Several hundred years ago, our city planners decided to make the West Village a hub of exceptional Italian cuisine. At least we assume that’s what happened. There’s really no other way to explain why this neighborhood has roughly one Italian spot per capita. These include special-occasion places where you can drink wine that costs $10 per cubic centimeter as well as a bunch of weeknight restaurants with sub-$20 spaghetti and soundtracks that lean heavily on Dean Martin. The next time you need help choosing from the vast selection, consult this definitive ranking.
To quote a man named Kendrick, I Sodi is that Grey Poupon, that Evian, that TED Talk. We’re aware that none of those things are actually Italian - but you get the gist. This tiny spot on Christopher Street is the apex of Italian dining in the West Village, and you’ll realize this as soon as you enter the space that’s roughly the size of the business class cabin of an airplane. With its white tablecloths and servers in ties, it’s nice enough for a birthday or an anniversary, but it isn’t especially stuffy, and the only thing that might make you feel underdressed is the lasagna, which is never seen in public wearing fewer than 20 layers of pasta. Order that, drink a negroni, and have some fried artichokes. Reservations are, unfortunately, near-impossible, but that’s why bars were invented. Show up around 6pm, and you might not even have to wait for a seat.
I Sodi’s younger sibling Via Carota is only a few blocks away, and it makes I Sodi look calmer than a water park in the middle of winter. It’s walk-in-only, and every single night, you’ll find people lined up in the dark, brick-walled entryway, waiting to put their names in for a table with a quiet desperation typically reserved for Meryl Streep roles in the ’70s and ’80s. Waits can be anywhere from one to three hours, and it confuses us emotionally to say that, yes, this place is 100% worth a three-hour wait. The cacio e pepe is the best in the city, the garlicky chopped steak is richer and more compelling than the majority of non-chopped steaks, and sometimes you just feel like sitting in a somewhat noisy room with taxidermy, rustic wooden cabinets, and the occasional actor who once starred alongside Scarlett Johansson.
Not long ago, we would have told you that L’Artusi was the absolute best Italian restaurant in the city. But times change, people evolve, and the kale-crudo-pasta formula at L’Artusi no longer feels as singular as it used to. That said, this place is still the best at what it does. The pastas are near-flawless - from the orecchiette with big chunks of sausage to the hypnotically round ravioli - and, despite the fact that every other restaurant in a 20-block radius serves some type of roast chicken, the buttery version here is a non-optional order. This is also one of the largest Italian spots in the West Village - but seeing as how existence is a simulation designed to test how much people like pasta, decent reservations tend to be nonexistent. The solution? Sit at the bar.
In a neighborhood where most gnocchi is not covered in poppyseeds, Don Angie is brave enough to cover its gnocchi in poppyseeds. That’s sort of a joke, but it also isn’t - because these delicate, cheese-filled gnocchi are indicative of how this place operates. Everything here is a little different, from the cheese-covered chrysanthemum salad and large-format lasagna for two, to the coffee cocktail with “all the brown spirits” and the especially large bathroom with a heavy sliding door that’s somewhat hard to lock. So if you’re tired of your standard amatricianas and cacio e pepes, come here.
If you’re familiar with Anton’s, you may be thinking to yourself, “Hey, that place isn’t Italian.” But Italianness is a spectrum, and when a spot serves broiled clams and has a section on its menu labeled “Macaroni,” it falls pretty close to the boot-shaped end of that spectrum. Anton’s is an old-school restaurant on Hudson Street decorated with oil paintings and lots of dark wood, and it’s perfect for when you want to drink a martini and eat some pasta by candlelight. The bucatini that comes absolutely stuffed with bacon is our top choice, but the spaghetti anchoiade is another intelligent route, as long as you don’t mind having a face that smells like anchovy.
We obviously can’t prove this, but it’s entirely possible that whoever built Malaparte used a checklist made for cute, casual Italian spots. Just look at the brick walls, the stubby wine glasses, and the charmingly distressed wooden furniture. Add it all up, and you have the sort of place where, if your life were a romcom, you’d grab dinner once a week and complain about things to a sassy best friend who always thinks you’re selling yourself short. The food here is simple yet elegant, and better than most other neighborhood Italian spots, and the pastas hover around $18. Get a pizza for the table, then have some spaghetti al carbonara or a plate of chewy pasta covered in pesto so fresh and green it’s almost neon.
Fiaschetteria is one of the best Italian spots in the West Village, their location in the East Village is one of our favorites in that neighborhood, and we’d be willing to bet that the original is one of the most charming places in Pistoia, a town outside Florence. Well, that town is probably packed with rustic places serving great housemade pastas, so we actually wouldn’t bet on that, but the point is, we like it here a lot. The walk-in-only space is the size of a mid-sized U-Haul, and all seven tables have views of the open kitchen, where spaghetti is rolled by hand for the cacio e pepe, and maccheroni noodles are cut and tossed with duck ragu. There’s usually little to no wait for a table, so keep it in mind for last-minute dinners with a friend or date, and take advantage of the $30 liters of wine.
