Here are the 10 best Italian restaurants for 2018.
Note: Most dishes mentioned are samples of the restaurants’ menus and may not be available at all times. Seasonal changes and dish substitutions are common.
Autentico (124 South St., Oyster Bay): Chef Francesco Percoraro's tables hold place cards citing regions of Italy. He completes your tour with an array of ever-changing dishes listed on a handwritten menu. The Sicilian chef truly make this spare, handsome spot, with its white and off-white hues and pressed-metal ceiling, a taste of Italy and the Mediterranean coast. Among the courses you may find are diverting spaghetti with black garlic and Manila clams; vibrant spaghetti with tuna sauce and capers; and homey baked anellini pasta with eggplant, sausage, and Gorgonzola sauce. Sea bream arrives with a napoleon of zucchini and pine nuts. Carrot flan accompanies branzino-and-shrimp "meatballs." Panelle, or chickpea fritters, are complemented by gently scrambled eggs and Grana Padano cheese. Mostarda di Cremona, the sweet-spicy preserved fruit, enriches a board of cured meats and cheeses. Brioche filled with gelato is an ideal finale. Actually, it would be grand all day. Stracchino cheese mousse with honey and caramelized nuts: sensational. Autentico seats about 40 diners. Plan ahead. More info: 516-922-2212, autenticooysterbay.com
Stracchino cheese mousse is one of the desserts served at Autentico in Oyster Bay.
Casa Rustica (175 W. Main St., Smithtown): Casa Rustica has been welcoming very satisfied diners for more than 30 years. The décor and the menus have changed subtly over the decades. But Mimmo and Benedetto Gambino's restaurant has kept the quality, in food and service, at a very high level. There's plenty of variety, whether you're ready for delicately stuffed zucchini blossoms or meatballs with fresh ricotta; grilled octopus salad or salad of fennel and oranges; classic lasagna Bolognese or evocative pasta con le sarde; lush bucatini carbonara or spaghetti puttanesca. You can be sure that the ravioli of the day will be terrific. And this is your destination for lobster risotto and lobster either oreganata of fra diavolo. The seafood showstopper: whole branzino baked in a salt crust, finished with lemon, parsley, mustard, and tomato concasse. The pristine veal chop Milanese is rivaled by the hearty pork chop packed with sausage, broccoli rabe, and mozzarella, and capped with hot cherry peppers, mushrooms, and onions. Beef braciola is all you'd want it to be. Desserts are led by Italian pastries and a grand zabaglione with berries. More info: 631-265-9265, casarustica.net
Octopus Salad is served at Casa Rustica in Smithtown.
Franina (58 Jericho Tpke., Syosset): If you've been searching for a traditional, elegant Italian restaurant free of Instagram-mania and meal-long cellphone photograph sessions, serene and inviting Franina is your spot. Under the Zitoli family, Franina has matured gracefully since 1980. It doesn't mean that the kitchen pays no attention to the calendar. But Franina isn't seeking the trend del giorno. So, select the luxurious seafood salad sporting lobster, shrimp, scallops, and calamari; and the expertly grilled octopus with white beans. Specials such as cotechino sausage with lentils and tripe with tomatoes and potatoes are country-style winners. Order the full-flavored pappardelle Bolognese, with braised veal sauce; and paccheri, similar to oversize rigatoni, with braised short rib. House-made fusilli excels with almost any sauce. Franina prepares a generous, slightly spicy grilled Kurobuta pork chop with hot cherry peppers, capers, and Roma tomatoes. Osso buco Milanese is a faithful version. The cheese board features Parmesan, Gorgonzola, Pecorino Romano, and fruits. Zabaglione with berries: the essential dessert. More info: 516-496-9770, franina.com
Lobster with Shellfish fra diavolo is served at Franina in Syosset.
