25 Best Restaurants in Italy Slideshow
October 17, 2012
The Daily Meal presents the most exemplary epicurean endeavors in Italy
24. Gusta Pizza (Florence, Italy)
No, it's not Naples, but Florence's Gusta Pizza, about a six-minute walk from the Ponte Vecchio, features delightfully blistered crusts that line pizzas that, if a bit smaller in circumference than their Neapolitan cousins, offer fair competition to them, and have been called the best in town.
23. La Madia (Licata, Italy)
A madia is a larder, but at his bright 40-seat La Madia, chef Pino Cuttaia and his team of eight draw not just from a cupboard full of fine ingredients but on the bounty of the surrounding countryside and adjacent sea to prepare Sicilian dishes he recalls from his childhood — Licata is his hometown — but with enough refinement to earn him two Michelin stars. Diners won’t find liquid nitrogen and the like here. Instead, they're are treated to such specialties as arancini with red mullet and wild fennel sauce, calamari ravioli with green squash leaf tips and anchovy sauce, and sweet-and-sour skate wing, as well as seven types of bread, baked on the premises each day. "There is one ingredient that more than any other defines my idea of cooking," said Cuttaia on his website. "One that is never missing from my dishes and that allows you to easily recognize them. My secret ingredient is my memory," said Cuttaia.
22. Masseria Barbera (Puglia, Italy)
One of the stars of Italy's extensive agriturismo system — working farms that offer meals and/or accommodations — this large property in Puglia offers not only rustic but comfortable guest rooms, a spa, and a shop selling local food products, but also a spacious farm-themed dining room serving a daily menu of superb traditional local specialties. The majority of foods and wines served by any agriturismo must come from the property itself, which in this case means homemade pastas, farmyard chicken, just-baked breads, and specialties like acquasale, a cold soup of ice water, olive oil, and raw tomatoes, onions, and cucumbers that is much better than it sounds.
21. Da Vittorio (Brusaporto, Italy)
Yes, the charming boutique hotel La Dimora, a 10-minute drive from Bergamo in Lombardy, has a cooking school and patisserie, but its soul is Da Vittorio, a restaurant dedicated to traditional Italian cuisine. Opened in 1966 in the center of Bergamo and four years later moved to the resort in nearby Brusaporto, chef Enrico "Chicco" Cerea has updated Italian classics while staying true to tradition, a feat that has earned Da Vittorio three Michelin stars for dishes like ox with truffled polenta, mini leeks, and white truffle and ravioli with onion, sausage, and pistachio.
20. Alle Testiere (Venice, Italy)
This tiny Venetian hideaway, its walls decorated with testiere — headboards — is dedicated to seafood, with well-chosen wines to match. The short menu changes every day, but the kinds of things you are apt to find here include shrimp and raw asparagus salad, bay scallops on the half shell with wisps of orange and onion, zotoeti (the tiniest squid you can imagine) in a sauce improbably but deliciously accented with cinnamon, spaghetti with bavarasse clams, and four or five kinds of simple grilled fish.
19. Il Pellicano (Porto Ercole, Italy)
Chef Antonio Guida is continually changing the menu at his Michelin two-star Il Pellicano, part of the luxurious Relais & Châteaux hotel property of the same name on the Tuscan coast. Guida's exotically accented six-course Calamandino tasting menu includes things like roasted blue lobster with marsala, barberries, and smoked potatoes; hake with oysters and shiso sauce; risotto with verbena, red prawns, pig's ear, and sumac; and pigeon breast with foie gras and pineapple cream.
18. Madonnina del Pescatore (Senigallia, Italy)
Moreno Cedroni invented "susci" (pronounced "sushi" in Italian) — his take on the elemental Japanese specialty, involving such dishes as warm sea bass carpaccio with lime purée and raw tuna with iced mustard and toasted almonds. It's hardly surprising, then, that the seafood at his Michelin two-star Madonnina del Pescatore, which he has run with his wife, Mariella, since 1984, is highly innovative. The menu includes things like "slightly mixed" fried seafood with quinoa, sweet-and-sour onion granita, and raspberry broth; octopus with bread and vinegar gelatine and mayonnaise; smoked potato gnocchi with raw salt cod and sauce of sunchokes and snowpeas; and turbot with light beer cake, wild herbs, and monkfish liver. The sleek, modern dining room includes a glassed-in patio overlooking the azure Adriatic.
