There once was a time when Austin was a vast desert in terms of Italian eats, where nary a decent cannoli or carbonara could be found. Luckily, the more recent wave (of marinara sauce?!) of exciting restaurants has brought a modern twist to the beloved cuisine. So, for your mouthwatering, hunger pang-inducing pleasure, here are Austin’s best Italian eateries.
East Cesar Chavez
Executive Chef/partner Nicholas Yanes combines inspiration from Northern Italy and Central Texas in Juniper’s both refined and accessible menu of small plates. Puffy potatoes are dipped in whipped dijon mustard; house-made thin pasta is dressed with sweet shrimp, garlic, scallion, and pine nuts. And true to its name, Juniper offers perfect gin-based cocktails -- try the You Must Be Here (gin, grapefruitcello, Campari, cinnamon).
Far from the trendy eateries of Downtown and East Austin, this neighborhood spot tucked away in an assuming stripmall is always full of regulars and for good reason. Owner -- and Naples, Italy native -- Daniela Marcone combines tried and true family recipes and an unwavering dedication to authenticity and quality. Loyal patrons rave about the linguine cozze e calamari, a linguini dish with calamari, black mussels, fresh tomato, and light spicy white wine sauce as well as their vegetarian options like pumpkin ravioli. The pros know that every Wednesday they have bottomless pasta for $20 and half off of select bottles of wine!
From the team behind 24 Diner and Easy Tiger, -- as well as Executive Chef Andrew Curren -- is Italic. The space is reminiscent of a midcentury-modern office, the service is attentive, and the food is refined comfort all the way. The menu can be parsed down to standouts like the seared calamari, burrata and acorn squash mezzaluna or, if you're truly on auto-pilot, put in for the seasonal prix fixe menu that'll take your from vegetables to chocolate budino.
The very newly open Juliet not only boasts spacious, stylish digs -- think 1960s Italian postmodernism -- but also top-notch culinary and bar programs. Try the carpaccio (shaved beef tenderloin, tonnato, pickled beech mushrooms, pea tendrils, Parmigiano-Reggiano) and the fresh made-in-house pastas such as the goat cheese agnolotti. The bar boasts eight Negroni variations, so try a flight that includes four 1oz servings.
Tucked behind Butterfly Bar on bustling Manor Rd sits Italian trailer Patrizi’s. It continues a family tradition that began in 1948, with fresh homemade pasta, made to order. Using a carbonara as a measuring stick for any quality Italian restaurant, Patrizi's hits the high mark, especially when the additions include a coddled egg, bacon or a baseball-sized meatball. This is a great hangout for kids and dogs as well.
Small and cozy with an old-school Austin elegance, La Traviata is known for its ridiculously good pasta dishes. The spaghetti carbonara sounds simple, but one bite will make you a believer. It’s a hearty pile of spaghetti tossed with pancetta, onion, cream, and lemon, and topped with a farm egg. For appetizers, the mussels are a must!
Executive Chef Fiore Tedesco (formerly of Franklin BBQ, La Condesa, and Bufalina) and General Manager Adam Orman have been carefully planning the L’Oca d’Oro (Italian for “golden goose”) concept for years starting with a series of pop-ups. The finished product has been worth the wait -- house-made pasta, fresh-baked breads, wood-grilled meats, and seasonal ingredients make every dish shine. Must-try picks include the earthy wood roasted mushroom lasagna (Taleggio, mozzarella, green onion puree, juicy meatballs with tomato jam and garlic toast, and fried rabbit (pickled peppers, cornbread, honey).
Dinner spot Vespaio opened in 1998, back before South Congress was a busy tourist attraction. It opened the more casual Enoteca Vespaio next door in 2005 to satisfy the demand for its Italian fare to be served all day. You can’t go wrong with prosciutto pizza from Enoteca or the spaghetti alla carbonara from Vespaio. Don’t forget to grab some house-made pastries for the ride home.
