Food & Drink

The Absolute Best Pasta Dishes in NYC

Published On 02/18/2016 Published On 02/18/2016
Courtesy of Carbone

Spicy rigatoni vodka


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Greenwich Village

If you can score a res at the Carbone/Torrisi/Zalaznick crew’s Italian-American red sauce joint, ordering the rigatoni goes without question. With all due respect to Italian grandmothers everywhere, this might just be the best version of vodka sauce out there, featuring onion soubise -- a play on béchamel using onion puree that brings an added rich texture to the classic cream, tomatoes, pecorino, and Calabrian chilies. The rigid housemade maccheroni, cooked perfectly al dente, has just enough texture to take on all that sauce. You can believe the Instagram hype.

Jen Davidson & Blair Campion

Bucatini alla carbonara


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West Village

Jonathan Waxman’s famed Italian eatery has remained packed since its inception in 2004, partially because of its central West Village location and its cool, rustic modern decor, but mainly because of its signature roast chicken with perfectly crispy skin, and tender and juicy meat. But as memorable as the homestyle chicken may be, don’t let it distract you from the kitchen’s equally strong pasta game. The carbonara became an instant classic when Barbuto opened its (garage) doors 12 years ago. Previously made with spaghetti, this iteration features hearty bucatini tubes, but maintains the same beloved sauce with dry-cured Beretta pancetta from Pat LaFrieda, fresh ground black pepper, farm fresh egg yolk, and parmesan.

Courtesy of Quality Italian

Dry-aged porterhouse agnolotti

Quality Italian

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Midtown West

Midtown’s bi-level steakhouse serves modern twists on traditional Italian-American fare like a showstopper chicken parm that’s the size of a pizza. But the move here is really this signature dish, featuring shreds of month-long dry-aged porterhouse tucked inside agnolotti pockets in tangy vincotto-spiked brown butter. Bonus: getting both your steak and pasta fix in one course leaves more room for the cannoli cart.

Megan Murphy/Thrillist

Pappardelle alla fiesolana

Bar Pitti

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Greenwich Village

One of the city’s more authentic Italian experiences, Bar Pitti offers truly classic, homemade Tuscan food. There’s a chalkboard of rotating specials and primo menu mainstays, but not many dishes can crush pasta cravings like Pitti’s pappardelle. Delicate freshly made strands swimming in tomato cream sauce flecked with smoked bacon and a generous shaving of parmigiano reggiano will leave you feeling full and in amore.

Noah Fecks

Linguine with garlic & breadcrumbs

Bar Primi

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East Village

The menu at Andrew Carmellini's popular East Village outpost is practically all pasta (because what else matters, really), including spaghetti with clams and rigatoni carbonara. Chef-partner Sal Lamboglia deals with rarer noodle shapes (see the paccheri or the lumache) but it’s the simple execution and balanced flavors in this linguine dish -- thinly sliced garlic cooked with hot oil and parsley, and golden breadcrumbs on top -- that really stuns.

Courtesy of Upland



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Stephen Starr and chef Justin Smillie's Park Avenue hotspot focuses on Cali-inspired cuisine with Italian influences, with a menu that runs the gamut of the cuisine’s best hits, from pizzas to seafood to hearty meat plates. Even with such a varied line-up, Upland consistently wows with nearly every plate -- but the Estrella still stands out. Meaning star, it’s essentially a big ol’ bowl of comfort in the form of long, star-shaped tubes tossed with savory ground chicken livers, sherry, rosemary, and sage. No doubt a shining star on the menu.

Lasagna alla Bolognese

Tra Di Noi

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Tra Di Noi is newer to the Arthur Ave scene than beloved red sauce mainstays Mario and Dominick’s, but that doesn't mean it's inexperienced. It's got all the makings of a classic Italian-American joint, from the red table cloths, to the friendly staff, to the perfect lasagna bolognese. In fact, the lasagna is so impressive, we named it one of 50 iconic NYC foods to eat before you die. A sizable portion of tender noodles is topped with a generous amount of cheese and coated in a bath of hearty meat sauce -- it sounds simple, but it's pure magic, simply for the fact that it manages to be filling without being unbearably rich. 

Courtesy of All’onda

Bucatini with smoked uni & spicy breadcrumbs


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Union Square

NYC’s uni craze doesn’t seem to slowing down anytime soon. If you like sea urchin’s nutty, slightly sweet, and slightly salty flavor, then All'onda’s uni-laden bucatini is a must-try. Chef Chris Jaeckle coats freshly-made pasta with a savory sauce (house-smoked Maine uni, dashi-parmesan stock, garlic, and cream, brightened with white wine and lemon), then whisks in even more uni. On top: panko crumbs sautéed in Calabrian chili oil for texture and heat.

