Palena is known as much for the cheeseburger on the caf menu as for the more elegant, seasonally driven food that is served in the dining room. After a stint as the White House chef, it was an interesting move for chef-restaurateur Frank Ruta to set his restaurant in Cleveland Park, far away from the glitzy, lobbyist-packed K Street dining scene. Though the restaurants dining room offers sophisticated menu items like a guinea hen ballotine, the caf really shines as a low-key neighborhood spot, turning out a simple roast chicken from the wood-fired oven and homey pasta dishes like spaghetti with cauliflower, pine nuts, and egg.
Piero Selvaggio opened Valentino 40 years ago, in 1972, when L.A. Italian dining meant spaghetti with red sauce and veal parmigiana. He was in no small part responsible for changing how not just California but all of America looked at (and ate) the cooking of his native land. By sourcing the best products from both California and Italy, building a wine list (Italian and otherwise) that is one of the most comprehensive in the country, and serving both classic and imaginative Italian food with consummate skill, Selvaggio created an enduring gastronomic landmark.
Husband-and-wife owner-chefs George Germon and Johanne Killeen received the Insegna del Ristorante Italiano from the Italian government, a rare honor for Americans, attributable to their informed passion for pasta along with their invention of the grilled pizza. They also, though, aim the culinary spotlight on Rhode Island's defining vegetables corn, squash, beans, and tomatoes prepared simply, with the authentic Italian panache one would expect of multiple James Beard honorees.
Decades before the likes of Mario Batali and Michael White brought about the most recent wave of the popularity of fine Italian dining, Tony Mantuano taught Chicagoans how to enjoy refined Italian fare at Spiaggia. Taking a cue from its name, which means "beach" in Italian, the food and dcor at the restaurant are inspired by the coast. Mantuano has won countless accolades for his accomplishments at Spiaggia, including a James Beard Award for Best Chef of the Midwest in 2005. The restaurants executive chef, Sarah Grueneberg, gained national recognition this year as a contestant on the most recent season of Top Chef.
A few years ago, Mario Batali said Michael White deserved more praise than hed been getting, noting that this Wisconsin-born chef was someone who probably even "makes love like an Italian too, defo [sic] better than me." No longer hurting for praise, White has, with Osteria Morini, taken the opportunity to show off some of the food that means the most to him. In Italy, an "osteria" is a place where the owner "hosts" guests. And at Morini, the host draws on his experience in Emilia-Romagna, where he worked under chef Valentino Marcattilii for seven years. Amid the terra-cotta floors and timbers from a dismantled, Italian 1700s-era farmhouse, White serves cured sliced meats, crostini, antipasti, at least 12 different types of pastas, and fish and meat entres that show off the soulful cuisine of the region.
Say Roberta's is in the new class of restaurants that has fanned the flames of the Brooklyn vs. Manhattan debate, call it a great pizza joint, recall it as a frontrunner of the city's rooftop garden movement, and mention that Carlo Mirarchi was recently named a Best New Chef by Food & Wine, and you'd still be selling it short. Roberta's is in Bushwick six stops out of Manhattan on the L, and its one of the city's best restaurants. Bushwick! The Neapolitan pies are at the high end of the debate about which are the city's best, but pizza isnt even the point. Theres a hard-to-reserve tasting menu, great dishes (sweetbreads, foie gras, octopus), fantastic pastas (tagliatelle with squid ink, mussels, and sea urchin), and a brined, pan-roasted Red Wattle pork chop the citys best rendition. Bushwick!
If you want to discuss the loaded topic of America's best pizza with any authority, you have to make a pilgrimage to this legendary New Haven spot. What should you order at this checklist destination? Two words: clam pie. This is a Northeastern pizza genre unto its own, and Pepe's is the best of them all freshly-shucked, briny littleneck clams, an intense dose of garlic, olive oil, oregano, and grated cheese atop a charcoal-colored crust. The advanced move? Clam pie with bacon. Just expect to wait in line if you get there after 11:30 a.m. on a weekend.
Chef Andrew Carmellinis rustic Italian tavern, located in the Greenwich Hotel in Tribeca, serves up delicious food from morning until late at night. Dont miss pastry chef Karen DeMascos delicious baked treats, or any of the pastas on the menu. Youre in for a real treat if you land a seat at Trufflepalooza, Carmellinis three-course menu consisting entirely of the beloved ingredient, thats offered one night a year.
Flour + Water is a great neighborhood spot on the corner of Harrison and 20th, but its also just a great restaurant. Owners David White and David Steele (longtime Mission residents) and Thomas McNaughton, their 2011 James Beard finalist for Rising Star Chef, call pasta their focus, and it's excellent and unusual (where else will you find tajarin with brown butter-braised giblets and chiles?). But they also serve some of the countrys best Neapolitan pizza, including a textbook Margherita (heirloom tomatoes, basil, fior di latte, and extra-virgin olive oil) and a spicy Salsiccia (tomato, sausage, gaeta olives, smoked caciocavallo cheese, and chile).
Having earned a coveted four-star rating in The New York Times (the first Italian restaurant to do so since 1974), Joe Bastianich and Mario Batali's temple of contemporary Italian fine dining ranks in a class of its own. In a space that is both luxurious and remarkably comfortable, executive chef Mark Ladner, with the help of pastry chef Brooks Headley, serves dishes that build on the classics with a true innovative spirit, and get this theyve created a database of videos showing how to make dishes at home.
Since Serious Eats founder and pizza maven Ed Levine named Pizzeria Bianco's the best pizza in America, this desert classic has become a go-to destination for pie fanatics. Bronx-born owner Chris Bianco created this restaurant to serve not only addictive thin-crust pizzas but also fantastic antipasto (involving wood oven-roasted vegetables), perfect salads, and homemade country bread. Reservations are accepted only for six or more, so be prepared to wait (though the wait is slightly more bearable now that theyre open for lunch).
In this little jewel box of a place, chef Marc Vetri offers diners sophisticated, hand-crafted Italian and Italianate specialties (squid ink linguine with crab and sea urchin, almond tortellini with truffle fonduta, crisp-skinned roast baby goat), served with precision and grace.
One of the most original and consistently wonderful upscale Manhattan restaurant newcomers in recent memory, this very handsome restaurant on the site of the old San Domenico specializes in exquisitely fresh fish and shellfish in Italian-inspired preparations (crostini with lardo and sea urchin, fusilli with octopus and bone marrow) by skilled chef Michael White.
While Mario Batali certainly made headlines this year, Babbo stayed a New York essential. What can you say about this place that hasn't already been said? The pasta! That pork chop! Mario Batali is a genius! Rock music in a fine dining restaurant? Brilliant! At this longtime darling of the critics, after almost 14 years, you're still at the mercy of the reservation gods if you want to get in buona fortuna.
Nancy Silverton, whose La Brea Bakery changed the game for artisanal bread in America, teams up here with New York-based Italian-food moguls Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich in this lively urban restaurant, complete with a mozzarella bar, unusual pasta (calfs brain ravioli, spaghetti with marinated white anchovies), and main dishes ranging from sea trout with lentils to grilled pancetta-wrapped quail. In 2011, Mozza pastry chef Dahlia Narvaez was named a James Beard Award finalist.