Finding authentic Italian food may seem easy in such a diverse city as New York, but it’s harder than it looks. Either the prices are too high, or the meal wasn’t that great. There are, however, those few great places that you find and you can’t help but go back to again and again. Here is our guide to some of the best places for Italian food in NYC.
Courtesy of Juliana’s Pizza
At first glance it may seem a bit ambitious for the small, one-story restaurant to be squished next to the famous Grimaldi’s. But this was no mistake. The owners of Juliana’s once owned Grimaldi’s until they sold it in 1998. Since then it has been a long-standing feud between the two. Juliana’s Pizza is phenomenal. Cooked in a brick oven, this authentic artisanal pizza is packed with fresh flavors. A large margherita pie is enough for two people. If you still have room, try the apple pie.
Almost all of the famous pizzerias in the city can traces their lineage back to Lombardi’s, the original New York pizzeria. The restaurant opened its doors in 1905 and remains a popular destination. This is a pizzeria through and through, so apart from the appetizers the only main course you will find are the pizzas. Although the price may seem a bit steep it is 100% worth it. The sauce is sweet and the mozzarella is fresh. The aroma of basil pairs beautifully to create a delicious work of art.
Nino’s atmosphere is inviting with a simple yet tasteful décor. The warm lighting can make for a romantic date, or a cozy evening with friends. The menu is worth every penny (a bit pricy). Make sure to save room for the dessert. They are all prepared beautifully, as if they were created for an Instagram picture.
Mulberry Street is full of little restaurants whose owners try to reel you into their establishments with promises of amazing Italian food. Walk past all of these places and into Paesano where you be transported to a romantic Italian countryside. Twinkling lights and hanging plants create a calm and cozy feeling. The menu is generously priced. Try the Shrimp Fra Diavola, which comes with lightly spicy sauces and a nice portion of mussels, shrimp, and clams.
Mario’s has that Italian American feel to it. Located in the original Little Italy (Arthur Avenue in the Bronx), this place has such a homey feel to it. One for the first things you notice when you walk in is the classic décor giving it an old-time vibe. Their lunch special is a great deal, which includes a meat (or vegetable) entrée and a side of vegetables, pasta or potato croquettes.
Leave the busy streets of Queens and get whisked away to a villa in the hills of Tuscany. The décor is rustic, with yellow colored walls traditionally found in Italian villas. The staff is very welcoming, and you feel like part of the family. With the kitchen located in plain sight, it’s like being invited into their home. The food is excellent. Start off with the calamari fritti. It’s light and crisp, without being fried to the point where the taste of squid is hidden. The pici alla fondelli, a wild boar ragout with fresh pasta is sweet with a hint of tanginess to it.
Welcome to the neighborhood gem, a small restaurant enjoyed by many of the locals. Il Passatore has such an authentic Italian feel to it (it helps that the waiters speak Italian.) This cozy, dimly-lit establishment offers a small but incredible menu. Start off with the Burratana Prosciutto, a nice, creamy cow’s cheese over prosciutto. Next is the pasta, made fresh. The spaghetti carbonara is light with just enough cream without it being overbearing. They do not accept credit cards so make sure to bring some cash along with you.
After recently being renovated to allow for more seating room, Acquista’s has become a popular destination for St. John’s University students, and who can blame them. The food is amazing, and the atmosphere is cozy with modern décor. Their paninis are nice and crisp, with fresh ingredients. Daily specials offer price reductions on some of the items. Go on a Monday night and experience their pasta night, a prix fixe menu offering a choice of salad or soup, pasta, tea or coffee, and cannoli or gelato for dessert.
Another Arthur Avenue favorite, Antonio’s offers a great amount of food for a decent price. The exposed brick and warm yellow wall makes this is a great spot for a date, but isn’t too fancy to the point where you can’t just meet up with friends and family for a warm meal. The food here is amazing, with generous portions. The fettuccine carbonara is perfectly creamy, with the prosciutto balancing it with a salty umami flavor.
Eataly is not technically a restaurant (although they do have one inside), but it is definitely worth mentioning. This giant grocery store/restaurant/take out place is like a playground for Italian food enthusiasts. Apart from offering a multitude of foods and ingredients that you could put together at home to concoct your own meal, they have different stations that offer premade food. Try the Panini station and let your mouth take a journey throughout the different regions of Italy. Top it all off with a gelato from the gelateria next door, and your day has been made.