17. La Ciau del Tornavento (Treiso, Italy)
In the middle of Piedmont's red wine and white truffle country, La Ciau del Tornavento in an unpretentious looking country inn serves food that is intelligently conceived and beautifully cooked, marrying traditional ingredients and flavors with contemporary techniques. Eel is served in a combo plate: marinated in sweet-and-sour sauce and grilled on olive branches. Tortelli is filled with burrata and sauced with tomatoes and white anchovies, while buttery rice is served with a scallop of foie gras in chocolate sauce. Sweetbreads are glazed with marsala and served with porcini and peaches. If you are fortunate enough to visit in white truffle season — approximately October through early December — splurge on the hand-chopped steak tartare, the poached eggs, the tagliolini, or the traditional Piedmontese fonduta (fondue), all generously covered with grated tartufi bianchi.
16. Enoteca Pinchiorri (Florence, Italy)
The chef at this pioneering Italian three-star in the heart of Florence is Annie Féolde, from Nice — but the menu at Enoteca Pinchiorri is modern Italian at its best: a "composition" of asparagus (in salad, sautéed with poppy seeds, and puréed with red shrimp); risotto with onions, capers, and taleggio fondue; artichoke ice cream with prosciutto mayonnaise; quail eggs with cuttlefish and cauliflower; sea bream with fennel, basil, and ginger-flavored quinoa; pears with licorice, coffee toffee, and cacao bean biscuits… The dining room is warm and handsomely furnished, with a delightful atrium patio, and the wine list is legendary.
15. La Rosetta (Rome)
If you find yourself in Rome (a very nice place to find oneself) and have a hankering for seafood, your first stop should definitely be the comfortably contemporary-looking, nautically-themed La Rosetta near the Pantheon. Whether it's giant red shrimp cooked in grape must, crisp-fried mussels and squid in spicy gazpacho, spaghetti with clams and zucchini, or whole grilled fish (whatever's in season and in the best condition) or giant scampi — or even Rome's best and freshest oysters, even though they're imported from France — you will feel connected vividly and authentically with the Mediterranean, even though you're miles from its shores.
14. Acquolina (Rome)
Angelo Troiani's place in Flaminio by the Grand Hotel Fleming outside the city center features the fare of chef Giulio Terrinoni, whose on-point seafood speaks for itself. A renowned vermicelli carbonara, Roman classics, and wonderful crudos at Acquolina make what may have been a bit of a trek the worthwhile effort you'll hardly remember.
13. Don Alfonso 1890 (Sant'Agata Sui Due Golfi, Italy)
One of Italy's legendary hotel properties, this Michelin two-star in a picturesque village overlooking the Mediterranean on the Sorrentine Peninsula has long offered solid, flavorful food based largely on ingredients from the sea or from their nearby organic farm. A risotto tower with baby shrimp on a bed of spinach, miniature gnocchi with smoked scamorza cheese, and local goat chops with fresh herbs are among the specialties at Don Alfonso 1890 evoking the surroundings.
12. Il Luogo di Aimo e Nadia (Milan)
One of the most elegant restaurants in Milan for decades, the exuberantly art-furnished Il Luogo di Aimo e Nadia serves modern Italian food of great elegance and precision, always showcasing the best ingredients from around the country, their places of origin often specified. Funghi porcini are sautéed golden and served with zucchini flowers, burrata, and San Rossore pine nuts in a sauce of blueberries and cacao. Pâté of duck and pigeon livers is graced with a white Grazioli truffle cream. Ravioli made from wheat and chickpea flour is filled with Ligurian crabmeat, eggplant, and sea fennel, and tossed with candied baby tomatoes. Fillet of Sanato veal is served rare in a light crust of breadcrumbs flavored with wild herbs and chamomile. Costiere lemon granita is flavored with Noto almonds and coffee. Dishes like this add up to a truly memorable feast.
