The Best of the Best. Top Italian Restaurants Around the United States and Italian Wine Producers

Riccardo Chioni (March 03, 2008)
The best of the best. "America's 1000 Top Italian Restaurants 2008" and "Top 500 Italian Wine Producers 2008"

They are one thousand, singled out to entice and entertain Americans from coast to coast, equipped with traditional hospitality and authentic Italian dishes.

"America's 1000 Top Italian Restaurants 2008", the brand new guide dedicated to the best Italian restaurants in 53 cities around the United States, was published by the specialized press Zagat, in partnership with the Italian Ministry of Agricultural, Nutritional and Forest Policies.

It was presented to the press during the event "SensodWine", sponsored by Buonitalia and one of the leading figures in the wine industry, Luca Maroni, who presented the new guide "Top 500 Italian Wine Producers 2008", at The Helen Mills Theater in Manhattan where Alta Cucina has organized an exhibition of Italian wines and food.

And to think that Zagat Survey – started by husband and wife team Tim and Nina Zagat in 1979 as a hobby – has become the colossal institution it is today. It is the leader amongst guides dedicated to consumers of food, wine, lodging and entertainment in every corner of the world, with opinions expressed by over 300,000 participants around the globe.

During the presentation of the new guide dedicated to the 1,000 best Italian restaurants in the United States, Tim and Nina Zagat wanted to reward the restaurateurs of the metropolitan area that received the highest votes from the public.

The Zagat award for best in the Italian restaurant industry went to Joe Bastianich, son of celebrated chef Lidia, owner for the past ten years of "Babbo" on Waverly Place in Manhattan. 

"What was missing – according to Tim Zagat – was a guide to the best Italian restaurants, particularly in light of the fact that many surveys have confirmed that Americans greatly prefer Italian cuisine over others. Now the American consumer will know where to go to taste authentic Italian cuisine, made from traditional products and recipes".

Emilio De Piazza, president of Buonitalia SpA, especially created by the Ministry of Agricultural Policies, explains that he sponsored the Zagat guide to highlight the excellence of the cuisine and products of Italy. "Buonitalia was created by the Ministry for the specific purpose of organizing initiatives to promote the agroindustrial industry. We think that – particularly in a country as important as the United States – it is vital to have a significant presence in the restaurant industry. The logical next step – remarks De Piazza  – was to follow the leader and as far as restaurants are concerned there is no question that it's Zagat. Together we selected Italian restaurants in 53 cities that received the best scores overall and that we think are the best ambassadors of Italian cuisine in the United States. Starting with these thousand restaurants we hope to develop a continuity that will help maintain the highest quality".

Nina Zagat describes the challenge of selecting the Italian restaurants in America as a Herculean task. "There are an infinite number of them, but we searched until we found the best, the one thousand most liked by the American public. Now the guide offers people points of reference on the best and traditional Italian cuisine. We hope – adds the author – that the guide serves as a catalyst for other Italian restaurateurs to prepare original recipes with authentic products. We also hope that it can serve to inform Americans about Italian cuisine, the warmth of the environment and the impeccable service, beyond the inimitable smells and flavors".

The secret is all in the authentic Italian ingredients according to Nina Zagat who, together with her husband, also publishes a more general guide to New York restaurants featuring cuisines of 99 countries, but where Italian restaurants have a chapter and a volume all their own.

Accompanying the restaurant guide Luca Maroni presented his own guide,  "Top 500 Italian Wine Producers 2008" which looks at over 2,000 wines produced in Italy. "We have to consider that only 8% of the American population drinks high quality wines and so there is room there, together with the great Italian winemakers, to jointly share the wealth of food and wine".

There are problems that torment the Italian production for exportation according to Maroni, such as shipping, delivery and sorting on the US territory. "We have to work on the logistics, we have to ensure that channels are created, it shouldn't be a problem to ship twenty bottles to the United States. And this is where the Italian system needs to work to make these procedures more expedient, to uncork an enormous cap. We are working towards that".

He says that to compile the annual guide he tried 13,000 wines from 3,000 different vintners. "The 500 best vintners according to a comprehensive organoleptic average were included in this guide and for each one there is a selection of the best six wines, but also of the latest wines on the market and the ones that perform the best". Today there is no longer the distinction between wines from the South and those from the North of Italy, they are – assure Maroni – in many cases excellent.

  (Translated by Daria Masullo)





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