Photo credits: Rubirosa

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 ultimate list of the best Little Italy restaurants NYC that you should bookmark for your next visit to Manhattan.

1. Lunella

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Established in 1984, Lunella is an authentic Italian restaurant representing the popular Italian tradition of “good food, hospitality and community”. The chef-driven menu is simple, where all handcrafted dishes highlight seasonal ingredients. Enjoy homemade pasta, light and crunchy pizza, and signature cocktails in a quaint setting.

Have you tried bruschetta with zucchini? No? Lunella’s Bruschetta con Zucchine will make you realize what you’ve been missing out on! This light and delicious appetizer combines zucchini, ricotta, and lemon, giving you something fresh and flavorful to start your Italian feast with.

The Fettuccine Alfredo with chicken here is so delicious, you’d want a second plate of the same right away! The pasta is homemade, fresh, and cooked to perfection, and the parmesan cream sauce is rich, thick, and creamy. Along with the nice and juicy chicken, the pasta tastes extremely delicious.

Their Penne alla Vodka comes with an intensified flavor, thanks to the vibrant tomato-based sauce, and the dish is hearty and flavorful.

Tiramisu is also made in-house and comes to your table fresh. Tastewise, the dessert just hits the spot!

What to order: Bruschetta con Zucchine, Fettuccine Alfredo, Penne alla Vodka, Tiramisù

Address: 173 Mulberry Street, New York, NY 10013

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2. Il Cortile

Photo credits: Il Cortile

Located in the heart of Little Italy, Il Cortile is a beautiful, family-owned and -operated Italian place serving the finest of the cuisine since 1975. Featuring a glass-enclosed garden dining area that feels intimate and romantic, and professional old-school waiters serving the restaurant’s signature dishes paired with Italian wine, this venue is perfect for a date.

Campesante con Carciofi e Parmigiano – these are pan-seared diver scallops served with artichoke, vegetables, and a cheese sauce. The scallops come cooked just right, are buttery, and have a bit of sweetness to them. The rich cheese sauce does an excellent job of making everything on the plate taste amazing together.

The Fettuccine di Parma is fresh, herby, creamy, smoky, and just explodes with flavor. The pasta is, of course, fresh, and the sauce is creamy and exquisite. It is so good that you wouldn’t want to share!

Pollo con Gamberi alla Francese is an Italian-American favorite where you get golden pan fried chicken and jumbo shrimp – nice and crispy, and cooked in a buttery and delicious lemon sauce.

What to order: Campesante con Carciofi e Parmigiano, Fettuccine di Parma, Pollo con Gamberi alla Francese

Address: 125 Mulberry Street, New York, NY 10013

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3. Da Nico

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Founded in 1993, Da Nico is yet another family-owned and -operated restaurant that has been a New York staple forever. From pizzas cooked in an authentic coal-fired oven, to a wide array of other Italian dishes, this place serves standout meals in a memorable atmosphere.

The Lasagna at Da Nico is in a league of its own! Made in-house from scratch, it has ample cheesy layers, a drool-worthy marinara sauce, and a few of the chef’s tricks that make it this delish.

Their Calamari Fritti is to die for. Yes, it’s simple, but the perfect execution makes it a great appetizer. The calamari is crispy and not greasy; drizzle some lemon on top and dip each bite into the tomato sauce on the side to make it tastier.

Made in their coal-fired oven, the pizzas here have a crispy exterior and a distinctive taste and chewiness in the crust. If you ask us, we’d recommend the Prosciutto & Arugula pizza.

The Pollo Rollatini has a beautifully cooked, crunchy chicken cutlet stuffed with salty prosciutto and fresh mozzarella, and the marsala mushroom sauce is luxuriously sweet and savory.

What to order: Lasagna, Calamari Fritti, Prosciutto & Arugula pizza, Pollo Rollatini

Address: 164 Mulberry, Street, New York, NY 10013

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4. La Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels

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With a globe-trotting wine list and a food menu that changes throughout the year, Compagnie is an elegant, sexy, and warm wine bar with a low-key vibe and a favorite in the area. Their food menu features French and Mediterranean small plates that pair perfectly with their wine selection.

As mentioned, their menu keeps changing, and some of their dishes come with different ingredients and pairings.

The Burrata with pine nut dukkah, pomegranate, and red endive is a fresh take on the classic. The cheese itself is perfectly creamy, and the dukkah adds a warm, nutty flavor, along with an enjoyable texture and sweetness from the pomegranate.

The Grilled Cheese here has a mushroom filling, along with tomato jam – crispy, earthy, peppery, and tangy.

The Roasted Prawns taste amazing with the tangy, smoky, and succulent piquillo pepper butter.

Inspired by the Roman pasta dish, the Cacio e Pepe Popcorn is a salty, cheesy, and peppery snack you can enjoy with any drink you choose.