Naples Street Food
Naples Street Food (970 Hempstead Tpke., Franklin Square): From the outside, this tiny pizza shop on Hempstead Turnpike looks like any other on Long Island. It's actually home to unapologetically authentic Neapolitan-style pizza that we believe is the best on Long Island. The exquisite craftsmanship is work of Gianluca Chiarolanza, an Italian born and trained pizzaiolo, who managed to ship his wood-burning oven from Naples to Franklin Square. The oven is the centerpiece of the shop he owns with his Long Island-born wife, Aurora Pagnozzi. We have yet to have a bad pie here. Start with the D.O.C., a classic pizza that, here, is made with crushed tomatoes, imported buffalo mozzarella and basil. From there, expand your horizons with the anchovy topped Napoli, the Funghetto (Mozzarella, sautéed eggplant, Italian ham, basil and black pepper) and the Don Fa (Tomato sauce, mozzarella, mascarpone, speck and rosemary). And don't rule out equally well made salads, calzones and sandwiches made from pizza dough, romantically dubbed panozzi. More info: 516-673-4630, naplesstreetfood.net
Porchetta panozzi is served at Naples Street Food in Franklin Square.
Nick & Toni’s
Nick & Toni's (136 N. Main St., East Hampton): Nick & Toni's is the hottest reservation in the Hamptons. It has been for decades. And N&T's continues to be the celebrity magnet of the East End, Hollywood to Broadway to Washington D.C. But the brightest star unquestionably is Joseph Realmuto, who has made the cuisine stellar. Instead of looking for boldface diners, you'll be focused on his sparkling, seasonal dishes. But order a year-rounder: penne alla vecchia bettola, in spicy, oven-roasted tomato sauce. And twirl tagliatelle with spring lamb ragu; revel in spring-lamb agnolotti with sweet onion and prosciutto; scoop up cavatelli nero, with calamari and tomatoes; smile after tasting ricotta gnocchi with peppers, green onion, and Fontina cheese, Realmuto sends out tasty little pizzas, too. His seared scallops, with lemon risotto; domestic Wagyu strip steak with wood-roasted carrots and salsa verde; and wood-roasted whole fish with roasted beets and Sicilian pistachios are exceptional. And praise for pastry chef Rachel Flatley's sweets. You'll be partial to zucchini chips, watermelon salad, Major desserts take in a chocolate pot de crème, flourless almond torte, roasted local peach with sorbet and meringue, blueberry-mascarpone tart, rhubarb napoleon, and a malted milk-chocolate ice cream sundae. More info: 631-324-3550, nickandtonis.com
A vegetable-and-goat cheese terrine is served at Nick & Toni's in East Hampton.
Orto (90 N. Country Rd., Miller Place): Cozy and countrified, Eric Lomando's Orto fills the niche for refined Italian cuisine in the hamlet of Miller Place and all of central Suffolk. He's a chef driven by the market and the season, with some New American accents. Many memorable meals follow in his cash-or-check only, BYOB establishment, which has a country-like style and very flavorful food. Start with his good bread, seasoned fresh ricotta, and sundried tomato tapenade. He may offer a rich duck liver mousse with orange marmalade. Arancini, or rice balls, are stuffed with Bolognese sauce. Pappardelle also deftly goes Bolognese. So does lasagna. His bucatini veers full-bodied all'Amatriciana. Potato-and-ramp soup heartily welcomes the season, as does fusilli with lamb ragu. Garganelli with pork-shoulder ragu succeeds anytime. Saffron risotto is especially fine with seasonal vegetables. Lomando's eggplant Parmigiana underscores why the Italian-American favorite keeps popular. Braised pork braciola and sautéed duck with sour-sweet cherries are full-bodied treats. Also, consider the juicy roasted chicken with leek bread pudding and mushroom jus. Warm doughnuts with chocolate sauce, New York-style cheesecake, sorbets, gelati -- pick any. More info: 631-473-0014, restaurantorto.com
Salmon with roasted leeks and garden peas is served in a carrot ginger broth at Orto in Miller Place.