New to the bustling South Lamar Union complex, Cantine (from the folks behind ASTI Trattoria and the bygone FINO) offers brunch, lunch, dinner, and a solid beer/wine/cocktail selection. Try the fried goat cheese (red onion jam, honey, black pepper), grilled Caesar salad, and the pan-seared Verlasso salmon (whipped cauliflower, roasted Campari tomatoes, golden raisins, fried capers).
Reale's has been serving up hearty New York-style Italian in Anderson Mill since the early '90s. Our favorites include the baked ziti, manicotti, and the pizza. Be sure and load up on the breadsticks -- those alone are worth the trip up North.
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1. Italic123 W 6th St, Austin
2. Patrizi's2307 Manor Rd, Austin
3. Juliet Ristorante1500 Barton Springs Rd, Austin
4. La Traviata314 Congress Ave, Austin
5. Enoteca Vespaio1610 S Congress Ave, Austin
6. Cantine1100 S Lamar Blvd #2115, Austin
7. Reale's Pizza & CafeRoss Plaza 183, Austin
8. Andiamo Ristorante Italiano2521 Rutland Dr, Austin
9. L'Oca D'Oro1900 Simond Ave, Austin
10. Juniper2400 E Cesar Chavez St Ste 304, Austin
From the team behind 24 Diner, Easy Tiger, and Arro, plus Executive Chef Andrew Curren, is Italic. Housed in the former Bar Louie space, the seasonal menu includes roasted half chicken, Florence-style T-bone steak, and wood-fired pizzas. Italic’s weekday happy hour is from 4:30-6:30.
This stationary food truck is a Beaumont transplant that comes backed by a 60yr tradition of Italian cooking, and they've got goodies like meatballs with cinnamon cooked from ancient family recipes.
Juliet combines modern and classic Italian influence to deliver unique, rustic dishes with seasonal ingredients. Boasting an expansive outdoor dining area and an airy interior with a marble bar, this place has an elegant, joyful and comfortable vibe.
Count on classic Italian plates and good wine at this Austin trattoria. This place is known for their ridiculously good pasta, and mussels for an appetizer are a must.
Enoteca Vespaio has been a quality spot for Sunday brunch, lunch, dinner and dessert since it opened in 2005. The folks there cultivate fine Italian cuisine in a pleasant setting and also have a terrific wine selection.
Cantine Italian Café & Bar in South Lamar keeps it all in the Mediterranean family by incorporating Greek tastes like Muhammara housemade pita and whipped feta into a heavily Italian menu of starters, salads, meats, house-made pastas, and pizzas. Opt for the crunchy, warm fried goat cheese with honey or the spaghetti Neopolitano while you’re dining al fresco, or choose a table inside. The dining room and kitchen are decidedly industrial, with clean, geometric lines that will remind you to maintain your decorum as you breathlessly slurp your spaghetti.
This home away from Rome has been dishing out New-York style Italian since the '90s. Count on red sauce staples and quality pizza from this family-run establishment.
Owner and Naples, Italy, native Daniela Marcone is at the helm of Andiamo, an unassuming strip-mall spot where the focus isn't on keeping trend with the hip eateries of downtown and East Austin, but serving locals her authentic and tasty family recipes. And she's doing something right -- this place is always full of regulars, who rave about the linguine cozze e calamari, served with calamari, black mussels, fresh tomato, and a light but spicy white wine sauce. Vegetarians will be more than satisfied here, too, especially with options like pumpkin ravioli.
With food proffer like house-made charcuterie, fermented mushrooms, and unorthodox pasta shapes, the craftsmanship at L'Oca D'Oro (aka The Golden Goose) can't be beat. The restaurant lives in an airy, contemporary space, and is home to ample seating and a full-service, wrap-around bar. Pasta dishes like rabbit canneloni and black pepper tagliatelle provide unique flavor with the comfort of Italian familiarity, alongside other Italian inflections like pork Milanesa and mushroom lasagna.
With Chef Nicolas Yanes (Uchi) at the helm, this East Austin restaurant serves cuisines native to that of Piedmont, Lombardi, Emilia Romagna, and even Central Texas. Classic cocktails are offered alongside entrees such as blistered burrata and oxtail and rosemary lasagna.