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New York City Italian-American Restaurants


Harry
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I'm going to New York City on business in a couple weeks and, like most tourists, I'm looking forward to some top-notch Italian food. Specifically, I'm looking for old-fashioned, unpretentious Italian-American establishments, the kind that serve good meatballs, braciole, osso buco, etc.

What are your favorite old-line Italian-American restaurants in the city? I'll be staying and working in Manhattan but glad to travel to the other boroughs if the food is worth the trip. I'm sure you New Yorkers get tired of rubes like me asking "so where can I get some good Italian food?" so let me know if this request is not specific enough. Thanks in advance for any advice.

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Lots of good stuff in Little Italy!.........just kidding!

some good recs:

http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=85475

A little more authentic/interesting; Otto, Falai, Frank, Po and Vespa to name a few

The problem here is that although Manhattan is filled with excellent Italian restaurants, Italian-American is a separate cuisine to itself. and those places don't seem to exist anymore in Manhattan.

isn't there a sister restaurant to Rao's somewhere in midtown?

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I wonder how Don Peppe / Vesuvio, out in Queens on Lefferts Boulevard, is nowadays. When I was a kid - we're talking about the early 1960s - I was often taken to their previous location in Brooklyn. When they moved (to be nearer to Aqueduct racetrack I believe), my parents remained fairly regular customers, even into the 1980s. It was reliable, delicious southern-Italian-American stuff. As I recall, it closed for several weeks every year when the horses were running in Hialeah.

Anybody been in the past twenty years?

Edited by emsny (log)
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I would recommend Gino's on Lexington Avenue around 60th-61st Street in Manhattan.

This is a very good Southern Italian that has been around for ages.

I believe since the forties.

Food is very good the prices are very reasonable and the decor is a throwback and kitchy, the wall paper is a trip.

I would also recommend another institution--Patsy's: the one on 56th Street on the West Side of Manhattan. Southern Italian food (good) --this is another institution--you can imagine the rat pack eating here. It is more expensive than Gino's.

Little Italy in the Bronx is perhaps more thriving than the one in Manhattan --and less touristy. Lots of dining options. For reasonable old style Southern Italian I recommend Mario's. Again, this is a neighborhood institution.

Also Dominick's (family style, no menus). The food is very good and the place is a scene.

Edited by JohnL (log)
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I wonder how Don Peppe / Vesuvio, out in Queens on Lefferts Boulevard, is nowadays. When I was a kid - we're talking about the early 1960s - I was often taken to their previous location in Brooklyn. When they moved (to be nearer to Aqueduct racetrack I believe), my parents remained fairly regular customers, even into the 1980s. It was reliable, delicious southern-Italian-American stuff. As I recall, it closed for several weeks every year when the horses were running in Hialeah.

Anybody been in the past twenty years?

I've been several times after the track as well as their sister restaurant La Parma in Williston Park - after the Belmont races.

As SE said I'm partial to Park Side. Don Peppe and La Parma are good, but both use a ton of butter in their gravy (red sauce) and that's not to my liking at all. La Parma does a great dish with sauteed calamari in red sauce and Don Peppe does a very good Chinese Chicken.

In Astoria there are two good Italian Americans - Ponticello and Piccolo Venezia. In Brooklyn there's Giandi by the Water, which used to be Prudenti's Vicino Mare in Long Island City in another incarnation and Bamonte's in Williamsburg (make sure you sit facing the door). In Staten Island, there's the Road House and Portobello.

The Bronx has Roberto's and sometimes Dominick's. In Manhattan, there Rao's and Felidia. To a lesser degree you could try Il Mulino and hope you get lucky on a given night.

But Park Side stands head and shoulders above them all considering food, ambiance, wise guy factor and wine prices.

Rich Schulhoff

Opinions are like friends, everyone has some but what matters is how you respect them!

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[...] In Manhattan, there Rao's and Felidia. [...]

I've not been to many of the other places you mention, but I have been to Felidia. Italian-American? Are we talking about the same place? Lidia Bastianich Felidia?