Gabriele Stabile

Ceci e pepe

Momofuku Nishi

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The latest outpost in David Chang’s ever-growing Momofuku empire, Nishi approaches Italian cuisine through Asian cooking styles and ingredients. This much-hyped riff on the Roman classic cacio e pepe swaps typically used pecorino romano cheese for fermented chickpea paste -- resulting in a creamy, umami coating that works remarkably well with chef Josh Pinsky’s homemade bucatini.

Evan Sung

Malfadini with pink peppercorns & Parmigiano-Reggiano


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After a three-year hiatus, chef Missy Robbins is back in the kitchen at her highly anticipated new Williamsburg restaurant. Lilia’s menu of soulful fare focuses on simple preparations and Italian traditions, with highlights including wood-fired seafood and handcrafted pasta -- like this bowl of beautifully al dente ruffled noodles with creamy parmigiano and ground pink peppercorns. Without any other dressings, it’s a wonderfully simplistic dish, which is all the more reason why it’s so easy to fall for. It’s the type of pasta that you’d hope to make yourself, but could never quite execute -- maybe it’s the housemade noodles, maybe it’s the perfect touch of cheese and pepper -- either way, we missed you, Missy.

Courtesy of L’Artusi

Garganelli with mushroom ragu


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West Village

This bi-level stunner in the West Village always delivers with excellent modern Italian eats, like crispy sweetbreads with apples and pancetta, and pastas that wow across the board, but no dish impresses like the legendary garganelli: tender tubes anchoring an earthy ragu made from slow-cooked mushrooms (just as hearty as a meat bolognese) accented with zingy black pepper and shavings of salty ricotta salada.

Ellen Silverman

Malfatti al Maialino


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Danny Meyer and chef Nick Anderer’s rustic Roman trattoria brilliantly executes soulful central-Italian cuisine, with an all-Italian wine list to match. Here, the house pasta is downright transcendent: a bed of thick hand-torn ribbons nestled in buttery sauce with shredded roast suckling pig and peppery, citrus-brightened arugula. Malfatti means “badly made,” but the only bad thing about this dish is when there’s none left.

Ted Axelrod

Fusilli with red wine-braised octopus & bone marrow


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Midtown West

Michael White’s seafood-centric destination off Central Park aims to impress with elegant interiors and high-end Italian ingredients, but it’s the housemade pastas that really draw attention. This famed fusilli is an homage to surf-n-turf: short hand-shaped ribbons interlaced in a vibrant sauce made with sweet baby octopus (braised in red wine, San Marzano tomatoes, and fresh herbs) and buttery Pat LaFrieda bone marrow. A sprinkling of seasoned breadcrumbs lends a crunchy textural contrast.

Linguine alla Gianni


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At this classic Arthur Ave red sauce joint, you're expected to come in knowing what you want to order. If not, the waiter will recite the menu to you, but you'll never actually see a paper copy (and prices will come with the check). Absolutely everything about it screams family-style, from the communal seating to the insanely huge portions. Dominick's is known to have some of the Bronx's best pizza (get the gourmet slices, like the shrimp scampi), but it's the pasta, namely the Linguine alla Gianni (an enormous pile of al dente strands topped with just the right amount of chopped shrimp and clams), that really shines. Expect to take home leftovers. 

Courtesy of Scarpetta

Spaghetti with tomato & basil


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West Village

Some classics shouldn’t be messed with, as proven by Scarpetta’s straightforward spaghetti -- a simple swirl of al dente housemade strands coated in fresh tomato sauce with a sprinkle of basil -- which might be the least complicated dish on the menu at this perpetually hip eight-year-old restaurant, but it’s the one that keeps people coming back again and again. It’s all in the control of these simple ingredients -- the sauce is creamy, but not overly so, and the basil has a noticeable flavor, without overpowering the dish. Yes, you could make it at home, but it’ll never be anywhere as good as this.

Courtesy of Del Posto

Linguine alla scampi

Del Posto

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At this almost intimidatingly elegant spot (note the black, red, and gold decor and a candle-lit marble staircase in the center of the room) from team Batali-Bastianich and chef Mark Ladner, all pastas are made in-house. But an exception was made for this linguine, which hails from specialty importer Marcelli Formaggi. The dish, which traditionally involves shrimp, white wine, some lemon, garlic, and red pepper flakes, is taken to the next level here with poached langoustines, garlic, lemon, and pepperoncino-infused oil, culminating in a much more complex taste. Gluten-free? No sweat! Del Posto now offers GF versions of every pasta on the menu.

