5 Great Restaurants in Little Italy
Now that this year's San Gennaro festival has stuffed its last cannoli, my neighborhood has returned to its relaxed self. While I'm all in favor of the old-country vibe surrounding most of Mulberry Street, my go-to spots around Little Italy and Nolita aren't actually Italian (except for one!).
Here are my top five:
Despana's Vinos y Mas
When this tiny Spanish food market recently decided to expand to a restaurant with communal tables, everyone came out a winner. Offering a full menu of bocadillos, flautas, salads, and soups, the preserved goods that the store is known for are showcased throughout these plates. A simple meal of thinly sliced Serrano ham on crisp ciabatta, a few spicy patatas, and a small dish of punchy Spanish olives make for a grazer's dream. 410 Broome Street, 212-219-1555
Beautiful people deserve tacos, too. At least that what you'll think at this taqueria and late-night lair on Kenmare. The excellent tacos, tortas, and char-grilled corn evoke sunburned, spring-break memories in TJ. Also worth trying: the fluke ceviche with marinated cucumbers and pickled carrots and the empanadas stuffed with duck confit in mole. While the crowd is generally high-heeled, everyone leaves with a few chile relleno grease stains. 114 Kenmare Street, 646-613-1333
The French can make anything look cool, which might be why this corner bistro -- which isn't reinventing anything other than its own block -- is as enticing as a too-full glass of the house red and a dog-eared copy of The Sun Also Rises. Stick to the standards, like a hefty salade Nicoise or a pleasantly greasy Croque Monsieur, and you'll be satisfied. And because this neighborhoody spot doesn't draw the crowds of Balthazar, you'll be free to linger all afternoon. 155 Grand Street, 212-274-8859