Italian Wine Merchants
(108 E. 16th St., 212-473-2323)
This wine store sells Italian vintages in all price ranges; there's a great $25-and-under section. I just walk in and ask owner Sergio Esposito for a midpriced dry red -- whatever he's into at the moment. I haven't been steered wrong yet!
(377 Greenwich St., 212-925-3797)
Walk into this restaurant and you'll feel like you're in exactly the right place. It's trendy and crowded and fun without feeling snotty or too cool for school. And the food is fantastic. Each pasta is better than the next, but I fell in love with chef Andrew Carmellini when I tasted his osso buco: He uses saffron in it, just like my family does.
(two locations, including 349 E. 12th St., 212-777-2644)
This is a great, easy place to hang out with friends and share some griddled mortadella (a smoked pork sausage, much like bologna) and a few pies with hot soppressata sausage, anchovies or brussels sprouts. It's my favorite pizza, in or out of Italy. I also love going here for brunch and getting the egg pizza with pancetta, basil and parmesan. Yum-o!
(75 Ninth Ave., 212-633-9090)
This is the best-kept secret in the city. Bins filled with nuts, grains and goodies run through the center of the store. I use it like a supermarket and buy all my staples there -- pasta, olives, anchovies and deli meats. You can pack yourself a picnic and eat it upstairs on the High Line (thehighline.org), an old freight-train overpass that's been converted into an elevated green space.
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