Let’s get ready to mangia!
Are you craving some hand-made pasta, a bottle of Barolo, and maybe a little tiramisu to cap it all off? Luckily, you don’t have to go all the way to Italy in order to sample some of this exquisite cuisine. The United States is home to some incredible Italian restaurants where all you need is one bite to transport you from Bologna to Sicily.
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Casa Don Alfonso
St. Louis, Missouri
Hundreds of glass wisteria leaves, hand-painted tiles, and copper furnishings in the open kitchen evoke a sense of Sorrentine sprezzatura (Italian for a kind of studied nonchalance or careless elegance) at Casa Don Alfonso, the glamorous new restaurant by Michelin-starred Italian restauranteur Mario Iaccarino inside The Ritz-Carlton, St. Louis. Many of the most important ingredients are imported directly from Italy, including olive oil from the family’s farm in Sorrento, Castelluccio lentils from Umbria, and the custom espresso blend that’s roasted and slowly smoked using oak, olive, and orange woods. Iaccarino’s first U.S. restaurant aims to transport visitors to Southern Italy, replicating the ambiance at his family’s renowned boutique hotel and restaurant, Don Alfonso 1890 in Sant’Agata. Family recipes like anti-aging vegan lentil soup, humble mixed pasta with potato and smoked scamorza, and Grandfather Alfonso’s original recipe for maccheroni gratin are on the menu along with Neapolitan wood-fired pizzas, roasted rack of lamb, and acqua pazza catch of the day.
PHOTO: Courtesy of Visit Salt Lake
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Salt Lake City, Utah
This Tuscan fine-dining gem is one of the most beloved restaurants in Salt Lake City. Restaurateur Valter Nassi was born in Monte San Savino, a small town in Tuscany. He has hospitality running through his veins and his passion for feeding and taking care of his guests is his raison d’être. At Valter’s Osteria, you’re an old friend the moment you step through the doors, and the walls are lined with photographs of Nassi with well-fed celebrities. Pasta lovers can try the sampler of daily house-made gnocchi and ravioli or lasagna served with Valter’s mother’s special meat sauce. Then dive into fennel-crusted duck breast in cognac and grape sauce followed by a delightfully jiggly panna cotta for dessert—simple but sublime. During the pandemic, the 74-year-old proprietor visited his guests through Facetime each evening, his warmth and care emanating through the screen.
PHOTO: Courtesy of L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele
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L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele
Los Angeles, California
Dinner at L’Antica Pizzeria Da Michele in Hollywood whisks you away to Naples. This Los Angeles outpost of the iconic Neapolitan pizzeria uses the same recipe, oven, and ingredients (including imported tomatoes) to replicate the pizza at the original location opened in 1870 that was featured in Eat Pray Love. Owner Francesco Zimone designed the restaurant courtyard after those in Italy, with a touch of Californian insouciance. Blue and white tiles line the walls surrounding the showpiece oven, where bubbling margherita, diavola, and truffle pizzas are masterfully crafted and delivered on long wooden paddles.
PHOTO: Courtesy of Rachel Bires
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Aldo Zaninotto and Chef Cameron Grant bring a rustic taste of Piemonte to Logan Square with Osteria Langhe. Zaninotto grew up between Belgium and Italy, and Grant has years of experience cooking Piedmontese food for Italian diners in Trieso. Rabbit is a staple in Piemonte and is known as the “chicken” of the region since actual chicken is not very common. At Osteria Langhe, Grant serves prosciutto-wrapped rabbit loins over creamy polenta with mixed mushrooms and black truffle jus. It’s the best rabbit in Chicago—mild in flavor, juicy, and delicious. The vitello tonnato and hand-pinched plin, a buttery egg yolk pasta stuffed with La Tur cheese, are also favorites.
