135-58 Lefferts Blvd., Ozone Park
The out-of-way location of this family restaurant in suburban Queens adds to its old school cred. Don Peppe has been in the business of serving homestyle Italian classics since 1978. Mario Batali turned us on to their scungilli ala marinara and linguine with clams, which is an easy favorite.
L&B Spumoni Gardens
2725 86th St., Bensonhurst
This South Brooklyn institution has been slinging their Sicilian-style "squares”—red sauce-smothered pizza with the Mozzarella cheese baked right into the fluffy, crust-y dough and sliced into, you guessed it, squares—since 1938. The only menu item that eclipses the pizza is the spumoni: a rainbow of vanilla, chocolate, and pistachio ice cream served old school, in a paper cup, and best enjoyed on the bustling outdoor patio. The L&B Italian ices (the lemon is a summertime essential) are slightly lighter than the spumoni and definitely worth sampling.
M. Wells Steakhouse
43-15 Crescent St., Long Island City
Here you'll find this thing called the Solomon Gundy, which is a potato waffle covered in trout roe and crème fraiche—and then you'll freak out. They use herring for their Caesar instead of anchovies (delicate and surprising), and even do a “Bone-in Burger”—though we prefer the steak.
M. Wells Dinette
MoMA PS1, 22-25 Jackson Ave., Long Island City
Situated in a new space in PS1, and named after the popular M.Wells outpost nearby, this "cafeteria" serves great food, like fresh takes on steak tartar and bibimbap in a really cool schoolhouse-themed dining room.
13-27 Jackson Ave., Long Island City
This is an old-school Italian restaurant with heavy décor, and simple, light plates of fresh pasta served family-style. Owned and carefully managed by husband and wife team Vincenzo and Ida Cerbone, this is the definition of a family-run establishment. The food is delicious and there's always a fun mix of people.
Di Fara Pizza
1424 Ave. J, Midwood
People make daily pilgrimages to this old-school pizza join deep in Brooklyn, and with good reason. The legendary Dom DeMarco makes every single one of his famous rectangular pizzas himself, which can make the lines long—yes, even out on Avenue J—but worth the wait. He uses top quality ingredients and then tops each and every pie with herbs, freshly grated parmesan, and a healthy pour of olive oil.