| Supersize it! Via Emilia's tortelloni are known for their ample stuffing.
Easily the most stylish panini bar in town -- and, happily, bearing no stigma from last month's visit by a gun-wielding madman.
175 Second Avenue; 212-260-3200
Brick Oven Gallery
If there's a certain nostalgic quality to this off-the-beaten-track Williamsburg pizzeria, it comes from the 119-year-old brick oven. So do the crisp, flavorful thin-crusted pies ($7–$12), the wood-fired chicken panini with roast tomatoes and goat cheese ($8), even the extra-thin, herb-crusted flatbread used to scoop up "Brooklyn caviar" (a smoky melange of eggplant, peppers, and tomatoes, $6). A sidewalk table on the preternaturally quiet block is an unpretentious oasis in the midst of hipsterville.
33 Havemeyer St., near North 7th St., Williamsburg, Brooklyn, 718-963-0200
Solid Village panini shop.
110 Thompson Street; 212-334-6604
Cipriani Le Specialità
Forgo the scene at Harry Cipriani, and savor top-notch espresso, rich pastas, and an assortment of sophisticated Italian sandwiches at Cipriani Le Specialità, a café with just three tables. (Be prepared to share yours with a stranger.)
110 East 42nd Street; 212-557-5088
With its out-of-the-way charm and candlelit farmhouse tables, D.O.C isn't the Autogrille, but it makes a good pressed mortadella.
83 North 7th Street; 718-963-1925
Il Posto Accanto
An ambitious little enoteca from the owners of Il Bagatto.
190 East 2nd Street; 212-228-3562
Panini notable for lightness of bread and perfect proportion of filling.
21 Bedford Street; 212-989-5769
and Pat's Pizzeria
At the risk of enraging the Staten Island pizza mob, those who crave a true thin crust, a mildly sweet crushed-tomato sauce, and a delicate dose of mozzarella might consider bypassing the hallowed grounds of Denino's for this nondescript, unatmospheric pizzeria done up in pre-fab Greek-diner décor and staffed by what must be half the local sophomore class of idly gossiping high-school girls. But when one of them can be troubled to take your order and deliver your fourteen-inch medium pie ($9.75), the environs melt away like artful dabs of cheese into a winningly thin crust.
1758 Victory Boulevard, near Manor Road, Staten Island, 718-981-0887
The irresistible offspring of Frank is distinguished by its custom-built brick oven, a tool used to sublime effect on everything from torpedo-size eggplants ($3.95) and lasagne alla Bolognese ($10.95) to whole fish and terrific thin-crust pizza ($5.95–$12.95). The dense, earthy fava-bean soup teeters deliciously on the edge of oversaltiness, but cut it with a juice glass of Montepulciano, or get your vegetables the traditional way -- in the unfailingly fresh Lil' Frankie's salad, a mound of zestily dressed arugula surrounded by neat piles of chopped vegetables and, to gild the Lil', cubes of Fontina cheese ($8.70).
19 First Avenue, 212-420-4900
Locanda Vini & Olii
Despite the sign outside reading lewis drug store, the burnished-wood apothecary drawers, and the rolling ladders, the only prescription this onetime pharmacy fills now is for satisfying, sometimes unfamiliar Italian food in an artfully preserved setting. Nibble on herb-seasoned olives and cheese, share a platter of cured-meat or seafood charcuterie ($10.95 and $12), dip saltless Tuscan-style bread into romaine-lettuce pesto, and sample the pasta tasting of the day ($8.75). The monthly wine-tasting dinners and the relaxing, highly civilized jazz brunch are worth a special trip.
129 Gates Avenue, at Cambridge Place, Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, 718-622-9202
Extravagantly rich, oven-baked gnocchi alla romana, Lupa's Thursday-night special, goes for $15, leaving plenty to spare for a caraffina (quarter-liter) of Ramitello.
170 Thompson Street; 212-982-5089
11 Stone Street; 212-785-8006
Wine and light Mediterranean fare for Smith Street's bar-hoppers and boutique shoppers.
275 Smith Street, Brooklyn; 718-237-2728
There's life after Mario Batali, the original chef-partner of this vest-pocket trattoria, where crowds still flock for affordable, enticing Italian fare. Chef Lee McGrath shares his predecessor's fetish for chili pepper, which punctuates everything from lemony anchovies over a bed of faro ($9) to a refreshing, Greek-like cucumber-and-olive salad under a blanket of shaved ricotta salata ($8). Pastas are generous and satisfying; quail and lamb taste char-grilled ($12.50–$18). Try to score a window table -- it always feels like the most romantic spot in town.
31 Cornelia Street, 212-645-2189
With pastas hovering in the teens and entrées breaking the $20 barrier, this festive macaroni mecca near Arthur Avenue doesn't seem particularly cheap -- until the waiter begins spooning pasta into plates family-style, with a flourish that puts Carmine's to shame. Roberto's is great for dates, but as the rustic farmhouse tables and the massive portions attest, the more the merrier. Order like the regulars do, off the specials blackboard, and you might find yourself on the receiving end of corkscrew-shaped pasta cooked in foil that sails to the table like a schooner, full of juicy cherry tomatoes, earthy porcini, and rich ricotta ($18). The pollo caprese ($14) is a plate-eclipsing chicken cutlet under a blanket of diced tomatoes and dabs of melted mozzarella, enough protein to feed a family of four.
632 East 186th Street, the Bronx, 718-733-9503
Frank Prisinzano of Frank and Lil' Frankie's couldn't stop at two cheap, lively neighborhood joints. He had to go and open this comparatively sprawling new spot with a Northern Italian spin, a serious wine list, plenty of communal tables, and a different risotto every night. Not that we're complaining: We're too busy devouring his perfect veal milanese ($12.95), his tangy panzanella ($5.95), his green-pesto-powered minestrone ($4.25), his strozzapreti marinara with rivulets of melting ricotta di pecora ($9.95), and, to top it off, his hazelnut panna cotta. The front room's a scene, the back room's quieter, and the bar's the perfect vantage point to watch Frank in action.
156 East 2nd Street, 212-477-7600
A good spot for delicious panini.
22 East 65th Street; 212-570-9222
1483 Second Avenue, near 77th Street; 212-452-3354
According to the menu at Via Emilia, tortellini came about centuries ago when an innkeeper caught a keyhole glimpse of a beautiful woman undressing, inspiring him to fashion her navel in dough. We're not sure what that pervy pasta-maker would think of modern-day belly-button-baring Manhattan, but in any case, he'd heartily approve of this spare but homey trattoria's soulful tortellini in brodo ($7.50) and its perfectly sauced homemade tortelloni -- tortellini's supersize siblings -- variously stuffed with spinach and ricotta, pumpkin, or chicken and wild mushrooms ($11–$12.50). The inspiration for some of the other Emilia-Romagnan delicacies here -- gnoccho fritti, the puffy fritters served with cured meats, and calzagatti, a sort of stuffed polenta, both $6.50 -- is left to the imagination.
240 Park Avenue South, near 19th Street, 212-505-3072
Milan-style sandwich shop and restaurant on the Upper East Side.
25 East 73rd Street; 212-650-9880