La Villa’s First location opened in Howard Beach Queens and is still operated by its founding family, whose Neapolitan-born mother Maurina rises early to prep culinary goodness in its kitchen. The Neapolitan-born mother of the restaurant's current owner is known to make sure her pomodoro sauce has the right amount of olive oil and even hop behind the line to help sauté during the dinner rushes. This love of food runs throughout the Maurina's family, who opened the family's first restaurant back in, 1955 not far from where their Park Slope location currently stands.
The Zagat-rated restaurant has thrived since opening in 1982, enough to expand to three locations. Inside their kitchens, chefs stoke wood-burning ovens to bake more than 16 varieties of pizzas, including Neapolitan- and Sicilian-style pies dressed with whole-milk mozzarella and a specialty San Marzano tomato-and-basil sauce. Each location has a spacious dining room where patrons can split appetizers of housemade meatballs and dig into plates of sautéed Nature veal marsala.
Old Vincent's delights diners with a menu of carefully curated Italian favorites. Specialty dishes such as the linguine bedecked with calamari ($16.95) and the cheese ravioli with meatballs ($13.95) draw a hearty, slow-cooked flavor from the eatery's secret sauce, the recipe for which is hidden on the back of the $1 bill. A steamed seafood platter recruits an army of mussels, shrimp, and calamari to run basic training drills through a marsh of hot sauce ($19.95), while two complimentary glasses of the Coumada, a cocktail crafted from peach schnapps and pink lemonade, add their finely tuned flavors to the fold. Old Vincent’s is marked by a festive, beach-inspired atmosphere, in gift-certificate giveaways and other enticements lure diners in nightly.
At Saverio's Stone Fire Bistro, Chef Nicola Bertolotti decks out Northern Italian cuisine and pizzas with ingredients such as filet mignon, prosciutto, goat cheese, and truffles. He and his staff hand stretch rounds of dough atop a marble counter before covering them with sauce and toppings and thrusting them into the depths of a mammoth, tiled hearth oven, where high, even heat bakes them to a delectable crunch. Pizza combinations include options such as a quartet of cheeses—mozzarella, gorgonzola, fontina, and ricotta—or mozzarella, truffle cream, ham, and truffle oil. The oven also produces pastas coated in black-truffle or vodka sauces, arriving alongside paninis and salads that cut all the richness with lemony dressings.
A burbling waterfall covered in plants and pebbles stands sentry in front of Saverio’s fieldstone façade. Inside, slatted wooden furniture, checkerboard linens, big umbrellas, and candles clustered with small wicker baskets evoke a picnic atmosphere even when the waterfall’s iced over. If diners look up, they’ll see something even more surprising: high above their heads stretches a cross section of an Italian alleyway, complete with a trompe l’oeil streetscape mural, flower boxes, roof tiles, and clotheslines strung between two “buildings” like pasta noodles in the mouths of two young Venetians in love.
The cook looks at the order. Another classico brick-oven pizza. This one with extra cheese. He instinctually ladles plum-tomato sauce onto the dough and spreads it out evenly. He sprinkles basil and mozzarella—and then another gob of mozzarella—before sliding the whole concoction into the oven’s intense heat.
The team at Carlo’s Pizzeria & Restaurant has been perfecting this method of pizza making since 1966, when pizza making finally became legal. But brick-oven-baked pies populate only one page of the menu. The other two pages catalog a surfeit of hero sandwiches, stromboli, pasta dishes, and meaty Italian entrees such as chicken cacciatore and veal parmigiana.
At Il Posto, Chef Nino cooks the much-beloved Italian recipes that brought attention to Nino's Restaurant—his former Coney Island Avenue venture—as well recipes that he hopes will become new favorites. Traditional veal parmigiana and homemade ravioli meet on the same table as lobster and striped bass, among the menu's many crowning dishes. Diners can finish up their meals with the house's signature tiramisu or a supersize flambe prepared tableside with enough flames for two.
Unearth the traditional delights of Northern Italy with Il Poeta's menu, and commence face-hole caulking with the carciofi in tegamino, baked artichokes served with shrimp and smoked scamorza cheese ($12.50), before bringing on the workhorse of Northern fare— tagliatelle alla Bolognese, homemade pasta with beef-ragout sauce hearty enough to sate the most vicious pangs of hunger ($17). A wide variety of salads greet the green-eater such as del poeta, with romaine, olives, mozzarella, tomato, and balsamic dressing ($10). Meat lovers can sate a craving with pollo spezzatino con capperi in salsa di pomodoro e origano (diced boneless chicken with capers, tomato, and oregano) for $19.50 or tagliata di manzo con palate al rosmarino (grilled and sliced sirloin steak with roasted potatoes and rosemary) for $28.50. Il Poeta's thoughtfully constructed wine list provides a pairing for every meal, so don't be too shy to ask a server about the current varieties.
With an attentive wait staff, a festive dining room, and a menu teeming with authentic cuisine, Villa Isabella invites taste buds to celebrate the fine flavors of Italy. Diners begin rigorous digestive workouts by warming up with hot antipasto, a sharing-size plate of shrimp, clams, eggplant rollatini, and stuffed mushrooms, or wine-steamed mussels served in a red or white sauce. Forks can comb through capellini alla primavera, a pile of angel hair pasta with veggies in garlic and light tomato sauce, then rest their pronged heads on homemade ravioli pillows. Myriad fungi accouterments and cartoon toadstools sprout from the mixed mushroom risotto, and grilled baby lamb chops bring their mashed potato blankets to the table. Villa's dessert menu featuring fresh cannoli, tiramisu, and crème brûlée, causes sugar-hungry fangs to retract back into their normal sweet tooth form.