The Italian restaurant in America has changed in style probably more than any other genre of restaurant over the past several decades. Even as recently as 50 years ago, the term "Italian restaurant" conjured images of red and white-checkered tablecloths, carafes of middling chianti, and a red sauce-heavy menu with classics like chicken Parmigiana that were more Italian-American than authentic Italian. Then something interesting happened: People got bored, and a new breed of Italian restaurant came onto the scene, able to rival even the highest-end French dining rooms. And if you love Italian food, these cities have the highest concentration of great Italian restaurants than any other American cities.
What were our classifications for an "Italian restaurant," exactly? A prevalence of Italian or Italian-inspired dishes on the menu, of course. We were OK with pizzerias; we were also OK with restaurants that are Italian-inspired, like San Francisco’s Quince. A great Italian restaurant has many of the same standards that make any restaurant great: impeccable, un-snooty service; high-quality food sourced from the finest purveyors; creative-yet-classic preparation and craftsmanship; and an overall experience that leaves you happy and content in the fact that you just ate a world-class meal.
To assemble this ranking, we started by looking at restaurants that made it to our list of the 50 Best Italian Restaurants in America, which was itself compiled from restaurants that have made it into our rankings of the 101 Best Restaurants in America, the Best Casual Restaurants in America, and the 101 Best Pizzas in America, which we release annually. The steps we took to build those rankings were as thorough and comprehensive as possible: We recruited an illustrious panel of judges that included some of the country’s top food writers, critics, and bloggers to submit their suggestions, which we supplemented with our own choices, including previous years’ rankings as well as lauded newcomers. These lists of hundreds of restaurants were then built into surveys that were sent out to more than 300 panelists, who voted for their favorites.
From cities that are home to legendary Little Italys chock-full of old-school neighborhood joints to ones that are at the forefront of cutting-edge Italian dining, these are the best cities for Italian food in America.