I once asked a chef in Piedmont where he likes to eat when he goes to NYC. Maialino, he said. But dont you want to eat some Sushi, Thai, or Uzbek, something perhaps hard to get back at home, I asked. Good Roman food is hard to get here too, he said. Perhaps for the same reason you see Italians flock to Eataly here. It took me a few trips to Italy to understand what Italians have been telling me all along. There’s really no such thing as Italian food.
When in Rome, eat like Romans. When in NYC, eat the world. The world includes Rome last time I checked. And Roman cuisine is one of the great wonders of the world. It is precise, simple, rustic, and can be absolutely addictive when done right. If you spent any time in Rome you would be rotating between Cacio e Pepe, Carbonara, Amatriciana, Gricia pastas and thin crust roman pizza, and then spend 6 months trying to find it back home. Much easier to do so in NYC these days
Maialino – This is the first place that comes to mind. Head chef Nick Anderer spent some time in Rome studying the art and getting all inspired for all of us. While its not strictly Roman, it may be the only place that does all four classic pastas (all 4 for lunch, minus the Gricia for dinner), and does it well.
Marta – Staying with the Anderer theme. While there were already restaurants out here serving Roman style pizzas, Anderer made people like me notice them. These are the round matzoh-like cracker thin pies that are generally available only in the evening in Rome (after 7:30). So if you missed it on your cruise day trip, do not despair. Just go to Marta and get the Patate Carbonara, arguably NY’s best white pie
Trapizzino – They are back baby. The Roman snack made its debut first 5 years ago in Madison Square Eats by a team properly named, Broken English. That debut lasted roughly 5 minutes seemed like. But last week a roomy brick and mortar called by the snack namesake opened in Lower East Side. Trapizzino are like smallish triangle pizza pita pockets stuffed with various ragus and combinations. I enjoyed my Oxtail ragu last week, and come to think of it, the Oxtail ragu I had 5 years ago (I’m starting to suspect I really like Oxtail). They also sell Suppli, the Roman Arancini.
Sullivan Street Bakery – This is the closest thing we have to a Roman bakery. The only thing its missing is the foot traffic, and hence the constant flow of fresh pizza al taglio (sliced square pizza). Its tucked deep inside Hell’s Kitchen, and other than the occasional tour group (there he goes again with the self promotion, so annoying), foot traffic is minimal. But there’s a healthy wholesale business due to the outrageously good bread, and pastries like Bambolini (donuts) and Canottos that keeps those pesky tour guides and locals coming.
Lilia – This is not exactly Roman, and you may say not Roman at all. But I came out of there feeling like I’ve eaten some of the best Roman inspired food I’ve ever had. Problem is its now way too popular for a return trip, one of the toughest tables in town today. But if you are one of the lucky ones, a must try is the Cacio e Pepe like Mafaldine, ribbons infused with Parmigiano Reggiano and pink peppercorns. And cacio e pepe fritelle which are fritters filled with pecorino and black pepper.
Others – Lupa, Emporio (Roman inspired trattoria/pizza), Via Carota (for the very legit Cacio e Pepe), Barbuto (some of the city’s most notable Carbonaras), Morandi