More is more at Bad Roman, NYC’s hottest restaurant opening of 2023

Inside Bad Roman in NYC, with orange-hued banquettes and wavy details

Before Bad Roman even opened, the Manhattan restaurant was already going viral. Friends, family, and influencers eagerly posted flashy food clips from Quality Branded’s new spot, billed as a follow-up to already-trendy sibling restaurants Don Angie and Zou Zou’s.

And since opening in late February, Bad Roman has certainly lived up to the hype, filling the hundreds of seats in the colorful dining room on the third floor of The Shops at Columbus Circle with people digging into family-style maximalist Italian fare: a plush and buttery roasted garlic babka, crisp ’roni chips to dip in ranch, and a round of shots served on toy race cars, inspired by Italy’s classic car obsession.

“Our whole vision is rooted in Italian,” says executive chef Nick Gaube. “We’re pulling from our irreverent Italian style with the menu and the design. It’s a little loud, a little off-base, and that speaks to us as a restaurant group. We try to be a different, fun, exciting type of restaurant to come and celebrate and have a good time.”

Whether you’re on a date, a business meeting, or celebrating a birthday, anniversary, or divorce, Bad Roman brings the vibes. And the name? That harks back to the 1980s, when “bad” was slang for “good.” “It’s a nod to our authentic playfulness,” says Gaube.

Garlic babka sliced open
The garlic babka | Credit: Christian Harder

Bad Roman’s menu is inspired by three staple carb-centric cuisines: Italian, Italian-American, and California Italian, Gaube says.

Already, Gaube has seen his viral dishes become Bad Roman’s bestsellers, and he’d be lying if he said that’s not what he was aiming for in crafting the menu. “Every chef wants to make good food that’s engaging and exciting,” he says. Internet popularity is “an added bonus.”

The restaurant’s most popular dish is its signature hybrid of garlic bread and babka. “Being at the base of the Upper West Side, it felt fitting to do something like babka,” Gaube says. “This one is unexpected but still familiar.”

A ravioli sits on top of a filet mignon as sauce from the ravioli spills onto the filet
The saucy filet cacio e pepe | Credit: Christian Harder

The concept rings true throughout the menu—diners aren’t necessarily introduced to completely rare or new ingredients and dishes, but rather shown a new way of enjoying flavors they already love. The crispy ’roni cups look just like pepperoni pulled off the top of pizza, dippable in ranch and devoured at the start of a meal. Filetto topped with a cacio e pepe raviolo is Bad Roman’s signature entree, offering a best-of-both-worlds steak and pasta situation in which sauce oozes out of the raviolo to cover the meat.

The menu is extensive, with several large salads, a raw bar, Roman “piattini” small plates, seven pastas such as sleeper hit rock shrimp garganelli, and much more. For dessert, dig into tiramisu ice cream cake, sticky toffee panettone, or espresso shaved ice doused in vanilla milk-washed vodka. There are also housemade nightcaps including kumquat or grapefruit “’cello” to end your evening.

A martini garnished with pepperoncini
The pepperonci martini | Credit: Christian Harder

Brian Schnieder runs Bad Roman’s beverage program, and Gaube isn’t reluctant to call him a “genius.” “He’s so creative with the drinks he comes up with,” Gaube says, pointing to the martini pepperoncini. “It’s simple and so well executed; the brine is just unexpected. It’s a fun drink even though it’s a martini.”

Tequila granita is another photogenic cocktail racking up the likes. (“Everybody’s talking about it now,” Guabe says.) The habanero shaved ice amps up the margarita and is sweetened with a Calabrian chile honey. Italian carpool shots are another fan favorite, served in toy cars for a little extra fun. Named after Italian classic cars, such as the Ferrari (made with Fernet and Campari), the $8 drinks aim to keep the celebration going. 

Inside Bad Roman in NYC, with orange-hued banquettes and wavy details
Credit: Christian Harder

Bad Roman’s dining room, perhaps unsurprisingly, makes a bold statement. “The bright colors alone speak volumes about the type of space you’re entering,” Gaube says.

Designed by GRT Architects (the same firm as Don Angie), the dining room features orange-hued banquettes, lush greenery, and floor-to-ceiling windows with sprawling views of Central Park. Antique mirrors adorn the walls, garlic bulb-esque lamps hang from the ceiling, and Gaube says that if diners look closely, they’ll find the restaurant’s snake theme in wavy details throughout the space (check the pulls on the silverware drawers).

The fun nature of the decor even runs to the much-photographed bathroom, where a full-sized fountain delights.

The glamorous bar at Bad Roman in NYC, decorated in green and gold
Credit: Christian Harder

Bad Roman is open for dinner daily from 5 pm to 11 pm.

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