Italian restaurants in America today are many and varied, and much more authentic and / or regional and / or contemporary in style than they were before. It is now possible to find real Ligurian, Roman, Sicilian and Calabrian dishes all over the country, and not just their Italian-American approximations. At the same time, restaurants like La Tavola Trattoria in Atlanta, Scampo in Boston, and Vetri in Philadelphia are expanding definitions of what Italian cuisine can be.
But in the meantimeâ¦ There is nothing wrong with Italian-American cuisine. It’s not a bastardization of the real thing, it’s its own entity (like Tex-Mex versus real Mexican cuisine), with legitimate cultural and culinary origins. Besides, who among us does not sometimes want spaghetti with meatballs, chicken scarpariello or veal parmigiana?
The good news is that there are still plenty of old-fashioned Italian places (sometimes called âred sauce restaurantsâ) that work well in the United States – establishments serving the familiar dishes we know and love.
To determine the Top 50 Examples, 24/7 Tempo reviewed and extrapolated from listings and rankings on many food and general interest sites, including Eater, Bark, The meal of the day, Fodor, Business intern, Thrillist, Food web, Foursquare, Forbes, and Gayot, as well as a wide range of regional and city-specific sites.
Our picks span some 24 states, with more than one example in Italian-American restaurant capitals like New York, Chicago, Boston, and San Francisco. The majority were created by Italian immigrants, although a handful were owned by non-Italian Americans or chefs and restaurateurs from other countries.
Click here to see the 50 best old-fashioned Italian restaurants in America
While some of the places on our list serve pizza, we’ve eliminated those that are primarily pizza places. (Not that there is anything wrong with pizza, of course. Check out our list of the 25 best pizzerias in America.)
Some of our top picks are over a century old, while one is only from last year, though it definitely has an old school feel to it. Occasionally, the founders and / or clients were linked to organized crime. Many have counted celebrities among their clientele – often Frank Sinatra, but also, in one case, our current president. (Here is a list of Joe Biden’s favorite foods..)
All of them have great stories to tell and do what they do extremely well.