11. Da Vincenzo (Positano, Italy)
Let's be real, after a hike along Amalfi's footpaths of the gods, you could pretty much sit down to a lemon granita and an espresso and be convinced that you've eaten the meal of a lifetime. While that's certainly a fact, the truth is you don't have to. Da Vincenzo's family-owned restaurant devoted to local cuisine offers even more uplifting fare about halfway up the west side of Positano. Sit at one of the outside tables where you can marvel at the bravado of bus drivers who take the hairpin turns around narrow Amalfi roads as if they're hell-bent on sitting down with you to a plate of Da Vincenzo's grilled octopus, antipasti, and fresh pastas.
10. Paolo e Barbara (Sanremo, Italy)
Since 1988, Paolo and Barbara Masieri have served residents of and visitors to the pretty town of Sanremo, on the Italian Riviera, their version of classic Ligurian cuisine, updated and refined. One absolute must is the hand-rolled local pasta called troffie with sweet little Sanremo shrimp and a sauce of marò, a kind of pesto made with fava beans and mint. Other specialties include red mullet carpaccio with wild fennel and orange, wild herb ravioli with walnut pesto, langoustine tempura with sweet and sour vegetables, and hake roasted in olive oil on a bed of creamed potatoes and peas. Most of the vegetables used by the kitchen at Paolo e Barbara come from the Masieris' own farm, and the breads and focaccia (a specialty of the region) are made in-house with organic hand-milled flour.
9. Le Calandre (Sarmeola di Rubano, Italy)
Chef Massimiliano Alajmo serves guests, in his minimalist dining room — which he and his brother, Raffaele, designed (chairs, lamps, glassware, and steak knives included) — dishes that are hearty and rustic in inspiration, but often with sophisticated twists. Cold red mullet and saffron almond soup with melon, squid, and lobster; veal sweetbreads with curry and licorice; hand-chopped raw Piedmontese beef with black summer truffles; and roast suckling pig with mustard sauce are among the creations that have earned the restaurant a well-deserved three Michelin stars.
8. L'Antica Pizzeria da Michele (Naples, Italy)
The Condurro family has been making pizza in Naples — which is of course the birthplace of pizza — since 1870. Their present-day Pizzeria da Michele was opened by Michele Condurro in 1906, and moved to its present location in 1930. Da Michele — which has been called "the Sacred Temple of Pizza" — serves only two varieties of pie: marinara, which is topped with tomato sauce, oregano, garlic, and drizzles of olive oil (it is called marinara not because it includes seafood, but because a sailor's wife — a marinara — might make one up for him when he hit dry land); and the famous margherita, made with tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil leaves, mimicking the red, white, and green of the Italian flag. This famous basic pizza was apparently invented by one Raffaele Esposito at his pizzeria in 1889 to honor the Italian queen, Margherita of Savoy. Da Michele, then, does only two things, but it does them with a consistency, confidence, and quality that cannot be impugned.
7. Il Desco (Verona, Italy)
In a beautiful old palazzo in the heart of Verona, the city of Romeo and Juliet (and Valentine and Proteus), chef Elia Rizzo brings diners imaginative, well-conceived contemporary Italian fare at Il Desco, like guinea hen breast in chocolate sauce with sunchoke purée; linguine with lobster, lime, and cilantro; turbot ravioli with goose liver ragù and asparagus tips; suckling pig with white bean cream, purple potatoes, and black truffles; and hot chocolate tortino with licorice ice cream.
6. Trussardi Alla Scala (Milan)
At Trussardi Alla Scala "each recipe is like a documentary film in which every ingredient plays a key role. And in this special story, there are only protagonists, not bit players." At least, that's how the restaurant describes itself. Sounds quintessentially Italian, right? And yet chef Luigi Taglienti's two Michel stars, given in both 2008 and 2009, weren't purely derived from Italian recipes. Expect the unexpected, like rabbit filled with white prawns and seaweed and veal nose braised with spumante, mackerel, cucumber and black truffle from Milan's sleek, modern Ristorante Trussardi, which tips its cap to classic French recipes and avant-garde techniques.
