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Apr 14, 2009 11:53 AM

If you HAD to eat Italy in Little Italy or vicinity, where?

I have a friend who needs a rec and is hellbent on Little Italy. I stay out of spaghetti and meatball land, so I have no recs. What's the best of the worst?

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  1. I think you would really enjoy Il Cortile on Mulberry. It is definitely not a "red sauce" joint. Excellent food, very nice decor. A bit more expensive than most of what you find in Little Italy, but well worth it IMO. Another option at the other end of the spectrum would be Lombardi's Pizza. Get the house salad for the table, a decent bottle of wine and a large pie. Very nice casual dining.

    3 Replies
    1. re: bnemes3343

      It seemed like a somewhat upscale red sauce joint when I was there several years ago. Stuffed canneloni (may have been a special; I don't see it on their menu offhand), Parmigiana dishes, pasta with marinara or clam sauce, etc. Why do you classify it as definitely not a red sauce joint? "Red sauce" isn't a negative to me, just a description of classic Italian-American (southern Italy-based) cuisine. Everyone can look at their menu and judge for themselves:

      But I think the legend "Classic Favorites" (meaning classic Italian-American restaurant favorites) really says it all.

      1. re: Pan

        I don't view "red sauce" as a derogatory term, but to me, it is an Italian American place where pastas tend to be oversauced (by Italian standards). Il Cortile, while offering up some standard IA dishes has much more to offer than most of the places in LI. Have you looked at their menu? Their food is better, IMO, than most of the LI places and it is unquestionably more upsacle than most. Have you every been there?

        1. re: bnemes3343

          Uh, yeah, I've looked at the menu. In fact, I POSTED A LINK TO IT. And yes, I have been there, though not recently. I don't agree that red sauce = oversauced. Whether it's oversauced or not is a matter of the taste of the diner. But yeah, having been to Italy three times, I'd say that I do believe their pastas ARE oversauced "by Italian standards."

    2. Angelo's is the best there. The gnocchi is very good (but obviously overpriced).

      1 Reply
      1. re: stephaniec25

        I LOVE ANgelo's! I second this. I love their parpadelle with garlic, tomato and mushrooms and their spicy diablo with angel hair.

      2. Peasant on Elizabeth btwn Prince & Spring is "in the vicinity" and infinitely superior to any "Italian" restaurants on Mulberry St.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Jorel

          a big second for Peasant! but head for the basement. Food is far better than Mulberry (though not that great on an absolute scale) but the ambiance in the basement, so fun.

        2. I second Il Cortile. It is a red-sauce joint. But since when did that become a critique?

          There's definitely a place in my heart for the hearty italian-american cuisine.

          5 Replies
          1. re: Spends Rent on Food

            I guess someone needs to define what "red sauce" means. To me, Il Cortile isn't. But, as I said, I don't view the term as derogatory, but just a description of the type of food they serve (to me it implies oversauced pasta dishes). Il Corile's menu is much, much broader than that

            1. re: bnemes3343

              To me (and Pan, above), "red sauce" is another way to say southern Italian; the sauces are often tomato-based. In contrast, a lot of the northern Italian dishes have a cream-based sauce. And yes, I am vastly oversimplifying.

              "Red sauce" Italian is not a perjorative, but it definitely means "not fine dining." Il Cortile's menu has sections where you can mix and match pastas and sauces - that also falls into the "not fine dining" category.

              1. re: small h

                Ok, so I'm not putting Il Corile in the same category as Babbo, but I think it is several notches better than most of what you find in LI.

                1. re: bnemes3343

                  And ten or twelve notches above Sbarro's. But still.

                  1. re: small h

                    Well, keep in mind the OP was determined to eat in LI, so there is no truly fine dining (IMO). I still stand by my rec for Il Cortile. The best food in LI.