzo in The Godfather.
It's outrageously expensive, yes, and stuffy to the point of farce, but if you want to experience great high-end northern Italian food the way the world knew it back in the day, you simply have to go here.
Is it the thick coal-oven pizza, the piano music, or the primitive paintings that adorn the wall? This is the last of the mohicans, a holdover from when New York's restaurants had real personality. The pizza is pretty goddamned good too.
It's been around for years, serving classical Venetian food, but somehow Remi gets lost in the shuffle when people discuss the great Italian restaurants in New York. Maybe it needs a relaunch.
It's expensive, fogey-ish, and as formal as an audience with the pope. But it's also a vanishing breed of old, elegant, and refined Italian restaurants from before the age of babbo.
Everything is made in back, often at a glacial pace, but you are on Italian time when you are here. It requires a certain mental adjustment, and that, more than the food, make this place worth going to.
It doesn't get any more old-school than Bamonte's, which could basically serve as a movie set for Italian American restaurants before they became mainstream.
It's halfway to sicily for a Manhattan visitor, but then, it's more than halfway to sicily on a culinary level -- which makes Joe's more than worth the visit. Bring many people so you can order everything on the menu.
A true throwback, this Italian luncheonette offers copious portions of cheap, delicious red-sauce food -- go for anything that has breadcrumbs on it!
The quintessence of emilia-romagnan food, Teodora is supremely authentic and understated, and you can because the place is always filled with Italian nationals.