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  • Lisa7367

7 Cozy Places In NYC For Best Value Italian Food

Updated: Jan 26, 2022

You know you're a real foodie when you take photos of food and of yourself eating!

Over five weeks while I was attending a writing intensive at New York University in June, I lived on Mulberry Street with hundreds of Italian restaurants within walking distance. During that time, I ate at 27 restaurants (mostly Italian), mainly in the Nolita, Little Italy, Greenwich Village neighborhoods of the city. I sought out quality, value and a cozy atmosphere.

Recently in January, I returned to New York City and noticed that restaurants were not as busy or crowded compared to the summer months. After speaking with some restaurant managers, this appears to be due to a spike in pandemic concerns.

But with Restaurant Weeks and special discounts, running through February 13, and obvious COVID protocols, it's a good time to patronize restaurants, dine in or take out!

But don't forget your vaccine cards if you plan to eat indoors. You can still eat outside too (without vax card) since most restaurants have the outdoor patio huts (I've eaten at several heated ones). Here's my list, based on my experience of great food, service, quality, value and an authentic cozy atmosphere. The discounts are reflective of my experience so I recommend checking the restaurant websites for current Restaurant Week offers.

1. LA LANTERNA DI VITTORIO, 129 MacDougal St., West Village.

This place was recommended to me by one of my photography clients in NYC and was just a three minute walk from my New York Univeresity classroom building. I went for lunch and sat in the cozy back enclosed patio (open year-round), which felt like a trattoria I visited in Italy.

I ordered the Chicken Foccia Panini which came with a robust mixed green salad, all for just 14.50! The sandwich was so large, I saved half for dinner.

With several fireplaces and dark wood interior, there's an old-world, romantic charm to this place. There's also live jazz at the place next to it: Bar Next Door.

Expect a wide array of salads, pizzas, lasagna (various ways with the "Lasagna Flights"), panini, desserts, specialty coffee drinks and a full bar/wine menu.

I didn't need a reservation for lunch but you may for dinner.

2. RISOTTERIA MELOTTI, 309 East 5th Street, East Village

Here you can get 100% gluten-free authentic risotto served a variety of ways. It's Italian comfort food at its finest!

Owned and operated by the Melotti Family who also have two other restaurants in Italy (one in Rome and one in Verona), the East Village location is the only one in the U.S. The high quality Melotti Rice is grown at the family's farm in Isola della Scala in Verona, Northern Italy.

With its exposed brick walls, wooden tables and chairs, and open kitchen, this small restaurant almost feels like I was in my family's kitchen in Sicily.

I've been here twice. The first time I ordered the risotto with shrimp, basil, sundried tomatoes and romano cheese. The second time I ordered the "Spinaci E Asiago Ricetta Di Mamma Rosetta" (named after its founder): risotto with spinach, asiago cheese and granda Padano cheese, from the original recipe of Mamma Rosetta Melotti.

Most dishes are about $20. Friendly staff, authentic food and a cozy atmosphere, I already feel like a regular here. More information and menu at

3. FRANK RESTAURANT, 88 2nd Ave., East Village

On New Year's Day, I went here solo on a return trip back to the city. I sat in the enclosed outdoor patio, which most restaurants have now since the start of COVID.

On this super cold day, I wanted something warm and wholesome so I ordered the "Fava & Cicoria Pugliese Specialty." First comes the bread (that tastes like my great-grandmother's homemade) and a dish of olives. The full meal (21.95) is served on a big platter which sits a deep bowl of the pureed fave soup with cooked dandelions on top, surrounded by large seasoned roasted vegetables of broccoli, fennel, string beans and roasted tomatoes.

The only time I remember having a similar entree was when I was in Tuscany.

A simple meal but one that was so tasty and fulfilling, I will return to the restaurant to order the same thing the next time I'm in New York.

4. DA GENNARO, 129 Mulberry St., Little Italy

If you only eat one big meal a day (like me), you can get your fill here. I went on a Saturday and had one of the lunch specials ($25; less on weekdays) including salad, bread, chicken francaise, pasta and dessert. They also do a brunch special for about $14.

