So you go online and try to find an authentic Italian restaurant, and what do you get instead? Bad, I repeat bad, reviews! Not simply bad, in fact, sadly hilarious. "The only thing Italian about this place is the name"..."nothing Italian at all about this"..."aliens dressed like Italians"..."frozen pizza"..."Italians but not cooks"...
These reviews look quite different from the reviews by Americans in English, who love how "Italian" and "delicious" this food is. If this is the only reason you want to learn a language, to understand how authentic your dish is, it's not such a bad reason. This doesn't just go for Italian, it goes for any language, like French, Spanish, any language!
If you're trying to learn a language, first look up reviews on restaurants in the native language, find a 'true restaurant', then go and order in that language when you're there. Make sure to also try the specialties of that cuisine, not just a hamburger!
Here are some of our favorite 'authentic', native-approved restaurants (we swear they're yummy- read the reviews! I've got to say that this is the most enjoyable multitasking you'll ever do- speaking new languages (ordering) while trying new foods!
This is the pasta place I ended up going to yesterday after searching through pages and pages of reviews by upset Italians. This place boasts handmade pasta and a beautiful patio space that makes you think you're on someone's back porch, far away from the city. Their food is so yummy, buonissimo, yet they have their own take on the decor and have realized that it's better to not try and copy Italian restaurants' looks- why not give some American flair to everything? Although my waiter didn't seem like he was Italian, I still tried my best to pronounce everything correctly, as well as read the menu using my Italian vocabulary of pasta shapes. I will definitely be back in the near future, a presto!
For real Neapolitan pizza, and a chance to speak some Italiano, I would definitely recommend Ribalta, near The Strand and Union Square- it's one of my favorite restaurants in the whole city, and is run by people from Apulia, who are always down to chat and kid around!
This place is owned by a French family. You can definitely trust that they will have quality croissants on hand at all times. Our founder, Walsh, is actually a huge fan of this hip caffe-bar. She speaks French, so being able to order a pastry in French must be such a treat, pardon the pun! Not only does the food, drink, and language impress, they also host open mic nights for music and comedy. A must-visit!
A boss of mine actually recommended this place to me. He is a fellow linguistics nerd and he enjoys everything about this place- from the cuisine, the atmosphere, and the language! The waiters are all Mexican and would be super excited to converse even with the beginners as they order their food. He smiled so much as he described this place, so I'm definitely setting it at the top of my restaurant bucketlist! He especially loves how he can hear Spanish whenever he steps foot inside.
I went to their location on the UES, and boy, I never wanted to leave! Their portions, and the food itself, is amazing, the whole vibe is super cute and authentic, and the Spanish language lives here- you can read it, you can hear it, and you can practically taste it! They have quite a few locations, and each one has its own personality. They even have happy hours, with awesome DJs who play reggaeton! How could you ever go wrong?! The staff speaks Spanish, and my friend, a frequent eater there, enjoys chitchatting with them each time he visits!
This list is only just the beginning! How about making it your mission to visit one of these places with your Lex partner? Language exchange over food is never such a bad idea! (Not a member of Lexody yet? Join free today, and meet up with native French, Italian, and Spanish speakers in NYC to practice conversation!)
Buon appetito! Bon appetit! Buen provecho!