The 10 Best Italian Restaurants Outside Italy (Slideshow)
10. Trattoria Lucca, Charleston, SC
Chef Ken Vedrinski serves seasonally inflected Italian dishes and this charming restaurant, revered by the locals. His ingredients are fresh from area farms and his flavors are bold. His unique antipasti for instance, verdicchio-braised foraged mushrooms or golden beets with pickled garlic, tangerine,a nd smoked ricotta) and handmade pastas (don't miss the tagliolini with seared North Carolina scallops and spicy five-minute marinara) top the list. On Mondays, Vendrinski serves prix-fixe meals family-style.
9. Mercante, Beijing
This hidden gem in a Beijing back alley is a secret that people have been whispering about since 2012. The rustic 10-table restaurant, headed up by Bolognese chef Omar Maseroli takes you out of the chaos of Beijing and drops you off in the Italian countryside. The menu is simple and humble, filled with handmade pastas sprinkled with rabbit or duck, imported meat and cheese platters, and an array of fresh focaccia. Pairing is not a problem, as Mercante offers an extensive wine list to wash it all down.
8. Giro Osteria, Cronulla, Australia
With its beautiful coastal views, this warm and welcoming restaurant, new on the Australian food scene, can be found just 15 miles south of Sydney. Here, Ecuadorian head chef and co-owner Ruben Martinez sticks to a simple and traditional yet stellar seasonal Italian menu. The standout dish is the pesce all’acqua pazza, literally fish in crazy water. This is a succulent whole snapper cooked in filtered seawater from Cronulla Beach in the southern Italian style Other highlights include the pork terrine and spaghetti with king crab
7. Le Muscadin, Montreal
Despite its French name, this elegant establishment on Notre-Dame Street in Old Montreal is known as one of the city’s finest Italian restaurants. With its sophisticated ambience, signature homemade breads, varied menu, and skilled sommelier to guide your through the extensive wine list, this restaurant has earned a long list of awards. Favorites include the scalloppini catanese, a mouthwatering cut of veal marinated in white wine and covered in eggplant and tomato, and the gnocchi emiliana, potato dumplings with a flavorful lamb and tomato sauce.
6. Nico Osteria — Chicago
James Beard Outstanding Chef winner and face of innovative dining in Chicago, Paul Kahan has recently added Nico Osteria to his considerable portfolio. Kahan and chef Erling-Wu Bower give traditional Italian seafood dishes big, bold makeovers. Some noted favorites are the housemade squid ink bucatini with sardines and chilies, and the lobster pasta. This is definitely a place for a fairly priced culinary adventure..
5. Vetri, Philadelphia
Mario Batali calls this “possibly the best Italian restaurant on the East Coast” (we think one of his own places might deserve that honor; see our number 1 restaurant). Chef Marc Vetri cooks with style and sophistication, serving a fixed-price menu only. Vetri classics include almond tortellini with truffle sauce, roast baby goat with polenta, and pistachio flan with chocolate gelato . For the wine aficionado, there's a cellar stocked with over 2,500 choices.
4. Osteria Mozza, Los Angeles
This bustling urban restaurant with its mozzarella bar, calf brain ravioli, and grilled pancetta-wrapped quail is the property of Nancy Silverton — this year's James Beard Chef of the Year — and her partners Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich. Silverton, mentor to esteemed Mozza chef Matt Molino, changed the American artisanal bread world with her La Brea Bakery and is now helping elevate the country's Italian dining scene. (Pizzeria Mozza, next door, is worth a visit, too.)
3. Otto e Mezzo, Hong Kong
This sleek upscale restaurant, run by chef Umberto Bombana and named for the Federico Fellini film 8 1/2, takes contemporary Italian to another level. In 2011, it was awarded three Michelin stars and is still the only Italian restaurant anywhere outside Italy to earn that distinction. Unique dishes such as lobster salad with caviar and celery aspic, cavatelli with shellfish ragù and sea urchin, and braised Wagyu beef rib and filet with red wine and plum sauce are a few delicacies that grace the menu. The elegant dishes aren't the only art on display: The walls are hung with Dalí and Picasso.
2. The River Cafe, London
Originally opened in 1987 by an English chef, Rose Gray, and an Italy-loving American, Ruth Rogers, as the employee canteen for Rogers' husband's architectural practice (he is Lord Richard Rogers), this bright Thames-side restaurant evolved into what one fan called "the best Italian restaurant in the world — including Italy." The food is simple, based on scrupulously fresh ingredients, and alive with flavor. The menu changes not just seasonally, but twice a day. Sample dishes: fritto misto of sweetbreads, zucchini, sage, capers, and lemon slices; linguine with Devon crab, chiles, and parsley; veal shin slow-cooked in soave with prosciutto; and the famous "chocolate nemesis."
1. Del Posto, New York City
Still reveling in its rare four-star nod from The New York Times, this luxuriously swanky restaurant has transformed into an upscale Italian mecca. The collaborative endeavor from Mario Batali, Joe Bastianich, and Lidia Bastianich opened only in 2010 but has already accrued a lion’s share of rave reviews and “best of” mentions. Here, executive chef Mark Ladner transforms classic Italian dishes into modern gourmet fare. As you enjoy the lavish service and dive into the dangerously delicious 100-layer lasagna, the authentic Livorno-style fish stew, and heritage pork with baby fennel and apricot mostarda, and the like, you will feel nothing but spoiled and satisfied.