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May 26, 2009 11:16 AM

Little Italy destinations

15 relatives of my father-in-law are coming from Italy to visit the family here in southeastern PA for a wedding. My father-in-law is planning a trip to NY during their stay to see Lady Liberty and Little Italy. I'm from Bergen County NJ and somewhat familiar with Manhattan, so he's bringing me along as a quasi-guide. We're piling into a huge party van and heading in on a Wednesday. I've been to Little Italy a few times, but a while ago. I understand that culinarily speaking, Little Italy is mostly a red sauce district. While I don't have any major problem with that (as my father-in-law and his family are southern Italian), I prefer to lead them somewhere for a meal and atmosphere that isn't so "Goodfellas-esque." Something a bit more upscale and not so red-and-white checked tablecloth and straw-wrapped chianti bottle. But it has to be in Little Italy. I would love any suggestions.

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  1. Why not walk thru Little Italy on your way to one of Mario's places: We ate at Del Posto a while back and it was one of the best (and most expensive) meals we've ever had. That restaurant has a bar area with dining tables - nice that you can get a more reasonably priced meal.

    2 Replies
    1. re: gcwells

      That's why I stressed it has to be in Little Italy. I've eaten at Babbo, and yes, phenomenal. But my father-in-law can't pay for 15 people at Del Posto. Can we stay on topic please??

      1. re: Phil_A_Mignon

        > Can we stay on topic please??

        Let's keep in mind that the original poster is not the only person reading the replies. Some of the best tips result from threads that stray slightly "off topic."

      1. re: NAtiveNewYorker

        Il Cortile has a long track record. I haven't been there in years (like the eighties!), so I don't know how it is now. But it's definitely pretty pricey by Little Italy standards. Not sure why it has to be in Little Italy, though, since it's purely a tourist district that's no longer an Italian-American neighborhood and there are much better restaurants at better value elsewhere in the city (Le Zie, Via Emilia, Bianca (but probably too small), Roberto Passon, Lavagna, Biricchino, to name a few with a range of character). I don't understand why people coming from Italy would want to go to a Little Italy restaurant--they'll only be disappointed by the food.

        1. re: NAtiveNewYorker

          Phil_A_Mignon, posters are not trying to go off topic ("has to be in Little Italy"), rather let you know the Italian food in Little Italy leaves a lot ot be desired and people from Italy may be very disappointed. Il Cortile was good when I went for business prior to 2001, way too long ago to be helpful. No idea how it is these days. Only other place I'll eat in little Italy is Sal Anthony. Generally Little Italy is best for a capuccini or to shop at Alleva, not for Italian food. Strongly suggest you eat elsewhere and go to Little Italy for a coffee after dinner.

          1. re: financialdistrictresident

            My friend who summers at his ancestral home in Monferrato (Piemonte) thinks Il Cortile is pretty good.

            Frankly, I like the southern italian american stuff at Benitos II.

            I really doubt that folks coming from Italy and trying a restaurant in New York are trying to get food just like home - they are probably trying to have a New York Italian food experience, so you should be fine in Little Italy.

            If you do want to get as close to Naples as you can in New York, Keste Pizza on Bleecker street is pretty darn close - excellent salads and pizza. No pastas.

            1. re: DavyTheFatBoy

              Thank you, DavyTheFatBoy ... it seems you're the only one who understands what I'm looking for. I, along with my father-in-law, are well aware of the condition Little Italy is in and the fact that it is Chitalian at this point. I personally am well aware that I can go to one hundred other places within a mile of LI and find really good food. I would even venture to say that the people coming in from Italy are not expecting the food in LI to bring them right back to those memories when they were a peasant child tearing into some rustic meal al fresco. My father-in-law is looking to have them experience Little Italy, whatever that may mean, in the most unapologetic way. I just thought I'd get an idea of what the best of the worst is down there, that's all. And no we're not going to the Bronx. I appreciate the suggestions.

              1. re: DavyTheFatBoy

                While I have enjoyed Benito's II in the past......late 80's, early 90's....the food slipped and I stopped going there. It's been too long for me to really make a comment on the present quality of the restaurant other than to say it is definitely not upscale in anyway and would probably be very cramped for a party of 15. More recently, but not within the last year I have been to Positano's, also on Mulberry and across the street from Il Cortile. I found the food there enjoyable and very reasonable, but it would definitely fall into the red sauce-red checkered table cloth type restaurant. Personally I always enjoyed Angelo's more than Il Cortile...but again I have not been to either in a while.

                Although technically not in Little Italy, but rather Nolita.....

                I would suggest you consider Peasant...and it's not the best of the worst by any means.


          2. What about the new Emporio on Mott St by the same people who own Aurora (one of the best Italian restaurants in NYC, imho) ?
            I understand right now it's still BYOB.

            As much as I want to love them, all the restaurants on Mulberry suck.

              1. If you are in a van and are coming from Bergen County, Bronx's Little Italy would be far more "walk around" interesting and certainly more chow worthy. If you can make this on the way back from the Statue of Liberty I think your relatives would be more pleased. If interested, check on the OB board for suggestions of where to go with 15 people.

                2 Replies
                1. re: bobjbkln

                  Yeh, Manhattan's Little Italy is now called Chinatown.. It's a depressing place holding on to a little square of land.. The restaurants suck. You would have a better meal looking for Italian Food in the theater district..

                  So, the best noodles in Little Italy are Chinese.

                  Go to the Bronx.

                  1. re: Daniel76

                    You hit the nail on the head. Foolishly we decided once to depart from our normal Chinatown dining regime to try someplace in Little Italy. (We're from LA and didn't know any better.) Ended up at a place called Casa Bella. Only time we ever got in a fight with a restaurant manager. Food was awful and expensive--a total ripoff. Avoid this and similar places at all costs.