The Best Italian Restaurants in NYC
Seasonal and ingredient-driven menus featuring both regional specialties and classic stateside dishes.
While NYC is packed with Italian restaurants (stay out of this, Olive Garden), thanks to distance and time away from the motherland, the food they serve is distinctly Italian American, having evolved from its origins into an entirely new cuisine altogether.
Luckily, though, this isn’t a competition—and both Italian and Italian-American eateries coexist in this city with cuisines that constantly inspire one another. While Bamonte’s in Williamsburg might be your go-to destination when craving some creamy penne vodka, for more regional specialties, you might want to look elsewhere for eateries that offer a stronger Italy-centric dining experience. Here are the best Italian restaurants in NYC.
After initially starting as a pop-up, the brick and mortar location of Forsythia in the Lower East Side debuted last November. Here, executive chef and owner, Jacob Siwak, and business partner, Brian Maxwell specialize in Roman comfort food and the spot prides itself on refined Italian flavors. The offerings include a variety of handmade pastas and seasonal ingredients that are typical of Central Italy, like tonnareli alla gricia (featuring guanciale, Roman pecorino and black pepper) and polpetta dal Santo Palato, a braised and then fried short rib meatball served with potato leek purée. In addition to outdoor dining and an intimate 20-seat dining room, guests are encouraged to enjoy the multi-purpose Pasta Room, which serves as a workplace for their pasta chef by day and an extension of their evening seating at night.
Ai Fiori in Midtown marries the atmosphere of a Milan power-lunch venue and the elegant fish-driven menu of a fine-dining restaurant on the Amalfi Coast. It's an unexpected combination, but it works, and just as Milan and Amalfi's posh restaurants aren't bound by Italy's borders when it comes to luxury, this destination also ventures away from Italian ingredients when it means elevating a dish like fluke crudo with the addition of sturgeon caviar. Pasta and risotto offerings, meanwhile, might be garnished with a flurry of black or white truffles, season permitting. And while fish is the main attraction here, there are also a selection of meat dishes to choose from like the pan-roasted veal chop with plum mustard.
al di là
Chef Anna Klinger and Emiliano Coppa bring a little bit of the Veneto, a region in Northeastern Italy, to Brooklyn at this Park Slope institution of two decades. The kitchen at al di la evokes the earthy homestyle cuisine of the Veneto with dishes like braised rabbit, sauteed wild mushroom (both served with creamy polenta, of course), and casunziei, a classic crescent-shaped pasta filled with beet and ricotta. The occasional South-Central Italian speciality like Rome's saltimbocca (layered veal and prosciutto) might find its way onto the menu, too. The restaurant accepts walk-ins, but it's still incredibly popular, so you can expect a considerable wait at peak hours if you don’t make a reservation.
Opened in 2017, Don Angie is a charming and award-winning West Village stalwart run by the couple and chef duo Angie Rito and Scott Tacinelli. With a focus on their Italian roots, the menu’s Italian-American vision includes Italian classics like vitello tonnato (spicy veal tartare and tuna carpaccio) and stateside staples like pasta cacciatore (mezcal-braised chicken, ‘nduja, and Sicilian olives). For mains, must-try items include the signature lasagna and the colorful combinations of their lobster for two (smoked vodka sauce, spicy polenta tortelli, and lobster polpette). Dessert options are cantaloupe sorbetto, black cocoa tiramisu, and more.
At I Sodi, the stenciled phrase "ristorante toscano" that greets visitors at the entrance of Rita Sodi's dinner-only gastroteca in the West Village announces the restaurant's intentions: to serve the food of Tuscany. Sodi grew up on a farm outside of Florence in an area known for its beef, so expect things like steak tartare and tagliata con rucola (sliced NY strip with arugula) alongside simple pastas like ravioli with butter and sage and lemon pappardelle. Departing slightly from the Tuscan theme, Rome's cacio e pepe also makes an appearance—one of the few examples in NYC that faithfully replicates the flavor and texture of its Roman incarnation.
After years in fine dining—including five spent at Chicago's Spiaggia, followed by a tenure at Manhattan's award-winning A Voce and A Voce Columbus—James Beard Award-nominated chef Missy Robbins has struck out on her own with Lilia, an airy and bright restaurant in Williamsburg. Featuring handmade pastas and wood-fired meat and seafood, Robbins' menu surveys Italy from north to south, drawing on the potent flavors of the Northern regions with sheep’s milk cheese filled agnolotti with saffron, dried tomato and honey, while conveying the country’s coastal flavors through black bass with salsa verde and coal roasted potatoes. In the daytime when the restaurant is closed, visit the adjoined Lilia Caffe, which serves coffee, sandwiches, and sweets all day.
