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America’s 50 Best Italian Restaurants by The Daily Meal

Posted by: Claudia | January 21st, 2017 | No Comments »

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The Daily Meal:
“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. From a playful Boston landmark with seven varieties of homemade bread to a Philadelphia institution where the chef customizes a menu for each guest, we’ve rounded up the 50 best Italian restaurants in America.

#50 RESERVOIR TAVERN
92 Parsippany Blvd, Boonton, NJ 07005; (973) 334-0421; https://therestavern.com
Tucked away on a quiet side street near the Jersey City Reservoir in sleepy Boonton, New Jersey, is the Reservoir Tavern, serving some of the state’s finest brick oven pizza and Old World Italian fare since 1936. Run by the Bevacqua family since day one, this no-frills bar and dining room commands a lengthy wait every night of the week. While the chicken Française, fried calamari, lasagna, homemade sausage and peppers, and shrimp fra diavolo are all basically flawless, it’s the pizza that you’ll find on every table, and that put it on the map: The crust is thick, crisp, and chewy, the sauce is tangy, and the cheese is ample, and it all comes together to form a stunning pie unlike any other you’ll ever encounter.

#49 DENINO’S PIZZERIA AND TAVERN
524 Port Richmond Ave.; Staten Island, NY 10302; (718) 442-9401; http://deninossi.com
Residents of the Forgotten Borough have long known what the rest of the city, and more recently the country, are just beginning to understand: When it comes to pizza, Staten Island doesn’t play around. And Denino’s has led the charge since 1951, when Carlo Denino took over the tavern his Sicilian father John Giovanni opened in 1937. After his father passed away, Carlo introduced pizza at the tavern, and locals have been ordering bar pies and downing them with pitchers of beer ever since. A third generation of Denino’s runs the operation these days (and opened a second spot, in New Jersey), and they keep pulling in regulars for their sweet Italian sausage pie, with sausage tossed in chunks over a light, pliant crust.

#48 TRATTORIA MARCELLA
3600 Watson Rd. St Louis, MO 63109; (314) 352-7706; http://trattoriamarcella.com
St. Louis has no shortage of great Italian restaurants, but ask any local what their favorites are and Trattoria Marcella will invariably be on everyone’s short list. In business since 1995, owners Steve and Jamie Komorek are serving stunning takes on traditional Italian fare like mortadella meatballs, toasted chestnut Roman-style gnocchi, toasted ravioli, chicken spiedini, pork osso buco, and braised veal tortelloni. The restaurant is homey and welcoming, the food is delicious, and nothing on the menu costs more than $24.

#47 ZERO OTTO NOVE
2357 Arthur Ave (at E 186th St), Bronx, NY 10458; (718) 220-1027; http://www.roberto089.com
For many New Yorkers, Arthur Avenue is a storied area of the Bronx where, supposedly, it’s possible to find the “authentic” Italian food no longer available at the Chinatown-encroached tourist traps of Little Italy. Whether or not you believe that the Italian Shangri-La matches the perception, Salerno native chef Roberto Paciullo is one of the driving forces behind this legend. The success of his first spot, Roberto’s, led to the pizzeria Zero Otto Nove (”0-8-9″), which was named for Salerno’s area code (Salerno being the port city about a 45-minute drive south of Naples), which has a second location in New York’s Flatiron District and a third in Armonk. The Neapolitan wood-fired pies cook under 900-degree heat for about 45 seconds, and they are exemplary. We can vouch for almost the entire menu, which includes pies with Gorgonzola and tomatoes; sliced potatoes and sausage; and the more adventurous Cirilo, which features butternut squash purée and cream of truffles. But start off with the Margherita, which features a tangy, balanced sauce and a crust that’s light and a little chewy — far too good to leave behind as pizza bones.

#46 PATSY’S PIZZERIA
2287 1st Ave (btwn E 117th & E 118th St), New York, NY 10035; (212) 534-9783; http://www.thepatsyspizza.com
Some would say that this is the only existing place where you can get a proper and authentic coal-oven slice in the universe, given that its founder Pasquale “Patsy” Lancieri supposedly opened Patsy’s after working with the godfather of New York City pizza, Gennaro Lombardi. True or not, this 1933 East Harlem original can claim pizza heritage most only dream of, and was reportedly one of Sinatra’s and DiMaggio’s favorite joints. Still, the original location is one of the most underrated and un-hyped pizza classics in the city. It’s a curious thing, given the history and quality, though there are some caveats. The pizza at Patsy’s is unusually thin, and relatively short compared to many other New York slices — you could easily scarf down six slices while standing at the counter. That’s what you’ll want to do, by the way.

#45 FIOLA
678 Indiana Avenue NW (entrance on Indiana Ave NW); Washington, DC 20004; (202) 628-2888; http://www.fioladc.com
Chef Fabio Trabocchi and his upscale Penn Quarter trattoria Fiola have both won too many awards to mention here, and the reason is obvious: Just look at the menu, which changes daily based on what’s fresh and in-season. Sample menu items include porcini cappuccino with foie gras, bucatini and tiger prawn, pine smoked venison cacciatore, lightly grilled branzino with oysters and caviar, and Nova Scotia lobster ravioli. Can’t decide on what to order? Opt for the $125 tasting menu, which comes with five courses and dessert.

#44 PARM
248 Mulberry St (btwn Prince & Spring St); New York, NY 10012; (212) 993-7189; http://www.parmnyc.com/location/mulberry-street
When Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone opened the now-shuttered Torrisi Italian Specialties in 2009, serving sandwiches by day and an inexpensive tasting menu by night, they likely had no idea what a phenomenon it would become. The place blew up immediately, with lines out the door on a nightly basis, and in 2011 they opened a small annex next door called Parm, focused just on sandwiches. And what sandwiches these are. Their humble turkey sandwich has been praised by many as the city’s best, meatballs are brilliantly in patty instead of ball form, and the chicken parm sandwich is, hands down, the best in the country. There’s nothing too crazy about this sandwich. It’s simply made using only the highest-quality, freshest ingredients, all put together with a very deft hand. The sandwich starts with a freshly baked, soft round semolina roll from nearby Parisi Bakery. The bottom gets a layer of long-simmered tomato sauce, and a freshly fried chicken cutlet gets placed atop that, then another spoon of sauce. Fresh mozzarella is melted on top, and it’s finished off with a few leaves of fresh basil. And that’s it. It’s served in a waxed paper-lined basket, and tastes just like the chicken parms you’ve always eaten. Except it’s just better. Today it’s expanded to three locations, as well as a stand that happens to serve hands-down the best food in Yankee Stadium.

#43 TOTONNO’S
1524 Neptune Ave (btwn W 15th & W 16th St.), Brooklyn, NY 11224; (718) 372-8606; http://www.totonnosconeyisland.com
By all accounts, Totonno’s shouldn’t exist anymore. Consider first that it was opened in Coney Island in 1924 (by Antonio “Totonno” Pero, a Lombardi’s alum). Then factor in the fire that broke out in the coal storage area, ravaging the entire place, in 2009. Add to that insult the destruction and subsequent rebuilding costs (some reported $150,000 in repairs) incurred in 2012 during Hurricane Sandy, when four feet of water destroyed everything inside the family-owned institution. You’ll probably agree that Brooklyn (and the country) should be counting its lucky stars that Totonno’s is still around. And yet Totonno’s is so much more than “still around.” It doesn’t just keep a storied pizza name or nostalgia for simpler times alive. Owners Antoinette Balzano, Frank Balzano, and Louise “Cookie” Ciminieri don’t simply bridge our modern era’s festishization of pizza to the days of its inception at Lombardi’s. The coal-fired blistered edges, the spotty mozzarella laced over that beautiful red sauce… this is how you make pizza.

#42 MOTORINO
349 E 12th St (at 1st Ave), New York, NY 10003; (212) 777-2644; http://www.motorinopizza.com
Some spaces are cursed. Others? Blessed. When Anthony Mangieri shuttered Una Pizza Napoletana at 349 East 12th St. and headed west, Mathieu Palombino took over the lease, renamed the space Motorino, and the East Village pizza scene hardly skipped a beat. Motorino offers a handful of spirited pies, including one with cherry stone clams; another with stracciatella, raw basil, and Gaeta olives; and the cremini mushroom with fior di latte, sweet sausage, and garlic. But contrary to every last fiber of childhood memory you hold dear, the move is the Brussels sprouts pie (fior di latte, garlic, Pecorino, smoked pancetta, and olive oil). Along with locations in the East Village and Williamsburg, Palombino has also opened locations in Hong Kong, Manila, and Singapore.

#41 UNA PIZZA NAPOLETANA
210 11th St (at Howard); San Francisco, CA 94103; (415) 861-3444; http://www.unapizza.com
When Anthony Mangieri, pizzaiolo for the East Village’s Una Pizza Napoletana, closed in 2009 “to make a change,” move west, and open somewhere he could get “a chance to use his outrigger canoe and mountain bike more often,” it was the ultimate insult to New Yorkers. You’re taking one of the city’s favorite Neapolitan pizzerias, defecting to a temperate climate, to people who denigrate New York’s Mexican food? So you can canoe and mountain bike? Traitor! Good for Mangieri, and good for San Franciscans who, with Una Pizza Napoletana, inherited one of the country’s best Neapolitan pies (if only Wednesday through Saturday, 5 p.m. until they’re “out of dough”).
There are only five pies, all $25, plus a special Saturday-only pie, the Apollonia, made with eggs, Parmigiano-Reggiano, buffalo mozzarella, salami, extra-virgin olive oil, basil, garlic, sea salt, and black pepper. But when you’re this close to godliness, you don’t need extras. Keep it simple with the Margherita (San Marzano tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, extra-virgin olive oil, fresh basil, sea salt, tomato sauce) and know the good.

