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Nov 30, 2013 06:53 AM

Where Do Italians Eat in NYC

As our obsession with Italy has reached another level, I'm just curious where and what do Italians like to eat when visiting NYC. Do you focus on what you know and love, or do you try cuisines not available back home. Please be specific as to the places you've liked

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  1. I have a friend from Florence , Italy and when he visits, he wants a dirty water hot dog and a big soft pretzel, eaten in the street.
    He then usually wants to go to Katz's delicatessen!

    4 Replies
    1. re: PHREDDY

      Hahaha, when my friend came from milan i asked what he wanted to eat and his reply was anything BUT italian!

        1. re: Ttrockwood

          That may be due to the fact that what is called Italian food in the US is not necessarily what it is in Italy. When my wife and I toured Rome and the Amalfi Coast in 2010, food in restaurants was excellent, but plates were not overloaded with pasta. Pizza was thin crust in Rome which is the way it was in Chicago in the 1950s before there were corporate pizza shop chains.

          1. re: ChiliDude

            you are confusing italian food with old school italian-american food.

      1. Ziggy,

        I think that's a really hard question to answer. Italy is a large country, with a wide-ranging cuisine from North to South, to everywhere in between. Factor that with diversity of people in Italy, and each person's individual preferences and idiosyncrasies with respect to food -- and especially with respect to food while traveling.

        Some, like PHREDDY's friend, may just want good old NYC fare like a dirty water dog, or maybe something Katz, or whatever.

        Others might like to see what the fuss high-end American-style Italian is all about and might visit Babbo or Del Posto or whatever.

        Then there are those who probably will want to find just good food at an appropriate price point based on their personal budget -- whether that's Le Bernardin or Totto.

        I just think it's a really hard question to ask, and I'm not so sure that Italians would necessarily want to eat "Italian food" anymore (or less) than any other foreign visitor to NYC.

        7 Replies
        1. re: ipsedixit

          Fair enough. Makes total sense. But curiosity still prevails. Just something I thought about while shaving ;)

          Yes, Italy is big and each region has its own thing but there are some common elements, one of which is that food is so much more of a way of life and so much more important to Italians than Americans. While talking to a waiter at Mercato (going again tonight) one time I was surprised to hear how popular it is with Italians, to the point where they try to employ only Italian speaking waiters. I suppose I'm answering my own question a little.

          Plus it wouldn't hurt to know what Italians think of our Italian food and which places they prefer. Shouldn't be so hard ;)

          1. re: Ziggy41

            Just something I thought about while shaving ...

            You should consider growing a beard. :-)

            In all seriousness, when I entertain Hong Kong and mainland Chinese guests in NYC (and the Outer Boroughs), they look for one of two things: (1) cheap food or (2) American fast food. And these folks come from all demographic stripes -- wealthy, young old, educated, etc.

            I mean think about it this way, Ziggy, I have no idea what your nationality is, but let's assume you are "American" and you were to visit Italy, would you want to at "American" restaurants (whatever that may mean)?

            1. re: ipsedixit

              Actually many Italian tourists do seek out Italian restaurants abroad, then complain that the pasta was overcooked or whatever. However, they tend to be the Italians one doesn't ask for restaurant recommendations anywhere, incuding Italy. I took the OP's question to refer to Italian residents of Manhattan who need the occasional fix of tastes of home, which is perfectly reasonable, or a hangout to approximate the role of a "sottocasa" (trattoria near your home where they know your likes and dislikes better than your own mother does). That's a reasonable question.

              1. re: mbfant

                The OP clearly states in his OP that "I'm just curious where and what do Italians like to eat when visiting NYC.." Note the word "visiting." That would be an odd way to refer to residents of NYC. I don't think it is an unreasonable question at all. Obviously any answer isn't going to be definitive and needs a whole lot of caveats (but so would answering a question about Italian residents of NYC).

                I have eaten in Italian restaurants with many Italians in NYC (their choice) who have marvelous tastebuds (we don't eat where the pasta is overcooked) and I have often found their restaurant recommendations for Italy to be terrific.

                1. re: mbfant

                  Kinda like Americans who go to Italy and complain that they can't get a good burger and fries?

                  1. re: Ulyyf

                    Kinda like my Midwestern friends who don't want my homemade (NY style) food but insisted on going to Pizza Hut and Applebees? I tried not to argue too much but we didn't accompany either. They said they were homesick.

                2. re: ipsedixit

                  This is a rather unfair comment.

                  American food has a warped and tarnished history that is rather short at that, shorter than the more than 2000 year history of Chinese food, or of Italian food.

                  Of course, the natives prior to the Europeans may qualify as the real American cuisine.

                  So, to compare an American traveller overseas to a Asian or European here, is rather odd, and unfair.

                  I have known Americans in Europe and Asia that for reasons I could not understand, craved American chain store fast food, and would bolt to the nearest outlet whenever they could.


            2. My most recent visitors from Italy found Keste on their own while walking around the city and loved it. They were really happy to find what they considered authentic Italian pizza here in New York.

              Is that the kind of info you're looking for, Ziggy41?

              1. Where Italians eat is irrelevant to whether the restaurant is any good. You will find tons of Italians at Olive Garden and many Chinese at the Chinese buffets that are in every shopping center. Don't assume that Italians whether from Italy or not know any better then you what Italian rest. are good.

                2 Replies
                1. re: shoeman

                  i agree with this. most tourist/visitors aren't foodie. and they want something (anything) that reminds them of their home food, even if it's a horrible version.

                  for example, most chinese folks go to chinese restaurants even of questionable quality while traveling, just for a taste "chinese" white rice. that desperation grows even more the longer the vacation. assuming they aren't hardcore chinese travelers and bring their rice cookers with them =)

                2. Maybe put up a post on the italy board asking for their favorites in nyc?

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Ttrockwood

                    The Italy board is all about tourists asking for recs in Italy. Anything else gets chased off.

                    I come from NY but have lived in Italy about 35 years.I never used to want to eat Italian in New York and every time friends dragged me someplace it was awful. I am waiting for someone to drag me to Babbo, but so far I haven't been. But I do go to Maialino pretty much every trip to NY and I love it. My Italian husband likes it very much too, but tends not to order the really Roman dishes on the menu. He will often argue points with the chef (too much water in the spinach was one), but they do a very good job.

                    Sant'Ambroeus is very good, certainly the best cappuccino, by which I mean not only good in itself but practically the only drinkable cappuccino, I have ever had outside Italy. I've never had a meal there, but I would be optimistic. It has a nice milanese vibe.

                    There are inherent contradictions in style between the NY restaurant and the Italian trattoria that make the trattoria experience practically impossible to duplicate, though if anyone has done it (not counting those serving Italian-American food), I would love to know.

                    1. re: mbfant

                      Your husband argues about watery spinach with the chef? Does he storm the kitchen and demand a word?

                      1. re: Jerseygirl111

                        He doesn't argue. He points out. But, even though he means it, it's all done in a spirit of respect and simpatia.