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Best Italian restaurant in NYC

Hi all,
it is my very first post and I think it will be controversial...sort of opening a can of warms...
I am searching for the best italian restaurant in NYC.
By best I am refering to
1. Clean
2. Truly Italian (what is with spaghetti and meatballs?? The do not do that in Italy!)
3. Great service and ambience
4. Cost is average or above, but a couple will not pay more than $200 (wine inclusive)

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  1. I don't know if it's controversial, but it's a bit like asking for the best French restaurant in the city, and then saying entrees less than $30.

    What you are really asking for is best medium-priced Italian, which is a lot different than best Italian.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Wilfrid

      Absolutely right, Wilfrid.
      And "the" definitely have spaghetti and meatballs in Italy. They call it maccheroni alla chitarra con polpettine.

      That having been said, I'd guess something like Cacio e Pepe might be what the OP is looking for.

      1. re: Wilfrid

        I don't agree that $200 is modest. The only issue is wine - and if consumption and selection is in control, $200 is reasonable expectation.

        1. re: Wilfrid

          First criteria "clean" really put me off, this is about food, not hotels!
          That said I like Il Molino - it is very clean but also very expensive.

          Il Mulino
          86 W 3rd St, New York, NY 10012

          1. re: bronwen

            Il Mulino is a shameless tourist rip off.
            Decent food, but absolutely insane prices.
            Nobody gets out of there for $200 for 2.
            No way.
            For the kind of splurge that Il Mulino inflicts you'd be better off (by far) at someplace like Marea.

        2. Welcome to the site! I think that for that price you can eat at some of the most expensive places, such aa Babbo, if you order right. But I think what you want is the best small pleasant place with food and atmosphere evocative of Italy. Le Zie comes to mind, but there are many others.

          1. I assume when you say "truly Italian", you want to eliminate places that serve Italian-American. If you are looking for some places that serve authentic Italian, there are many. I personally like Teodora in midtown. Whenever I eat there it seems like half the customers are speaking Italian. Under $200.00 with wine is possible, depending upon the quality and quantity ordered.They also own Bianca which is also very good. I would second Le Zie and add Da Andrea. Keep in mind that many of the Italian restaurants specialize in a region of Italy. These are only a few but there are so many that I am sure you will have plenty of recs.

            2 Replies
            1. re: bobby06877

              Not necessarily - look at the places the OP lists as his favorite restaurants. Mediocre / Red Sauce places.

              1. Chianti (B'klyn)
              2. Arte Cafe (UES)
              3. Marco Polo (B'klyn)
              4. Tuscan Grill (Rockfeller

              (MARCO POLO IN BROOKLYN!!)

              1. re: chow_gal

                Arte Cafe is actually on the UWS and I was just there this past wknd - DO NOT GO! The service is horrendous, not to mention slow. They charged an extra $130 on my credit card and it took over FIVE phone calls to get it back. To top it off, the food isn't even that great. Go somewhere where they appreciate your business. Okay, I am done ranting now. :)

            2. LUPA
              170 Thompson St
              New York, NY 10012
              (212) 982-5089

              true roman style cuisine. batali hooks it up right here and I have had a meal for four with wine for under $250

              4 Replies
              1. re: yoyoma25

                I agree!! If you want to spend some more money go to his other place, Babbo. Lupa truely does remind me of ,eals I have had in Italy.


                1. re: yoyoma25

                  Lupa is my vote - it is one of my favorites. The next place to visit that I haven't tried is L'Impero I have heard rave reviews of it as well.

                  1. re: yoyoma25

                    Agreed- LUPA for sure. Never let's you down.

                  2. NYC = 5 boroughs? Then:
                    Queens: Piccola Venetzia (Red sauce/Istrian)
                    Brooklyn: Frost (Red sauce)
                    Bronx: Robereto's (Northern)

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: bobjbkln

                      Went to Frost for the first time during the summer. It was very good. Old fashioned Italian.

                      1. Joanna's Restaurant
                        30 E 92nd St, New York 10128
                        Btwn 5th & Madison Ave
                        Phone: 212-360-6313

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: jmspivey

                          I've never even heard of Joanna's. Could you tell us more about it?

                          1. re: Dave Feldman

                            Joanna's is closed for now, and is going to reopen in the space in the Hotel Wales previously occupied by 92. I went once - it's v. near where I live - I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the food, esp. for the $25 prix fixe lunch, but turned off a bit by the pink table cloths/decor. Will be interesting to see how it is when it reopens.