#40 DI FARA
1424 Avenue J (at E 15th St) Brooklyn, NY 11230; (718) 258-1367; http://www.difara.com
Domenico DeMarco is a local celebrity, having owned and operated Di Fara since 1964. Dom cooks both New York and Sicilian-style pizza for hungry New Yorkers and tourists willing to wait in long lines, and brave the free-for-all that is the Di Fara counter experience. Yes, you’re better off getting a whole pie than shelling out for the $5 slice. Yes, it’s a trek, and sure, Dom goes through periods where the underside of the pizza can trend toward overdone, but when he’s on, Di Fara can make a very strong case for being America’s best pizza. If you want to understand why before visiting, watch the great video about Di Fara called, The Best Thing I Ever Done. You can’t go wrong with the classic round or square cheese pie (topped with oil-marinated hot peppers, which you can ladle on at the counter if you elbow in), but the menu’s signature is the Di Fara Classic Pie: mozzarella, Parmigiano-Reggiano, plum tomato sauce, basil, sausage, peppers, mushroom, onion, and of course, a drizzle of olive oil by Dom. And with Dom’s sons Michael and Dom Jr. stepping in to make the pies on certain days when 80-year-old Dom isn’t feeling up to it, the next generation is being groomed for greatness.

#39 BALENA
1633 N Halsted St (btwn Willow St & North Ave), Chicago, IL 60614; (312) 867-3888; http://balenachicago.com
There aren’t too many restaurants where all the pastas, including the dried varieties, are made in-house, but that’s what they’re doing at this Chicago must-visit, and the end result is nothing short of stunning. Potato gnocchi with mushrooms and Parmigiano-Reggiano; orecchiette with kale and lemon crema; tagliolini nero with crab, sea urchin, and mint; and Sardinian gnocchi with walnut pesto and chard are some of the pasta dishes on offer; other menu standouts include lamb meatballs, salt and pepper chicken thighs, a 36-ounce Prime porterhouse with whipped lardo and porcini mustard, and a wide variety of hearth-fired pizzas.

#38 FRANK PEPE
1955 Central Park Ave Yonkers, NY 10710; (914) 961-8284; http://www.pepespizzeria.com
If you want to discuss the loaded topic of America’s best pizza with any authority, you have to make a pilgrimage to this legendary New Haven pizzeria. Frank Pepe opened his doors in Wooster Square in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1925, offering classic Napoletana-style pizza. After immigrating to the United States in 1909 at the age of 16 from Italy, Pepe took odd jobs before opening his restaurant (now called “The Spot” next door to the larger operation). Since its conception, Pepe’s has opened an additional seven locations. What should you order at this checklist destination? Two words: clam pie (”No muzz!”). This is a Northeastern pizza genre unto its own, and Pepe’s is the best of them all — freshly shucked, briny littleneck clams, an intense dose of garlic, olive oil, oregano, and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano atop a charcoal-colored crust. The advanced move? Clam pie with bacon. Just expect to wait in line if you get there after 11:30 a.m. on a weekend.

#37 FLOUR + WATER
2401 Harrison St (at 20th St) San Francisco, CA 94110; (415) 826-7000; http://www.flourandwater.com
Although this San Francisco restaurant claims to specialize in house-made pastas, its pizza is formidable. Baked in a wood-fired oven, the thin-crust pizza at Flour + Water blends Old World tradition with modern refinement, according to chef and co-owner Thomas McNaughton. Pizza toppings vary depending on what’s in season, making each dining experience unique, but Flour + Water’s textbook Margherita is amazing. Heirloom tomatoes, basil, fior di latte, and extra-virgin olive oil… if only the simplicity implied by the restaurant’s name could be duplicated in pizzerias across the country.

#36 ANDREW MICHAEL ITALIAN KITCHEN
712 W Brookhaven Cir Memphis, TN 38117; (901) 347-3569; http://andrewmichaelitaliankitchen.com
Lifelong friends Andy Ticer and Michael Hudman created Italian/Southern U.S. fusion heaven when they opened Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen in a 1940s ranch-style house off Poplar Avenue east of midtown Memphis with some 54 seats, in late 2008. The two chefs credit their grandmothers Catherine Chiozza and Mary Spinosa for their inspiration, but have plenty of culinary pedigree beyond these maternal instrumental familial food memories, old-style Italian recipes, and traditions (there’s a vegetable and herb garden for the restaurant too). You’ll want to try the veal breast with celery root, parsnips, turnips, carrots, spinach soubise, and truffle; maw maw’s ravioli with meat gravy; and the veal agnolotti with tomato braise and lardo.

#35 DAVANTI ENOTECA
1359 W Taylor St Chicago, IL 60607; (312) 226-5550; http://www.davantienoteca.com
Chef–restaurateur Scott Harris is the brains behind the more than 20 Francesca’s restaurants in the Chicago area, but this rustic enoteca, which also has two locations in San Diego, is his masterpiece. Communal tables made from reclaimed wood and bare brick walls create the ideal ambiance for a meal filled with hearty Italian fare, including a wide variety of salumi and cheese; fiendishly delicious truffled egg toast; pastas including expertly prepared cacio e pepe and pork cheek and ricotta Gnudi; and mains like seared day boat scallops with fava beans, pea tendrils, and guanciale. There’s an in-house wine shop, which helps to keep wine prices down (bottles average around $40), and nothing on the menu costs more than $33.

#34 LUCA D’ITALIA
711 Grant St (E 7th Ave) Denver, CO 80203; (303) 832-6600; http://lucadenver.com
“Strictly Italian spoken here,” notes the Luca D’Italia website. “Chefs Frank Bonanno and Eric Cimino execute Sicilian-style meats that are cured in-house; pastas, breads and cheeses made fresh daily, and recipes that change monthly to reflect the finest seasonal ingredients.” This spot in Central Denver named for Bonanno’s son pays homage to the food the chef grew up eating in his mother’s kitchen in New Jersey. A meal can include grilled octopus with borlotti beans and ‘nduja, dill cured salmon with lemon ricotta, tagliatelle lobster fra diavolo, and Barolo-braised bone-in short rib. But if you only have time for one thing, be sure not to miss the pappardelle Bolognese.

#33 STAPLE & FANCY MERCANTILE
4739 Ballard Ave NW Seattle, WA 98107; (206) 789-1200; http://www.ethanstowellrestaurants.com/locations/staple-fancy/
In the Seattle dining scene, Ethan Stowell essentially reigns supreme. He’s opening up new restaurants there all the time, but his most acclaimed eatery, Staple & Fancy, is in a league all its own. There’s an à la Carte menu, but diners are encouraged to pay it no heed and leave their meal in the kitchen’s hands; for $50 per person, they’ll “Do It Fancy,” preparing a four-course family-style meal for your table. What can you expect? Perhaps a wood-grilled whole fish with brown butter, capers, lemon, and fried herbs, or perhaps a bowl of bucatini amatriciana with guanciale, tomato, and pecorino Toscano. Whatever you end up with, you’ll leave fully confident that your dinner was worth far more than $55, and glad that you put it in the kitchen’s hands.

#32 BESTIA
2121 E 7th Pl (at Santa Fe Ave) Los Angeles, CA 90021; (213) 514-5724; http://bestiala.com
Located in an old industrial warehouse in the Arts District of downtown L.A., the only clue tipping diners off to Bestia’s location is its spray-painted name and valet stand in the alley by the main entrance. Inside, Bestia has an upscale urban architectural feel with exposed brick walls, concrete floors, and an open kitchen where chef Ori Menasche (who owns the restaurant with his wife, pastry chef Genevieve Gergis) turns out near-miraculous Italian-inspired creations that have made his restaurant one of L.A.’s toughest reservations since it opened three years ago. Standout menu items include a wide selection of housemade salumi, roasted marrow bone with spinach gnocchetti, pizza with housemade spicy ‘nduja and black cabbage, and spaghetti with lobster and sea urchin.

#31 CARNEVINO
3225 Las Vegas Blvd S (Palazzo Hotel) Las Vegas, NV 89109; (702) 789-4141; http://carnevino.com
Powerhouse restaurant duo Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich + steak + Vegas = greatness. CarneVino, their temple to all things beef in The Palazzo Hotel & Casino, pulls out all the stops, aging their beef for 30 to 60 days (and in some cases, more than a year) — their “BBL beef” is hand-selected and aged by Adam Perry Lang, and rubbed with sea salt, black pepper, and fresh rosemary “to get a delicious and slightly-charred crust” — and these steaks can compete with any other offering, anywhere. This “super prime” beef is developed especially for Batali and Bastianich’s restaurant group, and — oh, yeah — this is a Batali restaurant after all, so the pastas and other menu items certainly don’t get short shrift.

#30 VINCENTI RISTORANTE
11930 San Vicente Blvd (at Montana Ave) Los Angeles, CA 90049; (310) 207-0127; http://www.vincentiristorante.com
Maureen Vincenti’s Brentwood eatery is an old-fashioned Italian classic. This mature (in all the best possible ways) dining room is hitting all the right notes: Accented servers work with flawless proficiency, Maureen herself works the room like a pro, the pleasant light wood and elegant ambiance is relaxing but neither uptight nor sleep-inducing, and through the glass partition is the reassuring sight of chef Nicola Mastronardi, who’s turning out nothing but stellar food. The menu is comforting and classic, with pastas including house-made fusilli with Sonoma lamb ragu and squid ink risotto with lobster and asparagus; wood-burning-oven entrées include their legendary whole roasted Dover sole, sliced New York steak with herb raviolo, and house-made pork sausage with Brussels sprouts and roasted potatoes; and on Monday their thin-crust pizzas are some of the best around.

#29 NOSTRANA
1401 SE Morrison St (SE 14th Ave) Portland, OR 97214; (503) 234-2427; http://nostrana.com
Nostrana is often cited as serving one of Portland’s most authentic Neapolitan pies, and for good reason. The blistered cornicione and thin crust provide scrumptious, beautiful canvases for the hand-made mozzarella the restaurant makes daily. There are eight pies on the menu including standouts like the salumi finocchiona, tomato, provolone, mozzarella, oregano, honey), alla fiamma (tomato, red onion, Mama Lil’s peppers, wild oregano, spicy oil, and black olives), and a vongole bianco with Manila clams and gremolata that defies New Haven tradition by featuring smoked provolone and mozzarella. No matter which pie you order, it’s going to be “served uncut, as is the traditional Italian style.” But chef Cathy Whims’ Buckman restaurant isn’t just about pizza. The delicious antipasti includes mushroom and vermouth soup and steamboat oysters with Limoncello vinaigrette. Pastas like blue prawn ravioli and wood oven-roasted cannelloni Bolognese, and mains like the 40-day dry-aged bistecca alla Fiorentina and grappa-braised pork shoulder are going to make it very difficult to decide what to order.

