The Top 5 Essential Italian Restaurants To Visit In New York

Outside of Italy, New York is one of the best cities in the world to find quality Italian cuisine. Its abiding love for all things pasta and pizza have led to a history of world-class restaurants from Michelin-starred to casual authenticity with a New York edge. Picking just five restaurants is near impossible. Nevertheless, we’ve rounded up the city’s most beloved Italian hotspots. Whether you’re looking for authentic handmade pasta, an Italian gem or a spot that is more exclusive than Soho House, here are our picks for New York’s top essential Italian restaurants to visit all year long. 

Rao’s

Rao’s is the most exclusive restaurant on our list. Known for being the hardest reservation to get in the city, this classic Italian haunt is open to a select few celebrities, friends and anyone with a connection. You might recognize its pasta sauce red facade on the corner of Pleasant Ave. and E. 114th St. in East Harlem or its celebrity clientele including Leonardo DiCaprio, Drew Barrymore and Martha Stewart. Inside, diners will find Italian family recipes, passed down from generation to generation, as well as photos on the wall of guests past and present. With only 10 tables in the establishment, plus a bar area, getting a reservation is as we said in the beginning—near impossible. However, there are stories of people getting a table simply from walking off the street, but other than that, you would need to know someone or have a connection to someone who has dined before.

Cipriani Downtown

Located in the heart of Soho, Cipriani Downtown is a sibling of Harry Cipriani and offers authentic Italian cuisine and classic Cipriani service in an upscale setting. Here, diners will find a loft-style space with open front doors and an ever-so-popular outdoor patio, which sits under the iconic yellow awning. We suggest securing a table outside to enjoy the spring weather. Much like any Cipriani location, it is a place to “see and be seen” with chic uptowners, midtown business people and Wall Street financiers all gathering for a power lunch or elegant night out. The menu which changes regularly, includes Harry’s Bar classics, such as steak tartare and calves liver. For the main course, dive into handmade pasta from rigatoni to tagliatelle or opt-in for a hearty NY strip. The portions are quite generous, so sharing is the best way to experience a classic Cipriani meal.

Rezdôra

Photo Credit: Colin Clark

 

Pasta is the hero of any Italian dish and at Rezdôra—all of it is housemade—which makes the highly-regarded Italian eatery a must for any pasta lover. Situated in the Flatiron District, diners will find a menu that pays homage to the northern Italian region of Emilia-Romagna. The delectable dishes include ricotta ravioli and black truffles, duck ragu and pappardelle Verde—among many others. If you can’t decide, opt-in for the regional pasta tasting with the wine pairing. You won’t regret it—each pasta displays serious technical attention to detail and is bathed in a sauce that uses the region’s famous Parmigiano. If you’re looking to wine and dine a loved one or a place to enjoy classic Italian fare with friends, then Rezdôra is the place to go. The small brick-walled space feels like a low-key spot you would find in Italy, but with an upscale New York twist.

Carbone

Photo Credit: Courtesy Carbone

You might just spot Sarah Jessica Parker or George and Amal Clooney stepping out of this A-lister Italian restaurant in NoHo. Created by Mario Carbone, Rich Torrisi and Jeff Zalaznick, Carbone pays homage to the essence of the great Italian-American restaurants of the mid-20th century in New York. Known for its high-end takes on red sauce, Carbone is full of surprises once inside. Diners will find themselves eating in a cinematic universe surrounded by irreverent images on the walls, waiters sporting burgundy tuxes and (of course) the celebrity clientele. As for the food, expect lobster ravioli, jumbo shrimp scampi, veal parmesan, spicy rigatoni vodka and ribeye Diana. The wine list is mostly Italian and endless—as it should be. If you’re looking for great Italian food and an inspiring atmosphere then add Carbone to your list of places to dine this year.

MAMO

Photo Credit: Courtesy MAMO Restaurant

Celebrities must really enjoy their Italian food because here is another celebrity favorite serving classic Italian fare. MAMO brings a long tradition of Italian hospitality and the Provençal charm to New York City’s SoHo neighborhood. Perfect for a relaxing lunch, business dinner or social gathering, diners will find a selection of pizza, pasta, salads and side dishes. The MAMO Meatball, which is a truffle meatball with creamy four-cheese polenta is a crowd-pleaser, but you can’t go past a cheese and truffle pizza. There is also homemade gnocchi, lobster ravioli, spaghetti with clams and classic Ceasar salad. If you can’t decide, there is a prix-fixe menu for both dinner and lunch. The bi-level restaurant offers a casual dining room downstairs and a formal dining room upstairs—wrapped in elegance and sophistication. The cocktail list is brimming with great options including the “New York Press”, a MAMO Negroni, truffle martini and a selection of spirits.

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