Piccolo Mondo (1870 E. Jericho Tpke., Huntington): Piccolo Mondo opened in 2005. Chef Steven Del Lima makes it new. Del Lima, whose Long Island credentials include the departed Perfecto Mundo Latin Fusion Bistro in Commack and the ongoing Black & Blue Seafood Chophouse in Huntington, has sparked the traditional, dependable Italian restaurant with New American accents, turning the pretty modest, strip-mall spot into a dining destination. Del Lima's baked clams arrive uncommonly light and deftly seasoned; his flash-fried calamari, tender and almost airy. Sauteed baby artichokes Milanese: boosted by whipped goat cheese and mandarin orange jam. Pappardelle in a creamy, veal ragu locally revives the surname Bolognese. And Del Lima's tomahawk-style veal chop Parmigiana deftly updates the Italian-American favorite. His brined Berkshire pork chop ignited with cherry pepper jus rivals it. A special of crisp soft-shell crabs turns tropical with grilled pineapple, toasted coconut, and a coconut-lime vinaigrette. Buttery, pan-seared Alaska halibut swims in on a bed of grilled local corn, sweet potato, and asparagus pearl couscous. The house-made, warm, cinnamon-sugar dusted bombolini, akin to square doughnut holes, are fine solo or dipped in strawberry preserves. The "small world" delivers big flavors. More info: 631-462-0718, piccolomondoli.com
Tomahawk veal chop Parmesan is served at Piccolo Mondo in Huntington.
Scarpetta Beach (290 Old Montauk Hwy., Montauk): The transformation of Gurney's Inn to Gurney's Montauk Resort & Seawater Spa has been dramatic and stylish, nowhere more than in the landmark's main dining room. Gone are the ship's wheel, marine kitsch, and fare that peaked with steamed lobster. Oceanfront Scarpetta Beach changes everything. Choose subtle crudo, whether yellowtail or red snapper. Enjoy polenta with a fricassee of truffled mushrooms. Sample farro risotto with seasonal vegetables. And savor some of the best pastas on Long Island: black tagiolini with a seafood ragout; duck-and-foie gras ravioli, glistening from a Marsala reduction; lobster tagliatelle with asparagus and tomato; English pea mezzaluna with preserved lemon and mint. Then consider black cod with caramelized fennel, seared scallops with sweet corn and morels, or Pecorino Romano-and-herb crusted lamb loin. Finish with coconut panna cotta, limoncello semifreddo, pineapple-and-ginger granita, espresso budino with biscotti and hazelnut gelato, and another espresso as you follow the waves. More info: 631-668-1771, scarpettarestaurants.com/montauk
Seared scallops are served with peas, morels and tarragon at Scarpetta Beach in Montauk.
The Trattoria, St. James: Chef Steven Gallagher makes this tiny restaurant in the back of a building stand out like a skyscraper. Inventive, seasonal, and truly a find, his establishment is irresistible. He bought Kitchen A Trattoria, where he cooked, for Eric Lomando of Orto. It's a no-credit card restaurant, and BYOB. A corkscrew will be on your table. Gallagher's food shines, whether you're sampling sea scallops with black garlic aioli and grilled ramps or braised meatballs atop polenta, pappardelle Bolognese or bucatini carbonara, lasagna Bolognese of asparagus risotto. His red-wine braised beef, or brasato, on polenta; roasted pork loin with farro verde and rhubarb agro-dolce; eggplant Parmigiana; and halibut with carrot puree, roasted asparagus, pea shoots all excel. Likewise, saffron malloreddus with Gulf shrimp, spinach, and tomato confit. Gallagher's desserts are delicious, from the black-and-white crème brûlée and lemon-scented cheesecake to rose-poached rhubarb shortcake with pistachios. The Trattoria offers a five-course tasting menu and 3- and 4-course fixed price menus. More info: 631-584-3518, thetrattoriarestaurant.com
A two-tier vanilla and chocolate creme brulee is served at The Trattoria in St. James.