#28 DAN TANA’S
9071 Santa Monica Blvd (at Doheny Dr) West Hollywood, CA 90069; (310) 275-9444; http://www.dantanasitalianwesthollywood.com
With menu items like “penne arrabbiata a la Michael Kane” (the Canadian actor, not the British one), “fettucini Alfredo a la Mark Singer,” “cannelloni a la Constantino,” “steamed clams a la Rob Lee,” and “Tuna salad a la Nicky Hilton,” you kind of get an idea of the scene at the 52 year-old Dan Tana’s, Los Angeles’ old-school, red sauce institution. This West Hollywood joint owned by Yugoslav-American restaurateur and former professional footballer Dan Tana may not be as exclusive, but this is Hollywood’s version of New York’s Rao’s, another restaurant known more for lore than linguini. And that’s OK, because even as the upscale Italian-American food movement continues to cross the country, there’s something special about treasures like this. Step out of the bright lights of Hollywood and sit down at a table or corner booth in the dimly-lit, seemingly-windowless, red-walled dining room, take a look around for Nicky and Michael, and enjoy the ride. Just keep in mind you’re more likely to see bad comb-overs than big celebrities.

#27 OSTERIA
640 N Broad St Philadelphia, PA 19130
The more casual, trattoria-like offshoot of Vetri, Osteria is a big, lively place where the pizzas are terrific (try the octopus and smoked mozzarella) and the cooking is homey but first-rate, with items like mafaldine with beef and porcini ragu to spit-toasted duck with pomegranate and treviso. Homey and inviting, since opening in 2007 it’s racked up countless accolades, including a 2007 James Beard Award for Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic for its chef, Jeff Michaud.

#26 IL POSTO
2011 E 17th Ave (at Race St) Denver, CO 80206; (303) 394-0100; http://www.ilpostodenver.com
Il Posto means, “The Place” in Italian, and chef and owner Andrea Frizzi has largely backed up his contention that his breezy spot in City Park West is hot ― it’s routinely mentioned as one of the city’s best Italian restaurants for years now. Frizzi, originally from Milan, imports many Italian ingredients, incorporating them into a seasonal menu that changes on the chalkboard each day — “Cooking in the present,” he calls it. “It can be a rainy day, sunny and dry, or windy, or snowing — we as people react differently with the weather, so too with food.” Ah, Italians… poetry. And he may be right, but most don’t react differently to Frizzi’s food, especially his risotto, so don’t miss it.

#25 SCAMPO
215 Charles St Boston, MA 02114; (857) 241-1150; http://www.scampoboston.com
James Beard Award-winning chef Lydia Shire is one of Boston’s most legendary chefs, and her restaurant, Scampo, is one of the best Italian restaurants you’ll ever dine at. While Italian at heart, Shire isn’t afraid to incorporate a tandoori oven or brick chicken au xeres into the mix, and the menu is fun and playful. Handmade breads come in seven varieties. There’s a full “mozzarella bar” with heirloom tomatoes and basil; prosciutto and warm black truffle gougere, black radish, and pineapple crema; beef carpaccio and fried artichokes; king crab; and warm burrata with carrot risotto in pastry (just opt for the mozzarella tasting, you know you want to). Spaghetti comes topped with cracklings and hot pepper and pizza is topped with white clam and bacon. Entrées include very crisp, slow-cooked half duck; veal scallopine with Marsala fino and scamorza “puffs;” Berkshire pork rack and crisped belly. It’s one of those menus where literally everything looks delicious… but we’ll be waiting for Friday night, when the special is roast suckling pig.

#24 BISTRO DON GIOVANNI
4110 Howard Ln (Hwy. 29) Napa, CA 94558; (707) 224-3300; http://bistrodongiovanni.com
Usually when you talk about the warmth and hospitality of a restaurant, you’re talking about the service, a smile from a waiter, the right thing said at the right time with the perfect lilting tone, and obviously how the food tastes and makes you feel. And you get all of that at Bistro don Giovanni in Napa Valley. At Bistro don Giovanni, there is also the physical warmth of fireside dining — there are two traditional wood-burning fireplaces, one in the enclosed terrace and one in the main dining room. But the heart of the restaurant, the true warmth emanating from Bistro don Giovanni, which has been delighting visitors for 20 years, has always come from co-owners Donna and Giovanni Scala. Donna’s tragic death of a brain tumor in 2014 leaves a void (she ran the kitchen, he runs the front of house), but her spirit lives on at the restaurant. The menu features simple pizzas and pastas, sustainably-farmed local fruits, vegetables, and organic meats.

#23 PIZZERIA BIANCO
623 E Adams St (in Heritage Square) Phoenix, AZ 85004; (602) 258-8300; http://www.pizzeriabianco.com
“There’s no mystery to my pizza,” Bronx native Chris Bianco was quoted as saying in The New York Times. “Sicilian oregano, organic flour, San Marzano tomatoes, purified water, mozzarella I learned to make at Mike’s Deli in the Bronx, sea salt, fresh yeast cake, and a little bit of yesterday’s dough. In the end great pizza, like anything else, is all about balance. It’s that simple.”
Try telling that to the legions of pizza pilgrims who have made trip to the storied Phoenix pizza spot he opened more than 25 years ago. The restaurant serves not only addictive thin-crust pizzas but also fantastic antipasto (involving wood-oven-roasted vegetables), perfect salads, and homemade country bread. The wait, once routinely noted as one of the longest for food in the country, has been improved by Pizzeria Bianco opening for lunch, and the opening of a second location in the historic Town & Country Shopping Center (about 10 minutes from the original). There’s also a third location now open in Tucson. This is another case where any pie will likely be better than most you’ve had in your life (try the Rosa with red onions and pistachios!), but the signature Marinara will recalibrate your pizza baseline forever: tomato sauce, oregano, and garlic (no cheese).

#22 OLIVETO
5655 College Ave (at Shafter) Oakland, CA 94618; (510) 547-5356; http://www.oliveto.com
With acclaimed chef Paul Bertolli at the helm, Oliveto was considered by many to be the best Italian restaurant in the United States for many years before he left to start Fra Mani in 2005 and the restaurant began to coast on its reputation. But all that changed in 2010, when Jonah Rhodehamel took over. The menu he introduced was vibrant and soulful, and since then Oliveto has returned to be a major player in the scene. The menu changes daily, but always features unexpected local fare like pan-roasted Monterrey Bay sardines (with fregola) and Santa Barbara sea urchin (with spaghetti in tomato sauce), and purveyors are always listed on the menu. At Oliveto you’ll try dishes and flavor combinations that you’ve never experienced before that are at once familiar and completely unique, and you’ll be very glad that you did.

#21 DELFINA
3621 18th St (Guerrero St) San Francisco, CA 94110; (415) 552-4055; http://www.delfinasf.com
Owners Craig and Anne Stoll helped usher in a new era for the Mission district when they opened the groundbreaking Delfina in 1998, and while the four pizza-focused offshoots may garner (slightly) more attention at the moment, the original remains as legendary as ever. Fresh pastas, including chicken agnolotti with lemon-chive burro fuso, pappardelle with Liberty duck sugo, and spaghetti with a simple tomato sauce are the claim to fame, but other dishes including grilled Monterey Bay calamari and roasted chicken with king trumpet mushrooms and olive oil mashed potatoes are exemplars of Northern California cuisine.

#20 CAFE JUANITA
9702 NE 120th Pl (at 97th Ave NE) Kirkland, WA 98034; (425) 823-1505; http://www.cafejuanita.com
Located in a mid-century house near the Juanita Beach Park in Kirkland, chef-owner and 2008 Best Chef: Northwest James Beard award-winner Holly Smith’s neighborhood spot Cafe Juanita focuses on Northern Italian cuisine. The menu changes frequently, “but always includes an eclectic mix of meats and seafood, illustrating the commitment to fresh, bold dishes that most often utilize organic products.” Sweetbread ravioli with Madeira, rabbit with pancetta and porcini, risotto al Barolo, and Ligurian silk handkerchief with sun choke and egg yolk are just some of the delicious items you’ll find on menu at this 30-seat restaurant that, from the outside at least, more resembles someone’s home.

#19 ROBERTA’S
261 Moore St (at Bogart St) Brooklyn, NY 11206; (718) 417-1118; http://www.robertaspizza.com
With all the development and gentrification along the L line in Brooklyn that has happened since Roberta’s opened in January 2008, the great Brooklyn vs. Manhattan restaurant debate seems quaint, and it’s almost difficult to remember there was a time when this great joint was considered a trek.
OK, so Bushwick may not be on the average New Yorker’s rotation, but if not part of the city’s pizza old guard, Roberta’s is without question a member of New York’s pizza icons, one that has inspired other great pizzerias. The appellations of Carlo Mirarchi’s pizzas have ranged from echoing schoolyard slang to literary references and clever puns. No matter whether you choose the Cheesus Christ (mozzarella, Taleggio, Parmigiano-Reggiano, black pepper, and cream), the Scrivener (buttery Melville cheese — Herman Melville, after all, wrote “Bartleby, the Scrivener” — along with chevrotin, spinach, double garlic, and Calabrian chiles), the classic Margherita (tomato, mozzarella, and basil), or the Famous Original (tomato, mozzarella, caciocavallo, oregano, and chiles), you’re guaranteed a chewy cornicione and an exemplary neo-Neapolitan pie.

#18 SPIRITO’S
714 3rd Ave Elizabeth, NJ 07202; (908) 351-5414
If you’re from a certain part of Northern New Jersey, there’s about a 100 percent chance that you’ve heard of Spirito’s, and an equally good chance that you’ve been there. Owned and operated by the Spirito family since it opened in 1932, the dim, wood-paneled Spirito’s is a restaurant where time — and the menu — stands still. Crowds gather nightly for three equally legendary menu items: ethereally light homemade ravioli, swimming in marinara; veal parm that’s so big it doesn’t fit on the plate it’s served on; and, of course, the pizza. A thin, crisp crust, an oregano-heavy sauce, and just the right amount of cheese make this pizza one that mercifully won’t fill you up after a slice or two, even if you top it with sausage and pepperoni (which you should do). That’s a good thing, because you’re going to want some ravioli, too. And that veal Parm. A couple of things to know before going: It’s cash-only, and you have to bring your own butter for the bread. Why? Because that’s the way it is.

