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Little Italy: idk tonight’s Top 10 Date Night Picks

By: Rachel Clayton

Little Italy is so much more than what the kids call the video game character Mario (the kids definitely don’t call him that). In a city full of “little” countries, sometimes called authentic urban villages, Little Italy is one of the most well known and visited. Bordered by one of the other most popular little countries, Chinatown, and the hip Soho and Tribeca, this neighborhood has trendy tourist spots, charm, and overall festive vibe. Here are the ten best spots to feel that vibe with whoever’s got you in your feelings.

idk tonight's Top Ten Date Night Picks—Little Italy

IL Cortile
4603, 125 Mulberry Street, Manhattan

Little Italy can trip you up with the occasional tourist trap that doesn’t deliver, but IL Cortile is a bona fide neighborhood staple that’s proved it’s authenticity. Around since 1975, this quaint restaurant is perfect for a date, whether you inside amid painted frescos, romantic arches, and marble columns, or in their greenhouse with a gorgeous windowed roof and droopy trees laces with lights. They have an expansive – if a little expensive – menu, with everything from classic pasta dishes to hearty meat entrees like the popular veal scaloppine. Many of the waiters have been serving here for years and years, so they provide top notch service to any swooning couple.

IL Cortile
Credit: IL Cortile
Ferrara Bakery & Cafe
195 Grand Street, Manhattan

Another spot with plenty of historical cred is Ferrara, which has been slinging baked goods since 1892. Not only do they bake Italian sweets in-house, but they import some of the more complex creations, so you know you’re getting authentic Italian carbs. Duck inside the always air conditioned, classy bakery and you’ll be greeted by a long row of gleaming cases packed with cannolis, Napoleon cheesecake, and perfect little tarts. They have a decent sized seating area where you can enjoy your treat with high quality coffee or a veritable selection of wines – but why not mix pleasures and pick one of their gelato flavors for an affogato of perfection?

Ferrara Bakery & Cafe
Credit: Ferrara Bakery & Cafe
Maman
239 Centre Street, Manhattan

This neighborhood is heavy on Italian places – shocker, right? But if you need a break from tomato sauce and red wine,, head to Maman for an experience just as quaint but a little more French. Going with the unofficial law to be charming as hell, Maman has a welcoming turquoise exterior and a rustic, grandma’s French cottage vibe with unfinished wood, cute framed art, and plenty of dried flowers. In addition to baked goods both French and American (a pistachio chocolate croissant and homemade oreo live in harmony), they have lunch staples like hearty salads, quiches with fresh greens, and croque madame perfect for your beloved madame or monsieur.

Maman
Credit: Maman
Umberto’s Clam House
132 Mulberry Street, Manhattan

If your lover fiends not only for Italian food, but it’s saucy and sometimes violent history, take them to Umberto’s Clam House. Considered part of “old Little Italy”, this spot was opened in 1972 and gained notoriety when gangster Joe Gallo was murdered here. Throughout the years, they earned a different kind of notoriety for their excellent seafood and laid back yet caring service. Start off with their homemade limoncello or Bloody Mary (complete with an oyster shooter), before moving on to their famous clams on a half shelf. For mains, there’s everything from whole roasted branzino to fettucini alfredo, all of it in hearty portions guaranteed to make you and your partner say “mama mia!”.

Umberto’s Clam House
Credit: Umberto’s Clam House
The Ship
158 Lafayette Street, Manhattan

When you need as respite from the packed streets of Little Italy, tuck into the dark and moody bar The Ship. With chic white couches, marble floors, and dim lighting led by a glowing moon, this place feels romantic and hip without being pretentious. The bar is spacious and usually pretty quiet, so you can flirt over cocktails without bumping elbows with other flirting couples. In addition to classic cocktails, they make their own nautical themed cocktails with names as fun as the ingredients – a drink called Mutiny is made with tequila, roasted red pepper puree, and jalapenos. They also have fancy small plates like mini lobster rolls, salmon tartare spring rolls, and burrata if you’re feelin fancy.

The Ship
Credit: The Ship

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Rossi E and Company
3717, 193 Grand Street, Manhattan

This area can get pretty touristy, but sometimes it’s fun to get into that mindset and do one of the best touristy things: explore a gift shop. Unlike some of the more expensive (and tacky) street shops hawking t shirts, Rossi E and Company is filled with a variety of items, from high quality Italian art, floral maps, espresso pots, specialty coffee, and yes, some t-shirts. Try not to lose your partner as you wander through the packed aisles, digging out treasures. Be sure to chat with the owner, Mr. Rossi, a charming older man who has been known to occasionally serenade his customers.

Rossi E and Company
Credit: Rossi E and Company
Mulberry St Bar
176 Mulberry Street, Manhattan

If your first Netflix and chill was watching the Godfather, then this is the perfect bar for your next date. This old school Italian dive bar, formerly known colloquially as the “Sinatra Bar”, not only matches that vibe personally but actually was used to film scenes for the Godfather movies. At a number of red-checked tables you can chow down on surprisingly good bar food like fried ravioli, calamari, and perfectly blistered pizza, all washed down with a cold Peroni. It can get crowded on the weekends, but it’s worth braving for the Friday night karaoke which brings out the Sinatra-esque crooners.

Mulberry St Bar
Credit: Timeout - Paul Wagtouicz
Aunt Jake’s
149 Mulberry Street, Manhattan

While many spots here take place in being long established or old school, Aunt Jake switches it up by aiming to serve modern Italian in a stylish environment. The wood paneled space with crisp white furniture really comes alive thanks to it’s atrium offering great light, though a few vintage art pieces don’t hurt. Courting the millennial personalized palate, they offer not only the chance to make your own pasta dish (mixing shapes with sauces) but to also create your own cocktail by picking from spirits, ingredients, and flavor profile. You can’t go wrong sharing a plate of their Sunday sauce, made with ribs, veal, short rib, and love.

Aunt Jake’s
Credit: Aunt Jake’s
Hometown Hot Pot & BBQ
194 Grand Street, Manhattan

Another respite from pasta can be found at Hometown Hot Pot & BBQ, a hot pot spot that dares to thrive smack dab in the middle of Little Italy. This place has a classy feel with orderly line tables, a muted color palette, and underlit iron sculptures, but still has the prices of a hometown joint. At each table there’s a grill and a hot pot for customers to cook in, and all you can eat is only $30. After all, the most truly romantic thing is feeling comfortable enough to stuff your faces in front of each other.

Hometown Hot Pot & BBQ
Credit: Hometown Hot Pot & BBQ
Sweet & Vicious
5 Spring Street, Manhattan

When you’ve pounded the pavement of Little Italy seeing every charming inch and you and the bae are ready to kick back, head to Sweet & Vicious. This laidback bar is known for their awesome outdoor space, filled with colorful art, leafy plants, and wooden benches. Though their selection of draft beers and wine is small, they specialize in frozen margaritas, coming in a variety of fun flavors like Guava, Peach, and Jalapeno. It can get crowded on the weekends, but the music sets the vibe for a good time.

Sweet & Vicious
Credit: Sweet & Vicious

See Our Curated Date Ideas This Week