The 34 Best Italian Restaurants in America
Check out these trattorias, osterias, pizzerias, and nonna-driven holes in the wall.
Italy had its Renaissance a few centuries ago, but in the American dining landscape, Italian food is in a constant state of reinvention and refinement. Trattorias, pastarias, osterias, pizzerias, and nonna-driven holes in the wall have woven themselves into the American culinary fabric, offering up everything from fine-dining experiences to the kinds of gut-busting feasts that leave everybody at the table comatose and feeling like family.
For our little tour of Italy, we scoured the country to find a bit of everything. And while our focus veered from the little, old-school red-sauce joints, we’ve assembled a glorious cross-section of regional styles, innovative fusions of style, and wood-fired glory. Grab a bib. Pour a glass of wine. And get ready for a nap. These are the best Italian restaurants in America right now.
With its stone exterior, arches, 17-foot-tall ceilings, ornate staircases, and lush marble, Bottega’s digs look like an ancient Roman structure inexplicably thrust into Birmingham. But once you’ve climbed the grand staircase to the mezzanine, you’ll find yourself at the confluence of Italy and the South, which makes more sense than it should. Like any Southern dining spot worth its considerable salt, this is a place where no course is accompanied by pomp and circumstance, but chef Frank Sitts has more than a few tricks up his sleeve as he incorporates techniques and ingredients separated by continents. Here, lobster joins spaghetti in a spicy unison of flavors. Grilled quail converges with pancetta and sweet potatoes. The menu changes often. But what you can always expect is an experience unlike anything else.
Modeled off a classic “red sauce” joint, this restaurant features Italian-American dishes you might order in The Bronx or Brooklyn. From handmade pasta dressed up in dishes like rigatoni alla vodka and five cheese ravioli to hand-pulled mozzarella with basil-marinated tomatoes, both the vibe and menu would make Tony Soprano proud. The concept comes from chef Matt Adler, who wanted guests at the 65-seat concept to feel like they’re at home for Sunday dinner. Popular dishes include the chicken parmigiana, pork chops pizzaiola-style, and dessert classics, like New York-style cheesecake with strawberry preserves and a transcendent tiramisu.
There’s always plenty of action in the main dining room at City House where the high ceilings reverberate with the sounds of forks clinking noisily into plates of pasta, meats, and vegetables coming out of the open kitchen—which also contributes to the din. The festive environment is courtesy of City House’s no-fuss attitude toward creating soulful rustic Italian food featuring ingredients from the South. Sunday suppers are the best nights to visit when the kitchen goes off-script to play around with new recipes. They have recently taken advantage of their copious outdoor space to add some precious dining cabanas which have quickly become prime seating.
San Francisco, California
Quince's Michael Tusk lets his hair down 20 feet away at Cotogna, and chances are you’ll go there more often, not only because of its affordability, but because it’s still an amazing meal with a little less pressure. Cotogna is no second fiddle little sibling, though—sit at the counter in front of the pizza oven, the hottest seat in the city—not in terms of trendiness, but rather temperature. While the pizza is certainly worth a gander, the pastas (looking at you, Agnolotti Dal Plin), starters (constantly changing vegetable or herb sformato), and any grilled meat dish will blow you away.
The red-checkered, neighborhood Italian joints of yesteryear have mostly been priced out of anywhere east of the Palmetto. But you’ll get that same simple, welcoming feel at Crust, where a menu of overly generous portions, best-in-Miami pizzas, and the city’s top Chicken Parm ensures you’ll always leave full and happy. The airy, dimly-lit dining room is the odd space that’s perfect for both quiet dates and big groups. And the husband-and-wife team that runs the place makes sure everyone who walks through the door gets treated like family.
Chef Marco Wiles takes inspiration from Venice and the greater Friulian region for this higher-end take on Italian, so much so that he imports a lot of the product from the motherland itself. What he doesn’t import, he makes fresh, like Raviolo peppered with seasonal truffles and ricotta, buttery Paninos delicately stuffed with cured prosciutto and fig jam, Lamb Chops blanketed in an earthy cumin yogurt spread, and Artichokes alla “Giudia” fried to a heavenly, airy crisp. Dress to impress here (seriously, jackets are preferred), and gear up to splurge on aged Italian wines, a few of which date back to the ’70s.