                            1. re: MMRuth

                              I've been a steady customer at Joanna's for the past six years and there have NEVER been any pink tablecloths, only white. The walls were a peachy pink, but they worked well with the black and white photographs and gave the place a cozy feel.

                              And yes, the food was lovely.

                          2. re: jmspivey

                            you have got to be kidding w Joanna's!!!!! one of the few places we had to return meals!!!! 3 of us went-tried it twicw to give it a second chance-never again!!!!!!!

                            1. re: UES Mayor

                              They've reopened now - tried it twice - just not v. exciting and expensive for what you get.

                          3. I am new at this--- what "red sauce" implies?

                            1. Authentic Italian to me means sauces that dont taste like they are out of a can, gnocchi so fresh they do not taste like pasta, FRECH olive oil less than year old, bolognese sauce to die for, GREAT veal and incredible risotto and ravioli.

                              Some one above makes great point--FIRST you have to express you desire for Italian Region--Piemonte differnt from Tuscan different than Emiglio--etc....

                              Next you have to define price range.

                              Right now San Domenico on Central Park South in real come-back mode--and IF you love truffles their truffle courses are insane...Baboo very hard to beat with GREAT wine list...Osteria del Circo is moderate price with GREAT bolognese with wild boar ragu and great risotto--best moderate price I've found

                              1. Bar Pitti = bueno bonito y barato. West Village.

                                Good, beautiful and cheap!

                                Try the Rigatoni Pitti for a superb supper or lunch...Boun apetito!

                                Also, try Le Zie 2000 in Chelsea 7th Ave and 20th St.

                                1. I wet to Campagnola over the weekend it was the best italian meal I have ever had.

                                  7 Replies
                                  1. re: mlb202

                                    mlb can you tell us about what you ate at Campagnola? I have always wanted to try this place as I love their sister place downtown.

                                    1. re: erica

                                      What is the name of the sister place?

                                      1. re: MMRuth

                                        Great question, I did not know they had a sister restaurant

                                        1. re: MMRuth

                                          sorry..did not see until now....they are connected with Ecco on Chambeers Street, a place I like a lot, with the caveat that you order from the long list of blackboard specials.

                                      2. re: mlb202

                                        I grew up in NYC and live a block from Campagnola, and I must wonder where you've eaten Italian in the city to have had the best Italian meal ever there. It's good (not great, but good), but SOOOO overpriced, and I think there is better Italian in the city, even just in the general neighborhood. I think people tend to be very taken with things like the enormous wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano and the exhorbitant antipasti they have. For that kind of money, go over to Lex and get a better meal at the Italian place next to Lumi....the name is escaping me right now...anyone who knows what I'm talking about, chime in :)

                                          1. re: gregoryclaude

                                            I had a lovely, simple meal at Sette Mezzo, but it cost an arm and a leg. For that type of money, I want food that will challenge my tastebuds and waiters that know what they are doing, not just have a charming accent. Take the train somewhere if you are in the East 70s. You'll be happy elsewhere.

                                      3. I recommend Crispo on 14th b/w 7th and 8th ave. Reasonably priced and great Italian food!

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. Queen Italian Restaraunt
                                          84 Court St.
                                          Brooklyn , NY 11201
                                          Phone: (718) 596-5955

                                          Its in downtown Brooklyn and very easy to get to from Manhattan. A friend took me here and the food was quite good.

                                          1. Personally, I'd do L'Impero. Don't really know what "authentic" Italian may mean to you, but the food there is delicious, period.

                                            1. I highly recommend:

                                              Trattoria L'Incontro
                                              21-76 31st Street, near Ditmars Boulevard, Astoria, Queens, (718) 721-3532.

                                              1. Robertos.

                                                Second place would be the "Enoteca" at Del Posto.

                                                1. Col Legno, on 9th Street in the east Village is a wonderful, charming neighborhood place with fantastic food.

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: carolinadawg

                                                    I'm a longtime regular and have repeatedly recommended it here, but I would say that their food is consistently good, even very good, and a good value, but rarely fantastic.

                                                      1. re: visciole

                                                        carolinadawg made that post over 30 months ago...

                                                    1. Robertos is the place but I also like perbacco's. Although the service at paerbacco's has varied from great to barely passable/

                                                          1. I just went to Babbo a week ago...probably the 6th or 7th time I've been over the last 5 years. Either they've gone downhill, or I got them on an "off" night. Usually love the pasta tasting menu (which 2 people could do for less than $200 inc. wine). Unfortunately the pastas weren't properly cooked, weren't served hot, or weren't properly seasoned. I had a much better meal at Del Posto a few days later.

