Emilio’s Ballato

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77 Solid

Classic, simple preparations and a clubby, friendly, old-school Italian welcome.

55 E. Houston St., New York, NY, 10012

212-274-8881

Known For

The lowdown

Ballato’s clubbiness can seem off-putting, especially as owner Emilio Vitolo scrutinizes newcomers from his front-corner table. But there are ways to make newbies feel at home; maybe it’s the starter of focaccia with tomato sauce or Vitolo’s quick hello. As the third owner of this storied restaurant since 1956, Vitolo favors unfussy preparations of classic dishes. Almost all are winners. Hearty rigatoni alla Bolognese comes in a thick sauce with beef, veal, and pork, while baked shrimp benefits from pristine seafood and simple garlic and bread crumbs. An extensive and reasonable wine list includes Ballato’s own label, produced by a Tuscan friend. A private dining space in back has hosted celebs like Billy Joel, Barack Obama, and Tom Hanks, while a central-casting mix of outer-borough Italians, younger locals, and wide-eyed tourists people the spare main dining room. The club vibe pervades, but doesn’t exclude: If Vitolo doesn’t know your name when you’re seated, he will by the time you’ve finished your espresso and nibbled on a plate of on-the-house biscotti.

What you need to know

Insider Tips There are no reservations so plan to arrive early.

Recommended DishesChicken Parmesan; broccoli di rabe; rigatoni alla Bolognese; baked shrimp.

DrinksFull Bar

Noise LevelCivilized