Chef-owners Ian Rusnak and Eric Safin have teamed up for the ultimate red sauce experience, harnessing their collective—not to mention impressive—years of culinary expertise to devise their mouthwatering lineup. Dubbed Jersey-style Italian, Elina’s boasts a boatload of classic flavors served atop vintage plates which evoke a feeling of home and heritage. Kick things off with a plate of baked clams strewn with bacon breadcrumbs and lemon before settling into a signature pasta like Rigatoni alla Vodka with Calabrian bread crumbs or Fusilli di Rabe with sweet sausage and Parmesan. For now it's BYOB, which serves as further enticement to whip out that good bottle of Italian red you’ve been hoarding.
Las Vegas, Nevada
It wouldn't be an exaggeration to call Esther's Kitchen one of the most influential restaurants in Las Vegas. Since opening in early 2018, James Trees’ signature concept proved that destination dining could thrive off the Strip with affordable prices and ingredients sourced from local farmers’ markets. It also helped accelerate the growth of the Arts District. A climate-controlled room is dedicated to hand-making the staples: artisan breads and pasta. The former arrives with a serving of addictive anchovy butter. The latter in a series of evolving recipes that change with the season, along with an engaging wine and cocktails list that doesn’t break the bank. Trees also has a second restaurant on the other side of town, Al Solito Posto, which is nearly as good.
Los Angeles, California
If you’re lucky enough to snag a reservation at Evan Funke’s Felix, consider fasting before you go. The restaurant, which pays homage to Italy’s most beloved culinary regions, boasts a glass-enclosed, temperature-controlled pasta lab where you can watch Funke himself (who talked to us about this very subject) roll and hand-cut delicately shaped orecchiette or round, dumpling-like strangolapreti. Though pasta’s his specialty, the rest of the menu is no afterthought, from stuffed squash blossoms to the bubbly, pillowy, profoundly delicious sfincione—a loaf of Silician focaccia that’s beautifully dressed in sea salt and olive oil. Don’t sleep on the pizzas here either; the kitchen proudly mixes its dough by hand, which results in thin, slightly charred crusts topped with seasonal ingredients.
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.
Haymaker (formerly Le Messe)
There’s nothing like watching an artist work to inspire the appetite. That’s at Haymaker, with locations in West Seattle and East Lake, which puts its wood-topped chef’s counter front and center so you can watch the masterful kitchen staff do its thing. Haymaker happens to be rolling out some of the finest pasta in the Pacific Northwest, allowing chef Brian Clevener’s obsession with fresh, local ingredients and Italian tradition come together in dishes like the stinging nettle pesto tagliatelle with egg yolk and gribenes. The chef’s seafood love is apparent throughout the menu, from hamachi crudo to the poached cod with salsa verde, so it stands to reason that the raw bar is a beast, where local oysters are kissed with lemon and shallot mignonette. Consider it dinner and a show.
If you’re looking for white tablecloths and toques, well, you’re in the wrong place. At East Memphis’ Hog & Hominy, traditional Italian fare meets southern, and if the plaid-clad servers and option to play bocce ball on the sunny outdoor seating area aren’t clues, the menu certainly is. This is a place where collard greens loaded with belly ends live comfortably alongside tuna crudo and gnocchi that takes a cue from biscuits, where wood-fired pizzas include on-point margheritas and a red-eye pie with pork belly and sugo. And while you won’t find pastas on the menu, you will find oysters hit with Calabrian chili and warm under the ultra-hot oven and perhaps the best meatballs in the south. Traditional this ain’t. Not yet, anyway.
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.
