Italian-American restaurants are plentiful in the United States. Italian-American cooking was crafted by turn-of-the-century immigrants, whose creativity, in conjunction with a new environment in which food was abundant, resulted in the checkered-cloth, family-style cuisine we know and love today. These restaurants surpassed the old country’s, whose fervor for eating out did not catch on as readily – for years, Italian cuisine in Italy remained in the hands of nonne, passed down from family to family. It has only been in the last thirty years that there has been an advent of chefs seeking to bring the Italian cuisine as it is today to an American audience at a level of sophistication that it had not enjoyed in previous years, and Italian restaurants have been popping up with more vigor and frequency than ever before.
Travel + Leisure Magazine recently named the Best Italian Restaurants in the US, a list of 30 restaurants spread across the country, many headed by renowned chefs seeking to give a new twist on Italy’s fresh, seasonal ingredients and present-day cuisine. The list includes restaurants from those specializing in regional cuisine to those boasting an impressive wine list (Italy has more than 2000 grape varietals) to pizzaioli extraordinaires. We’ve taken that article and, to save time and energy of flipping through all of the separate pages, have listed our top three favorites – each you can’t go wrong with – below.
Spiaggia: Chicago, IL
Spiaggia’s prominent presence in Chicago’s restaurant scene and remarkable record of awards and honors has been well earned. As a shining example of elegance and refinery – and the favorite restaurant of a certain current president who hails from the area – it boasts not only exceptional Italian cuisine made from the freshest ingredients (products such as white truffles, prosciutto, and an array of cheeses are imported directly from Italy while others are homegrown), but also a wine list with the some of the best and rarest wines on the peninsula. In addition, its location on Michigan Avenue with views of the lake and heart of the city provides for a dining experience fit for a king (and other world leaders).
Roberta’s: Brooklyn, NY
When Roberta’s came to the hipster Brooklyn restaurant scene in 2008, it was a small pizza joint with a wood oven, homegrown and homemade fare, and a creative chef. Its pizzas are superb, but in recent years the expanding menu has caught the eye of critics and food-lovers everywhere. The unassuming spot boasts dishes perfectly prepared by the genius of Chef Carlo Mirachi presented in a fashion that you’d expect to find at, let’s say…Spiaggia. Plates range from tagliatelle lightly tossed with radiccio and walnut, to pork collar and cuttlefish – and the price is right. Be warned, however: this former up-and-coming restaurant has up-and-came, and does not take regular reservations.
Bar La Grassa: Minneapolis, MN
Chef Isaac Becker, recently named Best Chef in the Midwest, created this stylish restaurant that offers its guests a menu simply broken down into antipasti, bruschettas, pastas (dry, filled, and fresh), meat and fish, and vegetables. Guests can order their food cicchetti-style, to share while sipping on a bottle from the Italian-centered wine list, or piece together a multiple-course meal. This Minneapolis hot spot is nice medium between the former two restaurants – with varied price points, trendy-casual dress, and the option to make reservations.
Do you have any additions to this list or experiences at these restaurants?
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