Courtesy of Frankies 457 Spuntino

Cavatelli with Faicco's hot sausage & browned sage butter

Frankies 457 Spuntino

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Carroll Gardens

Since 2004, this quintessential neighborhood restaurant in Carroll Gardens has been serving classic housemade pastas like gnocchi and ravioli, but it’s the instant-classic cavatelli that stands out -- perfectly al dente noodles peppered with fat rounds of spicy sausage (from Bleecker Street’s famed Italian specialty store, Faicco's) and simmered in an aromatic browned butter sauce. You can also get it at the West Village outpost.

Courtesy of La Pecora Bianca

Einkorn Gramigna

La Pecora Bianca

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Meaning “the white sheep” in Italian, La Pecora Bianca comes from a highly impressive team -- Claudette’s Mark Barak and executive chef Simone Bonelli (who was the sous-chef at under Massimo Bottura at Osteria Francescana in Modena when it was named the second best restaurant in the world). Bonelli’s menu features a number of housemade pastas, but the standout is the gramigna: hollow curls made with Einkorn wheat tossed with housemade pork sausage crumbles, garlic, chili flakes, broccolini, and parmesan.

Trenette ai quattro formaggi

Manetta’s Ristorante

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Long Island City

Manetta's is about as charming as it gets, from its humble interiors to its housemade pasta dishes that taste straight out of your mom's kitchen. As the area around it rapidly changes, this underrated family-run joint sticks proudly to its old-school roots -- it's that neighborhood spot you can count on for an always-comforting pasta dish, like trenette ai quattro formaggi or spaghetti alla carbonara. It's the former that should really get you here, though -- homemade spaghetti coated in a blend of fontina, Gorgonzola, fresh mozzarella, and Parmigiano. It's ridiculously rich, so it's by no means an everyday meal, but on cold, rainy days, or when you're just not feeling particularly hot, it's a true savior -- as comforting as being in your childhood home.

Kate Previte

Gnocchi with braised oxtail


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West Village

Mario Batali’s flagship restaurant -- a charming former carriage house in the West Village -- does high-end Italian fare right by taking classic dishes and elevating them with the simplest, yet most refined touch (see linguine with clams and hot chiles or black spaghetti with fennel, jalapeños, and bottarga). It’s still one of the hardest reservations to score in town, but this pasta alone is worth the hassle and hype: pillowy made-in-house potato gnocchi cuddling shreds of oxtail that’s been braised until falling-apart tender in a robust red wine and tomato-based ragu. Mic drop.

Courtesy of  Vic’s

Borsa “little purse” with ricotta, hazelnut & lemon


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Since opening in late 2014, this popular NoHo eatery has been turning out impressive Italian-Mediterranean fare, including a number of pizzas (like one with hot peppers and one with sopressata and Calabrian chiles) and several housemade pastas, from classics like cacio e pepe to an elevated spaghetti alla chitarra with lobster. But it's Chef Hillary Sterling’s delicate borsa pasta (“little purse” in Italian) that’s the true star. The purses are gently stuffed with sheep’s milk ricotta and dressed in a delightful lemon-butter sauce with chopped hazelnuts. There’s eight to a plate, and these babies go down easy.

Fettuccine bolognese


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Long Island City

A family owned and operated ristorante tucked behind an unassuming storefront in LIC (seriously, you can barely make out the sign), Manducati’s sticks to old-school Italian classics. And does them well. When you want a traditional stick-to-your-ribs, sauce-dripping-down-your-chin bowl of macaroni, the fettuccine -- handmade ribbons mounted with a generous heap of veal-beef bolognese in tangy marinara sauce -- gets the job done every time.

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1. Carbone 181 Thompson St, New York, NY 10012 (Greenwich Village)

With all due respect to Italian grandmothers everywhere, Carbone -- under the leadership of Mario Carbone, Rich Torrisi, and Jeff Zalaznick -- may just have the best red sauce, ever. It's not a surprise that this Greenwich Village restaurant requires a reservation a month in advance. If you can get in, be sure to order the outstanding spicy rigatoni vodka. You can believe the Instagram hype.

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2. Barbuto 775 Washington St, New York, NY 10014 (West Village)

This popular West Village eatery serves upscale American-Italian plates in a repurposed garage. The open kitchen, tucked between walls of white-washed exposed brick, hosts a culinary team helmed by celeb chef Jonathan Waxman. The dining room is lined with Italian wine-crammed shelves, vintage tin signage, and communal tables built of heavy re-claimed wood. The menu focuses primarily on small plates and antipasti, while the brick oven pizzas are made-to-order, and the entrees -- think orange-roasted duck breast over Brussels sprouts -- are equally unforgettable. The wine list is an event of its own, stretching across pages (at Barbuto, there is no such thing as too much wine), and brunch here is something of a hand-made sausage fest, well-worth attending. Last but not least, when weather permits, the window-studded back-wall of the dining room slides up, in true garage-door fashion, to make room for airy side-walk seating.

