by Joshua M Bernstein - 90 Reviews - 13 List
New York may be famous for Little Italy, but let's be honest: Manhattan's Italian enclave is now a red-sauce theme park catering to tourists who've come to carb-load. The city's finest Italian food is now found in the Meatpacking District, Brooklyn's Carroll Gardens, even the Bronx's other Little Italy. Here are the best Italian restaurants in New York to slurp spaghetti, chomp meatballs and eat 100-layer lasagna.
Updated: August 03, 2010
Despite its address on Mulberry Street, this standout is leagues away from cookie-cutter Little Italy eateries. By day, Torrisi is a sandwich shop, turning out heroes overstuffed with chicken parm and world-beating house-roasted turkey slicked with zippy dressing. By night, dinner is an ever-changing five-course feast featuring dishes such as homemade mozzarella, black bass with pickled green tomatoes and gnocchi made with sheep's milk ricotta. You'll likely have to wait. The wait is worth it.
Given his megawatt reputation, Mario Batali could easily rest on his laurels with this gilded palace of Italian cookery. He didn't. Let me list the wonders: fresh-baked bread delivered alongside luscious lardo; handmade orecchiette with lamb-shoulder sausage; a 100-layer lasagna with ragu Bolognese. Add in desserts like creamy, elegant gelato and a tortino constructed with chocolate ricotta, and you'll realize that Batali is innovating, not coasting. Totally worth the splurge.
More than a decade into its run, Park Slope's al di la remains an enduring draw for both locals and Manhattanites thanks to a menu that ranges across rural Italy. Braised rabbit is served with black olives and polenta, while risotto is served with cuttlefish stewed in its own ink and tripe is stewed in white wine till tender. Too offal? Select the malfatti, which is gnudi made with ricotta and Swiss chard. Gracious, informed service puts a bow on this beautiful package.
While the location beside a Lower East Side housing project may detract less intrepid diners, those who adventure inside this windowless eatery will be rewarded by a warm, convivial room and better-than-grandma's cooking. Order the wild-boar lasagna, the well-charred pizzas pulled from the roaring brick oven and the fluffy, fragrant meatballs, which are the approximate size of a small planet.
While Williamsburg may be Brooklyn's trendiest neighborhood, look closely and you'll still find vestiges of its Italian past. The best of the bunch is Bamonte's, an old-school restaurant where tuxedo-adorned waiters stroll the chandelier-filled dining room serving the restaurant's specialty: homemade manicotti and saucer-size cheese ravioli laden with rich, meat-studded tomato sauce.
If you want to visit the real, authentic Little Italy, head to Arthur Avenue in the Bronx, where little old ladies still patrol the sausage and pasta shops to make their nightly supper. For a true taste of the neighborhood, try Dominick's. Sure, the waiters are rude, there are no menus and you might share a table with a stranger, but that's part of its ancient charm. Try the eggplant parmigiana, linguine freighted with shrimp, garlic and calamari and the antipasto starter--the appetizer could double as an entree.
Over the last several years, the Frankies empire has expanded to include the carnivore palace Prime Meats and morning-friendly Cafe Pedlar. But the flagship remains the ever-bustling Frankies. Here, the prices are fair, the sausage is assiduously sourced from Faicco's, the pasta is made in-house and the sandwiches, such as a meatball parmigiana, sit on Grandaisy Bakery's rosemary-flecked bread.