The Best Pasta Bolognese In New York City



Taryn Varricchio: Amid
New York's ever-growing
restaurant scene is one of the city's
most trusted havens for
Italian American food.
It's known for its
tagliatelle alla Bolognese,
but arguably just as much for its roster
of celebrity customers.
And the man standing
beside them in photos?
That's Emilio.
This is Emilio's Ballato,
and it's been serving some of New York's
most sought-after Italian food since 1956.
Customer: It's not only the
best restaurant that I know,
it's the best restaurant in New York City.
And it's a whale of a hard place
to get into in the evenings.
Taryn: We're in Nolita today,
and we're heading to Emilio's Ballato.
To be honest, we found
out about this place
from Instagram and all of the
celebrity photos at the restaurant.
So, we're heading in
to find out, basically,
for celebrities that can get
a table anywhere in the city,
why are they coming here?
Let's go in.
The menu at Emilio's Ballato is simple.
It's focused on Italian American classics
that executive chef Anthony Vitolo
and his brothers learned
from their father.
Anthony Vitolo: My father
started the restaurant.
So, our meals together
were our love, you know?
'Cause he was always working.
So being here was the love.
This place became our home.
Taryn: That love has translated
into many customers' cherished dishes,
like Ballato's best seller,
tagliatelle alla Bolognese.
It starts with a blend of pork and beef,
typically cooked in 100-pound batches,
which last roughly three days.
Anthony: And next goes
in the tomato paste.
That'll cook down a little bit,
and then I hit it with white wine.
That has to cook down.
Taryn: And then Anthony finally adds in
a secret white sauce,
mixing it all thoroughly
with a wooden spatula.
But it's not ready until six hours later,
when the Bolognese has finished
slow cooking on the stove.
And with cheese imported from Italy,
the shaved Parmesan is the final cue
that the dish is ready.
I'm nervous.
Feeling anxious, 'cause I've been
awaiting this moment.
It's, like, uncomparable
for many, many Bolognese that I've had.
A lot have been too thick and too heavy,
but this cooks for six hours,
is what Anthony was telling us,
so, after that time, what looked to be
like it was gonna be a really creamy sauce
ends up just absorbing.
And so you don't get a heavy, saucy dish.
You get, like, really just
that meat and that fresh pasta.
Customer: Amazing.
She wanted my entrée, and I wanted hers.
Customer: So we ate each
other's food the whole time.
Customer: We shared the whole thing.
It was both, I mean,
there was no, like, perfect thing.
It was all wonderful.
Taryn: Since opening its doors in 1956,
Ballato's has been a familiar place
for high-profile people, like Andy Warhol,
who's displayed front
and center on the menu.
But the restaurant isn't what you imagine
a typical celeb hangout to be.
It's small, homely, unassuming,
with only 10 tables packed
together in its front room.
It doesn't isolate the famous,
but rather seats celebrities
and regular customers among one another
and accepts customers, regardless of fame,
on a strictly walk-in basis.
And yet there's a reason one of Ballato's
most loyal regulars, Lenny Kravitz,
has been coming for over 20 years.
Anthony: He's all love.
Lenny's all love.
So, he spreads the word.
His daughter has been coming here
since she was, like, 7, 8 years.
Taryn: What is Lenny
Kravitz's favorite meal?
Do you know?
Anthony: Lenny Kravitz
loves the rigatoni zucchini.
Customer: You know, it's very simple.
This is the restaurant where people
who own Italian restaurants come to eat.
I bring everybody here.
Everybody's like, "Oh I wanna
go here, I wanna go...."
No. There's only one place to
go if you want Italian food.

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