Zuccarelli's chefs have been serving fine Italian dishes for nearly three decades, but their recipes date back much further. Every day, they re-create carefully crafted homemade pasta, buttery sauces, and savory meats that have been shared at Italian tables for centuries. The cooks expertly render innovative interpretations of these time-honored dishes, tending to pans of simmering veal, chicken, and seafood, and tossing pizza crusts with gourmet toppings and cheese.
In the dining room, diners linger over last sips of wine and final bites of homemade tiramisu. A Romanesque column towers over the room, beaming down on rows of cushy booths and walls lined with artwork. On Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings, a guitarist serenades guests with authentic Italian music and 1980s video-game themes upon request.
A trio of cheerful New Yorkers oversees the pasta purveying at Cucina Orecchio, where Chef Cristian Marquez stuffs a robust menu with classic Italian cuisine until it bursts at the seams. A palate-whetting troupe of appetizers touts New York–style baked clams, which arrive donning a tangy mix of seasonings and zesty Knicks jerseys ($9). Pasta entrees—which are served with a cup of soup or a house salad—range from the smooth and creamy penne alla vodka ($13) to the thick and meaty rigatoni bolognese ($14). Seafarers cast their anchors alongside the seafood fra diavolo with linguini ($16), and meat-seekers occupy their mandibles with daily specials such as the veal marsala ($15). Wash down a plate of authentic Italian eats with splashes of wine by the bottle or glass.
As a pleasantly unpretentious pizza and pasta paradise, Rotelli entices regulars who stop by for lunch and dinner to gather with friends, raise a few glasses, and indulge in fine Italian meals. The menu taps its homeland heel with light starters, such as bruschetta italiana ($6.99) and crispy calamari ($9.99). It sends a swooping high-kick well north of Sicily with chicken parmigiana, layered in ricotta and mozzarella, served with pasta ($15.99), and hand-tossed Napoletana pizza, dressed in pepperoni, onions, green peppers, mushrooms, and sausage ($10.99 for 10", $18.99 for 16").
The chefs at Mimmo's Pizza Cafe & Catering favor Grande Mozzarella—a tender and buttery Italian cheese that can bake in high-temperature pizza ovens without getting scorched. They shower this magical mozzarella atop thin-crust and Sicilian-style pies before adding on fresh toppings such as eggplant, garlic, and green peppers. The versatile chefs also extend their culinary expertise toward a variety of other traditional Italian dishes, including ravioli, lasagna, and chicken parmigiana. They layer focaccia bread with turkey, ham, and roast beef, along with brie and dabs of spicy mustard.
As chefs slice up pizza pies and hot subs in the kitchen, baristas busy themselves behind the café counter. They whip up espresso beverages with a variety of decadent ingredients, from shaved almonds to sweet chocolate syrup to juicy cherries plucked from the gardens of ancient Roman deities.
Mozzarella Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria's owners, who also founded the catering company Chefs To Go, draw culinary inspiration from a chef and cooking instructor they hold high regard: their mother. In their kitchen, chefs conjure up the comforting flavors of home-cooked meals by making gourmet pizzas from scratch and anchoring plates with hearty pastas slathered in an array of sauces. After revving up their appetites with fried calamari or bruschetta, diners can split a margherita pizza embellished with sliced tomatoes and basil, or dive their forks into a warm bowl of cheese tortellini. Staying true to its owners' roots, Mozzarella Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria also caters for special events.