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Italian Guest With Me For 3 Months - Where to Go?

I am hosting an Italian gentleman for three months (from Calabria)... while he claims to be enjoying the local New York food experience, I can tell that he truly longs for some good Italian food as well. Cafe, restaurant, grocery shops -- any and all!

Any advice? Happy to travel outside of Manhattan, of course --

Thanks!

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  1. Not knowing exactly what they like or how old they are i'll give a variety and you'll see what works best. San Domenico on CPS fancyish, Ennio and Michael on La Guardia down home and he could speak italian to the owners, Fernando's a definite in Bklyn off hicks,this is one of 2 places that has Calabrese dishes including Pennelli ( a chick pea fritter), Joes on ave u is another one. Inoteca on Ludlow for little dishes my friends from italy like their rice balls, Cafe Roma in little italy, Di Paolo in little italy for a cheese store or ravioli,, faiccio on bleecker st for sausage, Ottomanellis for meat across the street,

    3 Replies
    1. re: foodwhisperer

      Just to be exact the cick-pea fritters are called "panelle" and they are a Sicilian specialty.
      And the store is called Di Palo and I very much agree with foodwhisperer.
      Salumeria Rosi is another good option, though quite a bit more expensive.

      1. re: snaporaz

        snaporaz: You are right , it is sicilian, this may sound strange but I had some great red wine from Calabria the other day and got confused. The Sicilians that were eating these with me were no doubt mispronouncing them and called them pinelleee ( phonetically) ,, but you are correct on the spelling. and Damn youre right I spelled Di Palo wrong and I go there alot. Someone told me that Pastosa from Staten island actually makes the cheese ravioli for Di Palo , not sure if it's true,,, in any case the italians visiting the poster should go to Fernando's anyway

      2. re: foodwhisperer

        I think San Domenico is closed, and is going to open elsewhere as a more casual place. Di Palo, Faicco and Ottmanellis are some of my favorite places. I would also recommend a trip up to Arthur Avenue.

      3. I am sure you will get a slew of replies here, there are so many great, authentic Italian places.
        I suggest two things: go to DaCiro on Lexington bet. 33 & 34, & he will be happy
        as soon as he sees the menu and even happier if speaks to Ciro in Italian and has
        the focaccia robiola. Go to Raffetto to get homemade pasta, ravioli, etc. for when
        you are not eating out. (they are closed Sun & Monday) Whether or not to pursue
        the Batali experience in any of its incarnations is up to you...
        And I second Di Palo's (200 Grand St) for the best parmigiano and other cheeses.....

        1 Reply
        1. re: KayMae

          Rafetto's supplies alot of good italian restaurants with ravioli and pasta, i 2nd that choice

        2. Perbacco on East 4th. Italian chef and Bruni gave it two stars, which was something since the atmosphere is cozy and casual and not the usual type of place and his reviews often seem like they are based more on architechure than the food.

          1. He can find many products here misses at the Italian store in the Chelsea market.

            1. Wow, all of you people are so amazing and thanks so much... I should have told you all that we are living in Morningside Heights -- not exactly a foodie paradise area. Our first neighborhood shopping excursion was an eye-opener: shopping with such care and precision... Keep your comments coming. We will do a field trip to the Harlem Fairway together this week and go farther afield thanks to your suggestions soon. (By the way: first lunch is a pasta with pesto that he is spiking with dried Thai chile peppers... the other choice was pasta with tuna and black olives. This is going to be an amazing three months!)

              11 Replies
              1. re: jaidee

                It's not exactly close to you, but I've been pleasantly surprised by the selection of Italian markets at Milano Market, which is at 3rd & 89th. Sfoglia is an excellent Italian restaurant at 92nd & Lex. - reservations a must, though it might be easier at lunch, if that is an option.

                1. re: MMRuth

                  BTW there is also a Milano Market near Columbia on Broadway @ 112th or so - right in Morningside Heights - but I think it may be unrelated to the one on the UES.
                  Other than that, on the UWS you have many other 'usual suspects': Zabar's, Citarella, the 74th Street Fairway, and the aforementioned Rosi. For bread and pizza bianca I would also recommend Grandaisy Bakery on 72nd & Broadway.

                  1. re: MMRuth

                    Oops - I meant to say - Italian products at Milano.

                  2. re: jaidee

                    Take them to Rao's its right in your area on Pleasant Ave. maybe if they say they are in from Calabria, Frankie Pelligrino will let them in ,, they would love the roasted peppers there. The bar is open to all , i think.

                    1. re: foodwhisperer

                      There is nothing really Italian about Rao's. Italian-American, yes.

                      1. re: KTinNYC

                        KT Youve been to Rao's and you say their's nothing italian about Rao's ,, i find that amazing.. the roasted pepper recipe was brought from italy ,, so is the contadina. Maybe youre thinking of Milan,,, its italian american as well. just like every other italian restaurant in nyc.

                        1. re: foodwhisperer

                          I dined at Rao's last night-- my first time. It was an unforgettable experience. I agree with you foodwhisperer. What KT is calling Italian American is the same food my friends' Italian born grandparents were making for them when they were kids. I think that qualifes as authentic italian food.

                          1. re: steelydad

                            But the question is, is the food like what you would find in Italy? and I thought not. My question is how did you f\get a table? I was able to eat at Rao's because I worked for the publisher of the cookbook in 2001. We all went and were all pretty disappointed.

                            1. re: steelydad

                              I've never been to Rao's, but I think that Italian food made with American ingredients, such as your friends' grandparents could have found, qualifies as authentic Italian-American food. I guess it depends how you look at it.