PHOTO: Courtesy of The Joseph Nashville
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After decades as the most decorated Italian chef in Chicago, Tony Mantuano and his wife and business partner Cathy Mantuano moved to Nashville to open Yolan with the Pizzuti family inside the hottest new hotel in the city, The Joseph. The ground floor fine dining restaurant embodies the same elegance and sophisticated service (fresh Italian truffles shaved generously tableside) the Mantuanos championed at Michelin-starred Spiaggia, and diners peer past hulking 80-pound wheels of Parmigiano Reggiano in the translucent cheese cave to the kitchen, where piping hot plates of tortellini in brodo and pork shank with saffron polenta and Swiss chard emerge. There’s a five- and eight-course tasting menu available for indulgent appetites and every Saturday, Yolan hosts intimate regional Italian wine tasting workshops. Pastry chef Noelle Marchetti is killing it with house-made gelati, toasted pine nut tarts, and a beautiful roasted cherry dessert with vanilla olive oil and juniper meringue.
PHOTO: Courtesy of Spinasse
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This romantic trattoria on Capitol Hill in Seattle specializes in Piedmontese cuisine. At Spinasse, watch pasta made fresh in the open kitchen before twirling a forkful of buttery tajarin garnished with sage to your lips. Chef Stuart Lane attended the Italian Culinary Institute in Piedmonte before returning to Seattle and taking the reins at Spinsse and casual sister restaurant Artusi next door. He sources most ingredients, like king salmon and wild mushrooms locally, all prepared with an Italian sensibility. The wine list, orchestrated by GM and Wine Director, Angela Lopez, highlights the best red wines of the region, including Barbaresco, Barolo, and Nebbiolo and the classic Italian cocktails are technically textbook too.
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Frasca Food and Wine
One of the best Italian restaurants in the country, Frasca has won multiple James Beard awards over the years, recognizing their food, wine program, and outstanding service. The food here is specifically from the sub-alpine Friuli-Venezia Giulia region in northeast Italy, bordering Austria and Slovenia. In Friuli, a frasca is an informal neighborhood gathering spot to share a meal and bottle of wine with friends and family. Begin with frico caldo cheese crisps and a platter of salumi before digging into campanelle with wild boar ragu.
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Sfera Sicilian Street Food
Sfera Sicilian Street Food blends traditional Sicilian recipes and techniques with the best Midwest ingredients, inspired by co-owner Daniela Vitale’s summers with her family in Sicily. Scaccia—a folded semolina “pizza” with a crispy exterior and gooey lasagna-like center—is the signature dish, served with a side of house marinara sauce for dipping and topped with mozzarella, parmesan, fresh basil, and wild garlic ricotta. The arancini (stuffed risotto balls) are another Sicilian classic, and diners with a sweet tooth will love the cannoli—filled with local ricotta and freshly roasted pistachios or house-made Door County cherry jam and dark chocolate chips.
PHOTO: Courtesy of Barolo Grill
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Barolo Grill is an Italian institution in Denver’s Cherry Creek neighborhood, specializing in northern Italian cuisine and wine, including an extensive selection of Barolo and Barbaresco from Piedmont of course. Every summer, the entire staff make a 10-day pilgrimage to Italy to experience and better understand Italy’s rich culinary culture and history, exploring Piedmont, Tuscany, Umbria, Marche, and the Veneto. When a server or sommelier recommends a wine pairing for your meal, they’ve often walked the vineyards and tasted these wines with the winemaker. The seafood cassoulet with Tuscan white beans, tiger prawns, and lobster sausage, and the Barolo braised duck are highlights. Save room for Castelmagno cheesecake with lavender honey and toasted hazelnuts for dessert.
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Montelupo Italian Market is a restaurant-market hybrid that just opened last summer in Portland, Oregon. Chef-owner Adam Berger named his restaurant after the little town of Montelupo in Piemonte, where he learned to make fresh pasta. A couple of the most transportive dishes are bucatini all’ amatriciana with pancetta, chili, garlic and tomato, and silky tajarin pasta with truffle butter and Parmigiano Reggiano. Their shelves are stocked with hard-to-find Italian provisions, fresh pasta made in-house daily, decadent desserts, house-jarred pasta sauces, local and Italian wine, bottled cocktails, and more. The tiramisu is to die for and the perfect midnight snack if you order takeout or delivery.
