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Little Italy. Best of the tourist traps?

OK, I've read all the board's advice that Little Italy is a complete tourist trap. But, hey, I'll be a tourist and I want the full tourist experience.

This will be a return visit to Little Italy. Went a few years back but couldnt get a table as it was San Gennaro. Enjoyed the festival and we were disappointed we couldnt eat.

Rome is nearer to home than Manhatten is and I visit Italy regularly so I don't need particularly"authentic". But I do want better-than-OK food in nice surroundings. So where's the best place to go?



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  1. don't do it. Go to Ennio & Michael's instead. It's sort of near Little Italy, just a few blocks west. Oh, but do visit Di Palo's Italian market on the border of Little Italy/Chinatown.

    Get some crucola, gorgonzola dolce, fresh ricotta, fresh mozzarella and some bread and enjoy in your hotel room/friend's apt.

    1. Peasant is also on the outskirts of Little Italy and worth a try and Bianca is only a few blocks north. If you have to eat in Little Italy, Da Nico is my go to spot with out of town visitors that insist on eating on Mulberry Street. It is probably the least offensive. I have heard very good things about a place called L'Asso that is in Little Italy but I have not been there myself.

      1 Reply
      1. Da Nico is my favorite...try their quatro fromage pizza...great calamari...

        1 Reply
        1. re: jinet12

          Da Nico is great. If the weather permits, I would strongly suggest sitting outside in the garden area.

        2. I love Umberto's. Best fried calamari in the city!

          1 Reply
          1. re: NiKoLe1625

            <I love Umberto's. Best fried calamari in the city!> ?????

            imho, best Fried Calamari in Manhattan is at El Charro, a Spanish bistro on Charles Street in the Village.

          2. Peasant is wonderful, but, as mentioned, not truly Little Italy.

            My favorite within the tourist traps is Taormina. It's fantastic. (I wasn't impressed by Umberto's.) Any of the veal dishes are wonderful and if you have a larger group, they make a three pasta (yes, red, white and green) sampler starter that is very good. The wine is over-priced, but that's kinda a given in that neighborhood.

            147 Mulberry St (btwn Grand and Hester)

            1. I think you're interpreting the many cries of "touristy" to mean that Little Italy is full of tourists, but what people are really saying is that the food is awful and a rip-off. (Little Italy restaurants aren't cheap, although they seem like they should be.) I agree that Bianca is the sort of restaurant people are often picturing when they ask for a place in Little Italy--cash only, no reservations, really good food, and it's close enough to LI that if you're really dying to go, you can stroll through the neighborhood before or after dinner.

              1. Il Cortille is actually pretty good. A little more expensive than what is usually offered, but good food in a very nice setting. I also like Taormina, which was apparently a favorite of John Gotti.

                1 Reply
                1. re: jdmetz

                  Second Il Cortille - probably the only place that I could in earnest reccommend down there.

                2. Angelos is great- - Directly across the street from Taormina where Big John used to sit outside and eat all the time. Order the Speddini appetizer (overpriced just like everything else), but it is a flavor unlike any other. That lightly fried mozz with bread crumbs and an olive oil caper sauce. The flavor will knock you over. - - - They also make their own pasta. It's my "goto" for a little italy trip.

                  1. My favorite's of the tourist traps are:
                    Buona Notte, Il Cortile, and for unexpected laughs go to Puglia's. Depending on the crowd, and if Jorge is playing his keyboard it can get lively.

                    1. I like to stop for pizza at Lombardi's when I have friends from out of town who want to do the touristy Little Italy thing (which happened to me twice last summer), it's close enough to Little Italy to still count. Then afterwards I'd take a leisurely stroll down to Little Italy proper and get a cannoli and a cappuccino at a place that you like the look of, and as others say go stand in line at DiPalo's and get some tasty, bring home/hotel/friend's house Italian delicacies. The line is usually long at DiPalo's, but it's usually full of friendly foodie folk, and they reward your wait with generous samplings of the meats and cheeses and friendly service. I highly recommend the porchetta I had there recently.

                      1. Il Cortile is good but a little pricey and kinda upscale.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: steakrules85

                          Yeah, I like IL Cortile as well...a bit pricey, but good

                        2. John the absolute BEST thing to do with your interests would be to go up to the Little Italy in the Bronx and eat at Roberto's or Dominicks. You can get more information on these by doing a search for Arthur Avenue on the Outer Boroughs board. There you will get great food AND great Italian/American atmosphere.

                          1. I think that the posters to this thread have mentioned almost every place in Little Italy. This means a) that each place down there has its fans and b) that you're right back where you started.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: jakew8

                              I disagree. There are 38 restaurants in Little Italy, according to the annoying littleitalynyc.com web site. Only seven places have been recommended here, at least in Little Italy *proper*. Eight if you count Lombardi's.

                              And usually in a situation where I'm facing numerous CH recommendations, I go to the place that has the most recommendations. So far, in Little Italy proper, that would be il Cortile by a decent margin, with five. That's followed by Taormina, with three so far. Then there's Da Nico with two-and-a-half (calling it "least offensive" only counts for half in my book) so far, and Umberto's with two.

                              But considering the vast number of positive reviews on CH overall for Peasant and Bianca (if I remember correctly), the original poster is probably best served by venturing to one of those.

                              1. re: Ike

                                Ah, but Little Italy is best known for Southern Italian cuisine (Naples in particular) and a certain cachet that has high tourist appeal (Gotti! Gallo! etc.). Peasant is basically Tuscan/Northern Italian and while Bianca's menu is closer, neither has that particular atmosphere, phony or not, that draws tourists to Little Italy. Since the OP is specifically looking for the "LI Experience", I'd say Il Cortile will probably fit the bill just fine.

                                Personally, Bronxite that I am, I agree with Erica - the Belmont/Arthur Ave. section offers a better overall experience and at least one outstanding restaurant (Roberto's) and one classic red sauce joint (Dominick's), but for most tourists it's just too far off the good old beaten path.

                                1. re: Striver

                                  Robertos is in a whole other league, my personal favorite. Imagine how well it would do if it were located in Manhattan.

                            2. As we say on my side of the pond, I think I am now "sorted".

                              Il Cortile it is then. Thanks for the recommendations (and the warnings). Both appreciated.

                              Now then, two more nights in NYC to fill. Hmmm. Steakhouse and somewhere near to wherever we're staying for the last night. I'll be back in due course.