Is there a truly great Italian restaurant in NYC? New York for all of its Italian restaurants does not, in my opinion, have a place that consistently knocks your socks off in the manner of some of the other city cuisines. For example with French, you have Le Bernardin, Jean Georges or Daniel. You want great Japanese, then Sushi Yasuda, Kuruma Zushi, Sugiyama or Nobu are sure to satisfy. Steak is your desire. Is there a choice other than Peter Luger for the perfect porterhouse. Where are the Italian must-eat equivalents?
Il Mulino is vastly overrated and it mystifies me that it gets cited as New York's finest Italian restaurant year after year. Rao's. Never been and I don't think it counts if you can't get a table. Yes, I have had tremendous meals at Babbo, but I wonder whether Mario is not secretly chuckling to himself how he has somehow persuaded New Yorkers that organ meat and other low brow or unusual ingredients are chic. I believe that most foodies are afraid to say that the "emperor has no clothes" for fear of being labeled too pedestrian/provincial in their taste. Babbo is a novelty act, albeit a very delicious one.
We can all name any number of good Italian restaurants in the city. In fact, New York's real strength is the amazing variety in terms of regions and depth (I'll break out my baseball cliches here as the playoffs approach....Go Yankees)of stand-up doubles (e.g., I Coppi, Il Cantinori, I Trulli, Le Madri etc.)and solid base hit neighborhood joints too numerous to mention. However, in my opinion, no homeruns. I'm sure chowhounds can up with a long list of worthy personal favorites, but where's the great Italian restaurant?