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The Casual Italian Restaurant Guide

If you want to eat Italian food in New York City, you can have it pretty much any way you want. You can have an expensive tasting menu, you can have a slice of pizza, and you can have pretty much anything in between. And it's that in between we find so many people most interested in. Here, we're specifically discussing the casual, neighborhood Italian spot. Not the place where your pasta will be topped with truffles, but the reliable places you can share spaghetti with your date, or roll in with a group of eight and not blow $80 on dinner. Red tablecloths and cheap bottles of red wine ahead.

The Spots



East Village
545 E. 5th St.

There are a lot of good, simple Italian restaurants in the East Village, and Lavagna is one of the best. Compared to its peers, the crowd is a little older and the food is generally also a little better. The service can be harsh, but in just the right way.


Malatesta Trattoria

649 Washington St

Every time we mention Malatesta, someone inevitably says, "Oh, I love that place!" Located on a corner on Washington Street in the West Village, Malatesta has a great outdoor seating situation, but the cozy, brick-walled inside is also the kind of place you'd want to hide out in the winder. The menu is short and simple - pastas, salads, and a few protein options.


Noodle Pudding

38 Henry St

Ridiculous name aside, there are a few reasons people come to this spot on the DUMBO/Brooklyn Heights border, and one of those reasons is the $15 bottle of the house Merlot. Yes, bottle. The other reasons are the welcoming vibes and quality food.



1486 2nd Ave

Uva is the ultimate Upper East Side second date spot. It has the brick wall and chandeliers thing going on, as well as an excellent outdoor patio.

Photo: Ryan Muir


55 E Houston St

Ballato's is located right in Nolita, on Houston & Mott, is beloved by celebrities, and serves very good, well-priced Italian food. You'd think this place would be totally overrun, but instead it's pretty laid back and filled with a relatively random mix of people. It's classic New York in the best way.


We probably send people to Lil Frankie's more than we send them almost anywhere else. Not because it's the best restaurant in town, but because it's one that works so well for so many day-to-day situations: a casual catch up, brunch, a big group dinner, or even a date. And the food - pasta, thin crust pizzas, some vegetables - is reasonably priced and always satisfying. It looks small from the outside, and there's always a crowd, but there are actually a number of smaller rooms in the back, meaning you'll usually get a table without too long a wait



753 Washington St

Another one of those far-west West Village places that people love to think of as “their place.” And we don’t blame them: this restaurant is “cute,” fun, and serves nice takes on the usuals (pizza, pasta, branzino, et al.) that don’t cost too much.


Da Tommaso

903 8th Ave

A midtown-specific casual Italian joint, this one’s worth knowing about for pre-theater or a post-office building bowl of pasta. With classic red booths and prices mostly under $20, keep it in mind for when your aunt takes you to see Book Of Mormon, or something.



East Village
88 2nd Ave.

The older sibling to Lil Frankie’s, and the original in the Frank Prisinzano empire of downtown casual Italian restaurants. It’s small and tight, but the food and vibe are always spot on.


Out in Astoria, Trattoria L’Incontro is a ridiculous place: the waiters wear ear pieces, and everything is over the top. The restaurant is basically what you’d imagine Little Italy in Long Island to be. This also means it’s a lot of fun.



102 Berry Street

A casual Italian go-to in the Carroll Gardens area. There’s nothing incredibly notable about this place, but that’s the point – and the food is always fresh.



102 Berry St.

One of the actually-good restaurants right by DisneyBrooklyn’s main entrance gate: the Bedford L stop. Like many of the restaurants on this list, this is a good spot for a casual dinner or date. There’s plenty on the menu, but the handmade pastas are where it’s at. Sadly, Oregano’s no longer BYOB, but the back garden makes up for it.

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