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3. Quality Italian 57 W 57th St, New York, NY 10019 (Midtown West)

The sister restaurant to neighboring Quality Meats, this Midtown steakhouse focuses on modern and upscale Italian-American food, like a show-stopping chicken parm served like a pizza. The bi-level space has a swagger that appeals to the business dinner crowd and a rustic vibe that plays into the Italian theme. The classic wine list is predictably heavy on Italian varieties, and you'll find familiar drinks, like a Moscow mule and aperol spritz, on the cocktail menu.

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4. Bar Pitti 268 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10014 (Greenwich Village)

This glam Greenwich Village Italian neighborhood staple announces daily specials on a blackboard menu and is famously hard to secure a table at (they don't accept reservations). It's worth checking out this cozy spot for not only possible celebrity sightings, but food so good you'd swear you were in Florence, Italy, not NYC.

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5. Bar Primi 325 Bowery, New York, NY 10003 (East Village)

Bar Primi is a delicious pasta outpost in the East Village, where you can treat yourself to the likes of fiore di carciofi with smoked bacon and pecorino; a roast beef, italian peppers, and provolone number known only as "The Sandwich"; and bucatini with lamb amatriciana.

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6. Upland 345 Park Ave S, New York, NY 10010 (Murray Hill)

Stephen Starr, a Philly-based restaurateur who entered the New York scene with splashy hits like Morimoto and Buddakan, is behind this airy brasserie on Park Avenue South that takes its name from the California town where chef Justin Smillie grew up. The menu, which rallies around the seasonal themes of California cuisine, features oval-shaped pizzas topped with vegetables and flavorful cheeses; pasta dishes ranging from the traditional cacio e pepe to the entirely unique chicken liver estrella; grilled, smoked, and roasted meat and seafood plates; and a fairly affordable wine list.

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7. Trattoria Tra Di Noi 622 E 187th St, Bronx, NY 10458 (Bronx)

This Arthur Ave spot has all the makings of a classic Italian-American joint, from the red table cloths, to the friendly staff, to the perfect lasagna bolognese. Chef Marco, the mastermind behind Tra Di Noi, was born in Italy and has over 50 years of professional culinary experience. His primary focus is classic Italian dishes with fresh ingredients, beautiful presentation, and tons of flavor.

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8. All’onda 22 E 13th St, New York, NY 10003 (Union Square)

Located right near the heart of Union Square is All'onda, a Japanese and Venetian hybrid restaurant housed in a rustic duplex building. The first floor has a spacious bar (complete with sake) where you can drink or dine without having made a reservation, and the second floor is dimly-lit with cozy booths and wooden rafters. The menu is limited, but the smoked uni bucatini is a must-try.

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9. Momofuku Nishi 232 8th Ave, New York, NY 10011

Drawing from cuisines as varied as Italian, Japanese, and Korean, as well as executive chef Josh Pinsky's mother's own kitchen, David Chang's Momofuku outpost in Chelsea redefines "fusion" in a creative, yet surprisingly congruous menu. The Momofuku empire certainly has a way with noodles, and Chang's take on the traditional ceci e pepe is further proof of his mastery -- instead of cheese, the dish is made with umami-packed, house-fermented chickpea taste.

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10. Lilia 567 Union Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11211 (Williamsburg)

Missy Robbins (formerly of A Voce) is behind this elegant and minimal Williamsburg restaurant housed in a former auto body shop. The menu focuses on lighter Italian fare with an emphasis on seafood and pastas. An adjoining cafe serves pastries and coffee in the morning, and sandwiches and gelato in the afternoon, before turning into a cocktail bar at 5 PM.

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11. L'Artusi 228 W 10th St, New York, NY 10014 (West Village)

This bi-level stunner never disappoints, thanks to a great wine list (take a peek into the wine room upstairs/drink some wine in the wine room upstairs), including large-format magnums and the like, along with excellent modern Italian fare like potato gnocchi with chanterelles and quail a la plancha with sweet potato, pancetta, currants, and sage.

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12. Maialino 2 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10010 (Gramercy)

Danny Meyer's Roman paean inside the Gramercy Park Hotel, Mai's a cream-walled, wood beamed spot split into a casual front bar and a slightly more formal rear "trattoria" by pastry/bread/coffee stations and a white marble salumi bar.

