The 10 Best Italian Restaurants in NYC
For decades, Italian cuisine in New York meant red sauce and lots of it. With the opening of Bamonte's in 1900 and Ferdinando's Focacceria four years later, tomato-heavy Neapolitan and Sicilian restaurants enjoyed a certain sustained verisimilitude, carrying the torch for their motherland while paving the way for other regional Italian cuisines to follow suit. By contrast, where would Italian dining in 2013 New York be without Apulian burrata? With establishments representing regions from Piedmont to Sicily and everywhere in between, the city's Italian restaurants offer a fairly well-rounded picture of cooking from all over the boot. Here are the 10 best.
10. MD Kitchen, 1012 East 15th Street, Brooklyn
After huffing and puffing from customers wistful for a taste of Di Fara's defunct menu of Italian-American dishes--items that were gradually phased out as the Avenue J pizza shop attained Kardashian levels of fame for its pies--the DeMarco family opened this sliver of a takeout spot around the corner from their moneymaker to focus on reviving these flavors for a new audience. Just as Dom Sr. still clips leaves of basil onto his pies, daughter Maggie and her staff display a level of devotion to quality that produces knockout hero sandwiches (including sausage with broccoli rabe and an exceptional shrimp parmigiana), generously-portioned pastas and old-school platters of meatballs, Italian sausage, eggplant parmigiana, and chicken scallopini. Feel like enduring a night of delicious regret? Stop into MD Kitchen before hitting up madhouse Di Fara. The wait for your pizza will melt away like the blistered mozzarella on a plate of parmigiana.
9. Porsena, 21 East Seventh Street
Sara Jenkins' pasta-centric East Village hideaway is a boon for noodle know-it-alls who think they've seen every al dente shape under the Tuscan sun. Inside these brick walls, the chef tosses thick rings of anelloni with spicy lamb sausage and mustard greens. The greens appear again paired with tiny, curled gnochetti pasta slapped with saline anchovies and lifted by chili heat. Composed appetizers and entrees echo the rustic charms of the restaurant's design, including a roast chicken perfumed with chestnuts and an inventive take on vitello tonnato that replaces the standard veal with gamier lamb. But above all else, what makes Porsena so damned special is Jenkins' willingness to capitalize on the freedom that comes with owning your own place--specifically, with the experiments taking place next door at Porsena Extra Bar, experiments that have yielded things like "Grilled Kimcheese" and a deservedly popular summer taco pop-up.
8. Dominick's, 2335 Arthur Avenue, Bronx
A perennial favorite among nostalgic devotees of Italian-American food, Dominick's has been an Arthur Avenue destination for over 50 years. Although an a la carte menu is now on display, most diners prefer to order the original way--by simply asking their waiter what the kitchen is cooking up that night. Among the cavalcade of items recited, standouts abound, like Linguine all Gianni sporting chunks of chopped shrimp and clams and a skull-sized stuffed artichoke packed with olive oil-soaked breadcrumbs. In fact, channel your future self and order anything stuffed, particularly stuffed peppers and stuffed veal breast. Portions are massive and necessitate at least one other dining partner--dining here alone seems almost masochistic--though be careful. Sharing a platter of pepper-smothered pork pizzaiola studded with sauce-soaked potatoes is as dangerous as sharing a needle. Don't let the occasional celebrity appearance fool you; this is and always will be a neighborhood joint.