A Taste of Italy: The History of Italian Restaurants

An Italian restaurant is a restaurant influenced by or in Italian culture. In most cases, an Italian restaurant is not a formal establishment, but a simple trattoria. However, in some instances, an Italian restaurant is an influential establishment in its own right.


The first Italian restaurants in the United States were located in major port cities. These eateries were typically small and served the needs of local immigrant communities. Immigrants often ate cheap, table d’hote meals. Some were opened by owners’ wives.


New York City became a major center for Italian immigration in the late 19th century. Most Italian immigrants were entrepreneurs, craftsmen, and merchants. They moved to the United States in search of economic opportunity. By the early 20th century, nearly all of these newcomers were in New York City.


New York was home to the largest concentration of Italian immigrants in the country. It also had the most restaurants. As Italians began to settle in large numbers in the city, they sought out places where they could eat their favorite foods. A variety of restaurants were started in New York to serve the needs of this growing population. Many of these early establishments reflected the simple osteries found in Italy.


During Prohibition, Italian food was a huge hit in the U.S. A whole horde of Americans were exposed to the cuisine. This helped create the prototype for an Italian steakhouse. Pizza was a popular snack food at this time.


Toward the end of the 20th century, Italian restaurants in New York began to attract non-Italian patrons. In addition to the numerous pizza parlors, there were several other unique Italian-themed eateries. For example, Sammy D’s was one of three Italian restaurants that were within a few blocks of each other. Similarly, Leone’s and Moretti were two prominent Italian eateries in Manhattan. Both were famous for quality cooking.


One of the first Italian-themed eateries in America was Cafe di Napoli. The menu featured sweet tomato sauce and a huge portion size. The restaurant drew celebrity customers, including James Stewart and Frank Sinatra.


Gianluigi Morini, a banker, decided to open his own Italian restaurant. His goal was to provide quality food for Italians as well as for those not necessarily interested in Italian food. Initially, the establishment was located near Tammany Hall, where a number of Italian singers were based. Although the restaurant did not succeed, it did attract a number of distinguished guests.


Several Italians were instrumental in the development of the Italian-American food industry. One of these was Michael Cossetta, a native of Calabria, Italy. Originally, he opened a small alimentary in Upper Levee. From there, he moved to San Francisco, where he served food to fortune seekers.

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