It doesn't take an international flight to visit Southern Italy. All that's required is a piece of bread dipped into some of Cucina Vanina's olive oil. That extra virgin oil arrives directly from Italy's Lazio region, where restaurant owner Vanina Pirollo's family runs a plantation. Each October, the family collects the olives, presses the oil, and ships a good portion of it to Vanina's restaurant.
Drawing on her family oil and a cooking background that started in her grandparents' kitchen, Vanina fills her menu with authentic Italian recipes. Spaghetti with homemade pesto sauce, rigatoni with homemade meatballs, and caprese paninis stand out as the most popular entrees. Chef Vanina even made one of her favorite dishes, involtini di carne, on the local news, one of numerous press features the restaurant has received. To help guests get their own rave reviews in the family newspaper, Chef Vanina also sells her oil, homemade sauces, and pastas as groceries to take home.
The Old-World spirit reigns supreme at Toscana, formerly Cucina Toscana. Determined to capture the vibrant, homespun flavors of Mediterranean cooking, the chefs hand-make pastas from scratch, use freshly filleted seafood, and personally grow the saplings used to make their wooden spoons. This dedication leads to a menu that features rustic, deceptively simple potato gnocchi in pomodoro sauce made with San Marzano tomatoes, olive oil, and basil as well as more elaborate and nuanced entr?es. Squid ink pasta tossed with shrimp, calamari, mussels, and lobster basks in a wine reduction; and servings of veal can arrive topped with white truffle fondue or a combination of aged prosciutto and fresh mozzarella.
Colonial-style picture windows line the dining room's front wall, allowing ample amounts of natural light to fall upon the brickwork columns and light wooden accents. Ornate carpets cover the floor beneath many of the tables, which feature crisp white linens, jet-black napkins, and crystalline glassware.
Stalwart bricks contain the pizza oven's feisty flames at Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta, where chefs knead and stretch fresh pizza dough by hand. More than 25 specialty pies—such as the eponymous Boardwalk with pesto, spinach, grilled chicken, roasted tomatoes, and bacon—join customizable and Neapolitan-style pizzas on a vast menu of classic and gluten-free slices. Subs embrace meatballs or chicken parmesan, and pastas such as spaghetti, elbow macaroni, and wheat penne mingle with toppings including cheese, artichoke hearts, and steak slices, all ushered into rumbling stomachs by sips of soda, beer, or specialty cocktails. Each cozy booth glows from the light of a private inset television, which flickers with live sports between professional, college, and Montessori school teams.
With faux-stucco walls, arched doorways, and warm, golden light, Roma Ristorante’s dining room seems to transport diners into the picturesque confines of a Tuscan-countryside villa. The scene is set for the main event: waiters transport festive Italian dishes such as manicotti noodles stuffed with ricotta and parmesan cheeses or sautéed chicken wrapped in a prosciutto bow. Lighter fare includes crisp salads and soup that's made fresh daily.
For nearly 30 years, Rino’s Italian Restaurant's chef and owner, Rino, has crafted authentic Italian cuisine with ingredients from his own garden after researching dishes' historical and regional significance. Old-World ambiance pervades the dining room, where plated gnocchi, beef ravioli, and lasagna top cloth-draped tables surrounded by high-backed leather chairs. An extensive wine list supplies supple reds and crisp whites to pair with veal, steak, and seafood dishes. Wooden barrels, oil paintings, and stained-glass panels of vintners laze in guests' peripheries, and rustic charm spills from the dining room onto a grape arbor, where patrons can gaze at the stars or marvel at the waxing moon's smoothness.
Este Pizzeria’s sign bears an unmistakable resemblance to those found at New York subway stations—a fitting image for a pizzeria that slices up East Coast–style pies. The oversize, thin-crust triangles bear toppings as varied as ham, fresh basil, and housemade vegan meatballs. Their selection of 13 specialty pizzas includes entirely vegan disks as well as the Clay, a heaping of meatballs, pepperoni, ham, and sausage. In typical New York fashion, diners can also opt for strombolis and calzones and are permitted to yell, “I’m walkin’ here!” at other patrons when exiting the restaurant.