Balthazar, Minetta Tavern, Augustine, and Pastis are all French bistros, while Morandi, which is from the same people, serves housemade pastas and Italian share plates. That’s a very important difference with regard to this guide (and the 2006 World Cup final), but if you’re familiar with any of those other places, then you’ll have a pretty good idea what Morandi is all about. It’s a big, all-day spot that’s packed at breakfast, lunch, and dinner with business meals, tourists, and locals who know that the food is better than it has to be considering the prime location and attractive space. Have some negronis and fried artichokes at an outdoor table right on 7th Avenue, or sit in the low-ceilinged, brick-walled space and get the ravioli stuffed with scallop mousse and prosciutto - it’s the best thing here.
If we put all the West Village Italian restaurants on a family tree, Pasta Al Forno would have its very own branch. This place is about the size of six phone booths stacked together, it’s half counter-service and half not, and the menu consists of just a handful of baked pastas. You can get a slice of timpano, for example, which is similar to a cake made out of ziti and mozzarella. But our favorite thing here is the lasagna stuffed with meat and bechamel. It’s about dense as a neutron star, and much like a neutron star, it’s hot and has a strong gravitational pull. Did we mention that this place is BYOB and you get a teacup of complimentary vegetable broth when you order? And did we mention that this place is also kind of great?
Some of the places on this ranking can be louder, pricier, or more intimidating than you’re looking for on a weeknight. Malatesta is none of those things. This cash-only spot just wants you to be happy and eat a solid plate of gnocchi, maybe even at a table on the sidewalk. It’s the kind of neighborhood spot where you can have a casual first date or grab dinner with an old coworker who thinks you’re better friends than you actually are. The dining room has vintage posters, scuffed tile floors, and handwritten menus, and most things cost less than $20. The only catch is, it’s cash-only.
One day in the near future, the phrase “I went on a date at Aria” will enter the general lexicon. It’ll be a metaphor meant to convey the fact that one recently accompanied someone to a place with brick walls and candles, where the food is reasonably priced and 90% of the clientele maintain a BAC unconducive to operating heavy machinery. That’s Aria in a nutshell, and you’ve probably been to Aria, at least metaphorically. Do you need to go back? It depends on how you feel about personal space (it gets pretty cramped), noise (you’ll shout), and perfectly decent $16 pasta.
Wait a second, this place looks exactly like Aria. It’s almost as if someone took a swab of Aria’s DNA, then threw that swab into a much smaller space in the bottom of a five-story brick building on Bedford Street. The menu is the same, the white-tiled bar is the same, and the crowd is mostly the same (lots of dates and friends catching up). And that’s probably because this place is from the same owners. Turns out, there’s a huge demand for tuna tartare and sub-$20 linguine.
Codino is interesting in that it’s also the exact same as Aria and Cotenna, and it’s only a block from the latter. How does that make it interesting? Well, it’s further proof that life is a simulation, and we’re all being messed with. And, while this place seems very much like a glitch, it’s also consistently busy, and it works just fine for a first date or a casual weeknight dinner.
Rosemary’s is proof that if you put enough string lights, white tile, and faux-vintage wooden furniture in one restaurant, you’ll never run out of customers. This place is, first and foremost, about the atmosphere. It’s a big open space on a busy corner of Greenwich Ave, and it’s lined with windows - which comes in handy when you want to check to see if any of your exes are inside before you commit to a table. And, chances are, your exes are eating here at this very moment, and maybe that’s part of why you broke up with them. The food here is perfectly satisfactory, but why settle for satisfactory when you could go to any of the other places on this power ranking. Although we will admit that this place is good for groups.
The thing about Rossopomodoro is, you don’t need to eat here. If you never set foot in this place, your productivity at work won’t decline and your relationships won’t suffer. Why? Because Rossopomodoro is very average. Their thin-crust pizzas are perfectly fine, crispy, and generic, and their pastas won’t ruin your day - but we can’t actually think of a scenario in which this place would be our top choice for dinner. So use it as a back up to your back up plan. With its white tablecloths and gently worn hardwood floors, the space feels like a tastefully decorated home, and there’s a nice little bar nook up front where you can wait for a table at Don Angie (about a block away).
It makes us a little sad to put Gaetana’s this low in the ranking. It’s a wonderful, old-school Italian spot where you’ll probably hear some Glen Miller on the stereo like whoever’s running the playlist fell asleep in 1939. There are also a bunch of framed photos on the walls, but they aren’t limited to your standard portraits of famous people. There’s one of a dog, for example, and a few of a little league team. The food is basic, competent red-sauce stuff like chicken parm and penne alla vodka that you’ll forget about as soon as you leave the premises - but if you’re looking for a mostly-empty spot with vintage ceiling fans and candles on every table, come here. Maybe even sit at the bar, talk to the bartender, and eat half a loaf of the complimentary bread.