10 Little Italy Restaurants and Their Classic Dishes
When it comes to Italian restaurants, NYC has some of the best in the country—many of which are located in Manhattan’s Little Italy neighborhood. But with so many delicious options within a few blocks, how can you choose just one?
To solve the problem, we organized this list of popular Italian dishes and the Little Italy restaurants that do them the best. All you have to do is decide which one makes your mouth water the most (or get started early in the day).
Da Gennaro Restaurant
For Mouthwatering Manicotti
At the heart of Little Italy, on the corner of Hester and Mulberry, Da Gennaro is known for its rustic Italian dishes and sumptuous, homemade sauces. The kitchen’s zesty marinara shines alongside homemade pasta filled with ricotta and mozzarella in the manicotti al forno.
For Perfect Pink Sauce
Unlike most Little Italy restaurants, Pellegrino’s is a relative newcomer, opening in the mid 1990s. Still, their Old-World Italian food, served in a laid-back yet romantic setting, consistently ranks among the neighborhood’s top restaurants. The rigatoni alla vodka is worth a try, as it’s hard to argue with the combination of sausage, prosciutto, and mushrooms in a spicy vodka sauce.
For an Italian Seafood Feast
Tile floors, exposed-brick walls, handmade wooden tables, and black-and-white photos of style icons like Jackie Onassis and Valentino: this is the decor that helps transport visitors to the island of Capri. Its menu includes plenty of seafood options. The grigliata di pesce features no fewer than five briny delights, including half a grilled lobster, salmon, shrimp, and calamari, plus the fish of the day.
For Meatballs Better Than Mom’s
Opened in 1902, Angelo’s cozy interior is reminiscent of Naples with ocean-inspired murals and white-jacketed waiters decanting wine, plus large, lively parties. No wonder the spot attracts celebs, including from part owner and Real Housewife Teresa Aprea. The real star here, though is the homemade rigatoni with meatballs, praised by diners and media outlets alike.
For Perfect Chicken Parm
NYC’s Benito One has come a long way from its humble beginnings in 1968, when Chef Benito first opened its doors and there were only five tables inside. The eatery has changed ownership and added tables in the years since, but remains popular for its hearty helpings of chicken parmigiana made with fresh tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese.
For the Best Bruschetta
Chefs use produce from the rooftop garden and mill flour in house. It’s an attention to detail that is particularly notable in the selection of bruschetta—there are five mouthwatering options to choose from, but we’d recommend the bone-marrow or burrata bruschetta, made with local cheese.
For Dessert (or the Only Meal That Matters)
Owner Baby John DeLuto isn’t known as the Cannoli King for nothing. In fact, when the annual Feast of San Gennaro rolls around, his shop hosts the famous cannoli-eating contest, and has since it opened in 1973.
For Italian Cookies and Cakes
Ferrara opened in 1892—the same year Ellis Island began welcoming immigrants. And the bakery and café’s focus remains the same: classic Italian desserts. The 200 plus specialties mean you’re in for a tough, delicious decision.
For an Impeccable Pie
Opened in 1902, Lombardi’s is not only a popular spot in Little Italy, but it is also the country’s first pizzeria (yes, country’s). Of the selection of tasty coal-oven baked pizzas, opt for the simplicity of the margherita pizza, which elevates the ingredients of fresh mozzarella, crushed-tomato sauce, and basil.
Di Palo’s Fine Foods
For Real Italian Groceries
It may not be a restaurant, but this mom-and-pop corner store is stocked with everything needed to make restaurant-quality meals. There are plenty of authentic Italian ingredients here, including pasta, fresh bread, and cured meats, but you can’t go wrong with the buffalo mozzarella or Tuscan pecorino.