New Yorkers aren’t shy about their love of Italian food. After all, thousands of Italians immigrated here in the early 1800s and never left. But even if you don’t have a drop of Italian blood in your veins, chances are you still cherish the cuisine. In the city, many restaurants catering to this type of food exist, from high-end eateries such as Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Del Posto, A Voce and Four-Star Marea, to popular pasta joints such as il Buco Alimentari & Vineria and L’Artusi. There’s even a whole Manhattan neighborhood, albeit small and slowly shrinking, dedicated to the fare. While these places are great, many under-the-radar Italian spots subsist in the city and are worth checking out. Here are a few winners:
A little more than a year ago, chef Joe Isidori opened his innovative Italian joint, bringing something new to Carroll Gardens in Brooklyn. With his menu, Isidori likes to take a classic dish and add his own twist — for instance, he adds lemon and parsley to his spaghetti carbonara. Try his hand-made buratta with black fig and smoked chili, and pair it with one of the seasonal craft cocktails or rich Italian red wines for a truly romantic evening in a cozy, candle-lit setting.
At first glance, you might not think to walk into the simple-looking, East Village eatery. But if you do, you will be pleasantly surprised by the menu chock-full of Northern Italian dishes made by chef and owner Egidio Donagrandi, who cooks recipes from his hometown of Valtellina. Go for his creamy polenta taragna with poached egg, or try the hand-rolled potato gnocchi with roasted mushrooms. They also serve wines from that region, and, while the décor is nothing fancy, it has an effortless elegance to it that makes it work as a prime date place, easy dinner with friends or for solo-diner backdrop.
Near the water in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Osteria il Paiolo has set up shop in a charming, roomy space with plenty of seating and large, open windows that let in the spring and summer air. The food style leans toward Northern Italian cuisine, mainly from Piedmont and Tuscany, and includes tasty plates of agnelotti stuffed with duck foie gras, roasted Mediterranean sea bass with black olives and fennel and a menu of heirloom polentas with various toppings. It’s also a laid-back locale to get brunch on the weekends, and it happens to be just far enough away from the main drag that it’s never too busy to get a table.
While Manhattan has Little Italy, the Bronx has Arthur Avenue, which today maintains more of an old-school Italian vibe than its more popular counterpart. Here, you can still find shops that make their fresh mozzarella such as Casa Della Mozzarella Deli, and places aging salami, such as the Calabria Pork Store. Careful, the latter doesn’t smell like a bed of roses, but you can get some of the best-cured sausage in the city there. For a sit-down meal, Dominick’s Restaurant serves heaping plates of linguini with clam sauce and eggplant Parmesan family-style, and, after one bite, you will understand why it’s worth the trek to the neighborhood.
Located in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, this warm restaurant has been in business for 30 years. Now, the kitchen is run by the owner’s son, Marco Chirico, who dishes out elegantly charred fresh octopus, handmade fior di latte mozzarella and one of the best Caesar salads in the state, a dish that comes from a recipe they have been doing since the restaurant’s inception. Marco Polo also offers an array of fresh pastas, including tagliolino nero with scallops, papperdelle with Tuscan-style veal ragu and red wine fettuccine that gets tossed inside an actual wheel of Parmigiano.
Photos Courtesy of Stefano Ortega, Marco Polo Ristorante, Thomas Brigantino and Arthur