#17 COTOGNA
490 Pacific Ave (at Montgomery St) San Francisco, CA 94133;
(415) 775-8508; http://cotognasf.com
Chef Michael Tusk’s Quince offers a refined, modern Italian and French-inspired menu. But Quince’s adjoining Jackson Square sister restaurant Cotogna just shows another great side of the same chef, something mirrored in the spot’s name. Cotogna, which means “quince” in Italian, is a casual spot that harbors a more rustic menu featuring spit-roasted and grilled fish and meats, homemade pastas, and wood-oven pizzas that change daily. Don’t miss pastas like strozzapreti cacao e pepe, foie gras tortelli, and perhaps most important, the raviolo di ricotta with fresh farm egg and brown butter. Notable also are the Sunday Suppers, a four-course $55 menu that changes every week (with special menus for holidays).

#16 DOMENICA
123 Baronne St New Orleans, LA 70112; (504) 648-6020; http://www.domenicarestaurant.com
John Besh is a master of Creole cooking, but at Domenica, located in New Orleans’ Roosevelt Hotel (home of the original Sazerac), he’s proving that he’s also got a knack for Italian fare, and is giving it his own unique kick. In this casual and elegant high-ceilinged dining room, James Beard Award-winning chef Alon Shaya (who recently opened up a stunner of his own) is serving eight pizzas, including the Calabrese (tomato, spicy salami, mozzarella, capers, olives), Smoked Pork (smoked pork shoulder, mozzarella, red onion, Anaheim peppers, salsa verde), and Tutto Carne (salami, bacon, fennel sausage, pork shoulder, yard egg). There’s also a wide variety of house-cured meats, pastas including stracci with oxtail and fried chicken livers, and entrées that include a whole roasted Gulf fish with tomatoes, olives, chile, and garlic. Make sure you save room for desserts like banana cake with bananas, crema cotta mousse, and peanut brittle.

#15 COSTA DI MARE
3131 Las Vegas Blvd S (at Wynn Las Vegas) Las Vegas, NV 89109; (702) 770-3305; http://www.wynnlasvegas.com/Dining/FineDining/CostaDiMare
When Paul Bartolotta’s excellent and beloved seafood palace Bartolotta Ristorante di Mare abruptly closed its doors last October, only to reopen the next day with a new name (Costa di Mare) and a new chef (Michael Mina alum Mark LoRusso) at the helm, customers had a right to be apprehensive. Thankfully, they had nothing to worry about. Forty varieties of fresh fish are still flown in daily from Italian coastal waters and served whole, live langoustines in four sizes are still a menu centerpiece (ranging in price from $30-$45 apiece), fresh pastas are still stunningly delicious (try the oven baked spaghetti with shrimp, spiny lobster, clams, mussels, scallops, and flying squid), the menu still changes daily based on what comes in, and prices are still astronomical. It’s a bit strange to think that what’s quite possibly the best seafood restaurant in the country is located in the middle of the dessert, but hey, that’s Vegas for you.

#14 AL FORNO
577 S Main St Providence, RI 02903; (401) 273-9760; http://alforno.com
Husband-and-wife owner-chefs George Germon and Johanne Killeen received the Insegna del Ristorante Italiano from the Italian government, a rare honor for Americans, attributable to their informed passion for pasta along with their invention of the grilled pizza. They also, though, aim the culinary spotlight on Rhode Island’s defining vegetables — corn, squash, beans, and tomatoes — prepared simply, with the authentic Italian panache one would expect of multiple James Beard honorees. Sadly, George passed away last year, but his flagship invention, grilled pizza, is still influencing chefs around the world, and Al Forno still serves the definitive version.

#13 AL DI LÀ
248 5th Ave (at Carroll St) Brooklyn, NY 11215; (718) 783-4565; http://www.aldilatrattoria.com
When chef Anna Klinger and husband Emiliano Coppa opened the Venetian-inspired Al di Là on Park Slope’s Fifth Avenue in 1998, it was located on a sleepy thoroughfare perhaps best known for its wide variety of bodegas, and most Manhattanites wouldn’t have even considered heading out to Brooklyn for a meal. But by the time then-New York Times critic Frank Bruni got around to giving the trattoria two stars in 2006, it was widely regarded to be the neighborhood’s best restaurant, packing in crowds every night and anchoring a burgeoning restaurant row on the now-thriving avenue. Klinger’s moderately priced menu of home-style antipasti, pastas, and braised and grilled meats rarely changes despite plenty of nightly specials, and that’s for a good reason: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

#12 MAREA
240 Central Park S (at 59th St & Broadway) New York, NY 10019; (212) 582-5100; http://www.marea-nyc.com
When it opened, Marea was immediately acclaimed as one of the most original and consistently wonderful upscale Manhattan restaurants in recent memory. This very handsome establishment on Central Park South, in a sunny dining room that long housed San Domenico, specializes in exquisitely fresh fish and shellfish in Italian-inspired preparations by skilled chef and restaurateur Michael White. Try the crostini with lardo and sea urchin, which caused waves of buzz at the time and has since become one of the city’s “checklist” dishes, or the fusilli with octopus and bone marrow.

#11 LL BUCO ALIMENTARI & VINERIA
53 Great Jones St (btwn Lafayette St & Bowery) New York, NY 10012; (212) 837-2622; http://www.ilbucovineria.com
For almost 20 years, Il Buco has been one of New York’s most appealing Italian restaurants, serving unpretentious, savory food based on first-rate American and Italian ingredients. In late 2011, the proprietors opened this more casual sister restaurant — a loose translation of Alimentari & Vineria is “food shop and wine bar” — and it’s so lively, with such vivid, hearty food, that it has all but overshadowed the original. Chef Josh DeChellis took over as executive chef late last year, and he’s serving a menu of hearty and comforting dishes including Calabrian pork sausage with broccoli rabe and braised rabbit, pork cheek with beluga lentils and giardiniera, ricotta Gnudi with hazelnuts and parsley, salt-baked whole branzino, and porchetta with dried cherry mostarda. The bread basket may cost two whole dollars per person, but it’s a steal.

#10 SPIAGGIA
980 N Michigan Ave (at Oak St) Chicago, IL 60611; (312) 280-2750; http://www.spiaggiarestaurant.com
Decades before the likes of Mario Batali and Michael White reimagined fine Italian dining, Tony Mantuano taught Chicagoans how to enjoy refined Italian fare at Spiaggia (“beach” in Italian). Mantuano has won countless accolades, including the 2005 James Beard Award for Best Chef in the Midwest, and Spiaggia was named Best Italian Restaurant in Chicago by The Daily Meal in 2015. Reopening after a 2014 redesign (its first since 1999), the restaurant has 50 percent more seats with views, a new lounge, and a floor-to-ceiling glass-enclosed, temperature-controlled wine room showcasing 1,700 of Spiaggia’s nearly 5,000 bottles. The new restaurant menu follows the traditional Italian courses of antipasto, pasta, secondi, and dessert, but with almost entirely new dishes (the potato gnocchi with ricotta did made the transition). One thing that hasn’t changed is Spiaggia’s ability to delight diners. If you can’t make up your mind on what to order, there’s a seven-course tasting menu for $95 and a new 13-course extravaganza for $160.

#9 CARBONE
181 Thompson St (btwn Bleecker & W Houston St) New York, NY 10012; (212) 254-3000; http://carbonenewyork.com
Menus wider than your chest. The tile floor from The Godfather. Waiters… er, “captains” hired for pure theater. A vision for the up scaling of all of New York’s greatest Italian-American restaurants and a devotion to centralizing their cultures and atmospheric conventions. Carbone is a restaurant that New York, with all its storied tradition of great Italian culture (think Mamma Leone, Il Mulino, and Don Pepe), has been waiting for decades. It just didn’t know it.
At this joint venture between chefs Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone and their partner, Jeff Zalaznick, pastas thrill. Consider the linguine vongole, the spaghetti puttanesca, and one of the best renditions of rigatoni vodka you’ll ever have (spicy, too!). The lobster fra diavolo, pork chop and peppers, and cherry pepper ribs are all fun. You have to appreciate a place that takes seriously the idea of up scaling Italian-American classics like chicken scarpariello and veal parm. And there are nice touches to end the meal: a modern art carrot cake and homemade Limoncello, for example. But be forewarned: This place is expensive.

#8 CHI SPACCA
6610 Melrose Ave Los Angeles, CA 90038; (323) 297-1133; http://chispacca.com
Chi Spacca (“he who cleaves” in Italian) heralds its Food & Wine description of being a “meat speakeasy” with good reason — it’s a great appellation. This, after all, is a Silverton-Batali-Bastianich restaurant where accompaniments like warm salted medjool dates and Puglia burrata and prosciutto are just sideshows for the rest of this meat-centric menu. Chef Ryan Denicola’s menu highlights a $220 50-ounce prime, dry-aged porterhouse bistecca Fiorentina and a 36-ounce, $150 prime, dry-aged bone-in New York costata alla Fiorentina. And according to the Los Angeles Times’ restaurant critic Jonathan Gold, the only reason why there isn’t an 80-ounce steak on the menu is “because it was pointed out that $350 was probably more than anybody was willing to spend on a piece of meat, no matter how spectacular, and that none of the tables in the restaurant seated enough people to actually finish the thing.” Despite all that, it would be unfair not to note that Chi Spacca isn’t about excess, but meat artistry. You could challenge yourself to discover someone more committed to the nuance and deliberation of charcuterie, but you’d be hard-pressed to find many equals to Chi Spacca’s approach.

#7 VALENTINO
3115 Pico Blvd Santa Monica, CA 90405; (310) 829-4313; http://valentinosantamonica.com
For more than 40 years, Piero Selvaggio’s Santa Monica landmark Valentino has set the standard for Italian fine dining in America. He served real Italian pastas and things like radicchio and balsamic vinegar when they were exotic in this country; he absorbed the inspirations of the nuova cucina and modernized his menu without losing touch with the homeland; he survived earthquakes and economic downturns and the onslaught of new, hip places that could have pushed his restaurant into the Boring Old Standby category — but didn’t. Today, he is increasingly turning back to Italian regional cooking — especially that of Sicily, where he comes from, and Sardinia, birthplace of chef Nico Chessa. Yes, you can have prosciutto and melon or spaghetti alla carbonara here, and they’ll be impeccable, but why not try the crudité di pesce (Italian “Suchi” marinated with citrus and colatura di alici, a kind of anchovy syrup), the lasagne della nonna (grandmother’s lasagna) with mushroom and duck ragù, or the veal Ossobuco with risotto Milanese? The wine list is one of the largest and richest in America, and service is perfect.