Los Angeles, California
This Hollywood gem is the first U.S. outpost of the legendary pizzeria in Naples, which has operated since 1870 and even made an appearance in Eat Pray Love. While the original location only serves two classic pies—marinara and margherita—its LA counterpart has significantly expanded the offering with spicy diavola, arugula and prosciutto, truffle, and much more, using the same highly guarded recipe to achieve that soft, bubbly, chewy, charred, Neapolitan-style crust (which you can watch the chef tossing in a glass-walled pizza kitchen). The menu also includes a robust dinner and brunch lineup that’s not to be ignored, with authentic pastas that would impress any Italian nonna and a slew of sublime desserts. But perhaps what makes L’antica Pizzeria da Michele so special in LA’s sea of Italian restaurants is owner Francesco Zimone’s particular brand of hospitality and five-star service; enjoying a meal in this restaurant’s romantic brick courtyard feels like coming home.
Chef David Deshaies and restaurateur Eric Eden of Unconventional Diner recently unveiled their latest project, L’Ardente, at the new Capitol Crossing development. With this grand opening also comes a grand and gilded-styled dining room, plus an extremely Instagrammable dish—lasagna that’s impossibly stacked lasagna 40 layers high and might require two people to take down. Other early favorites at this wood-fired Italian joint include the bucatini alla carbonara and the Ocotrani pizza with pomodoro, smoked octopus, caciocavallo, plus cheese and basil. At 180 seats, including 20 at an elevated island bar, you’re likely to find a perch where you can dine in Italian style in this modern and posh setting.
This mainstay on Locust Street has a foolproof formula that keeps diners returning. Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran offer Italian-American dishes in a space that boasts a 40-seat outdoor garden area in addition to the indoor dining room. Be sure to try the Sunday Gravy special at least once: It’s slow-braised beef short rib, stuffed meatballs, garlic sausage, and broccoli rabe in pork marinara and comes served over the day’s macaroni with meat on the side.
Once famously hard to get into, Lucia is now more accessible thanks to a recent move into larger digs around the corner. Expect the same freshmade pasta, freshly baked bread, and house-cured salumi as before, plus a regularly evolving menu of antipasti, primi, and secondi. If you see an unfamiliar dish, eat it. If you see an amaro you can’t pronounce, drink it.
Nobody makes you feel more convincingly like you’re in Italy than former-Scarpetta chef Michael Pirolo does at Macchialina. This cozy Alton Road hideaway not only survived the volatile Miami restaurant industry, it survived the demolition of Alton Road, a global pandemic, and last year’s Spring Break. It’s persevered thanks to the richest red sauces, freshest pastas, and most inventive cocktail menu on this list. And while dozens of transplants boasting northeastern pedigree have come to town thinking they’ll impress us, Macchialina still outdoes them all.
Influenced by her world travels and family background, Top Chef and Spiaggia vet chef Sarah Grueneberg applies modern technique to traditional Italian cooking, and it's served her well—she took home the James Beard Award for Best Chef in the Great Lakes Region in 2017. The lauded restaurant's housemade roster includes soulful Tortellini in Brodo (prosciutto and mortadella and turkey filled “pasta hats” in a 24-hour lambrusco-spiked bone broth), Pecorino-showered Cacio Whey Pepe, and Chitarra alla Boscaiola, a steamy ragu brimming with porcini, prosciutto, Tuscan Pecorino, and crispy chicken skin.
Run by the same family since 1946, Mosca’s feels like it hasn’t really changed much in 75-plus years, in the best possible way. It’s a bit of a journey, but New Orleanians have gladly braved it for generations in pursuit of Mosca’s singular Creole-Italian cooking: Italian crab salad, Oysters Mosca, Shrimp Mosca, Chicken a la Grande, and spaghetti bordelaise. You may or may not be familiar with those creations, but just know that the common denominators are lots of oil, lots of garlic, and overwhelming happiness.
No. 246 dishes out inventive Italian fare inspired by authentic flavors and local ingredients in a sleek, modern space that somehow makes the food feel even more convincingly Italian. From pasta to wood-fired oven-baked pizzas, the entirety of the menu is delicious, but it’s the meatball appetizer that can’t be glossed over. Made from fresh pork, veal, and beef, dusted with basil and Parmesan, and served on a bed of spicy tomato sauce, these meatballs definitely put all others to shame.
