Special Report

Top Old-School Italian Restaurants in America

Source: Photo by Jess S. via Yelp

Rino’s Place
> Location: East Boston, Massachusetts

Rino and Anna DiCenso set up shop in residential East Boston in 1997, serving a traditional Italian-American menu including an antipasto plate, baked gnocchi in tomato sauce, lobster ravioli (raved about by Guy Fieri when he featured the place on “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives”), chicken marsala, and veal saltimbocca. The DiCensos’ son Anthony is now the chef-proprietor.

Source: Photo by Mark L. via Yelp

Roberto’s Trattoria & Chophouse
> Location: Sappington, Missouri

Chef Roberto Zanti opened a place he called Zanti’s in the St. Louis suburb of Affton in 1987. In 2003, he renamed it Roberto’s, and four years later he moved to a larger space in nearby Sappington. Since 2018, it’s been Roberto’s Trattoria & Chophouse, with a menu filled with familiar favorites like eggplant parmigiana, toasted ravioli, fettuccine Alfredo, chicken spiedini, and, satisfying the second part of the place’s name, both steaks and a veal rib chop.

Source: Photo by Cal D. via Yelp

Sabatino’s
> Location: Baltimore, Maryland

In 1955, Joseph Canzani and Sabatino Luperini opened a small family-style restaurant in Baltimore’s Little Italy. Canzani’s nephew, Vince Culotta, now co-owns it with chef Renato Rotondo. The menu includes traditional fare (clams casino, minestrone, gnocchi with tomato or marinara sauce, baked rigatoni, veal Florentine) and house inventions with an old-style spirit — the most famous of which is the Bookmaker Salad, greens topped with shrimp, provolone, Genoa salami, hard-boiled eggs, olives, red onions, tomatoes, and red pepper flakes.

Source: Photo by Stephanie K. via Yelp

Sabatino’s Italian
> Location: Rapid City, South Dakota

Roman-born chef Alessio Di Sabatino’s Rapid City restaurant is by far the newest old-school place on this list. It opened only in 2020. You wouldn’t know that, though, from its menu of house-made meatballs marinara, fried calamari, Caesar salad, gnocchi al pesto, scampi Fra Diavolo, and filet mignon with gorgonzola, among other old-line favorites.

Source: Photo by Michelle J. via Yelp

Sarducci’s
> Location: Montpelier, Vermont

Restaurant veterans Carol Paquette and Dorothy Korshak decided that central Vermont needed a good Italian restaurant, so they opened Sarducci’s in 1994. One feature unique to the area at the time was a wood-fired oven, from which come dishes like spinach ravioli baked in garlic-mushroom cream sauce and baked penne with Italian sausage. Korshak retired in 2014 and today Paquette and chef-partner Jeff Butterfield run the place, with a menu that also includes bruschetta with various toppings, crab ravioli with shrimp, chicken piccata, and grilled hanger steak with red wine-balsamic vinegar sauce.