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NY food guide: Best Italian

New York food guide: Best Italian restaurants in town, by MiNDFOOD.

NY food guide: Best Italian

Babbo

Ten years on, Babbo, set in two
floors of a pleasant Village townhouse (upstairs is quieter), ranks
among the top Italian restaurants in town.

Based on the first
principal of Italian cooking – start with the best ingredients and show
them their proper respect – chef Mario Batali interprets according to
his own well-informed and estimable talent.

Consider grilled
octopus with borlotti beans dressed with a limoncello vinaigrette, or
veal tongue topped with a soft-boiled egg.

A signature pasta is ravioli filled with beef cheeks; grilled quail with farrotto and beets another riff on classics.

The
menu is generous and seductive and Batali’s partnership with Joe
Bastianich quarantees the wine list it deserves; choosing a bottle may
be more challenging than picking an entrée.

More casual and less expensive outposts in the Batali-Bastianich empire are the very appealing Lupa and Otto.

110 Waverly Pl

212 777 0303

website

Maremma

Cesare
Casella thinks food should be fun, but don’t let his amusing notion of
Italian cowboys divert you from knowing that he is a mighty gifted
chef.

In any case, there are, or were, Italian cowboys, and Maremma is the part of Tuscany they roam.

Casella,
a transplanted Tuscan himself, has embraced some new world classics.

He
throws a bit of bourbon onto a dish of fusilli with tomatoes and nods
to the American southwest with a boar sauce for pappardelle edged with
chocolate.

The fabulous short ribs are served up with stone-ground grits, polenta’s American cousin.

The Tuscan fries, flecked with Casella’s trademark herbs and spiked with chilli are the perfect side to the Tuscan steak.

For
openers, the signature salads are young lettuces with pancetta and a
soft scrambled egg and three varieties of radicchio with anchovies.

Among the desserts, buttermilk pannacotta is a favourite.

228 West 10th St

212 645 0200

website

Bar Pitti

The proprietor, Giovanni Tognozzi, is Florentine, but somehow, this true trattoria seems as Roman as Tuscan.

Perhaps it is the informal gentility, the unforced casualness, the general pleasantness and lack of pretension.

In
good weather the dining room is pushed out onto the unusually wide –
for New York – section of sidewalk in front; ignore the roaring traffic
on 6th Ave and this might be a piazza.

The food is uniformly
and consistently good. Signatures include eggplant Parmigiana, spinaci
saltata (sautéed spinach), loose-textured veal meatballs, simple
striped bass under oil and lemon juice, osso bucco, and the best, bar
none, steak tagliata in town.

In season, puntarelle, a
springtime variety of chicory, under a dressing generous with anchovies
is divine and may be one of the reasons the place feels like Roma.

The wine list is choice and Giovanni will be your best guide to your bottle.

268 Avenue of the Americas (6th Ave)

212 982 3300

Aurora

The original Brooklyn location is particularly appealing; the garden is unprepossessing and utterly charming.

Both Aurora restaurants are simple, somewhat rustic, with brick walls, rough beams, kitchen chairs.

A
casual approach does not extend to the kitchens however. Aurora
reflects a modern approach to Italian cooking that stays true to the
fundamentals of seasonality and great care.

Pea shoots and fava
beans with mint and pecorino make for a bright Spring salad; charred
octopus is served with celery and caper berries.

Roman style
artichokes; orecchiette with cauliflower, rock shrimp and bottarga;
slow-roasted pork belly, and striped bass with baby dandelions all
reflect cooking that is at once traditional and original.

The staff is mostly young, knowledgeable and friendly. The carefully composed wine list is overwhelmingly Piedmontese.

510 Broome St

212 334 9020

718 388 5100

website

Bellavitae

Bellavitae
is friendly and informal and advances the popular small plates concept;
it is left to you to compose a meal as you please.

Not so easy,
given the choices. There are arancini, little fried risotto balls;
gnocco fritto served with the special prosciutto di Parma Langhirano,
complex of flavour and gentle of texture.

Gnocco fritto is
described as fried bread, but airy puffs of dough comes closer.

The
Sicilian-style cauliflower chopped up and sautéed with pinoli and
currants is curiously addictive; in Spring, fresh fava beans with
pecorino are simply bathed in fruity olive oil.

You can move on
to more substantial stuff – one of the excellent pastas, like spaghetti
caccia e pepe (sheep cheese and black pepper); a pork filet with
caramelised onions, baby octopus roasted in the brick oven.

Or
you might just sit at the bar with a glass from the estimable wine list
and nibble on bits of Parmigiano drizzled with syrupy 15-year-old
balsamic vinegar.

The crème caramel is soft as silk.

24 Minetta Ln

212 473 5121

website

Al Di La

The glass chandelier, a family treasure, is your clue that Al Di La leans heavily toward the food of Venice and points north.

Like many long-standing Italian restaurants, the menu at Al di Là has changed little in its first ten years.

The
stewed tripe appetiser, the creamy bacala (salt cod) nestled up to soft
polenta, calf’s liver, and braised rabbit with olives all are beloved
signature dishes.

The kitchen does well by filled pastas like
tortelli with squash bathed with browned butter and sage and ravioli
with beets and ricotta.

Among the entrees, hanger steak and pan-roasted
cod are recommended.

248 Fifth Ave, Park Slope, Brooklyn

718 783 4565

website

Old School-Red Sauce

Gargiulo’s

After
100 years, still a favourite. Is it mostly nostalgia? Does it matter?

Gargiulo’s is a local institution as well as a destination for those
yearning for the Italian-American classics of their, or anyone’s
childhood.

2911 West 15th St, Brooklyn

website

Il Mulino

Here is the food of the south, Abruzzo in particular.

The
menu runs to the familiar Italian-American canon: scampi, clams casino,
good veal, good fish. Crowded, fun, a touch pricey, but you will get
all you can eat and then some.

website

***

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