                      2. re: jaidee

                        Since you're in Morningside Heights, you are not too far away from Gran Piatto d'Oro on 5th Avenue bet. 116th-117th Streets. Charming, old-world style restaurant. It really transports me out of my nabe whenever I go. Excellent, attentive service, and great food. Be sure to reserve if you go on a Saturday night. 212-722-2161

                        1. re: jaidee

                          Sprinkling pepe rosso on everything, proprio calabrisi, a true Calabrese. To the many good suggestions already made: the Calabria Pork Store on Arthur Avenue, along with a great lunch across the street at Trattoria Zero Otto Nove; in Brooklyn, food shopping at the Calabrian-owned Coluccio's (60th and 12th avenue), and a meal at Il Colosseo (18th Ave at 77th), a pitch perfect Southern Italian trattoria with b/oven pizza and fresh fish; magnificent pastries nearby at Villabate (18th Ave and 71st), and on a trip to Coney Island, pizza at Totonno; in Manhattan, the small pizzeria Il Brigante on Front St at the South Street Seaport is Calabrian owned. Also in Manhattan, or Brooklyn for that matter, either Frankie's Spuntino for an example of traditions redone, and done well. Also, check these boards for "best espresso" spots--a necessary peacekeeping
                          plan. Cheers from this son of Reggio Calabria.

                          1. re: gimmesun

                            Why do you think an Italian would like Becco?

                            1. re: Pan

                              because I am Italian and I did?

                              1. re: gimmesun

                                Interesting. I was really unimpressed when I went there. What do you like at Becco?

                            2. My recommendations would be Bar Pitti (6th Ave. nr. Bleecker) and Sant'Ambroeus on W. 4th (Perry/Charles). Both restaurants are run by Italians and frequented by Italians. Bar Pitti is reminicent of an Italian trattoria with pastas in the $12-$15 range; S'A is decidedly more upscale, with pastas priced above $20. As for recommendations, the penne arrabiata at Bar Pitti is extraordinary, the best rendition I've had outside of Italy. Sant'Ambrose makes a great risotto Milanese con funghi; their ravioli della casa and ravioli with artichoke and mint are also winners.

                              Please report back with his feedback on the places you try.

                              10 Replies
                              1. re: Desidero

                                Italians from Italy can be incredibly picky and tend to have very regional tastes.
                                Those midtown tourist traps are not going to make them happy and Ennio and Michael, Becco, and Rao's are terrible suggestions.
                                Bar Pitti, Sant Ambroeus, Aurora, Pepolino, Piccolo Angolo, Scuderia, etc. are much better bets.

                                1. re: il Trifulau

                                  What do you think of Via Quadronno/Bottega del Vino/Roberto Passon?

                                  Thanks.

                                  1. re: MMRuth

                                    I've been to Via Quadronno and wasn't very impressed - it was unobjectionable and fine but nothing amazing, plus it was pricey. I believe I've read positive reports on their coffee on this board, but I don't drink coffee.

                                    1. re: Pan

                                      Yes - I'm sure I've been the one raving about their coffee!

                                      1. re: MMRuth

                                        OK, but would you say anything else there is special?

                                        1. re: Pan

                                          I've had good meals at Via Quadronno and Bottega del Vino and I would go back to either, but tend to stay downtown in my neck of the woods.

                                          1. re: il Trifulau

                                            I live downtown, too, and haven't feel any desire to go back to Via Quadronno, when there are a bunch of places all around me in the East Village and a bit to my west. I'll note the possibility of picking up a panino there if I happen to be in the area, though.

                                          2. re: Pan

                                            They have two panini that I particularly like - the place is a bit expensive, but I always enjoy having a quick breakfast or lunch there.

                                            Desiree - thick-sliced grilled ham, fontina cheese with a light caper sauce $12.

                                            Lo Spazzino - young roast pork, rucola, provolone, red onion and caper sauce $13.50

                                            1. re: Pan

                                              I'd like to put in a plug for Via Quadronno's la madunina panino and their "non ti scordar di me" panino. Both are excellent. And, I know you are not a coffee drinker, but enough cannot be said about the quality of VQ's espresso and cappucino. It's a major draw and deservedly so.

                                        2. re: MMRuth

                                          I second Roberto Passon for a low- mid-range meal. I'm from Rome, and ate there for the first time for lunch with two Italian friends who were in town for business (wine-business actually), and we were all pleasantly surprised at both the quality of the food and the PQR. Nothing mind-blowing mind you, but definitely competent and affordable, albeit with a couple weak elements.
                                          Also, when Aurora is on it can be exceptionally good.
                                          Whatever you do though, I have to agree il Trifulau, that when it comes to food Italians in general are a huge PITA. Beyond regionalism, if it's not what they grew up eating, i.e. what mamma made, it's never good enough. So don't take it personally if your friend isn't pleased.

                                    2. Drive to Arthur Ave in the Bronx and let him translate

                                      1. There a small place called Frank's in the village and I've always thought it was very good. It was recommended to me many times and I seem to always read good reviews and articles about it in magazines and papers. But beware, it can get really really packed since it's a popular place but I can't remember if they take reservations.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: QueenPeach

                                          Frank's is on 2nd Av. between 5th and 6th in the East Village, not the Village.

                                          1. re: Pan

                                            Thanks for the correction. You are right, that is the address. Hopefully the original poster won't mind my missing the mark...

                                        2. Have you tried Pisticci? It;s even within walking distance: LaSalle just west of Broadway.