With summer already halfway over, we’re trying to devour as many of our favorite warm-weather dishes as possible before autumn hits. And that means sampling the city’s spectacular array of seafood pasta dishes. This season, Donatella Arpaia’s new pizza joint is making the most of a lobster bounty, while Maialino is introducing New Yorkers to the traditional Roman preparation of spaghetti with clams. And there’s our favorite, no-frills clam bar, Randazzo’s, with its lobster Fra Diavolo, perfect for a Saturday night trip to Sheepshead Bay. And if you really want to revel in summer seafood, consider a visit to Esca for Mark Pasternack’s stellar squid ink spaghetti, mingled with tomatoes, scallions and chilies. That’s just the beginning. Check out these and a few more of our favorites.
Esca – Spaghetti Neri
Address: 402 W. 43rd St., nr. Ninth Avenue
Phone: (212) 564-7272
Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich have built some amazing restaurants and even marketplaces, including Eataly, Del Posto, and Babbo. But one of the best cards they’re holding is Esca and its gifted chef, David Pasternack. Pasternack, has been transporting diners to the shores of the Mediterranean for more than 10 years now with his simple crudos, whole fish, and seafood pastas, but the real showstopper is the squid ink spaghetti. Stained black from squid ink, the spaghetti neri tastes of the deep ocean and is simply tossed with tangy tomatoes, green chilies and scallions. Simple and sublime
Randazzo’s – Lobster Fra Diavolo
Address: 2017 Emmons Ave., at E. 21st Street (Brooklyn)
Phone: (718) 615-0010
The flavors at this Sheepshead Bay waterfront restaurant are just as big as the portions, and longtime customers wouldn’t have it any other way. Randazzo’s has been a seafood institution for more than 50 years and the must-try dish is still the lobster fra diavolo — a gigantic platter of everything we love about Italian-American food. More than a pound of pulled Maine lobster meat mingles with clams, mussels and shrimp on a bed of spaghetti. The seafood is fresh and perfectly cooked, but the real draw here is the tomato sauce, which is spicy, chunky and briny thanks to a killer seafood stock.
Maialino – Spaghetti alle Vongole
Address: 2 Lexington Ave., btwn. E. 21st & 22nd streets
Phone: (212) 777-2410
There’s plenty of great pork dishes at Maialino, but look beyond and you’ll find some of the best offerings here are seafood, like the fritto misto. But when a chef picks favorites, we pay attention. Chef Nick Anderer’s pick is the spaghetti alla vongole. Like most classic Roman dishes, spaghetti alle vongole only has a few ingredients – clams, white wine and garlic – but they work brilliantly together.
Crudo Vineria Con Cucina – Pacherri with Swordfish
Address: 178 Mulberry St., at Broome Street
Phone: (646) 559-0640
This is Little Italy’s newest seafood joint, which opened in the former Umberto’s Clam House space (infamous for being the spot mobster “Crazy” Joe Gallo was gunned down at his birthday dinner in 1972). While I’m not sure one restaurant could save Little Italy, Crudo Viniera Con Cucina does an impressive job of challenging its middling reputation. The menu features great raw seafood platter and worthwhile pastas, like the pacherri with diced swordfish. The latter dish is a complicated and successful array of flavors and textures — olives, saffron and pistachios, tossed with fresh chunks of swordfish.
Donatella – Tagliarini con Astice
Address: 184 Eighth Ave., btwn. 19th & 20th streets
Phone: (212) 493-5150
The buzz about this Chelsea spot centers around the wood-fired oven (shipped over from Italy) and the Neapolitan pies, but we advise you not to forget about the pasta dishes. Donatella Arpaia does right by Italian cuisine here and the bucatini with fresh sardines and capers is a salty delight. Still, if we had to pick one non-pizza offering, it would be the tagliarini with lobster. The ribbon noodles are glossed with a tomato sauce, laced with chili and citrus, though the flavors are subtle enough to not detract from the impeccably cooked lobster meat.
Marea – Spaghetti with Crab and Sea Urchin
Address: 240 Central Park South, nr. Broadway
Phone: (212) 582-5100
There are so many exceptional dishes at Michael White’s temple of Italian seafood, but the dog days of summer have us craving a lighter Michael White brand of pasta — the spaghetti with crab, sea urchin and fresh basil. This is the briny, rich essence of summer without being the slightest bit overwhelming. Besides, it’s impossible not to enjoy anything served in such a beautiful dining room, complete with rosewood walls and silver trolleys wheeling platters of fresh fish on ice.
SD26 – Pacherri
Address: 19 E. 26th St., btwn. Madison & Fifth avenues
Phone: (212) 265-5959
This Madison Square Park spot is the downtown reincarnation of San Domenico, which for two decades helped set the standard for upscale Italian food in New York along Central Park South. The new space has a sleek decor and electronic wine dispensers, but thankfully still serves rustic dishes like slow-roasted goat and egg yolk-filled agnolotti with truffle butter. As for the pasta dishes, we can’t get enough of the pacherri (imagine rigatoni and you’ve got the idea) with prawns and a citrusy bisque.
Il Toscano – Linguini Nettuno
Address: 42-05 235th St. (Queens)
Phone: (718) 631-0300
Located in the far reaches of Eastern Queens, we took one look at the old school dining room and expected Il Toscano to be your typical red-sauce joint. But we were happy to be wrong. This family-run establishments gets surprisingly creative with its northern Italian fare, such as sautéed octopus with andouille sausage and honey-glazed duck with peanuts and pepper. But for our money, the dish to get is the seafood linguine, cooked al dente of course, with shrimp, scallops and clams in a saffron-spiced tomato sauce.