New York is one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the world and its melting pot of cultures has created an incredibly exciting and dynamic food scene. At the beginning of the 20th century, the city welcomed a large number of Italians, the majority of whom were fleeing rural poverty in Southern Italy. But the mark these Italian have made on American culture is far from poor. Today the nation’s fifth-largest ethnic group, Italians’ generous spirit is reflected in New York’s huge number of Italian eateries serving hand-made pasta, melt-in-the-mouth ragùs and tempting confections.
Eataly NYC Flatiron, 5th Avenue
Enter a bustling Italian marketplace which is as much a feast for the eyes as for the stomach. Wooden crates piled high with radiant fruits and vegetables, shelves lined with dried artisan pasta and sauces, a line up of fantastic restaurants showcasing quality produce and a cooking school where you can learn how to make stunning Italian dishes at home. I was a kid in a candy store.
There’s a restaurant for every occasion. Sabbia brings the Italian seaside to the rooftops of NYC, offering craft birra, regional Italian wines and classic cocktails, alongside a bruschetta bar and oyster boat. Perch at a high table at La Piazza for wine and antipasti from the surrounding counters serving everything from cured meats and cheeses to fresh seafood and breads. Modelled on a typical Italian city square, it’s where old friends gather and new friends are found. Each of the four restaurants that occupy the four corners of the market specialise in a different aspect of the food spectrum; meat, fish, vegetables, and pizza and pasta. After a full day wandering the avenues of New York, a hearty plate of pasta would be the perfect cure, so we found ourselves a table at La Pizza & La Pasta.
Advised by our waiter, I chose the papardelle with slow-cooked short rib ragù ($21), which he suggested I pair with a well-rounded and fruity Pinot Noir ($22). Apart from my utter shock that a glass of wine could cost more than a plate of pasta (welcome to New York!), the meal was faultless. The hand-cut ribbons of fresh pasta lacked uniformity of width that was charming, and just enough sauce coated each piece, allowing the pasta to remain the star of the show. Come here for classic pasta done right.
Eataly NYC Flatiron
200 5th Ave,
T: +1 212 229 2560
Open 9:00-23:00 Mon-Sun
Giovanni Rana, Chelsea Market
Chelsea Market in New York’s famous Meatpacking district is one of the most trafficked food halls in the world, attracting six million visitors each year. Formerly the home of the National Biscuit Company and the birthplace of the Oreo cookie, fifteen years ago, this red brick block was transformed into a vibrant marketplace with a global perspective. It houses an artisanal bakery, farmers’ meat stall, taco stall, sushi joint and even a wine cellar.
Italy is represented by the King of Tortellini, Giovanni Rana, whose pasta is now internationally recognised. To date, my experience of Giovanni Rana’s pastas has been from the supermarket shelves. While even the brand’s packaged pastas are a treat, nothing beats fresh pasta, cooked perfectly al dente and served with an extra helping of carbs; waxy, olive-oil doused focaccia to sponge up any remaining sauce.
After much deliberation faced with every possible kind of pasta shape, including an extensive selection of filled pastas – there’s wholewheat pumpkin, creamy aubergine, meaty bolognese and classic ricotta and spinach – I chose the lobster ravioli and a simple pomodoro sauce and a generous dusting of chalky Parmesan.
Giovanni Rana Pastificio & Cucina, Chelsea Market
75 9th Ave,
T: +1 212-370-0975
Open 11:00-23:00 Mon-Thurs; 11:00-00:00 Fri & Sat; 11:00-22:00 Sun
Gelso & Grand, Little Italy
Looking for a sunny spot for afternoon nibbles and wine? Gelso & Grand has a fantastic wine list, as well as unusual, but delicious, cocktails, such as its twist on an Aperol spritz which features botanical gin, zesty lime and fresh mint ($14). To pair with these inventive cocktails, Gelso & Grand proposes its equally unique takes on classic Italian bites, such as a bone marrow and black garlic bruchetta ($11), melt-in-the-mouth pea, pecorina, basil and mint arancini ($10), or mixed olives marinated in preserved lemon, earthy rosemary and oregano ($7).
At the heart of New York’s Little Italy, the restaurant is surrounded by pizzerie, gelato stands and red, white and green bollards. But look up, and the red brick buildings and iron fire escapes are unmistakably New York. It’s the definition of Italian-American.
Gelso & Grand
186 Grand St,
T: +1 212-226-1600
Open 11:00-00:00 Sun-Wed; 11:00-01:00 Thurs; 11:00-02:00 Fri & Sat