                                                            1. Hi, New to this site as well. I'm looking for an intimate place to dine in Manhattan. The food options are Italian, American, Mediterranean or Spanish. Price would be moderate to expensive. Any suggestions?

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: maryanne

                                                                Please start a new topic, that way you'll get more responses.

                                                              2. Ill admit to not having hit most of the ones listed here, but my best experience so far has been Crispo in the Village.

                                                                Reasonably priced, fresh fresh pasta, terrific meats and cheeses and a great atmosphere.


                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: yankeefan

                                                                  Scalini Fedeli and Sandros on the Upper East Side

                                                                2. Word on the street is Babbo. Haven't been so lucky as to try yet.

                                                                  I like to eats.

                                                                  1. I'd highly recommend A Voce. Everytime I go I have a great meal. Andrew Carmellini is a great chef, and you can tell he pays attention to all the details. The fresh ricotta from italy spread on grilled bread is hard to beat!

                                                                    1. I went to NYC for the first time a week ago and went to Little Italy. I had the best meal ever at Il Palazzo (bowl of pasta in white sauce, prosciutto, mushrooms). Wow! I had a great seat by the window and the service was excellent! Italian music played in the background and the glass of wine was the best I've ever had.

                                                                      5 Replies
                                                                      1. re: paris221966

                                                                        I like Felidia (upper east side) and Bellavitae (village)

                                                                        1. re: paris221966

                                                                          In reply to paris221966: Il Palazzo is very good indeed! Definitely the best in Little Italy (which normally isn't saying much, but this is a fine restaurant with helpful service that shouldn't be missed. We've been there many times, sitting both inside and outside on the bustling sidewalk.)

                                                                          1. re: ribbons

                                                                            Not on "Mullberry" street, but Emilio's Ballato is the best italian restaurant in Little Italy/Nolita area hands down.

                                                                            1. re: shanshan

                                                                              Being the best Italian restaurant in Little Italy is like being the worlds tallest midget, not much of an accomplishment.

                                                                              1. re: KTinNYC

                                                                                fair enough.. but there are folks who like to eat in the area.. its good to know what your options are.. that is all the post intended to say..

                                                                        2. Da Umberto - 17th bet 6&7 wonderful - best suckling pig in the city! Also incredible breaded chicken with fresh mozz & fresh tomatoes (not sauce).

                                                                          1. Il Tinello on W56th between 5th and 6th is incredible! Little on the pricey side though.

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. re: webvanman

                                                                              It's considered a bit gauche on this board to suggest places in Little Italy but it is a fun area and I really like Il Cortile.

                                                                            2. i Trulli on 27th is Great! not too expensive excellent selection of italian wines.


                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                              1. re: rae305

                                                                                I totally agree - very authentic Pugliese cuisine. Great fireplace and garden. It only takes a few minutes to mistake the fact that you're still in NY.

                                                                              2. Foodwise, Crispo is in my opinion the best overall. I have never spent more than $120 for 2 people for 2 courses and a bottle of wine. The food is always fresh, interesting and delicious, and the menu is quite varied. I go there very often and never get bored with the menu. The veal breast parmesan is a wonderful variation on a (usually boring or awful) classic. Such simple things as mozzarella with roasted peppers and sausage-stuffed sage leaves rise to new heights here.

                                                                                In the higher end category, I consider Babbo to be the most pleasant overall dining experience. The food is innovative without straying too much from "true Italian". And it is really not so expensive for what you get, including a well-chosen selection of moderately priced wines.

                                                                                1. Of course the answer to this questions is subjective, but there are a lot of BAD suggestions in this thread.

                                                                                  When I want a good and authentic Italian meal, I go to one of these places for the following reasons:

                                                                                  1. Aurora SoHo. The food is outstanding and sitting at the bar gets you fresh air from the open storefront doors and some solid people watching.
                                                                                  2. Pepolino. The owners are from one of my favorite restaurants in Florence: Cibreo. Their Italian food might be the best I've had in the States. Most of the staff is off-the-boat Florentine and they know their stuff. Outdoor tables here too, 2 interior dining rooms.
                                                                                  3. Bar Pitti. The food is simple, authentic and priced right. The outdoor tables in front are such a scene, you wonder why they bother making such good food. They could probably make money serving less.
                                                                                  4. Morandi. The food is better now than it's ever been, it's a beautiful space and the menu is varied and well-planned. There is little issue here with authenticity at all and their wines by the glass are impressive.
                                                                                  5. Arturo's. Old-school, red-sauce, pizza joint with good Italian-American dishes prepared with fresh ingredients and offered inexpensively. Not gourmet, or even authentic "Italian", but never a bad meal here. The live jazz music adds unparalleled old Village charm.

