12 Best Little Italy Restaurants NYC That Are Actually Good (+ What To Order)
NYC’s Little Italy has long been one of the top tourist attractions in the city, with tourists flocking the streets in hopes to taste the best pasta, pizza, and desserts outside of Italy.
But, little do people know that this sprawling neighborhood is a tourist trap, with a long list of mediocre restaurants trying to lure people to dine in their place.
TBH, Little Italy does have some amazing restaurants serving genuinely delicious Italian staples, you just need to know where to look.
Here is the list of the best Little Italy restaurants NYC that you should bookmark for your next visit to Manhattan.
(4.3) Based on 700 Reviews
Area: Lower Manhattan
Cuisine: Italian, Seafood, Lunch, Dinner, Wine
Established in 1984, Lunella offers authentic Italian cuisine with a seasonal twist.
Whether bonding with loved ones or enjoying a romantic date, you’ll relish this artistic, cozy open-concept patio with an epic menu of homemade pasta, crispy pizzas, and signature cocktails.
For a delightful start, try Lunella’s Bruschetta con Zucchine. This light, delicious appetizer blends zucchini, ricotta, and lemon, setting the perfect tone for your Italian feast.
Seeking richness? Their Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo won’t disappoint. This savory dish boasts perfectly cooked pasta smothered in a parmesan cream sauce and topped with juicy chicken.
To end on a high note, don’t miss out on their classic Penne alla Vodka! Its intense, vibrant tomato-based sauce paired with vodka creates a mesmerizingly glossy, emulsified sauce that surprises and delights the palate.
What to order: Bruschetta con Zucchine, Fettuccine Alfredo, Penne alla Vodka.
Since 1993, Da Nico has been a crowd favourite, renowned for its exceptional brick-oven pizzas and classic Italian dishes served in a cozy atmosphere.
Their pizzas, baked in a coal-fired oven, boast a crispy exterior and a uniquely flavourful, chewy crust.
We highly recommend trying the Pizza Prosciutto & Arugula, a fresh and subtly salty delight with crispy edges that scream summertime.
Apart from pizzas, the homemade meat Lasagna is a standout. Layered with cheese, it’s a dish that impresses from the get-go. The irresistible marinara sauce adds that extra touch, making it a truly memorable experience.
You won’t go home happy without a serving of Calamari Fritti! Simple yet deliciously crispy, this classic Italian antipasto comes with a delightful touch of lemon and pairs perfectly with the tangy tomato sauce on the side.
What to order: Pizza Prosciutto & Arugula, Lasagna, Calamari Fritti.
Combining rustic allure and exquisite southern Italian flavours, 1956 Emilio’s Ballato stands as a revered NYC spot famed for its superb red sauce dishes.
Celebrities like Barack Obama, Rihanna, and Tom Hanks like to frequent this cozy dining spot and embrace the homey atmosphere by Emilio’s weathered gallery walls.
Regular patrons rave about Emilio’s Vongole Oreganata, a rich southern Italian clam delicacy adorned with homemade breadcrumbs.
The secret? They use just the right breadcrumb ratio to let the delicate clams shine without overpowering them.
Then there’s the Tagliatelle alla Bolognese, a beloved pasta delight cooked to al-dente perfection. Its fresh, chewy texture provides the ideal canvas for the robust sauce. The beef, pork, and veal ragu, simmered to a thick, flavourful perfection, exudes a satisfying heartiness.
Finishing off, indulge in the Petto Di Pollo Alla Parmigiana. The mozzarella’s richness beautifully complements the thinly pounded chicken, breaded and pan-fried to achieve a delectably crispy exterior.
What to order: Vongole Oregenate, Tagliatelle alla Bolognese, Petto Di Pollo Alla Parmigiana.
Mulberry Street buzzes with incredible restaurants, but Jose Luis truly stands out for its vibrant neon-lit ambiance. Offering a blend of Italian and Spanish cuisine, it’s the ideal spot for laid-back gatherings over wine or sangria.
Pesto di Rucola e Pistaccio is a must-try for pesto aficionados. This dish features tender strigoli pasta swirled in a delightful arugula-pistachio pesto. You’ll end up with a fresh, subtly sweet, and luxuriously buttery cuisine.
Beyond Italian fare, their authentic Spanish paella, especially the Valenciana Paella, is a hassle-free delight. This flavourful dish features a base of chicken and Spanish chorizo, caramelised to perfection with saffron and rounded off with peas for a sophisticated taste profile.
What to order: Pesto di Rucola e Pistaccio, Valenciana Paella.
Established in 1919, Puglia is a cherished family-owned eatery captivating NYC’s big foodies with authentic Southern Italian cuisine.
Known for its vibrant atmosphere, drink specials, and nightly entertainment, Puglia is the ideal spot for a memorable night out with loved ones or friends.
For a delightful appetiser, you wanna try their flavourful Baked Clams. The infusion of aromatic herbs and finely minced garlic perfectly complements the seafood taste, preparing your palate for the main course.
When it’s time for the main course, Puglia’s Famous Rigatoni alla Vodka becomes a showstopper with its irresistibly charming pink sauce. Dive into this creamy pasta dish to experience its rich and indulgent flavours, especially if it’s your first visit.
Before leaving, we’d love a bite out of their Baked Rigatoni. This is an Instagram-worthy creation that embodies the essence of summer.
This dish features homemade rigatoni stuffed with cheese and bathed in a savoury meat sauce, offering a memorable texture.