#6 FRASCA FOOD & WINE
1738 Pearl St (17th) Boulder, CO 80302; (303) 442-6966; http://www.frascafoodandwine.com
In the Friuli region of northeastern Italy, a frasca is a roadside farm restaurant, serving simple regional food. Frasca Food & Wine captures the spirit of these venues while also championing the vast diversity of Colorado’s unique culinary resources, and it very well might be the finest restaurant in all of Colorado. Owners Bobby Stuckey and Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson have created a warm and inviting space that can accommodate an impromptu dinner or an evening of fine dining. They offer a unique menu that includes salumi and cheeses along with dishes including cured grouper cheek with ricotta and mint, rye flour gnocchi with pork ragu and cauliflower, and guinea fowl with farro and carrot. Just be sure that you don’t miss the frico caldo, a crispy pancake of potatoes, onions, and Piave cheese — a Friulian specialty.

#5 OSTERIA MOZZA
6602 Melrose Ave (at Highland Ave) Los Angeles, CA 90038; (323) 297-0100; http://osteriamozza.com
Osteria Mozza is a really good restaurant. And no wonder, right? It only represents the teaming up of Nancy Silverton (whose La Brea Bakery changed the game for artisanal bread in America) and New York-based Italian-food moguls Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich in a lively L.A. setting. There’s a mozzarella bar with some dozen options; a menu that includes fantastic (and sometimes unusual) pasta, like goat cheese ravioli with “five lilies,” meaning five members of the allium family; calf’s brain ravioli with butter and lemon; and squid ink chitarra with Dungeness crab and sea urchin; and main dishes ranging from grilled quail wrapped in pancetta with honey and sage to porcini-rubbed rib eye bistecca.

#4 QUINCE
470 Pacific Ave (at Montgomery St) San Francisco, CA 94133; (415) 775-8500; http://quincerestaurant.com
Quince offers a refined, modern Italian and French-inspired menu. Located in a historic brick and timber building dating back to 1907 in San Francisco’s Jackson Square neighborhood, the Michelin-starred restaurant is both charming and elegant. Chef and owner Michael Tusk, who won the 2011 James Beard Award for Best Chef in the Pacific, creates a dining experience rooted in his relationships with a tightly knit network of only the best Northern Californian food purveyors. Typical dishes include steelhead trout with watermelon radish, dill, and buckwheat; brodo with onion, black garlic, and rocket; and lasagnetta with guinea hen, Swiss chard, and wild mushroom. After stints at elBulli and The Fat Duck, executive pastry chefs Alen Ramos and Carolyn Nugent came to Quince. Their bread and pastry programs helped contribute to the restaurant’s success and its achievement of three Michelin stars. Quince’s stylish, intimate setting provides the backdrop for a stunning 14-course, $220 tasting menu.

#3 BABBO
110 Waverly Pl (btwn MacDougal Alley & 6th Ave) New York, NY 10011; (212) 777-0303; http://www.babbonyc.com
As Mario Batali continues his reign atop the American culinary landscape, his flagship restaurant, Babbo, remains a New York essential. What can you say about it that hasn’t been said? The pasta! That pork chop! Mario Batali is a genius! Well, sure, but the restaurant is a testament to his undying mission of keeping the food as close to Italy as possible. Whatever specialty ingredients aren’t imported from there are made at Babbo “as an Italian might in the Mid-Atlantic/Hudson region.” Although Babbo is nearly 20 years old (it opened in 1998), it’s still difficult to get a table. Not a surprise considering it would essentially be a four-star restaurant if former New York Times restaurant critic Frank Bruni had liked Led Zeppelin a little more. But it’s not utterly impossible, especially if you don’t mind sitting at the bar. Either way, you’re going to want to arrive hungry, because the seven-course pasta menu is not for the faint of heart. Must-order dishes? Considering that the menu has become its own greatest hits list, that’s a tough call. You can explore Italy by land and sea with things whole grilled branzino with saffron braised fennel or fennel-dusted sweetbreads with sweet and sour onions and duck bacon, but you’ll probably want to make sure you at least try the mint love letters with spicy lamb sausage; black spaghetti with rock shrimp, spicy salami Calabrese, and green chiles; and beef cheek ravioli.

#2 VETRI
1312 Spruce Street in Philadelphia, PA19107; 215.732.3478; http://vetriristorante.com
In this little jewel box of a place, now nearly 20 years old, chef Marc Vetri offers diners sophisticated, hand-crafted Italian and Italianate specialties, served only in the form of six-course, $155 tasting menus. Available items are listed under Antipasti, Pasta, Secondi, and Dolce; new chef Joey Delago will personalize the menu to your taste. You might end up with, for instance, foie gras with carrot and malt syrup, fettuccine with octopus ragu, dry aged rib eye, and hazelnut flan for dessert. All is served with precision and grace, and there is a wine cellar of more than 2,500 bottles to choose from. Mario Batali has hailed Vetri as “possibly the best Italian restaurant on the East Coast.”

#1 DEL POSTO
85 10th Ave (at W 16th St) New York, NY 10011; (212) 497-8090; http://delposto.com
Del Posto is the result of a collaboration between Joe Bastianich, Lidia Bastianich, and Mario Batali. With these three big names banding together and partner and executive chef Mark Ladner at the helm, the result may be (as Del Posto’s website proclaims) “the ultimate expression of what an Italian restaurant should be.” As a relative newcomer to the fine dining scene, Del Posto opened in 2010 in New York’s Meatpacking District, and received a coveted four-star review from The New York Times, the first Italian restaurant to do so in nearly four decades. Its $49 three-course lunch prix fixe is one of the city’s best restaurant deals (period), but if you arrive for dinner you’ll have your choice of a $149 five-course menu or a $179 eight-course Captain’s Menu, featuring dishes like truffled beef carne crudo, linguine with langostines, slow-roasted Abruzzese-spices lamb, and veal alla saltimbocca. The restaurant also offers one of the country’s best vegan and gluten-free tasting menus, and every pasta dish can also be prepared with gluten-free pastas.

Four Classic Pasta Dishes

Posted by: Claudia | December 24th, 2016 | No Comments »

Cacio e Pepe

Pasta e Fagioli With Escarole | Spaghetti alle Vongole | Cacio E Pepe | Ligurian Pesto With Spaghetti

Pasta e Fagioli With Escarole
Parmesan rind and a kitchen sink’s worth of aromatics give heady flavor to this classic pairing of beans and pasta, no meat required.

Ingredients
SERVINGS: 4
1½ cups dried cannellini (white kidney) beans, soaked overnight
1 Parmesan rind (about 2 ounces), plus shaved Parmesan for serving
2 medium carrots, scrubbed, halved crosswise
2 celery stalks, halved crosswise
1 head of garlic, halved crosswise; plus 2 cloves, chopped
6 sprigs parsley
1 sprig rosemary
2 bay leaves
2 dried chiles de árbol or ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, plus more crushed for serving
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more
1 large onion, chopped
1 14.5-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
¾ cup dry white wine
3 ounces dried lasagna or other flat pasta, broken into 1–1½-inch pieces
½ small head of escarole, leaves torn into 2-inch pieces

Preparation
Bring beans, Parmesan rind, carrots, celery, head of garlic, parsley, rosemary, bay leaves, chiles, and 2 quarts water to a boil in a medium pot. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer, adding more water as needed, until beans are tender, about 1½ hours. Season with salt and pepper, remove from heat, and let sit 30 minutes. Discard vegetables, rind, and herbs.

Meanwhile, heat 3 Tbsp. oil in a large pot over medium. Cook onion and chopped garlic, stirring occasionally, until softened, 8–10 minutes. Add tomatoes, crushing with your hands, and cook, stirring often, until liquid is almost completely reduced, 12–15 minutes. Add wine, bring to a boil, and cook until almost completely evaporated, about 5 minutes.

Add beans and their liquid; cook until flavors meld, 12–15 minutes. Add pasta; cook, stirring and adding more water as needed, until al dente, 15–20 minutes. Add escarole and cook until wilted, about 1 minute; season with salt and pepper. Serve soup drizzled with oil and topped with Parmesan and more chile.

Spaghetti alle Vongole
The briny juices from the clams help to flavor this brothy sauce—the fresher the clams, the better the dish.

Ingredients
Kosher salt
 6 oz. spaghetti
 4 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
 1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
 1/4 cup white wine
 2 lb. cockles, Manila clams, or littlenecks, scrubbed
 2 Tbsp. roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Preparation
Bring 3 quarts water to a boil in a 5-qt. pot. Season lightly with salt; add pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until about 2 minutes before tender. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup pasta cooking water.
Meanwhile, heat 3 Tbsp. oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook, swirling pan often, until just golden. Add red pepper flakes and continue cooking 15 more seconds. Add wine, then clams; increase heat to high. Cover skillet and cook until clams open and release their juices, 3-6 minutes, depending on size of clams. As clams open, use tongs to transfer them to a bowl.
Add 1/4 cup of the reserved pasta water to skillet; bring to a boil. Add pasta to pan. Cook over high heat, tossing constantly, until pasta is al dente and has soaked up some of the sauce from the pan. Add clams and any juices from bowl to pan, along with parsley, and toss to combine. (Add more pasta water if sauce seems dry.) Transfer pasta to warm bowls and drizzle with remaining oil.

Cacio E Pepe
Literally “cheese and pepper”, this minimalist pasta is like a stripped-down mac and cheese. Check out the key step video, shot with our Nest overhead cams.

Ingredients
Kosher salt
6 oz. pasta (such as egg tagliolini, bucatini, or spaghetti)
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cubed, divided
1 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper
3/4 cup finely grated Grana Padano or Parmesan
1/3 cup finely grated Pecorino

Preparation
Bring 3 quarts water to a boil in a 5-qt. pot. Season with salt; add pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until about 2 minutes before tender. Drain, reserving 3/4 cup pasta cooking water.
Meanwhile, melt 2 Tbsp. butter in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add pepper and cook, swirling pan, until toasted, about 1 minute.
Add 1/2 cup reserved pasta water to skillet and bring to a simmer. Add pasta and remaining butter. Reduce heat to low and add Grana Padano, stirring and tossing with tongs until melted. Remove pan from heat; add Pecorino, stirring and tossing until cheese melts, sauce coats the pasta, and pasta is al dente. (Add more pasta water if sauce seems dry.) Transfer pasta to warm bowls and serve.