5. Harry's Bar (Venice, Italy)
If you walk into this world-famous Venetian institution planning to judge it as an Italian restaurant — and especially if you are concerned with good culinary value for your money — you will almost certainly depart disappointed. If you enter Harry’s Bar expecting to experience a living, thriving 81-year-old institution where you can drink superbly and eat pretty well amid the ghosts of a remarkable clientele while paying enough to make you feel as though you ought to be very wealthy… well, then, you'll realize why Harry's Bar belongs on "Best" lists like this. Carpaccio was invented here, as was the Bellini, and both are still presented superbly. The small, icy martinis are among the best anywhere; the house specialties, like baby artichoke salad with shaved Parmigiano and baked tagliolini with ham are dependably comforting, and such Venetian specialties as baccalá mantecato (whipped salt cod) and calf's liver alla Veneziana with squares of fried polenta are textbook-perfect. Service can range from the impeccable to the careless and dismissive, and the wines are beside the point — but, hey, Hemingway, Braque, Charlie Chaplin, Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock, and Truman Capote were among the regulars, and they must have known something.
4. Ristorante Del Cambio (Turin, Italy)
This place glows with history and tradition. First opened in 1757, it has been the most elegant special-occasion restaurant in Turin ever since. Its most famous customer, through the mid-1880s, was the Count Camillo Cavour, one of the fathers of modern Italy, and his favorite table is preserved, complete with his reading glasses, as if he had just excused himself to visit il bagno. The chef is young and brings brightness and energy to the menu, but he still prepares many of the specialties the restaurant's customers have been enjoying for generations — a textbook vitello tonnato, risotto drizzled with roasting-pan juices, classic agnolotti, a grand fritto misto (assorted fried vegetables, organ meats, and other foods), etc. There are plenty of impressive wines, especially from Piemonte. The check at Ristorante Del Cambio will be impressive, too.
3. Da Fiore (Venice, Italy)
In this little jewel box of a place, Mara and Maurizio Martin and their son Damiano serve Venetian food of great refinement, perfectly cooked, based on the finest ingredients. Sarde in saor (sardines in sweet-and-sour marinade), risi e bisi (the local springtime risotto made with fresh green peas), sautéed baby razor clams, tuna steak with rosemary, a remarkable chocolate tortino, and other such delights are unfailingly delicious. The wine list at Da Fiore offers superb selections from the Veneto and elsewhere.
2. Dal Pescatore (Canneto sull'Oglio, Italy)
This family-run restaurant about 20 miles north of Parma was opened as Vino e Pesce, a simple tavern in a village of 36 inhabitants on the banks of a pond in 1925 by Teresa Mazzi and Antonio Santini. Since these humble beginnings, Dal Pescatore has expanded with each passing decade, acquiring its current name in 1960 and three Michelin stars in 1996, but the Santini family has been a constant. Today, Nadia Santini, Teresa's and Antonio's granddaughter-in-law, is the chef, preparing such elegant but tradition-based specialties as lobster terrine with caviar and sweet-and-sour eel, risotto with saffron and balsamic vinegar, and roast pork with Sichuan pepper sauce. The wine list is monumental.
1. Osteria Francescana (Modena, Italy)
Massimo Bottura, Italy's newest Michelin three-star chef, describes his cooking as "traditional seen from 10 miles away." His attractive contemporary-styled Osteria Francescana is located in Modena, in the gastronomically rich Emilia-Romagna region — a town famous as the home of Maserati, Ferrari, and Lamborghini, but also of aceto balsamico (the real balsamic vinegar), cotechino and zampone sausages, and such pasta as tortellini and tortelloni, so there's lots of tradition to draw from. Bottura deconstructs and reimagines tradition with such dishes as "memory of a mortadella sandwich," "five ages of Parmigiano-Reggiano in different textures and temperatures," "bollito misto... not boiled," and "Oops! Broken fruit pie." It's all delicious, and also lots of fun.
25. L'Etoile d'Or (Catania, Italy)
Open 24 hours a day, LEtoile dOr isn't really a restaurant, but rather a traditional, low-key Sicilian bar with standout regional snacks like arancini rag (rice balls stuffed with meat) and cartocciata (a calzone-type savory treat), as well as some of the best sweet ricotta-filled cannoli in Italy all of which help keep LEtoile dOr packed day and night with locals. It belongs on a list of Italy's best because it does what it sets out to do with consistency and perfection.