What to order: Burrata, Grilled Cheese, Roasted Prawns, Cacio e Pepe Popcorn

Address: 249 Centre Street, New York, NY 10013

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5. Emilio’s Ballato

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Emilio’s Ballato is a fine Italian restaurant where celebrities like Barack Obama, Rihanna, and Tom Hanks like to hang out. Serving some excellent Italian red sauce dishes, this is the kind of restaurant where you will get a personal welcome from the owner who, by the end of your meal, will know your name.

A Southern Italian classic, Vongole Oreganate is a clam dish baked with homemade breadcrumbs. The key is to use just the right amount of breadcrumbs so the sweet little clams at the bottom are not overpowered; safe to say, Ballato gets it right every time, and the dish is so damn good!

The Tagliatelle alla Bolognese is a people pleaser. The pasta is homemade, fresh, and cooked to al-dente perfection. But, the show stopper is certainly the sauce, which is beef, pork, and veal ragu; it is hearty, full of flavor, and out of this world!

Gamberi Fra Diavolo – al-dente linguine, perfectly cooked shrimp, slightly spicy marinara sauce – *chef’s kiss*

Petto di Pollo alla Emilio is an indulgent dish. The chicken is thinly pounded, breaded, and pan-fried to attain a crispy exterior, and is still juicy inside. The lemony white wine sauce is so good, you better save some bread to soak it all up.

What to order: Vongole Oreganate, Tagliatelle alla Bolognese, Gamberi Fra Diavolo, Petto di Pollo alla Emilio

Address: 55 E Houston Street, New York, NY 10012

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6. Jose Luis Little Italy

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Jose Luis in Little Italy is a wonderful place to enjoy a combination of Italian and Spanish cuisine in a vibrant space, with great company. The restaurant is complete with a wine and sangria bar, and this is one of those places where you can see a diverse array of people, from tourists to New Yorkers.

Finding authentic paella, or at least something close, is pretty hard. Fortunately, Jose Luis has mastered this craft, and they offer some of the most authentic ones right here in Little Italy, NY.

Their Valenciana Paella, featuring chicken, Spanish chorizo, and peas, is as authentic as it gets in terms of flavor and execution. With a caramelized bottom layer, and infused with saffron, this dish will leave every cell of your body astonished!

If you’re a pesto person, the Pesto di Rucola e Pistaccio is your dish. This is strigoli pasta tossed with arugula-pistachio pesto; the addition of pistachio in the pesto gives it a subtle sweetness, and a unique buttery texture and the sauce itself is fresh and luscious, making the pasta taste heavenly.

Gambas Al Ajillo is a yummy Spanish dish with big, plump, and juicy shrimp swimming in mouth-watering garlic-parsley sauce.

What to order: Valenciana Paella, Pesto di Rucola e Pistaccio, Gambas Al Ajillo

Address: 115 Mulberry Street, New York, NY 10013

Website

7. Puglia

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Celebrating 103 years, Puglia is a family-owned and -operated restaurant serving Southern Italian delicacies in a fun and lively atmosphere, with drink specials and nightly entertainment. This is a distinguished place in Little Italy to dine with family and friends.

While you can, of course, settle with Puglia’s Famous Rigatoni alla Vodka, there is one other special dish you shouldn’t miss – Homemade Stuffed Rigatoni.

Fresh homemade rigatoni is stuffed with cheese and tossed in a pink cream sauce with chicken. The pasta has the perfect texture, and the cheese occupies your mouth every time you take a bite. The sauce is creamy, rich, and lovely, and the dish is likely to become the comfort food you crave.

The garlic and herbs flavor in their Baked Clams makes this a delectable appetizer, and the Rice Ball Angelina – a huge rice ball stuffed with meat, topped with cheese, and served in tomato sauce – is a crowd favorite too.

Note: apart from the a la carte menu, Puglia also offers pre-fixed dinner menus featuring their signature dishes that will be served family-style.

What to order: Puglia’s Famous Rigatoni alla Vodka, Homemade Stuffed Rigatoni, Baked Clams, Rice Ball Angelina

Address: 189 Hester Street, New York, NY 10013

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8. Gelso & Grand

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Located in the iconic corner of Mulberry & Grand Street, Gelso & Grand specializes in housemade pasta and other authentic Italian food from their wood-fired oven. The decor is industrial-chic, the environment is light, airy, and lively, and the food is fresh and delicious, always.

Gelso & Grand’s Truffle Arancini are a terrific way to start your meal at the restaurant. These risotto balls are crispy and crunchy on the outside and have a flavorful mushroom risotto filling inside. The earthy and umami truffle cream on the side is the perfect dip for these fried risotto balls.

Fresh out of their wood-fired brick oven, the Margherita pizza tastes authentic.

When you order Spaghetti Pomodoro here, remember to add meatballs at an extra cost. While the pomodoro sauce tastes fresh and flavorful with the al-dente spaghetti, the large, soft, and juicy meatballs definitely add their signature to the dish.

Their Brown Butter Gnocchi has some serious devotees. Straightaway, you can taste the freshness of the gnocchi, and it is so fluffy that it simply melts in the mouth. The superstar of the dish is, however, the brown butter red sauce, which along with the braised meat and the shavings and dollops of cheese on top gives rise to an amazing flavor combination.