Ligurian Pesto With Spaghetti
This recipe makes more pesto than you’ll need. Serve the extra with vegetables or fish, or spread it on sandwiches. This is part of BA’s Best, a collection of our essential recipes.

Ingredients
SERVINGS: 4–6
Kosher salt
10 cups (loosely packed) fresh basil leaves (about 2 bunches)
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan plus more
1 1/2 tablespoons pine nuts
1 garlic clove, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup mild extra-virgin olive oil plus more for drizzling
1 pound spaghetti

Preparation
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Set a colander in a large bowl of ice water (this will make it easier to strain the basil later). Working in batches, blanch basil for 10 seconds. Using a large slotted spoon, transfer basil to colander in ice water; let cool completely. Set aside 1/2 cup blanching water. Reserve pot with blanching water.
Drain basil by lifting colander from ice water. Using your hands, squeeze excess water from basil; transfer basil to paper towels. (You should have about 1/2 cup.)
Place blanched basil, 1/2 cup Parmesan, pine nuts, and garlic in a food processor. Pulse until well combined, adding blanching water by tablespoonfuls to thin if needed, and stopping occasionally to scrape down sides. Process until a smooth, thick purée forms, about 1 minute.
Transfer basil mixture to a medium bowl. Stir in 1/2 cup oil. Season to taste with salt.
Return water in pot to a boil; add more salt. Cook spaghetti, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Spoon 1/2 cup pesto and 1/4 cup pasta cooking liquid into a large bowl. Using tongs, transfer spaghetti to bowl and toss vigorously, drizzling with oil and adding more pesto and cheese as you continue to toss, until spaghetti is glossy and well coated with sauce. Season with salt. Divide among bowls; sprinkle with cheese.

Zagat’s Top Italian Restaurants in Washington

Posted by: Lorenzo | December 24th, 2016 | No Comments »

Screenshot 2016-12-24 09.49.11

Here is a short list of excellent Italian food establishments in Washington. Omitting Tosca illustrates that it is by no means a comprehensive listing.

>Casa Luca
1099 New York Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20001
202-628-1099202-628-1099 | www.casalucadc.com
Arguably the most casual of the Fabio and Maria Trabocchi trio, this place is more elevated than your average red-checkered-tablecloth neighborhood hangout. Don’t miss the seasonal piccoletti (small bites) found at the top of the menu or the Sunday brunch.
Must-Try Dish: Crescia bread with ’nduja; bucatini with pork ragu; brodetto di San Benedetto
Insider Tip: Chef Erin Clarke hosts a Saturday lunchtime cooking class once a month that includes snacks, drinks, cooking demos and a sampling of the finished dish.

>Centrolina
974 Palmer Alley NW, Washington, DC20001
202-898-2426202-898-2426 | >www.centrolinadc.com
Chef Amy Brandwein, who spent a good chunk of her career cooking with Roberto Donna, opened her first solo restaurant last summer in CityCenterDC. The space is two concepts in one: an Italian osteria, plus a market featuring grab-and-go lunches, housemade sauce, imported groceries and a coffee bar.
Must-Try Dish: Octopus with potato confit; paccheri with veal and beef ragu; tuna with bone marrow
Insider Tip: The market is also open for breakfast from 8–10:30 AM daily, offering frittatas, muffins and bagels that can be washed down with barista-made coffees.

> Fiola
601 Pennsylvania Avenue NW , Washington, DC 20004
202-628-2888202-628-2888 | www.fioladc.com
Fabio and Maria Trabocchi’s flagship dynamo — which, incidentally, came in at the very top of our last restaurant survey — continues to impress Washingtonians with its pampering service, luxe Italian dishes, outstanding wine program and overall special-occasion feel.
Must-Try Dish: Lobster ravioli; oysters, granita and caviar; polenta, fonduta and truffles
Insider Tip: The restaurant recently changed its menu to a prix fixe format and launched Sunday dinner service with live jazz.

> Fiola Mare
3100 K Street NW, Washington, DC 20007
202-628-0065202-628-0065 | www.fiolamaredc.com
Yeah, we know. This makes it a hat trick for Fabio and Maria Trabocchi’s Gruppo FT Restaurants. But a list of hot Italian restaurants in DC isn’t complete without each and every one of them, and they are each quite distinct. The most recent addition to the group, this white-tablecloth seafood spot in Georgetown is known for its decadent seafood platter and spectacular views of the Potomac.
Must-Try Dish: Oysters and caviar with zabaglione; raw-bar seafood platter; lobster ravioli
Insider Tip: The back bar hosts a monthly speakeasy night that highlights both popular and lesser-known classic cocktails, such as February’s spotlight on the Aviation, The Honeymoon and The Blinker.

> Hank’s Pasta Bar
600 Montgomery Street, Alexandria, Virginia 22314
571-312-4117571-312-4117 | www.hankspastabar.com
Chef Nicolas Flores oversees the extensive roster of handmade pastas at this brand-new spot by restaurateur Jamie Leeds of Hank’s Oyster Bar fame. There are also a few risotto options, as well as simple small plates like escarole salad, meatballs and grilled bread topped with house ricotta, honey and black pepper.
Must-Try Dish: Linguini with clam sauce; meatballs; duck ravioli with thyme-butter sauce
Insider Tip: Reservations are accepted for parties of six or more; otherwise, diners can call 30 minutes before they arrive to get their name on the waiting list.

> Lupo Verde
1401 T Street NW, Washington, DC 20009
202-827-4752202-827-4752 | www.lupoverdedc.com
This gorgeously rustic spot has been ultra hot since the minute it opened — likely due to the fact that it’s in a prime location, features a fantastic patio and offers a buzzy vibe along with reliably good food coming from the kitchen. Be sure to order a cocktail here.
Must-Try Dish: Italian cheeses served with accompaniments; fried artichokes with bagna cauda; squid-ink pasta with prawns
Insider Tip: A second location is set to open in Palisades in May.

> Masseria
1340 4th St NE, Washington, DC 20002
202-608-1330202-608-1330 | www.masseria-dc.com
Executive chef and owner Nicholas Stefanelli made a name for himself as the longtime head of the kitchen at Bibiana, and the chef worked with design firm Grupo 7 to balance the rustic-industrial look. Inside serves a tasting menu only, while the patio offers an à la carte bar-bites menu.
Must-Try Dish: Barbabietola, a beautiful beet appetizer; linguine with XO sauce; oro cioccolato for dessert
Insider Tip: The stunning patio — decked out with fire pits, loungey couches and a cigar menu — will likely be the place to gather this summer.

> Osteria Morini
301 Water Street SE, Washington, DC 20003
202-484-0660 |osteriamorini.com/washington-dc/index.php
The “beautiful” view from the patio and window tables of this Navy Yard Italian from famed NYC chef Michael White is matched by a “superb” menu featuring dishes like Parmesan gelato crostini, uni bucatini and “extraordinary” wood-roasted meats; its “eye-popping” desserts cap a “pricey” meal that hits it out of the nearby ballpark, leading fans to say this “wonderful experience” is “worth a trip even outside baseball season.”

> Red Hen
1822 1st Street NW, Washington, DC 20001
202-525-3021 | www.theredhendc.com
This “true neighborhood gem” draws foodies to burgeoning Bloomingdale for “phenomenal” housemade pastas and other Italian comfort food delivered by “accommodating” servers in a “cozy” rustic room; what may be the “city’s most interesting” wine list exemplifies the “attention to quality without pretense” that creates its distinctive “ambiance” and makes reserving “difficult.”

King Of Italian Wine Families: Marchese Piero Antinori

Posted by: Giovanna | November 24th, 2016 | No Comments »

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Reprinted from John Mariani’s Virtual Gourmet Newsletter (www.johnmariani.com):

“When Marchese Piero Antinori first produced a single vineyard blend of cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc in 1978, it was a wine that deliberately diverted from government regulations as to what grapes could and could not go into traditional Tuscan appellations like Chianti Classico. As a result, Solaia and other renegade Tuscan wines like Sassicaia, Ornellaia, and Antinori’s own Tignanello were only allowed to be labeled as “vino da tavola,” later “IGT” (Typical Geographic Indication).Yet it was clear from the start that these non-traditional  wines were far superior to Chianti Classico and, with the exception of the great Brunello di Montalcino, most other Tuscan reds. In the trade they were dubbed “Super Tuscans.”

“Solaia coincided with the incredible revolution in Italian wine when vintners began focusing on quality rather than quantity,” said Antinori at a wine media tasting and luncheon at New York’s Le Cirque restaurant, where Solaia was first introduced in the U.S. back in 1979.

“It has now been 30 years we have been making Solaia,” he said, “and it has evolved over that period depending on what we’ve learned and what we want to express about elegance and finesse. The first two vintages were blends of only cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc, but eventually we began to add sangiovese, and each year adjusted the amounts of the varietals in the blend.”

Imperially slim and impeccably dressed in a dark gray suit and blue tie, the Marchese, 69, whose family has been making wine for more than 600 years, epitomizes Tuscan nobility in the 21st century.  Together with his daughters Albiera, Allegra, and Alessia (right),  he is intimately involved with the business of Antinori wines and tirelessly promotes them throughout the world, along with the company’s other labels, which include holdings in Piedmont, Puglia, and Umbria, as well as in California, Washington State, Hungary, Chile, and Malta.

Antinori reeled off his own stipulations for a wine to be great: “First, it needs complexity; it cannot be a simple wine; next it must have consistency: it should be at least as good 30 minutes after you drink the first glass. Third, it must have aging potential, and last, a great wine should give you both intellectual and mystic pleasure.”

All these attributes were amply on display at Le Cirque that afternoon, with 10 different vintages poured, from the first, 1978, to the yet-unreleased 2005.  One vintage, the 1985 ($380), had lost all appeal and showed oxidation; others, like the 2001 ($170), tasted delicious right now, with silky tannins and layers of flavor, though Antinori insisted “one must be patient for four or five years with this vintage.”  The 1978 ($520)was remarkably sound, with enormous depth, while the 1988 ($260), from a very small vintage, had lively vegetal and spice notes, with semi-firm tannins.  The 1990 ($400) was richly masculine, a wine of brawn, with years to go; Antinori declared it a “great vintage, though not as elegant as we first thought.”  One of his own favorites was the 1994 ($200), a more feminine wine with brilliant color, vibrancy, and freshness. The 1997 ($450), once considered the greatest vintage of the last century in Tuscany, was thinner than I expected, its tannins mellowed out. The 1999 ($220) clearly needs at least two more years to open up and to mellow out the oak and tannins.  The 2005, which should be released next year, had a medium body and backbone, having spent 24 months in new oak and then being bottled last December. “Solaia absolutely needs bottle aging to realize its potential,” declared Antinori.

