The Absolute Best Italian Restaurants in Boston
From historic red sauce joints in the North End to new openings with pizza, pasta, and more.
Boston’s Italian restaurant scene is worthy of praise. It has a rich history that starts in the famous North End neighborhood, and now thanks to top-notch chefs, spans all around town—so it’s no wonder these Italian spots are some of the best restaurants in the city.
From iconic red sauce joints slinging meatballs and heaping pieces of lasagna to seafood-focused restaurants and pizza shops, Italian restaurants in Boston run the gamut. So to help make up your mind when a craving hits, we’ve rounded up some of the city’s best Italian restaurants in the North End and beyond.
If you’re planning on going all in for the first date (or maybe a comfortable third), show them your excellent taste by suggesting Bacco on the corner of Salem Street. With windows that nearly touch the ceiling, you get a romantic view looking out into the heart of the North End. But beyond the views, make time for grazing the menu with long lists of wines and homemade pastas rich in vegetables including the eggplant lasagna and butternut squash ravioli.
How to book: Via website
Incorporating New England’s fresh flavors into coastal Italian cuisine, Bar Mezzana in the South End is famous for its crudo and homemade pasta. Brought to you by industry stars chefs Colin and Heather Lynch and partner Jefferson Macklin, Bar Mezzana also has just as delicious vegetarian and vegan options along with one of best spirits lists in the city.
Not to be confused with Capo, the dine-by-day and dance-by-night joint in Southie, Coppa offers a cozy environment with a modern take on Italian dining. Rather than a 10-pound platter brought to your table, Coppa’s plentiful small-plate options, brought to you by chefs Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonette, are perfect for picking at and passing around. Yet if you’re in the mood for some pasta, there’s no shortage of hearty choices, including the cavatelli with slow-cooked broccoli, chicken sausage, tomato, fennel pollen, and parmesan. For lighter fare, try the celery caesar, featuring fresh celery and colatura bread crumbs topped with parmesan and caesar dressing.
One step into Dolce Vita and you realize you’re not in a restaurant but in owner Franco Graceffa’s home away from home. Italian for “the sweet life,” Dolce Vita is known for its great food and even better service. The martinis aren’t half bad either. At this old-school spot, the Sicilian-born Graceffa greets you at the door and stops by after the meal to make sure nothing was short of satisfying.
How to book: Via website
Spanning over 45,000 square feet, Eataly Boston makes food and drink dreams come true at every corner. Located in The Prudential Center, this marketplace not only sells authentic and high-quality ingredients for an ambitious night-in, but it also houses seven more casual counter-service spots and three different tasty sit-down restaurants like Terra, a dining room centered around a wood-burning Italian grill. If you’d like to brush up on some skills while sipping wines selected by Eataly’s own sommelier, take a cooking class or learn more about the history of Italian wines.
Boston has a number of great pizza shops, so we can’t list the best places for traditional cuisine without mentioning where to get the best slice of pizza. Starting around 11 am every day but Sunday, Galleria Umberto welcomes long lines of eager pizza lovers from all over the world looking for a Sicilian slice. The James Beard Foundation named it amongst its 2018 American Classics Awards, honoring regional restaurants cherished by their communities—and it remains a local go-to today. If you’re looking to go beyond the slice, try the arancini, another shop favorite.
After opening more than three decades ago, Giacomo’s has had its fair share of visitors. Rain or shine, the line outside of this quintessential (and cash-only) North End dining spot may seem intimidating at first, but it’s a must for Italian food seekers. Take your pick between the ziti, ravioli, and fettuccine pasta options made complete with your choice of swordfish, salmon, shrimp, and chicken. If you’re looking to fill up on some chicken marsala or veal Parmigiana, both come with a side of pasta so you’re guaranteed to leave this place with fresh marinara sauce stains.
From husband and wife team Michael Pagliarini and Pamela Ralston, Giulia is known for their exceptional handcrafted pasta, complemented by tried and true hospitality. A neighborhood favorite, Giulia has everything from potato culurgiones to cavatelli with broccoli rabe (did we mention that the pasta is homemade?). Coming off the heels of the restaurant’s 10 year anniversary, the duo plans to open a second restaurant in the spring, Moëca, which will serve up sustainable seafood between Harvard and Porter Square.
