Unlike Los Angeles, where celebrities can hide behind the ivy-clad walls of their Beverly Hills mansions and the jet-black tinted windows of their luxury cars, in New York there are fewer places to hide. So just walking down the street or sitting at a sidewalk table at a restaurant, you may encounter an A-list celebrity.
New York City is great for celebrity sightings and there are certain restaurants where celebrities go in NYC. If spotting a celeb is your thing, here are 10 restaurants to eat at where you very well might be among the rich and the famous.
Located on leafy Clinton Street in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, Lucali might be the best pizzeria in the city. The place is run by self-taught pizzaiolo Mark Iocono. It’s cash only and BYOB. Show up at 4pm to put your name on the waitlist for when the place opens at 5pm, but expect to wait around for a few hours. Unless, of course, you’re tagging along with Lucali regulars Jay-Z and Beyonce; in that case, you can just stroll right in.
Morandi was a bit of a game changer for this swath of the West Village. Yes, the food is above-average and the decor is rustic to the point of being cliche, but it brought an army of the see-and-be-seen set here. And, of course, it’s one of the restaurants where celebrities go in NYC.
Between forkfuls of that pretty good rigatoni alla carbonara, take a glance around the room: is that silver fox at a table in the corner really Anderson Cooper? Are Amy Pohler and Tina Fey really eating here, or are those diners lookalikes?
This fabled East Harlem eatery is legendary for the fact that it’s nearly impossible to get to eat here. (The closest you might come may be buying Rao’s jarred tomato sauce at your local supermarket or eating at their much-less-exclusive outposts in Los Angeles and Las Vegas.)
But if you do manage a miracle, you very well may see a celebrity at Rao’s, since extreme exclusivity equals celebrity sightings. Add this one to your list of restaurants where celebrities go in NYC.
Related Reading: Looking for other great spots to see and be seen? We recommend scheduling afternoon tea in New York City!
This legendary SoHo spot isn’t just a hit with the rich and famous: everyone is clamoring to get a seat at a table at Balthazar. Why? The food is good, but it’s all about the Gallic atmosphere of this place, which feels like you’ve just plopped down at a lovely bistro in the fifth arrondissement and are about to tuck into a hearty plate of steak frites.
There are a million and one Italian restaurants in New York City and some of them are stellar. Bar Pitti, located in Greenwich Village, looks like your average-run-of-the-mill Italian place in New York City. The food is good, but not great.
Yet for some reason, it’s one of the restaurants where celebrities go in NYC. Walk by very slowly and scan the diners eating al fresco on the sidewalk and you never know what A-list celeb you’ll see twirling pasta on her or his fork.
Evoking 1950s Little Italy in Manhattan, Carbone is another one of the many restaurants where celebrities go in NYC. In fact, it’s so hard to get a table at this Italian-American restaurant that Justin Bieber recently showed up without a reservation and they turned him away. The staff may not be “Beliebers,” but this scene-y restaurant is famed for its big-portioned Italian fare.
Anchored on the corner of Prince and Mercer Streets since 1847, Fanelli Cafe has seen its fair share of famous people. Lately, Nicholas Braun, AKA “Cousin Greg” from the HBO show Succession, along with his BFF, actor Christopher Mintz-Plasse, AKA “McLovin” from the 2007 film Superbad, have been seen knocking back pints of beers and scarfing down burgers here.
This prime-time Italian eatery in Tribeca has celebrities built into it. For one, celeb chef Andrew Carmellini is the top toque here. And then there’s Robert DeNiro who is part owner of the Greenwich Hotel, which houses the restaurant. Locanda Verde opened in 2009 and has been consistently excellent since day one—perhaps another reason why celebrities flock here.
Anchored on the corner of Perry and West Fourth Streets in a particularly leafy swath of the West Village, Sant Ambroeus is an above-average Italian restaurant where celebrities love to dine. Larry David was recently spotted here sipping an espresso martini with Timothée Chalamet at an outside table.
Ralph Lauren’s Polo Bar has been a den of exclusivity since the day it opened on 55th Street and Fifth Avenue in late 2014. And given that it’s so hard to get a table here for ordinary folks to eat over-priced, but very good Italian fare here, that leaves the job up to the rich and famous. If you do manage to get in, you’re likely going to be sitting next to some serious A-listers.
Insider’s tip: Want to explore well-loved eateries with a fan following? Make sure to check out our post on classic restaurants in NYC!
David Farley is a West Village-based food and travel writer whose work appears regularly in the New York Times, National Geographic, BBC, and Food & Wine, among other publications. He’s the author of three books, including “An Irreverent Curiosity: In Search of the Church’s Strangest Relic in Italy’s Oddest Town,” which was made into a documentary by the National Geographic Channel. You can find Farley’s online homes here and here.