At the luncheon the estate’s delicately fruity white wine from Umbria, Cervaro della Sala 2005 ($40), a blend of 85 percent chardonnay and 15 percent grechetto, was served with a lustrous lobster risotto. Then, with a succulent roasted loin of veal in morel cream sauce, the 1997 Solaia was poured, and with the Italian cheese course the 2004 ($170), whose youth was a virtue with strong cheeses like gorgonzola cremificato, piave, and robiola bosina.

By day’s end I came away convinced that Solaia is indeed one of the greatest red wines of Italy or anywhere else, and that, despite so many variations and adjustments over the years, the wine has kept its essential Tuscan character of velvety elegance and complexity.  I can hardly wait for its 40th birthday.  The prices quoted above are an average of listings at wine-searchers.com for various vintages of Solaia.

Italy’s Top Ten Golf Courses

Posted by: admin | November 23rd, 2016 | No Comments »

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“Italy has it all for a holiday destination, that’s why it’s surprising that it’s not one of the most popular golf destinations in Europe. Swide.com reveals some hidden gems.

Royal Golf and Country Club

A host to the Italian Open is located near Turin in Piedmont. Designed in 1971 by Robert Trent Jones Sr, it is set neatly into the undulating landscape of La Mandria National Park. The course itself presents a strategic challenge with its innovative use of bunkers and water hazards. Piedmont offers some of the best cuisine in all of Italy and the home of Slow Food and Braollo can offer you a culinary experience to rival anything you experience on the course.

> http://www.royalparkgolf.it/en

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Biella

Known locally as ‘Le Betulle’ the John Morrison-designed course at Valcarozza was built in the 50′s and is set in the slopes of the Sera Moraine. A 73 par course at altitude along the Biellese Alps it is a stunning backdrop to one of the more testing rounds in Italy. Not only will you have the cuisine of Liguria to distract you but the area is renowned for its history and culture. Picture Medieval monasteries set in bleak wintery landscapes, stunning architecture and Unesco sites abound. Play in Autumn to coincide with the season of truffles and mushrooms.

> www.golfclubbiella.it/home_EN.ashx

Villa d’Este

A very challenging par 69 course designed by Peter Gannon. The setting is stunning, set amongst the Como hills with panoramic views of lake Montorfano. Clean Alpine air and lush greenery provide respite from the intense summer heat. A prestigious club in the heart of one of Italy’s most historically prosperous regions.

> www.villadeste.com/en/99/golf-club-villa-d-este.aspx

Is Arenas

A beautiful combination of sand, forest and water provide almost the perfect golfing experience. Situated on the West coast of the beautiful island of Sardinia you will avoid the visiting hordes even in peak season. Designed by golf course architects Von Hagge, Smelek and Baril it is well integrated into a landscape that is as yet still untouched and undiscovered. A serene vacation on the Mediterranean with perfect links golf could be paradise on earth.

> www.isarenas.it

Pevero

Commissioned by the Aga Kahn the course was designed by Robert Trent Jones Snr and opened in 1972. It has been one of Italy’s best-kept golf secrets for over 40 years where Italy’s jet-set anchored their yachts and enjoyed La Bella Vita. The Mistral – the northern wind which shaped the rocks of the area adds another dimension to play on the Par 72 course.

Milano Golf Club

Milan’s most prestigious golf club and one with quite a bit of history to boast about the Milano Golf Club for many is the rightful home of golf in Italy. The course is a bit flat but very pleasantly wooded it is the perfect place to do business just outside Italy’s centre of commerce and industry.

> www.golfclubmilano.com/intro/

Is Molas

Another of Sardinia’s hidden gems the microclimate means it is perfect for golf the whole year round. The largest and oldest course on the island it is somewhat American in style, but the surrounding countryside and the history and food of the Sardinian island are anything but.

Terme di Saturnia

Set in the exquisite environs of Tuscany, close to the sea the site ha a long history and association with the Romans who believed it to be the birthplace of Saturn. The whole area is dotted with natural hot springs so after wearing yourself out on the course relax in the splendour of the natural spas as the Romans did. Relaxing, that is, not golfing. More than a golfing experience, a vacation to really rest and replenish.

> www.termedisaturnia.it/en/

Lido di Venezia

The exclusivity of Italian golf is physical here as you need to take a boat to the Lido di Venezia to play the 18 hole golf course. A sandbar situated within site of the city of Venice was supposed to have been constructed in the 1930′s at the request of Henry Ford who wanted to play golf while visiting Venice. One of the most incredible cities in the world also hosts an excellent course within touching distance. Just make sure your balls don’t end up in Piazza di San Marco.

> www.circologolfvenezia.it

Roma Aquasanta

Once Rome was instated as the capital city of Italy in 1871 it was not long before the city realised it needed a world-class golf course for the world’s business tycoons to make deal on. Roma Aquasanta duly obliged anfd the course was built in 1903. Built on beautiful agricultural land the course was, until recently, self-sustaining with the income brought by hay and grazing. The setting, slightly hilly, allows a view of the Claudian aqueduct, the Roman Castles, the crest of Appia Antica, and the Mausoleum of Cecilia Metella.  It was also possible to get a glimpse of the facade of San Giovanni and farther away, the dome of Saint Peter’s.

______________________

Source: Hugo Mc Cafferty/ www.swide.com

Milano’s Hip Bar: Ricci

Posted by: Laurena | November 22nd, 2016 | No Comments »

Ricci Bar - Milano

Ricci Bar - Milano

Located a few blocks from Milan’s main train station: Stazione Centrale.

Review from an A&B client: “Ricci – recently opened, owned by Joe Bastianich – so more expensive than it needs to be – aperitivo is perfect – with queso fondedo and guac and chips and real shrimp cocktail with ‘horseradishy’ cocktail sauce – great when you have been out of the states for a few months. Service is spotty, but it is hip. Very american bent to do the food, but some italian standards as well.

Ricci Bar & Restaurant
A: Via Fratelli Zoia, 71 (zona SAN SIRO) Milan
T: 0248202174
E: info@riccimilano.it
W: www.riccimilano.it

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Q. Where is this in Italy?

Posted by: Giovanna | November 21st, 2016 | No Comments »

Screen Shot 2014-05-01 at 2.09.09 PM Read the rest of this entry »

USA TODAY’ 10 BEST Napoli Pizzerias

Posted by: Lorenzo | November 20th, 2016 | No Comments »

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Trying to find the best Pizza in Naples? 10Best has you covered. Our editors and locals search the city and suburbs for the top places. Then, we showcase popular restaurants like ‘O Calamaro, and we highlight eateries with great user reviews, likeMarino.

Found in USA Today at: www.10best.com/destinations/italy/naples/restaurants/pizza

See also A&B post”Top Ten Napoli Pizzerias” : http://blog.aielli-benevento.it/?p=2699

Pizzaria Brandi
Pizzaria Brandi was first opened in 1780 under the ownership of Pietro Coliccio, who earned the nickname Pietro il pizzaiuolo (Peter the Pizza maker). Eventually, this little shop fell into the hands of Raffaele Esposito, husband to Maria Brandi. Esposito was asked to cater a banquet for the queen, Margherita di Savoia, for which he made three kinds of pizza for her to taste. Her favorite was the one made with tomato, basil, olive oil, and mozzarella ­ the colors of the newly united Italian Flag. The pizza was then named after her, and thus the Pizza Margherita was born. Today you can still have wonderful pizzas here, starting around 7000L. (081-416-928)

‘O Calamaro
BAGNOLI. ‘O Calamaro’s pizza maker is known internationally for his skill and talent. People crowd this restaurant for a slice of the pizza. The seafood selections are also worth a try. (081-570-4387)

Antica Pizzaria da Michelle
You can’t be in Italy without having pizza, and Antica Pizzeria da Michele is a great place to start. The restaurant still has its original tables from the 1800’s. Da Michele only serves classic pizzas, like margherita (mozzarella and tomato) and marinara (mozzarella and garlic). (081-553-9204)

Lombardi a Santa Chiara
SPACCANAPOLI. Lombardi’s is famous for its traditional Italian cuisine. Lombardi’s will serve you some of Italy’s finest pizza, from one of Italy’s oldest pizzerias. The interior decor is simple and inviting. (081-552-0780)

Pizzaria Trianon
Trianon is a popular pizza parlor among the locals. You can order from a wide selection of different pizzas. Order by the slice, starting at 5000L. This pizzeria has been pleasing its clientele since 1930. (081-553-9426)

Pizzeria Port’Alba
By now, pizza has probably become a staple food for you ­ it’s quick and it’s delicious. This is one of Naples’s oldest pizzerias, founded in 1830. Port’Alba was at the start of a great Italian tradition, which is great Italian pizza that will leave you saying, “Buono!” (081-459-713)

Cibo
If you follow the crowds at lunchtime, you may find yourself at Cibo, where the it seems everyone gathers for lunch. Look around and it will be easy to see that pizza is by far the most popular choice. Pick your favorite kind from a list that includes pizzas like Margherita and Neopolitan. Their pastas and fish dishes are also good choices if you need a change of pace. Enjoy the bustling Italian streets from your outdoor table while you indulge in your meal.

Da Ettore
SANTA LUCIA. Da Ettore offers a menu based on ancient Napoleon cuisine, with a specific emphasis on exquisite pizzas. If you are craving something a little different, try the pagnotiello, a calzone filled with mozzarella, ham, and mushrooms for around 8500L. Da Ettore is located near Piazza del Plebiscito on the waterfront. (081-764-0498)

Marino
Located just around the corner from Piazza del Plebiscito, Marino is a charming little pizzeria with an extensive antipasto, or appetizer menu. The pizzas themselves are also delicious. You can order a typical, traditional pizza or add new, inventive toppings that the creative chef has added to the menu. (081-762-2280)

Ciro a Mergellina
CASTEL DELL’OVO/CHIAIA. Saturday nights are by far the most crowded time to visit Ciro a Mergellina. People come here for the pizzas and the fresh fish entrées and appetizers. The Maxi-Pizza will feed four famished adults, with leftovers. (081-68-17-80)

Il Sereno – Modern Luxury on Lago di Como

Posted by: Giovanna | November 20th, 2016 | No Comments »

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With the iconic lake at its feet, Il Sereno is the epitome of elegance and luxury. The hotel brings a new era of luxury to the banks of Italy’s iconic Lake Como. Awarded the title of “Most Anticipated New Luxury Hotel Opening in 2016″ by Luxury Travel Advisor magazine, Il Sereno’s ethos of understated elegance presents a freshness to this well-established destination. Designed by Patricia Urquiola, Wallpaper* Magazine Designer of The Year 2015, the all-suite hotel promises modern style and an authentic flair, all in the name of effortless comfort. Il Sereno incorporates the unparalleled beauty of Lake Como in its seamless design with panoramic view from every inch of the outstanding property.

