This unassuming Houston St. standard is an unsung hero, even if many walk past Emilio's gold- and red-etched window and write it off as some run-of-the-mill red sauce joint. Step inside the narrow, weathered space, where owner Emilio Vitolo offers each guest a personal welcome and a genuine Italian-American experience. The menu is filled with pasta classics like Roman cacio e pepe, tossed with sharp pecorino cheese and freshly ground black pepper. Signature specialties include pollo Emilio, a delicately breaded chicken cutlet draped in lemon-caper sauce; and plump clams oreganata speckled with garlicky breadcrumbs. Crisp cannoli shells filled with vanilla- and cinnamon-tinged ricotta cream rival any other version found from Palermo to Siracusa.
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