                                                                                  Other honorable mentions: Crispo, Lavagna, Scarpetta,

                                                                                  5 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: il Trifulau

                                                                                    It is a 2 year old thread: some of the places aren't even in business. And some of your suggestions weren't even open then.

                                                                                    1. re: chow_gal

                                                                                      chow gal - I don't see anything wrong with il Trifulau opening up this old thread because he added new information and newer restaurants to a 2 year old thread.

                                                                                      1. re: Beau711

                                                                                        I didn't re-open it and all my suggestions are well over two years old.

                                                                                        1. re: il Trifulau

                                                                                          My two cents:

                                                                                          1. Al di La
                                                                                          2. Babbo
                                                                                          3. Lupa
                                                                                          4. Bar Pitti
                                                                                          5. Da Tommaso (the one on 86th St in Bensonhurst; not the place with the same name in midtown)

                                                                                          1. re: ropa vieja

                                                                                            Have you tried Sandro's, on the UES? Definitely worth going:


                                                                                            The branzino is also fabulous.

                                                                                  2. Some suggestions:
                                                                                    Falai 68 Clinton Street LES modern Italian
                                                                                    Alfredo of Rome 4 West 49th Street Rockefeller Center
                                                                                    Locanda Verde Tribeca
                                                                                    Trattoria Cinque Tribeca
                                                                                    Aroma Wine Bar and Kitchen East Village
                                                                                    Lavagna East Village

                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: patriciarichter

                                                                                      Agree with Falai, but IMHO it's in a different league than Lavagna (very good, can get very noisy) and Locanda Verde (more of a lunch place to me). I have not been to the others. To be fair I have only been to Locanda Verde once, been to Lavagna many times.

                                                                                      Interesting to see what's happened since the original 2006 post!

                                                                                      1. re: financialdistrictresident

                                                                                        This is an old thread!

                                                                                        I was searching the Board for Italian suggestions . . .

                                                                                        Convivio and Falai (2 other locations are open) are closed. I haven't been to Crispo in ages. SO went to Lavagna recently.

                                                                                        Ciano's our current favorite.

                                                                                    2. Peasant
                                                                                      Sapori d'Ischia - Queens
                                                                                      Convivio (you can probably make it out for just about $200, if you are careful)

                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: demo5

                                                                                        Forgot one more:

                                                                                        Esca. Excellent seafood.

                                                                                        Is the food at Sapori d'Ischia really good, or mostly atmosphere?

                                                                                        1. re: ropa vieja

                                                                                          I thought the food was generally very good, with some spots of brilliance. Honestly, while the atmosphere is somewhat charming, it wouldn't be my first pick in restaurants for that reason (particularly when you factor in the seedy street that it is on). What I like about it, and what goes to the first poster's question, is that it is both good and authentic. There are other great Italian restaurants in the city, but many are not classic Italian. I was VERY impressed with Locanda Verde, for instance, but I wouldn't put it on a list of traditional Italian restaurants.

                                                                                      2. PS-Babbo, while fantastic is re-interperted Italian food.

                                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: KTinNYC

                                                                                            That means that if you went to Italy, you would not be able to find food like Mario cooks.

                                                                                        1. babbo, picola venezia, manducattis

                                                                                          1. polpetine e saghetti!! of course we eat it!!
                                                                                            r u italian? maybe it isn't common in the area where u r from...

                                                                                            1. This is a very old thread. But since it just resurfaced, I would say that of the restaurants I've been to, Ai Fiori is unequivocally the best Italian restaurant in New York and the two meals that I had there recently are two of the best meals I've ever had in New York. Furthermore, their cocktails are just as great as their food. It is expensive, but all the hounds that raved about it deserve thanks for steering me toward it.

                                                                                              Ai Fiori
                                                                                              400 5th Ave, New York, NY 10018

                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: Pan

                                                                                                Interesting that you consider Ai Fiori an Italian restaurant. Even though Michael White is known to be cooking Italian for a few years, I wouldn't think of Ai Fiori as Italian (putting aside the pasta dishes). I do agree, though, the four meals I have had there since opening have been better than the previous one. Yes Marea is quit good but still don't think as Italian since the focus is fish (again, quit good). Any suggestions for red sauce Italian in the metro area?