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The 30 spacious rooms, ranging from 65 square meters in size to The Penthouse at 200+ square meters, all make full use of the natural light and awe-inspiring scenery with floor-to-ceiling windows and views of the peaceful waterfront. Keeping with the Sereno promise that there is no substitute for space and a view, this intimate yet sophisticated property complements the breath-taking mountains, and tranquil waters with ease. The property features a private beach, as well as a dock, allowing guests to arrive via one of the hotel’s boats, custom-built by Ernesto Riva. The 60-foot-long freshwater infinity pool suspended over the lake is without a doubt one of Il Sereno’s show-stopping features, and the large sundeck is perfect for spending a leisurely afternoon under the Italian sun.

Il Sereno Hotel
Via Torrazza 10, 22020 Torno CO, Italy
T:+39 031 547 7800
E: info@ilsereno.com
W: www.ilsereno.com

15 of Italy’s Best Beaches by Travel & Leisure

Posted by: Claudia | November 20th, 2016 | No Comments »

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Italy’s extra-ordinary coastline added by the islands of Sardinia and Sicily afford sun-worshippers a phenomenal range of beaches.

Thanks to Travel & Leisure, here in no particular order are 15 of the best of Italy’s beaches:

Acquafredda di Maratea Beach, Basilicata
Six miles outside of the hamlet of Maratea, this rugged stretch of shoreline has the same blue water and dark gray sand of the Amalfi Coast, but it’s further north with none of the accompanying throngs of tourists. It’s a prime place for beachgoers in search of rustic beauty: In spite of neatly arranged sun loungers and beach umbrellas placed by local hotels, the rocky shoreline and cliffs jutting up on either side of the cove preserve the untamed feel of the area.

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Marina Grande Beach, Positano
As if the views of deep greenish-blue seas weren’t enough, the stacks of pastel houses hugging the cliffs make Positano’s main beach feel like something plucked from a midcentury postcard. With over 300 yards of dark sand—large swathes of it dedicated to tidily arranged rows of beach umbrellas and lounge chairs in Technicolor shades of orange and blue—this spot always feels open and roomy in spite of summer crowds. Start in town with a leisurely outdoor lunch overlooking the Mediterranean, then sleep off the limoncello buzz with a snooze on the sand.

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Camogli Beach, Liguria
Northwest Italy’s coastal towns tend to live in the shadow of the neighboring French Riviera, but that means beaches like Camogli’s have all the Mediterranean beauty with a fraction of the crowds you’ll find in Nice or St. Tropez. The beach in this little fishing village is pebbly but picturesque—the ancient Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta is perched on a promontory at the harbor’s northern end, with mountains rising up behind it. This spot has something for every traveler: swimming lessons to keep the kids busy, beachside drink service for the laid-back crowd, and rowboats, canoe rentals, and diving lessons for the adventure-seekers.

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Scalo Maestro, Marettimo
Just off the western tip of Sicily, the island of Marettimo (population: 700) has the kind of wild beauty that gives every moment here a dreamlike quality. The tiny beach of Scalo Maestro is one of the few you can access from the shore, and its gentle slope and clear, calm waters are particularly swimmer- and snorkeler-friendly. Once you’ve had your fill of beach time, charter a boat for a tour of the island: it’s the only way to access Marettimo’s hidden sea caves. You can’t truly appreciate the magic of the Aegadian Islands until you’ve gone swimming in a sun-dappled Mediterranean grotto.

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Porto Campana, Sardinia
Three miles of golden sand make up the Campana beachfront, and within that expanse you’ll find something to suit every type of beachgoer. Look for rental kiosks to try your hand at surfing, kiteboarding, or paddleboarding; kick back on a rented lounger with a cocktail; sign up for a scuba session with a local outfitter; or admire Campana’s dunes—some as high as 65 feet.

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Otranto Beach, Otranto
This bay in the center of Italy’s easternmost town is all soft white sand and shallow turquoise water—a tiny sliver of the Caribbean perched on the Adriatic. And while the beach itself is as all-purpose as they come (great for swimming, sunning, snorkeling…), the best way to enjoy this place also happens to be the easiest: Stop in town to pick up a crisp white wine, a hunk of fresh bread, and a ball of Puglia’s creamy, buttery burrata, then while away a few hours sipping and snacking on this little seaside slice of heaven.

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Poglinano a Mare Beach, Puglia
Nestled in an inlet bound by steep limestone cliffs, this spot is off the beaten path for most tourists, but it’s well worth the detour. Bring a beach chair for comfort—there’s no sand here, only smooth, salt-worn pebbles—and a pack a pair of water shoes if you’re the adventurous type. Then follow the lead of the locals: Climb a few feet up the cliffs, shimmy out until you’re over deep water, and take the leap. Toast your courage in a cliffside cove above the Adriatic at nearby Grotta Palazzese, possibly the most romantic restaurant in the world.

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Spiaggia di Tuerredda, Sardinia
Even in the off-season, this island idyll is a must-see: The sea here is such a perfect shade of pale blue it doesn’t seem real, and since it’s sheltered from the bracing Mistral winds, the water is warm enough for swimming well into fall. There’s a scattering of casual beachfront restaurants and amenities if you’re interested in paddleboarding or kayaking, but be sure to find time for a languid stroll along the shore. Between the pristine setting, the sound of the waves, and the occasional whiff of Sardinia’s juniper trees on the breeze, your blood pressure will be dropping in no time.

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Marina del Cantone Beach, Massa Lubrense
This beach is the place to go if you want authenticity: Despite its proximity to the Amalfi Coast’s tourist hotspots, Marina del Cantone is free of the overdevelopment (and accompanying sky-high prices) you’ll find in neighboring coastal towns, and you’re likely to be surrounded by locals. Be sure to wear sturdy sandals to shield your soles from the rocky beach, and if you’re feeling ambitious, hike the nearby footpaths for unbeatable views of the bay and the town from neighboring cliffs. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, head into town for lunch with a view at Lo Scoglio. Their spaghetti con ricci di mare—pasta tossed with a sauce of sea urchin, olive oil, and garlic—is creamy, salty-sweet, and the perfect capstone to an Amafi afternoon.

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Rabbit Beach, Lampedusa
It takes a bit of determination to make your way to this secluded spot—the tiny island of Lampedusa is just over 100 miles off the coast of mainland Italy, closer to Tunisia than Europe—but the effort pays off. The water is shallow and perfectly clear even at the edges of the bay, and cliffs flanking the beach keep it sheltered from strong winds and waves. The visibility and abundant sea life (turtles includes) make snorkeling a must, but the remote location means you won’t find much in the way of facilities and amenities, so pack gear and provisions before you go.

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Spiaggia di Chiaia di Luna, Ponza
This is Italy’s answer to the white cliffs of Dover. Sheer golden bluffs plummet over 300 feet down to sea level, where they’re bordered by a thin crescent of sand. It’s amust-see destination year round: If it’s too chilly for swimming, Instagram-worthy tableaux abound if you take a stroll along the beach or atop the coastal cliffs. And though the beach is the main draw, be sure to carve out enough time for inland exploring. Ponza has been settled since the Neolithic era, so the island is scattered with Roman and Etruscan ruins that archaeology buffs will love. For bonus points, pack The Odyssey for beach reading: Ponza is rumored to be Homer’s inspiration for the isle of Aeaea, where Odysseus meets the enchantress Circe.

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La Cattedrale, Palmarola
From Ponza, charter a boat to the neighboring island of Palmarola for even more jaw-dropping scenery. The harbor beach on this uninhabited isle is beautiful enough, but for the real showstopper, head to La Cattedrale, a series of rocky arches jutting into the sea, so named for their resemblance to the vaulted naves of medieval churches. An afternoon spent swimming in the grottos, dozing in the shade of the cliffs, and spotting the dolphins that play offshore is the kind of once-in-a-lifetime experience you don’t want to miss.

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Lido Beach, Lido di Venezia
Every visitor to Venice should make a visit to Lido Beach a mandatory part of theitinerary. When you find yourself maxing out on museums and piazzas, take the vaporetto to this seven-mile island on the edge of the Venetian Lagoon. At the height of summer, rent a cabana and kick back with a negroni to capture a bit of la dolce vita without having to do battle for towel turf on the public beach. In the off season, take a long walk on the empty expanse of shore, snag a few seashell souvenirs, and recharge—the quietude and open air are guaranteed to leave you feeling refreshed and ready to dive back into the Venetian sightseeing fray.

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Lago di Braies, South Tyrol
It may not be on the ocean, but this gem nestled in the Dolomites is guaranteed to satisfy beachgoers in search of beautiful scenery and a refreshing dip. The lake boasts clear, blue-green waters and white sand—a striking visual contrast to the dense pine forest and snow-dusted peaks that surround it. A day hike is the best way to see everything Lago di Braies has to offer: Pack your swimsuit, a towel, and a lunch, then venture out on the beginner-friendly footpath that circles the perimeter, pausing to picnic and swim at the first beach that suits your fancy. Be sure to stop at the Braies bungalow—built on stilts over the lake, it’s a cross between an alpine ski lodge and a Tahitian overwater cabana—for photo ops and rowboat rentals.

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Scala dei Turchi, Sicily
One of the most visually striking beaches in the world, Sicily’s Turkish Steps are a must-visit for aesthetic reasons alone. The bright white marlstone has been slowly eroded, creating a sloping staircase that leads right into the sea. Go at low tide for the best views, and wear sturdy shoes for the journey—the climb is not for the faint of heart. If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, pack a flashlight and stay until the sun sets. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better visual than that of the cliffs awash in gold and silhouetted against a fiery sky.