What to order: Truffle Arancini, Margherita pizza, Spaghetti Pomodoro with meatballs, Brown Butter Gnocchi

Address: 186 Grand Street, New York, NY 10013

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9. Sofia’s of Little Italy

Photo credits: eatingthroughtheeast

Sofia’s of Little Italy is all about classic Italian food. This family-owned restaurant uses the best ingredients to make fresh pasta and pizza, and also offers a wine list that highlights many lesser-known Italian wines. The place is joyful and full of energy, just how an Italian family would be.

Their Chicken Parmesan is more likely to be a favorite at your table. The thinly pounded chicken is breaded just right to give it a crunchy exterior, while the inside is still juicy and extremely tender. Covered in housemade tomato sauce and cheese, this is a surefire winner.

Sofia’s Raviolis are scrumptious. Whether you choose their popular Lobster Ravioli or one of the vegetarian options (our favorite – Mushroom Ravioli with a hint of truffle), you will be jubilant.

If you’re a risotto kind of person, their Funghi Risotto will get your seal of approval. The addition of white truffle oil does create magic in the creamy risotto.

What to order: Chicken Parmesan, Lobster Ravioli, Mushroom Ravioli, Funghi Risotto

Address: 143 Mulberry Street, New York, NY 10013

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 10. Parm

Photo credits: Parm

An Italian diner and sandwich chain from the famous Mario Carbone and Rich Torrisi, Parm is an affordable option from their otherwise fancy food empire. Owing to its name, the restaurant serves a bomb Chicken Parmesan, and extensive Italian-American fare in a hip, diner-like place.

You can have your Chicken Parm here as a sandwich or with spicy rotini pasta (Chicken Parm Dinner), and it will taste good both ways.

Parm’s Baked Ziti deserves a standing ovation! It is unbelievably cheesy and is layered to perfection so you get a complete bite of the pasta, cheese, and sauce every time. The best part – since they always serve the corner piece, you get a crisp-edged slab of this deliciousness.

This place also has one of the best turkey sandwiches – The Slow Roasted Turkey. The meat is always moist and flavorful and has a beautiful herby flavor. With shredded fresh lettuce, tomato, and spicy mayo, this is an accurate representation of a perfect turkey sandwich.

Don’t forget to try their Ice Cream Cake; classic or s’mores, you’ll enjoy it!

What to order: Chicken Parm Sandwich, Chicken Parm Dinner, Baked Ziti, The Slow Roasted Turkey sandwich, Ice Cream Cake

Address: 248 Mulberry Street, New York, NY 10012

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11. Rubirosa

Photo credits: Rubirosa

A neighborhood Italian-American restaurant, Rubirosa features the founder’s 57-year-old family recipes, and the restaurant is well-known for its legendary thin crust pizzas. The homey and comfortable environment is ideal for family-style group dining, and casual lunch and drinks with friends.

Now, before you get all excited and order one of Rubirosa’s classic pies, you need to try their colossal Meatballs. Made with a medley of beef, pork, and veal, the meatballs are fresh and homemade and taste spectacular in the hearty tomato sauce.

If you’d like to make your dish more filling, you could add Meatballs with their Spaghetti alla Chitarra.

Moving on to their world-class pizzas, our favorites are definitely the Classic and Vodka. While the former is made following a 60-year-old family recipe, the latter is a well-made instant favorite.

The Lumache alla Vodka is homemade rigatoni in vodka sauce. This is a dish that not only looks mad good but tastes even better.

The icing on the cake – Rubirosa’s Tiramisu – light, not too sweet, and decadent.

What to order: Meatballs, Spaghetti alla Chitarra with Meatballs, Classic pizza, Vodka pizza, Lumache alla Vodka, Tiramisu

Address: 235 Mulberry Street, New York, NY 10012

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12. Pasquale Jones

Photo credits: Pasquale Jones

Wood-fired food, Neo-NY style pizza, and an extraordinary wine program” – that sums up pretty much what Pasquale Jones is all about! This exceptional restaurant, with its open kitchen, excellent service, and elegant setting, has an upscale yet relaxed vibe.

The Littleneck Clam Pizza is a standout dish from their menu. With a thin, chewy, and smoked crust, topped with fresh clams with cream and broccoli rabe, this pizza could surprise you in a good way.

Of course, you could go classic and enjoy the beautifully done Margherita, or take the pasta route and try the Sunchoke Tortelli, an interesting but extremely tasty flavor combination of hazelnut, sage, and balsamic.

Warm Braised Leeks – if you thought leeks aren’t synonymous with delicious, you’d change your opinion after tasting this dish. The leeks have a good tang to them, which cuts the richness of the braising sauce, and the toasted walnuts add crunch and texture.

What to order: Littleneck Clam Pizza, Margherita Pizza, Sunchoke Tortelli, Warm Braised Leeks

Address: 187 Mulberry Street, New York, NY 10012

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If New York’s culinary landscape has always been intriguing to you, as it is to us, you should look over our best restaurants in New York page for some enthralling recommendations.

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