The One Restaurant You Won't Want To Miss In NYC, According To Celebrity Chef Michael Symon

Michael Symon knows a thing or two about good food. Early in his career, the Cleveland native was listed as a Best New Chef by Food & Wine magazine in 1998 and the success just kept on coming. Further accolades, a string of high-profile restaurants, and a career as a TV personality have made Symon one of the best-known chefs in the United States. In short, if Symon gives you a restaurant recommendation, it's worth booking a table right away. And his pick out of all the fine places to dine in New York City is Don Angie, a Michelin-starred Italian-American eaterie in the West Village.

Much has been written over the last few decades about the rise, fall, and welcome comeback of "red sauce joints." Some bloggers have lamented the demise of traditional family-run kitchens that go back decades like Gino's, a former favorite of Frank Sinatra whenever he was in New York. Other foodie writers wax nostalgic about the kind of old-school restaurants and the hearty no-frills fare they enjoyed as a kid. That rustic style of cooking, which traces its roots back to southern Italian immigrants arriving in the States around the turn of the 20th century, gradually fell out of favor as lighter northern Italian cuisine became the trend. Now, a new generation of New York's restaurateurs is bridging the gap between traditional and innovative, and Don Angie is one of New York's big names in this new wave of Italian-American restaurants.

What is so special about Don Angie?

Since they first opened the doors in 2017, Angie Rito and her husband Scott Tacinelli have turned Don Angie into one of the hot-ticket Italian-American restaurants in Manhattan. Reservations were tough to come by from day one and glowing reviews, a Michelin Star award in 2021, and recommendations from a celebrity chef like Michael Symon certainly haven't made snagging a table any easier.

Like Symon, Rito also hails from Cleveland and is the creative force behind the endeavor. The emphasis at Don Angie is putting a modern spin on classic dishes, such as swapping out lettuce for chrysanthemum in a novel take on Caesar Salad. Rave reviews have also highlighted their Instagrammable Buffalo Milk Caramelle and the Veal "Da Pepi," but the star of the show is Symon's recommendation: the Lasagna for Two.

The trusty old lasagna, a staple of red-sauce joints in the past, might not seem like a blockbuster attraction on paper. But, as with most of the dishes on the Don Angie menu, Rito and Tacinelli put a twist on it. Instead of layering the ingredients in the traditional method, everything is rolled up in a sheet of fresh pasta, cut into Danish pastry-like slices, and baked in a rich sauce. The meal-to-share has become something of the restaurant's signature dish, and the couple have even appeared on Today to share the recipe with viewers at home.

Can't get a table at Don Angie? Here are some other picks ...

Don't just take Michael Symon's word for it; Don Angie regularly features on lists of the best Italian-American restaurants in New York and Esquire ranked it among the best restaurants in the United States in 2018. However, if you're not planning a trip to New York anytime soon, Symon has some other recommendations nationwide to tide you over until you can make it to the Big Apple. 

In Austin, Texas, he says the brisket at La Barbecue is good enough to "make you weep" while his hometown pick is Cleveland's Zhug, a stylish-casual modern space serving Mediterranean mezze. The menu ranges from standards like falafel and muhammara (roasted red pepper dip) to Symon's choice, the luxurious lamb and apricot hummus.

For lovers of seafood and oysters in particular, Symon highlights the hip Leon's Fine Poultry & Oyster Shop in Charleston for its "perfect" raw delicacies and frozen gin and tonics to wash them down with. Over in California, he praises Playa Provisions in Playa del Rey for its "smart, thoughtful food" from a menu geared towards the freshest seasonal ingredients. In Chicago, he commends The Publican for a combo of locally sourced ham chop in hay and fine beers. To end on another modern Italian-American note, Symon says to head to the refined Vetri Cucina in Philadelphia as his "last meal" restaurant. With picks like these, you can't go wrong.