La Famiglia Giorgio's
With plates that overwhelm the table, you’ll have leftovers for days. We’re not kidding. The portions are almost the equivalent to a restaurant food challenge—and if you do want a bit of competition, the restaurant does offer four different challenges that have you eating up to six pounds of lasagna. La Famiglia Giorgio’s matches its aggressive helpings to reasonable prices all with elements of family-style and old-fashioned dining—an ideal Sunday activity.
Looking for a fine dining experience to transition into a night out? Open until 1 am Monday through Sunday, Lucca’s locally grown ingredients and robust wine list sets you up for a fulfilling night out as a responsible adult. With locations in Back Bay, the North End, and South Shore, you’ll have plenty of city to explore after you indulge in the filet mignon, rigatoni, or ravioli stuffed with savory cheeses, baby kale, and pancetta. For the ultimate cross between a local specialty and Italian-inspired dish, try the lobster fettuccine made with butter-poached lobster meat.
Smack dab in the middle of the North End and right next to the Paul Revere House, you’ll find Mamma Maria, which without the sign, could easily be mistaken for an old school building straight out of the history books. The menu changes on the regular, but for now, you can get your hands on clam and bay scallop pasta, homemade pasta agnolotti with lobster, or the restaurant’s duet of pasta featuring tortellini filled with veal and porcini ravioli stuffed with a ragu of locally-sourced mushrooms.
How to book: Via website
Home to an unbeatable chicken parm, Panza has exactly what you’re looking for in a signature Italian meal, and the cuisine isn’t the only authentic offering at this beloved restaurant. The brick and lanterns lining the walls take you back to an Italian era you’ve probably wished you were born in. When in doubt, that chicken parm is always the go-to choice at Panza—a thin-cut strip of chicken blanketed in mozzarella and sauce bursting with flavor. To really treat yourself, add an order of crispy garlic bread.
In the mood for an entire pie vs. just a slice? Quattro’s brick-oven pizzas and plentiful toppings like sausage and potato make for a great dinner or late-night snack. The restaurant also offers a robust pasta menu from signature cacio e pepe to pasta e fagioli with short rib in addition to burger options for a satisfying spin on traditional American fare.
Brought to you by award-winning Boston chef Lydia Shire, Scampo dips its toe into tradition-defying waters, drawing inspiration from Mediterranean and Middle East flavors. Located in The Liberty Hotel, the former site of the Charles Street Jail, Scampo’s entrees include brick chicken, duck steak with gnocchi, prime rib, handmade ravioli and risotto, and plenty more—not to mention their handmade breads and pizza.
While strolling along Hanover, you might come across a tiny window front that will help transport you right to the streets of Rome. Belonging to none other than restaurant Scopa, the compact Italian hotspot serves up some seriously delicious starters from arancini to calamari with brick oven pizzas as the main dish. Plus, their wine list is worth keeping around for that second glass.
Located right in Copley Square, Sorellina draws in a chic crowd with its unconventional Italian-Mediterranean cuisine and extensive wine list. If you’re up for something a little lavish after work, this is likely the move with options like saffron pasta, halibut, and gnocchi served with potato dumplings and Maine lobster. Don’t forget to order a side either with truffle fries and whipped Idaho potatoes for that perfect start to the meal.
Boston’s first Venetian-style bacaro, aka "pit stop" and wine bar, SRV’s relaxed atmosphere and rear patio is a hotspot for trendy groups. With small bites and crafted cocktails created by notable and experienced culinary stars, this South End favorite is where you’ll want to dine all year long. Order a few pasta dishes for the table and don’t skip out on dessert, with options like black currant sorbetto and salted caramel affogato.
If you’re in the mood for some swank, Teatro’s dimly lit space owned by Boston dining scene star chef Jamie Mammano is where your night is headed. The menu offers a long list of Italian favorites from homemade ravioli to gnocchi, but to make the meal complete, pair with a specialty cocktail. The bar at Teatro is known for its inventive and seasonal cocktails served up by experienced bartenders.
Trattoria Il Panino
Opening its doors over 20 years ago, Trattoria Il Panino is Boston’s original trattoria—as in, an Italian restaurant serving simple, inexpensive, and classic dishes (traditionally on the streets of Italy). Take your pick from spaghetti carbonara, chicken parm, penne al pomodoro and more. And while you’re there, you might even notice some familiar faces plastered on the wall; celebs like Robert De Niro, Jimmy Kimmel, and Mariah Carey have all stopped by for a bite. It’s also worth mentioning the restaurant is owned by Campania-born restaurateur Frank DePasquale, who has founded other local Italian favorites like Bricco, Aquapazza, Mare, and Quattro.