Best Of 2005

Best Italian: Valerio's Ristorante, Café & Bar

For authentic Old World ambiance and the kind of Continental insouciance rarely seen since the 1950s, you can't find a better spot than Valerio's in Little Italy. The food is as earthy and unpretentious as anything cooked up by a Tuscan nonna. There's slowly simmered veal, Chianti-braised lamb, and firm pastas in light, savory sauces. Parsley, rosemary, and garlic - lots of garlic, fearlessly chopped into chunks the size of pignoli - perk up the palate. Artichokes, olives, and capers add pizzazz. And judiciously employed creams, cheeses, and olive oils provide round, unctuous counterpoints.

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