When someone says "Italian food" what do you think of? If it involves pizza, tomatoes, clam sauce, or the other signature items of Italian-American cooking, you are probably thinking of the food of Naples. But Italy is a big country, with many different kinds of terroir, and strong French, Arab, German, and Croatian influences, among others. And these flavors are also available in New York.
A fish- and vegetable-heavy Italian classic.. Apulia is on the heel of Italy's boot; it’s a fairly poor and arid region, and its food tends to reflect that. So as the area's primary ambassador to New York you might think that would make I Trulli a hard sell, especially given the lack of garlic and tomatoes in Puglian food. Instead, the restaurant more than compensates with bitter greens (arugula, dandelion, broccoli rabe), which give punch and earthiness to a wide-range of handmade pastas. The room is simple and unpretentious, with warm yellow walls and a glassed-in back area. It's not especially cheap, but in its own quiet way this is one of the best Italian restaurants in the city.
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.
Lidia Bastianich is best known as a celebrity chef, whose TV show helped teach America to cook Italian food. Felidia is her flagship restaurant and what's little known and less appreciated is just how regional the cooking is here. The Bastianiches originate in Italian Istria, the northeastern most part of Italy, an area that owes as much to Croatia and Austria as to Italy per se. You won't find dishes dominated by spicy peppers or tomato sauce here; this is a more refined, singular cuisine and that's what I value about it the most.
You would never think to knock on the unmarked door on an Astoria sidestreet, or, if someone did answer, to go into a basement filled with burly men drinking and watching soccer. But this place has a restaurant and it's open to the public, and it serves some of the city's most authentic Istrian food -- the cooking of the most northern part of Italy.
Ponticello looks like a standard Italian restaurant from the outside, but it's in Astoria's Little Istria region and is run by (and to some extent caters to) natives of that northeasternmost region of Italy. Bordering on Slovenia, and as much a part of that region as of Italy, this is refined, heavy, somewhat bland food that is nevertheless made with great care. It's actually closer to what you might eat in Italy than the elevated version you might see in a restaurant such as Felidia.
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.
The quintessence of emilia-romagnan food, Teodora is supremely authentic and understated, and you can because the place is always filled with Italian nationals.
This midtown tourist restaurant has exactly one thing to recommend it, but it's worth putting up with the place's cheesiness to get to it. This is the New York branch of the original Alfredo's in Rome where Fettucini Alfredo was invented. And this is probably the best fettucini alfredo you'll ever have. It's just noodles, cheese, and butter (no cream) but the way it's presented and served just make it really special.
The cuisine of Marche is among the most obscure of Italian regions -- which is a shame, because this seafood rich, heavily wooded area bordering the Adriatic Sea has some of the most singular food in Italy. Look for olives, figs, artichokes, mushrooms, and rosemary -- these are rustic flavors, made well, on a small menu. Really a special restaurant.
If you love the "three Ps" of Roman cooking -- pork, pecorino, and pepper -- you will love Maialino, which is uniquely dedicated to that flavor profile. Danny Meyer's Italian restaurant has the usual flawless service and a big, sunny room at Breakfast with its own wonderful menu.
Michael White, arguably New York's preeminent Italian chef, has done four-star seafood at Marea, Northern Italian at Alto, and French-Italian at Ai Fiori, but his heart will always be in the meaty ragus and robust pastas of emilia-romagna, the spirtual home of Osteria Morini. Its pastas are dense and rich, festooned with cream or meat sauce, and as often as not butter too. The grilled meats are superb, and the cured ones even more so. A big selection of area wines, including 8 different Lambruscos, goes with it.
Michael White's venture in haute provencal cuisine -- some Italian, some French -- is a culinary triumph, albeit in a somewhat sterile city. The room is big and quiet though, and makes a great spot for an elegant, sunlit breakfast.