PHOTO: Courtesy of Quinci Emporium
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Debra Quinci grew up in Sicily watching her grandmother make couscous by hand and founded Quinci Emporium to bring an authentic taste of Italy to the Midwest with an eclectic selection of wine, cheese, freshly baked savory and sweet treats, and delicacies like Sicilian mulberry jam and truffle honey for your pantry. Stop in for cheesy artichoke focaccia made with Sardinian olive oil or an afternoon pick-me-up macchiato (the espresso is from Quinci’s hometown of Palermo) and biscotti. Almond cookies are her family recipe and the brown butter shortbread is dangerously addictive. Quinci regularly hosts intimate cooking classes, where you might learn to bake with Sangiovese wine flour or chestnut flour, and wine tastings with visiting Italian winemakers, although these sell out quickly.
PHOTO: Courtesy of Fat Ox
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The sleek and sophisticated ambiance at this modern Italian restaurant in Scottsdale belies the straightforward simplicity of the Fat Ox menu. Chef Matt Carter sources olive oil from Liguria and balsamic vinegar from Modena and says the climate in Scottsdale is very similar to Southern Italy so he can get citrus, figs, chilies, and tomatoes locally in Arizona. He keeps his cooking simple to let these ingredients shine with fresh roasted vegetables and proteins. Pastas, including squid ink chitarra, and pappardelle are made in-house daily. Mediterranean branzino is dressed simply with salsa verde and fried herbs while the brick-grilled organic chicken is impossibly juicy, served with polenta and house-made hot sauce.
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Los Angeles, California
The pasta at Uovo is handmade daily in Bologna, then shipped overnight to their Santa Monica and Mid-Wilshire restaurants. Pasta is made with just eggs, flour, and salt, but it’s the Italian eggs with their rich yolks that give this pasta its vibrant yellow color. Each noodle is sheeted and cut by sfogline, Italian women who have dedicated their lives to mastering the art of pasta making. The recipes for carbonara, lasagna, cacio e pepe, and crema di parmigiano on the menu at Uovo were inspired by some of the best family-owned pasta restaurants in Bologna and Rome, including Antica Trattoria della Gigina, Trattoria da Danilo, and Antica Osteria del Mirasole.
PHOTO: Courtesy of Perbacco
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San Francisco, California
Jovial owner Umberto Gibin grew up in Piemonte and he’s been bringing a taste of Piedmontese cuisine to San Francisco’s Financial District at Perbacco since 2006. The vitello tonnato, cold thinly sliced veal covered in a creamy mayonnaise-like sauce flavored with tuna, and stracotto al Barolo, a Piedmont-style pot roast, are two signature dishes, indistinguishable from the best you’d find in Turin. Chef and co-owner Staffan Terje travels to Italy yearly for immersive dining research and each year he imports fresh black and white truffles from trusted foragers. Both Perbacco’s La Monferrina pasta machine and Carpigiani gelato machine are imported from Italy too.
PHOTO: Courtesy of Giulia
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When Giulia opened in 2019 in the Emery, the hotel restaurant wowed Minneapolis with its authentic Northern Italian fare, including carefully folded agnolotti stuffed with venison sugo and brushed with sage butter. Chef Steven Brown even worked briefly at Modena’s Osteria Francescana, voted the best restaurant in the world by World’s 50 Best Restaurants. Begin your meal with fresh mozzarella pulled tableside, served warm with accompaniments like custom-blended balsamic vinegar, roasted and pickled peppers, smoky speck, and garlicky black olive tapenade with tangerine and fennel pollen. The amaro cart is another highlight, and a chance to explore more than 50 varieties of this Italian herbal liqueur. Amaro is commonly enjoyed as a digestif after your meal, but can also be mixed in any number of cocktails, including negronis.