10 great places to discover Italy in America

There'll be amore and more in Italian neighborhoods across the USA this Columbus Day weekend. Mario Batali, award-winning chef, TV personality and restaurateur (Babbo Ristorante e Enoteca in New York), shares his favorite Little Italys.

Murray Hill


"Corbo's Bakery has the best cassata (cake) I have tried in the USA," Batali says. "Every August, the Feast of the Assumption is celebrated in Little Italy with a four-day party." Don't overlook the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland Botanical Garden, theater at Playhouse Square Center, Cleveland Orchestra and enough ethnic restaurants to eat your way around the globe without leaving town. littleitalycleveland.com

Little Italy


"Even though it no longer resembles its 19th-century heyday, there is still a great deal that is authentic here. On Grand Street, stop by Di Palo Fine Foods for a Ph.D. lesson in the various ages of Parmigiano Reggiano. Stroll down the street to Caffe Roma on Broome Street for the ultimate Italian pastry and a perfect caffè corretto, a shot of espresso with a shot of liquor, usually grappa, brandy or sambuca," Batali says. littleitalynyc.com

Federal Hill


"Stop by Scialo Brothers Bakery and then head to Venda Ravioli for a beautiful lunch with fresh pasta made every day from scratch, all served in a delightful little piazza with opera music blaring from tiny speakers in a Fellini-style setting," Batali says. Stay at the ultra-modern Hotel Dolce Villa on the same little piazza, then catch one of the season's final WaterFire events, spectacular bonfire displays on the river. goprovidence.com

North Beach

San Francisco

"Palermo Delicatessen has imported foods from Sicily and other regions of Italy. Folks line up for the Dungeness crab salad sandwich and toasted focaccia," Batali says. "Stella Pasticceria e Caffe, also in the neighborhood, was a favorite of Pavarotti. Have the prized sacripantina cake, a spongecake made with rum. Two other local favorites: Mario's Bohemian Cigar Store, which serves delicious meatball focaccia sandwiches, and Molinari Delicatessen, famous for its salami and other dried meats." sfnorthbeach.org

Arthur Avenue

The Bronx

"Less touristy than its downtown counterpart, here are a few great spots you must try in this vibrant Little Italy," Batali says. "Many of the city's best chefs buy their seafood at Cosenza's Fish Market, where people enjoy the outdoor clam bar and oyster bar. Biancardi's butcher shop sells everything from prime steaks and chops to whole baby goats and tripe. Around the corner on 187th Street at De Lillo Pastry Shop, the anise-scented biscotti are among my faves." ilovethebronx.com

Little Italy


"All along Taylor Street, the main thoroughfare here, you'll find a bunch of Italian restaurants — from bakeries and sandwich shops to fine dining," Batali says. "Taylor Street also has the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame. The Original Ferrara Bakery on Taylor Street is still here. Sixteen-year-old Salvatore Ferrara brought the art of Italian pastry-making and confectionery with him when he emigrated in 1900. Ferrara's has some of the best cannoli in the city." choosechicago.com

9th Street Italian Market


"This outdoor market epitomizes the quintessential foods we associate with Little Italy, with stalls selling roasted red peppers, fresh mozzarella, cannoli, fresh pasta," Batali says. "John's Water Ice, two blocks over on 7th and Christian Street, is a South Philadelphia institution. It's a favorite spot for water ice, a combination of fruit or syrup and shaved ice." Also in the 9th Street corridor: Philly's dueling cheesesteak establishments, Geno's and Pat's. phillyitalianmarket.com

The Hill

St. Louis

"After playing a round of bocce ball at the courts in Berra Park, stop by Adriana's on Shaw Avenue for poetic caponata, a Sicilian eggplant dish, the famous pasta pie with a meat crust special and other Sicilian delights. Then find the deep-fried city treasure, toasted ravioli, at Mama Toscano's," Batali says. explorestlouis.com

Little Italy

San Diego

"Assenti's Pasta on India Street makes their pasta fresh here on a noisy contraption in the back room, and Roberto and Luigi Assenti will sell you any one of 44 varieties," Batali says. The annual Little Italy Precious Festa, Oct. 13-14, featuring music, food and more, draws 130,000-plus visitors. littleitalysd.com

The North End


"The best and most acclaimed cafe in the area is the deluxe Caffè Vittoria on Hanover Street. The décor is a mixture of pretension and authenticity. The coffee is remarkable, and the gelati are superior. Coconut and chocolate are top-selling flavors," Batali says. "Mike's Pastry, down the street, is another great spot." Order the lobster tail, a crusty baked pastry shell with a sweet, creamy filling named for its shape. northendboston.com