Where To Find Real Italian Food In NYC

When you think of Italian cuisine, surely that holy trinity of pizza, pasta and gelato comes to mind. But in Tramonti, a small town in the territory of the Amalfi Coast whose name means "between the mountains," a rich culinary history and hyper-local ingredients create a menu worlds away from the cacio e pepe and cheesy pizza of Rome and Napoli. 

If this hidden gem isn't on your immediate bucket list, a visit to Tramonti Pizzeria in New York's East Village will change that. The region's authentic dishes come to life thanks to chef Giovanni Vittorio Tagliafierro. He uses 1,000-year-old recipes from his hometown, ingredients you won't find just anywhere and his own fourth-generation family recipes to recreate the flavors of his childhood. If you can't hop on a plane to the Amalfi Coast anytime soon, don't worry: We've rounded up the five most iconic dishes from this ancient village that you can eat right here in New York City.

① Pasta e Patan

Forget spaghetti carbonara. In Tramonti, the staple is pasta e patan, a hand-made spaghetti broken in half and sautéed with extra-virgin olive oil, garlic and basil. Tender boiled potatoes are added in for extra texture and nutrients. Pasta e patan, or "emergency pasta" as chef Tagliafierro calls it, is simple yet extremely filling. It's what people in Tramonti made to satisfy hungry children—and themselves after a long day of work.

② Tramonti-Style Pizza Marinara  

When it comes to Tramonti-style pizza, adding any and all toppings you want is not an option. This ancient pizza recipe is one of The Untouchables recipes, which can't be changed due to a significant historical connection to Tramonti. Everything from the dough down to the very last topping on a Tramonti pizza is different than your typical Neapolitan. Here's the breakdown: 

The Dough

While the dough in Neapolitan-style pizza is made and used on the same day, the dough for Tramonti pizza must be made the day before so that it has time to fully rise. It's made with millet, barley, rye and whole-wheat flour, creating a richer crust that's also darker in color than typical Neapolitan pizza.

The Toppings

Sorry, cheese lovers. A classic Tramonti pizza is topped with only chopped cherry tomatoes, garlic, oregano and olive oil. They sit atop a bed of pure San Marzano tomato sauce, which contains only basil and salt in addition to the special regional tomatoes.

The Method

Tramonti pizzas are cooked at a lower temperature for longer than Neapolitan pizzas to get that thin, airy yet crispy crust.

③ Calzone Tramonti

The calzones in Tramonti also benefit from the low baking temperature, because it allows the ingredients inside the warm, doughy exterior to cook all the way through while browning the crust to perfection. A traditional Calzone Tramonti is stuffed with tomato pulp, smoked provolone, mozzarella and hot soppressata.

④ 'Ndunderi

UNESCO considers this large gnocchi-style pasta to be one of the oldest types of pasta in the world. It's like a giant pillow of ricotta with rich beef sauce and melted provolone all in one bite, and it is warm and comforting, like any good pasta should be. 

⑤ Chocolate Eggplant

Though the chocolate eggplant looks just like a normal chocolate cake, digging into its crunchy, chocolaty layers will prove otherwise. The iconic dish is made by layering levels of crispy fried eggplant with dark chocolate sauce and finishing it off in a wood-fired oven. The chocolate sauce, and therefore the dish as a whole, is not complete without concierto— a rich liqueur made with 13 herbs and spices that's nearly impossible to acquire. You can't find this liqueur on Amazon or Ebay: Chef Tagliafierro says the only way to get authentic concierto is from the monks who live in the Amalfi Coast. For about 35 euro, two empty bottles and a potential one-month wait, you can get freshly brewed concierto by knocking on the monastery door, which is exactly what chef Tagliafierro does.