For those in search of a taste of Sicily, put Piccola Cucina at the top of your list. Located in the heart of SoHo on Thompson Street, the restaurant is the creation of chef Philip Guardione, a native Sicilian whose successful culinary experiences in both Italy and Europe gives his eatery its authentic essence. The mostly seafood-centric menu offers both delicate and bold flavors with curated selections of crudo like a carpaccio trio with sauces; tuna tartare with celery and bottarga; and an Italian ceviche, in addition to decadent pasta like squid ink tagliolini; and gragnano fusilli with scampi langoustine, and burrata cheese. Indulge in meat-based dishes that are perfect for the season’s dropping temperatures with antipasti like Sicilian arancini with ragu sauce and mozzarella; and green tagliatelle with boar ragu and black truffle.
Chef Stefano Secchi brings the Northern Emilia Romagna region to NYC with Rezdôra, a rustic eatery that offers regional—and seasonal—favorites. The restaurant specializes in housemade pasta with dishes ranging from classic flavors like ragu tagliolini to those with more complexity like “nuovo dolcetto scherzetto” featuring zucca ripieno, brown butter, sage, and amaretti. An entire section is also dedicated to appetizer-style cheeses, where items like truffle burrata and fresh bufala mozzarella make an appearance. The restaurant also offers a regional pasta tasting menu with a vegetarian option as well.
Directly importing flavors and products from the Northwestern Piedmont region of Italy, San Carlo blends traditional recipes with locally sourced and seasonal ingredients for an old-school—yet modern—culinary experience. Featuring regional specialties such as white truffle from the city of Alba shaved over dishes like pumpkin vellutata with crumbled parmigiano reggiano cheese or roasted duck breast with pumpkin purée and roasted vegetables, additional staples include bagna cauda served with seared scallops and spiced apples; and hand-cut fassona beef tartare with truffle cream. For those who wish to stop by during lunch hours, the restaurant offers a selection of pastas, sandwiches and quick bites—and a complimentary espresso coffee to energize the afternoon.
Opened in 2009 by Italy natives, this pizzeria-trattoria in Bed-Stuy serves thick-rimmed, Neapolitan-style pizza and seasonal specials in a set of rooms assembled from a former garage and storefront. The menu at Saraghina features around a dozen pies including austere classics like the Marinara (tomatoes, anchovies, olives, garlic, oregano, and basil) and at least as many starters, such as pork polpette with tomato sauce and fritto misto, a combination of lightly fried seafood. There are a handful of pastas and mains, while in classic Italian fashion the vegetable sides are tucked away at the bottom of the menu (but shouldn't be overlooked). In addition, Saraghina Bakery next door offers sandwiches and sweet and savory snacks.
Sullivan Street Bakery
While not a restaurant, the small retail area at Jim Lahey's Sullivan Street Bakery in Hell's Kitchen sells sweets, flatbreads, and savory snacks that would be at home in any Roman panificio. Lahey's offerings are influenced by the time he spent working in Rome at Forno Campo de' Fiori and at bakeries in nearby Lariano, a village famed for its wood-fired sourdough. In addition to transporting his skills back to NYC, where he originally opened the brand as a Roman bakery on Sullivan Street in 1994, he has become an ambassador of sorts for how Central Italians eat bread and pizza, allowing light, digestible ingredients to enhance the final product—an approach embodied in simple items such as pizza bianca (a flatbread seasoned with olive oil and salt) and pizza rossa (a flatbread topped with tomato sauce). On the sweet side, the bomboloni are a classic Central Italian breakfast. Additional locations are open in Chelsea and SoHo.
From Rita Sodi of I Sodi and Italo-Francophile Jody Williams of nearby Buvette, Via Carota serves an Italy-inspired, vegetable-rich menu from 11 am until 11 pm in a pair of wood-accented rooms in the West Village. The all-day service and abundance of small plates give the eatery more of a wine bar feel than that of a traditional sit-down restaurant, and the homey atmosphere and decor channels the 17th-century farmhouse of Sodi's youth. Visitors can drop in for a small bite at the bar or in the dining rooms, or opt for a full meal, choosing snacks like rice and spicy pork arancini, pear and gorgonzola bruschetta, and burrata with greens, followed by pasta and a main. The wine list also provides an excellent survey of Italian vino with an emphasis on native grapes.