                                                                                                1. re: martyl9

                                                                                                  Ai Fiori is Ligurian. Italy has a very long coastline, and Liguria is one of the regions with the longest coastlines. Fish is central to quite a few regional Italian styles, and there are many, many other styles of pasta than red sauce. Also, since Liguria is in Northern Italy, its cuisine is considerably different from the Southern Italian styles that have mainly served as wellsprings of Italian-American cooking. Nothing I ate at Ai Fiori in two trips struck me as not Italian, though some of the cocktails were quite obviously American-style.

                                                                                                  However, I've always liked good spaghetti and meatballs, clam sauce, etc. While I've had good experiences at John's of 12th St., putting its name in the same reply as Ai Fiori is extremely incongruous. There's no comparison whatsoever, in the sense that Ai Fiori is incredibly refined and sublime cuisine at high prices, while John's of 12th is very good traditional Italian-American cuisine with friendly, helpful service in a place redolent of New York history, at moderate prices. But if you want red sauce in Manhattan, I think you'll have a good time at John's of 12th. I've been there twice and find it reliable and pleasant.

                                                                                                  However, you'll probably want to post to the Outer Boroughs board for some Brooklyn and Queens recommendations that hounds prefer.

                                                                                                  John's of 12th Street
                                                                                                  302 E 12th St, New York, NY 10003

                                                                                                  Ai Fiori
                                                                                                  400 5th Ave, New York, NY 10018

                                                                                              2. Sfoglia (my personal favorite, get the daily handmade pasta dishes)

                                                                                                1402 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10128

                                                                                                228 West 10th Street, New York, NY 10014

                                                                                                240 Central Park South, New York, NY 10019

                                                                                                1. Firstly I'd like to say I've had delicious spaghetti and meatballs in Italy. That IS Italian. As far as the best Italian restaurant in NYC, that is too difficult to answer. It depends on what dish you want.
                                                                                                  For real ITALIAN lasagna Osteria Morini I think has the best. For Fish perhaps Marea. Ennio and Michael's ( now closed) had great rabbit, Bar Piti has some good pasta dishes. There is no best, just many great places for real Italian and real Italian/American

                                                                                                  Bar Pitti
                                                                                                  268 6th Ave, New York, NY 10014

                                                                                                  240 Central Park South, New York, NY 10019

                                                                                                  Osteria Morini
                                                                                                  218 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10012

                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                  1. re: foodwhisperer

                                                                                                    Zio in Flatiron district is excellent. Chef from Naples, great food, wine and service. I have tried a number of the manhattan suggestions here and Zio is right up the top of the list. West 19th between 5 and 6th Ave. i was the on Saturday and had excellent antipasti and a great agnello washed down with a classic Aglianico. The weekend before I was in Rome so these guys had to work!

                                                                                                  2. Me and my friends (we are all italians expats) agree that the best authentic italian food can be found at:

                                                                                                    Felice in the Upper East
                                                                                                    Aurora in Soho
                                                                                                    Cipriani Downtown in Soho
                                                                                                    Lupa in the Greenwhich Village
                                                                                                    Casa Lever in Midtown North
                                                                                                    Fiore in Brooklyn

                                                                                                    I heard great things about Del Posto and Babbo but I've personally never been there...

                                                                                                    1. Gennaro, upper west on Amsterdam at 92-93.

                                                                                                      1. For excellent Sicilian food, I recommend Piccola Cucina, recently opened (spring 2013) in SOHO at 196 Spring St. Homemade in-house fresh pasta, cooked perfectly. Fabulous grilled octopus, great wine selection, best cannolis we've ever had. Clean-yes, and beautiful & intimate. Truly Italian- yes, truly Sicilian, chef and waiter are from Sicily. Great service & ambience - yes, attentive but unobtrusive, friendly. Cost is very reasonable, easily a couple will not pay more than $200 (wine inclusive).

                                                                                                        1. Sfoglia on 92nd St and Lex. I go there several times a month and the food is always fresh. All pastas are housemade, the antipasti della casa changes EVERY DAY depending on availability of ingredients, as does the wine list (probably every few weeks). The wine is not cheap but if you are looking for great (northern Italian) food that changes with the season and good service, this place is great. Also very clean (I've seen the crew go in and change the trash, clean the sinks, etc.)