New York Italian Restaurants:

Select Spots in Little Italy and Beyond

Invite Mario Batali over for dinner and you're in for an adventure. When writer Bill Buford did just that, the superstar chef not only immediately took charge of the meal, but also wound up arranging for Buford to learn the ropes of Italian cooking in his famous restaurant Babbo. As Buford recounts in his book Heat, the experience was intense; much of his work is unceremoniously discarded, and at one point a sous-chef splatters him with hot oil for getting in the way. But the staff, whom Buford concludes are “a roomful of adrenaline addicts,” are just demonstrating the passion that’s always driven New York’s Italian food scene.
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Marea Ristorante's menu takes a dip in the waters that surround the Italian peninsula. The seafood-heavy lineup includes lobster ravioli, salt-baked Italian bass, and red-wine-braised octopus, all of which can be enjoyed a la carte or as part of a four-course prix-fixe menu.

#2

Roberta’s 261 Moore St.

Williamsburg: Outdoor Herb Garden

Pulsating music. Dance parties out back. Christmas lights for ambiance. Roberta’s dive-bar duds belie the care that goes into chef Carlo Mirarchi's cuisine. Mirarchi’s pizzas—once enjoyed by Bill Clinton—cook in a wood-burning oven, and many of the herbs and vegetables the restaurant uses come from its own outdoor garden.

#3

Vesta Trattoria and Wine Bar 21-02 30th Ave.

Astoria: Local Ingredients and Inspiration

Because owners Leo Sacco and Giuseppe Falco both grew up in Astoria, the childhood friends couldn’t imagine another spot to open their restaurant. Their chef—who also happens to live in the neighborhood—incorporates local ingredients into slow-baked lasagna, stuffed pork chops, and risotto, and local artists handled the décor and upholstery.

#4

La Masseria 235 W. 48th

Theater District: Puglia-Region Cooking

The allusion to a masseria—a type of farm building that dates back to ancient times—is purposeful. Chefs here create meals from the type of fresh ingredients you'd expect farmers to have on hand, including organic grains and vegetables. They even make pasta and mozzarella in house.

#5

Il Bambino 34-08 31st Ave.

Astoria: Paninis on the Patio

Il Bambino's paninis start with freshly baked ciabbatina bread, then add Italian meatloaf, fried eggplant, smoked spicy mayonnaise, and other gourmet ingredients. Diners enjoy them along with tapas, handmade breads, and dozens of primarily Spanish wines out on a patio lined with flower boxes and finished wood benches.

#6

Locanda Verde 377 Greenwich St.

Tribeca: Cooking Like Grandma’s

TimeOut Magazine gave Locanda Verde’s chef Andrew Carmellini high praise when it comes to Italian cuisine: “He cooks like an Italian grandmother.” Hearty plates of pancetta-wrapped veal, pappardelle in lamb Bolognese, and lemon ricotta pancakes outshine the eatery’s superstar backer, Robert De Niro.

The tasting menu at this never grows stale, since chefs Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone develop a new version weekly. Two diners each night are treated to something even more special: the 20-course chef’s tasting menu, which [New York Magazine] says “encompass[es] the entire gastronomic history of NYC in twenty or so carefully considered bites.”

#8

Del Posto 85 10th Ave.

Chelsea: Bastianich and Batali’s Brainchild

Famed restaurateurs Joseph Bastianich and Mario Batali collaborated with Bastianich’s mother Lidia to create what they call “transgenerational” cuisine—classic dishes with inventive twists. Spaghetti is served with Dungeness crab and sliced jalapeno, and the broiled veal chop comes with crisp maitake mushrooms and watercress. A pianist tickles the keys as guests dine.

#9

Extra Virgin 259 W. 4th Street

West Village: International Olive Oils

Prosciutto-wrapped scallops, lasagna, and braised veal over pesto risotto prove chef Joey Fortunato’s expertise in Mediterranean cooking, which he gained by working in Michelin-rated restaurants in France and heading New York hot spots. The eatery even showcases extra-virgin oils from around the globe each night.

#10

Blossom 187 9th Ave

Chelsea: Vegan Italian

As a vegan restaurant, Blossom forgoes some of Italian cuisine’s mainstay ingredients—cheese, eggs, meat—but diners hardly miss them in hearty dishes such as the seitan scaloppini, which consists of wheat-gluten patties pan-seared with white wine and lemon-caper sauce. Blossom also champions animal welfare by supporting the Animal Protection and Rescue League.

Deal or no deal, our editors strongly recommend these businesses based on their reputation, popularity, and quality of service.

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