Same place - very Italian-American as well as her outposts in Pittsburgh, Kansas City et al. Even she admits it in her press clippings, books and TV show. You can normally find her there or at Del Posto, you could ask her. She has said many times she adopts her "native" food for the American palate through ingredients and technique.

Del Posto was supposed to be her "authentic" Italian - some say the marble floors have achieved that goal.

Edited by rich (log)

Rich Schulhoff

Opinions are like friends, everyone has some but what matters is how you respect them!

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For some real tasty meatballs, pork braciola marinara, house made pastas and other "Italian-American" style stuff (sausage/broccoli raab and meatball parmesan sandwiches, for example), I like Frankies 17 Clinton Street Spuntino...

Strangely enough, it's at 17 Clinton Street on the lower east side...212 253-2303

Reasonable and a nice wine list, to boot.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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For Sicilian food and Italian pop music in 1904 decor, have lunch at Ferdinando's Focacceria, 151 Union Street in Brooklyn. I'm partial to the panelle special.

There is great homestyle Italian food (some ingredients still grown on the premises, I think) at the Basilio Inn, 6 Galesville Court in the shadow of the Verrazano Bridge in Staten Island.

If you want some non-traditional but award-winning pizza, go to Goodfella's at 1718 Hylan Blvd, also on Staten Island.

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I think Rich's recommendations are very solid. He's got the experience with this cuisine, and he speaks from the perspective of someone who loves it. I do think he's made a category error with Felidia, though. I would not go to Felidia for classic Italian-American cuisine. It's way too upscale, way too refined for that. Of the Bastianich places, I'd recommend Becco as the classic Italian-American. (Becco, not Felidia, is the model for the KC and Pittsburgh restaurants). Indeed, I recommend Becco all the time -- literally dozens of times a year -- to people looking for a high-quality but not ridiculously overpriced pasta-and-osso-buco experience.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I'm also not down on the Carmine's/Tony's di Napoli/Sambuca segment of the market. These family-style Italians are not at the level of Parkside, Don Peppe's, et al., but they deliver a really solid Italian-American experience. They have basically replaced Little Italy as the place to go for this type of cuisine, served family style in a celebratory atmosphere.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Rich, it's like a cardinal sin to confuse Del Posto with Babbo.

Not a cardinal sin but a mortal sin - three extra days in purgatory for me.

Thanks SE, I'll make an edit.

Edited by rich (log)

Rich Schulhoff

Opinions are like friends, everyone has some but what matters is how you respect them!

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I think Rich's recommendations are very solid. He's got the experience with this cuisine, and he speaks from the perspective of someone who loves it. I do think he's made a category error with Felidia, though. I would not go to Felidia for classic Italian-American cuisine. It's way too upscale, way too refined for that. Of the Bastianich places, I'd recommend Becco as the classic Italian-American. (Becco, not Felidia, is the model for the KC and Pittsburgh restaurants). Indeed, I recommend Becco all the time -- literally dozens of times a year -- to people looking for a high-quality but not ridiculously overpriced pasta-and-osso-buco experience.

Okay, so maybe we should start a new category with Felidia - Upscale, refined Italian-American. :laugh:

Never been to Becco, will try it.

Rich Schulhoff

Opinions are like friends, everyone has some but what matters is how you respect them!

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I think Rich's recommendations are very solid. He's got the experience with this cuisine, and he speaks from the perspective of someone who loves it. I do think he's made a category error with Felidia, though. I would not go to Felidia for classic Italian-American cuisine. It's way too upscale, way too refined for that. Of the Bastianich places, I'd recommend Becco as the classic Italian-American. (Becco, not Felidia, is the model for the KC and Pittsburgh restaurants). Indeed, I recommend Becco all the time -- literally dozens of times a year -- to people looking for a high-quality but not ridiculously overpriced pasta-and-osso-buco experience.

Despite your recommendations and living a hop-skip-and a jump away, I still have not been to Becco. Recently it was finally it discussed on Lidia's PBS show... in no deference to you, now I really want to try it out... I guess the next time I have to run a race, I'll be there...

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I'm not saying Becco is a great restaurant -- please don't hold me to anything like that -- but I am saying it's a leader in this category.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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