Back when it opened in 2005, Nostrana helped usher in the golden age of Portland dining, embracing locally sourced ingredients and seamlessly incorporating them into upscale Italian dining while keeping everything affordable. What’s more remarkable, though, is that 15 years later, perpetual James Beard finalist Cathy Whims’ Nostrana is still a paragon of the Portland scene, which has seen so many pioneers come and go. Here, hand-cut pappardelle might be stuffed with goat cheese, or one of the place’s legendary pizzas—which got their own spin off in Whims’ Oven & Shaker sister restaurant—might come topped with fresh Dungeness crab from the coast, while the charcuterie menu puts a strong focus on hams and rillettes. It’s a place where familiar, traditional dishes from the countryside meet the unexpected. In fact, the only thing you can expect is that whatever’s going to come out of that well-worn wood-fired oven is going to be near perfect.
San Francisco, California
A dinner at Penny Roma is everything you want out of a meal. A warm and inviting space in an enclosed courtyard with dim lighting and a lively atmosphere, friendly service, and a menu of nonstop hits, including some fantastic crudo, pastas—all made daily—like Tagliatelle Alla Bolognese and Tonnarelli Cacio e Pepe—and mains, like a Grilled Trout and a Half Chicken Al Mattone—that deserve an order, as well as some of the best focaccia we’ve ever had in the city thanks to the perfect crunch to chew ratio. It’s the perfect spot for a date or a night out with friends. Just be sure to plan ahead because reservations are hard to snag. The restaurant was opened by the folks behind Flour + Water, which would also be on this list, but it’s temporarily closed for remodeling.
New York, New York
Located in the heart of SoHo, the restaurant is the creation of chef Philip Guardione, a native Sicilian whose successful culinary experiences in both Italy and Europe gives his eatery its authentic essence. The mostly seafood-centric menu offers both delicate and bold flavors with curated selections of crudo like a carpaccio trio with sauces; tuna tartare with celery and bottarga; and an Italian ceviche, in addition to decadent pasta like paccheri with octopus ragu, toasted bread, caper flour, and parmesan cream; and gragnano fusilli with scampi langoustine, and burrata cheese. Indulge in meat-based dishes that are perfect for the season’s dropping temperatures with antipasti like Sicilian arancini with ragu sauce and mozzarella; and green tagliatelle with boar ragu and black truffle.
When restaurant vets Ty Leon, Heather Morrison, and Austin Carson bought the beloved Cafe Marmotte and said they were changing the French favorite into an Italian restaurant, fans were worried. They had no need to be. Restaurant Olivia is serving some of the, if not the, best Italian fare in town. If the fantastic food isn’t enough of a draw, the expert hospitality and incredible drinks will win you over.
The team at Revue sure works wonders with flour. Start with their heavenly house-baked focaccia (smeared with rosemary, olive spread, and Texas olive oil, no less), then go all out with twin orders of pizza and pasta. The Mushroom Risotto, strewn with pancetta, garlic, mascarpone, and pecorino, always stuns, while the Cavatelli, laced with their signature Italian sausage, is a fantastic supper centerpiece. Finally, under no circumstances should you split the Tiramisu—order at least one per person. It’s the best darn Tiramisu in Texas.
New York, New York
Chef Stefano Secchi brings the Northern Emilia Romagna region to NYC with Rezdôra, a rustic eatery that offers regional—and seasonal—favorites. The restaurant specializes in housemade pasta with dishes ranging from classic flavors like ragu tagliolini to those with more complexity like “grandma walking through forest in Emilia,” featuring cappelletti verdi with roasted leeks, baby leeks, and black mushroom puree. An entire section is also dedicated to appetizer-style cheeses, where items like truffle burrata and fresh bufala mozzarella make an appearance. The restaurant also offers a regional pasta tasting menu with a vegetarian option as well.