In the summer, I sat in what I thought was the best table in the house which is part inside and part outside on a corner overlooking a busy area of Mulberry and Hester St. I sat for a couple hours in this comfortable rustic place and although a very busy afternoon, the staff didn't rush me out even though I was trying to discreetly take video of myself eating!

There's a full menu with Italian specialities like homemade gnocchi, spaghetti bolognese and much more including vegan and gluten-free options. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

5. IL CORALLO TRATTORIA, 176 Prince St., South Village.

On my way to class one day, I decided to try out this place which I just googled a couple minutes beforehand to find a lunch special. I was so impresssed with all the food you got for just $11.95! With your lunch entree, you have a choice of soup or salad. I got the lentil soup with my entree: Insalata di Pollo (a salad of grilled marinated chicken, roasted red peppers, endive, argulaa, black olives, viniagrette). In addition to salads, there's many lunch specials to choose from (paninis, pastas, etc.) at the same price.

There's unique Italian dishes on this menu, and service was excellent despite how busy they were on this weekday afternoon (it appeared that others definitely knew about the lunch specials, available 11:30a-4p).

6. RUBIROSA, 235 Mulberry St., Nolita

I ate here a few times since it was just across the street from the AirBnB where I was staying. It was constantly packed with a waitline, a good sign. Delivery guys with large pizza boxes were scurrying out onto their delivery bikes.

I had the Rubirosa Salad with grilled chicken that was definitely one of the best salads I ever had. The large heaping bowl of fresh argula, tomato, shaved mozzarella and pickled onions plus the large portion of just grilled chicken was the perfect meal to fill me up on a hot summer day.

It's a family-run establishment inspired by a 57 year-old recipe with many traditonal favorites including handmade pasta. I was able to get a small table on the outdoor patio because I went before the main dinner crowd but otherwise you'll need a reservation! Salads start at $15, small pies at $23 and dinners range plus there's "Lasagna for 2!"

7. PARISI BAKERY & DELI, 198 Mott St., Little Italy (also 290 Elizabeth St., original bakery). Not a restaurant, only take-out here and cash only. I have to say, it lives up to the hype. When I arrived around lunchtime, there was a line out the door of people waiting to enter the small space that cranks out very large sandwiches.

It's known too for what was Frank Sinatra's favorite place for bread.

I had the eggplant parm sub and was full on half of the delicious masterpiece. There's also just something special about simple, authentic and nostalgic (the place oozes it as soon as you approach it).


SAN MARZANO - Pasta Fresca, East Village

COCO PAZZO, West Village

LA NONNA, Little Italy

LA MELA, Little Italy

PARM, Nolita

CARMINE'S (family-style!), Theatre District

EATALY, (plan to spend hours on tastings, shopping, and comparing pestos & olive oils) Flatiron and Downtown


SERGIMMO ALUMERIA Subs & Sandwiches (various locations)

PIZZA is always a great value!

BEN'S PIZZA, West Village. The perfect sweet-sauced Sicilian slice, $4.

RAY'S PIZZA, East Village (other locations throughout NYC). If you're in NYC, your visit is not complete unless you try a slice at Ray's Pizza (many varieties; locations).

LOMBARDIS, Little Italy. America's First Pizzeria.




CAFFE PALERMO "The Cannoli King," Little Italy. Italian desserts galore & of course the prized cannoli!

CAFFE ROMA, Little Italy. This busy corner is best experienced from the patio or window seat inside).

FERRARA'S, Little Italy. The first espresso bar in the U.S.

Cookies, cakes, torrone and more!

MO GELATO Little Italy. Only place I found brioche and gelato, outside of Sicily!

PASTICCERIA ROCCO, Greenwich Village. Pistachio and almond cookies (pictured) and other traditional treats.

Food Tour Video Here:

Follow me on instagram for more of my travels and foodie tours @lisasjourney7


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