Little Italy

Il Cortile

Leave the red sauce to the other pasta factories on the block and try some of the harder-to-find Northern Italian dishes at this sprawling Little Italy favorite. Many of the better bets don't even have a tomato in sight, like a light, oozy, spiedino alla Romana, fried mozzarella cheese and bread covered in a creamy, lemony anchovy and caper sauce, or the scacciata di salsicce e carciofi, a quiche-like pie with artichokes, sweet sausage, and mozzarella cheese. Showing his adeptness for literally layering flavor, chef Michael DeGeorgio sneaks parmesan, basil, and breadcrumbs into a rolled shell steak in the spiedino di bistecca Lucca (off menu, but made upon request), where tomatoes topping the meat add a sweet, slightly acidic edge. But while the food may stand out for the neighborhood, the trappings are full-on Mulberry Street, with statues, Roman columns, archways, and enough greenery for a botanical garden. The ubiquitous dessert buffet especially brings you back to the fact that you are in Little Italy: Il Cortile's brims with zabaglione, fresh berries, and tiramisu. Ending the meal in such a traditional manner is recommended. But look past the red sauce for an otherwise uncommon experience. — Kathleen Squires

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New York Lexikon