With a reported 18,696 restaurants in Manhattan alone, deciding where to enjoy a meal in New York City is no easy task. But if Italian food is what you’re craving, the obvious answer is to head to Little Italy.
Little Italy is a neighborhood in lower Manhattan known for its large population of Italians as well as the San Gennaro Festival-a large street fair held during the last two weeks of September and great Italian food. Mulberry Street between Broome and Canal Street is especially well known for its delicious Italian restaurants.
Deciding where to have the best authentic Italian meal in Little Italy is a next to impossible decision. For the most extensive menu in the area, try Casa Bella. The staff has been the same since 1979, they have daily specials and all their food- including the pasta- is made in house.
Walking into Casa Bella is like walking into a restaurant in Italy. The hosts and servers are gruff, no-nonsense kind of people dedicated to providing customers with a pleasant dining experience. From May to October they offer dining on their patio as well as their three dining rooms. The wine list is large and reasonably priced and the martini list includes, of course, a Soprano Martini. The authentic and plentiful Italian appetizers include bruschetta, calamari, pasta e fagioli soup and steamed clams in garlic and white wine sauce. The list of entrees is mostly Italian classics like tortellini and ravioli but also includes fresh fish, free range chicken dishes, veal and steak.
Casa Bella has received mixed reviews online for their service and the fact that the server’s gratuity is automatically added to the check. Rest assured, the wait staff is very attentive and will never let your wine glass go empty. Gratuity is normally added to checks in Italy and while the servers may not be grinning from ear to ear, they will ensure your food is cooked to order and done in a timely manner. The homemade fettuccini Alfredo is so delicious, creamy and piping hot, you’ll be eager to pay the tip included with the reasonably priced meal.
After dinner, walk up Mulberry Street to Caffe Palermo where you’ll likely be greeted by the Cannoli King himself, John Delutro. Born and raised in Little Italy, John opened Caffe Palermo in 1973. The dessert menu at Caffe Palermo is extensive and impressive, but don’t miss a chance to try one of John’s famous cannolis. They truly are, like their signs say, the best cannolis on planet Earth. They also go perfectly with a glass of the house red wine.
The best part of Caffe Palermo is that you don’t have to go to Little Italy to enjoy the treats. All of their desserts, which include homemade tiramisu, cappuccino cake and chocolate mousse cake, are available for delivery. The atmosphere at Caffe Palermo makes the trip worthwhile, however. No matter what time of day it is, there are always plenty of happy people enjoying delicious cannolis.
For a nightcap, check out The Monday Room on Elizabeth Street, an intimate wine bar with over 60 wines by the glass. You’ll be greeted by your own personal wine steward who will be sure to recommend the perfect wine for you. The comfortable leather seats and quiet atmosphere make it possible to have a good conversation while you enjoy your wine. Just don’t drink too much or you’ll stumble back to Caffe Palermo and buy all of John’s cannolis.
What & Where:
Casa Bella (127 Mulberry St; 212-431-4080; www.casabellarestaurant.com)
Caffe Palermo (148 Mulberry St; 212-431-4205;
The Monday Room (210 Elizabeth St; 212-343-7011)
Jessica Lee is a freelance writer who was born and raised in Central Washington. She lives in North Idaho and travels whenever possible.