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13. Marea 240 Central Park South, New York, NY 10023 (Midtown West)

Michael White’s seafood-centric destination off Central Park aims to impress with its elegant interior and high-end Italian ingredients. The house-made pastas will have you coming back for more, like the fusilli with red wine-braised octopus and bone marrow, an elevated homage to surf-n-turf with baby octopus braised in red wine and buttery Pat LaFrieda marrow.

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14. Dominick's 2335 Arthur Ave, Bronx, NY 10458 (Bronx)

Pizza evangelists consider the plain slice to be the standard by which all pizzerias should be judged. Gourmet pizza aficionados know this is the false truth of narrow-minded fools. Unsurprisingly, the plain here does not inspire, but once you get into toppings territory, it’s game over. Moist, lemony chicken cutlet with fresh tomato is a winner, as is the rich shrimp scampi. While most gourmet slices can’t handle their heft, this pizza’s thick (but not overly bread-y) crust provides support for scarfing.

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15. Scarpetta 355 W 14th St, New York, NY 10014 (Meatpacking)

Scott Conant's Meatpacking Italian is a perpetually hip restaurant that serves knockout pastas to a ritzy crowd. The handmade pasta options range from ravioli to tagliatelle, but the signature dish is the least complicated: spaghetti with tomato and basil, which has a mind-blowing simplicity that keeps people coming back again and again. More than carb specialist, Scarpetta serves a multi-course tasting menu and vegetarian dishes sourced from local farms.

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16. Del Posto 85 10th Ave, New York, NY 10011 (Chelsea)

Brought to you by Mario Batali et al., Del Posto is arguably one of the best upscale Italian restaurants in New York. On a Chelsea block near the High Line, the large, loft-like space has an elegant interior with lots of black, red, and gold decor, as well as a candle-lit marble staircase in the center of the dining room. In true Batali fashion, the menu is rich but classic in nature, featuring delicious house-made pastas (gnocchi with caviar, oxtail ravioli) and beautiful cuts of meat (seared lamb chop, braised veal).

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17. Frankies 457 Spuntino 457 Court St, Brooklyn, NY 11231 (Carroll Gardens)

Headed up by two chefs named Frank (Falcinelli and Castronovo), Frankies 457 Spuntino in Carroll Gardens is a modern take on the old-school neighborhood Italian joint. Dishes are served family-style in a homey setting, and the outdoor garden area of the restaurant sets the tone for the menu: handmade pastas are Frankies' speciality, but instead of traditional heavy sauces and creams, the dishes are verdant, light, and delicate.

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18. La Pecora Bianca 1133 Broadway, New York, NY 10010 (Flatiron)

Located in a historic NoMad building, La Pecora Bianca is reminiscent of an Italian farmhouse, albeit an upscale one. While it's one of those all-day power restaurants that serves breakfast, lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch, definitely go when you’re in the mood for pasta: spaghetti, lasagna, risotto, and other specialities are all made in-house, and available in gluten-free varieties. The drink menu is as Italian as the food, with more than 100 bottles of wine, plus Aperol Spritzs and Negronis.

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19. Manetta's Ristorante 1076 Jackson Ave, Queens, NY 11101 (Long Island City)

This family owned and operated Long Island City joint has been providing NYC with great home-cooked eats for over 20 years. Charmingly cozy and decidedly authentic, Manetta's mainstay status rests on its fresh made pastas and wood fired pizzas. Savor this neighborhood fave.

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20. Babbo 110 Waverly Place, New York, NY 10011 (West Village)

Mario Batali’s flagship restaurant is a charming former carriage house in the West Village serving high-end Italian fare with an elevated, chef-inspired twist on classic dishes. The pasta here is certainly worth the hype, like the pillowy potato gnocchi, cuddled in shreds of tender oxtail that’s been sautéed in a robust red wine and tomato-based ragu.

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21. Vic's 31 Great Jones St, New York, NY 10012 (Noho)

From the creators of Cookshop and Hundred Acres is Vic's, a locally sourced Italian-Mediterranean menu complete with house made pastas and pizza made with flour from upstate, cooked in the wood burning oven. Be sure to try one of their different versions on the Bloody Mary (we love the over-the-top salt and brown sugar rimmed Southern Mary) and find out what's new on the menu.

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22. Manducati's 13-27 Jackson Ave, Queens, NY 11101 (Long Island City)

Make the trek to Long Island City for rustic, old world Italian food served in a warm, friendly environment. This family owned and operated spot since 1977 has a no-frills exterior, but it doesn't matter when the bolognese is this meaty, the ravioli is this cheesy, and the spaghetti this fresh.



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