Many establishments hope to lure you in with pasta and pizza mainly because they are low overhead high profit entrees. These are NOT a good indication of fine Italian cuisine. When I am looking for Great Italian is expect to see classic dishes that quintessentially say the chef has mastered great cuisine. When I am looking, the best is regional cuisine such as romano, or toscano, etc. Often the menu in Italian will be different than the one in English. Don't be afraid to order off the Italian menu with the waiters help. Many speak English. Here are some criteria for suspecting a superb dinner.
It is a great sign if some or many of these appear on the menu:
Carciofi Romano(Artichokes - roman style)
Cannelloni ala Romano
Abbacchio al Forno
Mellanzani al Forno
Suppli ala Telefono
Coniglio all a Cacciatore
Fettucine Alfredo (popular with Americans mainly)
Puntarelle (Chicory - anchovy sauce)
If none of these items appear on the menu, I am pretty sure this is some American Restaurant that maybe mediocre or perhaps not really Italian.
High-end places may include:
Chianina Beef - Bistecca alla Fiorentina