Beyond their à-la-carte offerings, Puglia presents pre-fixe dinner menus showcasing their signature dishes served family-style, adding an extra dimension to your dining experience.
What to order: Baked Clams, Puglia’s Famous Rigatoni alla Vodka, Baked Rigatoni.
Gelso & Grand, nestled at the corner of Mulberry & Grand Street, has become a familiar spot for locals. With its chic industrial design, this spacious restaurant serves an array of fresh pasta, wood-oven pizzas, and classic Italian fare.
When in doubt, make sure to go for their signature Margherita Pizza straight from the wood-fired brick oven. Ideal for sharing among friends, this Neapolitan classic features zesty tomato sauce, ooey-gooey cheese, and that unforgettable chewy crust.
For a standout housemade pasta, don’t forget to order the Spaghetti Pomodoro with extra meatballs. The San Marzano tomatoes add sweetness and intense tomato flavour, perfectly complementing the juicy meatballs.
Not to be missed is the Fettuccine Bolognese, a hit among enthusiasts. You’ll be amazed by the fresh fettuccine and a robust blend of veal, beef, and sausage in the Bolognese sauce.
What to order: Margherita Pizza, Spaghetti Pomodoro with Meatballs, FettuccineBolognese.
Sofia’s of Little Italy offers handmade pizzas and authentic Italian cuisine, all crafted from scratch in a heartwarming setting.
The ambient lighting at the full seating bar and outdoor area adds to the inviting atmosphere, making it an ideal spot for special gatherings.
Begin your delightful meal with Sofia’s Eggplant Parmesan. The breaded eggplant, tender and juicy within its crispy coating, pairs beautifully with melted mozzarella, delivering a burst of creaminess in every bite.
Looking for more to savor? Sofia’s Ravioli collection won’t disappoint! We highly recommend the Lobster Ravioli which stands out as a sought-after dish that embodies Sofia’s excellence.
For a vegetarian-friendly option, you don’t wanna miss out on the Mushroom Ravioli. We love the hint of truffle it offers, plus the mushroom sauce alone is a delight, comforting and rich enough to savor every last drop.
What to order: Eggplant Parmesan, Lobster Ravioli, Mushroom Ravioli.
Another Nolita heavyweight is Parm, an Italian sandwich bar chain co-founded by the renowned Mario Carbone and Rich Torrisi.
Parm serves up delectable chicken parm and Italian-American fusion cuisine at an affordable price, drawing patrons into its cozy yet vibrant dining spot.
For a special night out with friends, consider the Chicken Parm Dinner.
We love the way it fits a bonding night with friends as it’s perfect for sharing and leaving a lasting impression. Each bite strikes a delightful balance between crispy crumb coating and tender chicken.
Parm’s Baked Ziti also deserves acclaim, especially if you’re craving something rich and cheesy. Each layer melds pasta, cheese, and sauce seamlessly, providing a satisfying bite in every mouthful.
Speaking of Baked Ziti, here’s the catch! Parm’s known for serving the coveted corner piece. So if you’re a fan of crispy-edged slices of this delicious dish, you’re in for a treat!
If you’re seeking a lesser-known option, indulge in their Slow Roasted Turkey. Generous and flavourful, this moist turkey sandwich, with fresh shredded lettuce, tomato, and zesty mayo, represents a perfect blend of taste and value.
What to order: Chicken Parm Dinner, Baked Ziti, The Slow Roasted Turkey Sandwich.
As a long-standing fixture renowned for its decade-old family recipes, Rubirosa stands out in NYC for its thin-crust pizzas. The atmosphere is cozy and welcoming, attracting families and friends for casual lunches.
While Rubirosa’s classic pies are tempting, don’t miss out on their colossal GF Meatballs as a starter! These savoury meatballs, a blend of beef, pork, and veal in hearty tomato sauce, are homemade and bursting with flavours that will delight your taste buds.
Being a renowned pizzeria, Rubirosa takes pride in its 60-year-old Classic New York-style pizza. We promise you’ll never forget that crispy edge, so dig in if you’re pizza enthusiast!
Don’t forget to wrap up your meal with Rubirosa’s Tiramisu. This all-time favourite Italian dessert boasts a sweet, airy, and indulgent profile that perfectly caps off the experience.
What to order: GF Meatballs, Classic New York Style Pizza, Tiramisu.
“Wood-fired cuisine, Neo-NY style pizza, and an outstanding wine selection” – that encapsulates Pasquale Jones in a nutshell!
This remarkable restaurant, boasting an open kitchen, top-notch service, and refined ambiance, strikes a balance between upscale and laid-back vibes.
True to its name, the Littleneck Clam Pizza stands out, attracting crowds with its thin, chewy, smoked crust. The delightful combination of fresh clams, a touch of cream, and broccoli rabe creates a memorable topping that’s simply irresistible.
While not an uncommon choice, the Margherita Pizza here is exceptionally well-crafted. The sweet San Marzano tomato sauce lends depth to the crust with its lively acidity, complementing the mild yet slightly tangy flavour of the snowy white mozzarella.
For those eager to elevate their palate, we’d love you to try the Warm Braised Leeks!
Feeling hesitant? Fear not! You’ll be won over after the first bite as the leeks offer a pleasant tang that balances the richness of the braising sauce, while the toasted walnuts provide a delightful crunch.
What to order: Littleneck Clam Pizza, Margherita Pizza, Warm Braised Leeks.