For a quarter-century this rustic outpost in a historic building in a quaint Milwaukee suburb has been turning out bonafide pilgrimage-worthy Italian food, Current chef Juan Urbieta spent time at Michelin-starred restaurants in Chicago and Italy before making his way to Milwaukee. The menu remains as vital as ever—handmade pappardelle with slow-braised duck ragu, similarly handmade spaghetti with spiny lobster, and a four-course chef's menu that comes in at a paltry $60. Of course, going rogue and ordering four pastas is also a perfectly defensible choice.
Husband-and-wife team Elliot Strathmann and Chef Cindhura Reddy took over this neighborhood favorite in 2014 and have been crafting a menu of seasonally changing dishes that often feature local ingredients ever since. The food isn’t old-school Italian, but the hospitality is. So settle in and let this culinary duo wow you with dishes like handmade pasta tossed with Indian spice-preserved garlic and perfectly poached egg, and risotto arancini crammed full of Hatch green chile, white cheddar, and cilantro lime crema.
When traveling to Phoenix, there can be a counterintuitive pang to actively try and go to places where superstar James Beard Award-winning chef Chris Bianco isn’t involved, as a way of diverging from the norm and exercising some sort of independent thought. This would be a mistake. Bianco is an interstellar talent on his own, but he’s also an underrated manager and nurturer of others, and Tratto is his ambitious and sincere Italian restaurant, has served as a launching pad for chefs like Tony Andiario and now Cassie Shortino. The food here, especially the pasta dishes, sit on an island by themselves in Phoenix. Don’t miss the rigatoni and cacio e pepe special.
St. Louis, Missouri
When Trattoria Marcella opened Ozzie Smith was still playing shortstop for the Cardinals (the year was 1995 for those more interested in pasta than the backs of baseball cards), and the landscape of St. Louis Italian food was about to be forever changed. Twenty-five years and countless accolades later it remains a force to be reckoned with, as chef and owner Steve Komorek keeps diners coming back with the likes of caramelized cacio e pepe cauliflower, crispy chicken liver risotto, and an osso bucco over polenta that would likely make Ozzie Smith do a backflip, assuming he can still do those.
A new contestant swimming in Houston’s ever growing Italian restaurant scene, this rustic palace has been drawing ravenous crowds with their intriguing cocktail list, fresh pastas, and juicy proteins. Eye-popping selections include Crispy Cheese Fritters, pizzas piled high with all the hits (definitely tipping our hats to the Prosciutto Pie dripping with spicy honey), Cacio e Pepe, Campanelle tossed in lamb ragu, and Pan-roasted Monkfish laced with a zippy concoction of mint, basil, and parsley. For a final dose of deliciousness, dip into some Frozen Coffee Tiramisu.
For some people, Italian food means gourmet pasta, but for those who prefer a more casual take on Southern European cuisine, pizza is probably the star. That’s why it’s only right to highlight Varuni Napoli—a restaurant that treats pizza like the delicacy that it is. Prepare to enjoy one Varuni Napoli’s various pies—the white Mamma (smoked mozzarella, vesuvian cherry tomatoes, black pepper, fresh arugula, Prosciutto di Parma DOP, and shaved Pecorino Romano) or the red Porreca Piccante (fresh mozzarella, hot soppressata, Nduja, vesuvian cherry tomatoes, hot Italian peppers, Pecorino Romano, and basil) are both great ones to start with—alongside a cocktail or a bottle of limonata.
This Italian spot by Marc Vetri opened all the way back in 1998 and garnered rave reviews almost immediately, in part from Vetri’s experience working in premier kitchens both in the U.S. and Italy. The operation has only grown since, as has the admiration for this nationally acclaimed spot. Dining here means a commitment to the Quattro Piatti sampling menu, featuring antipasti, pasta, secondi, and dessert selections. The menu goes for $150 per person and is among the most coveted Philly dining experiences out there.
Writers: Kevin Alexander, Daisy Barringer, Elanor Bock, Tim Ebner, Alex Erdekian, Kevin Gray, Jillian Hammell, Rob Kachelriess, Andy Kryza, Adam Lapetina, Matt Lynch, Matt Meltzer, Marielle Mondon, Adrianne Reece, Allyson Reedy, Joshua Robinson, Serena Tara, Tiffany Tse, and James Wong