As Austin continues to build upon its reputation as a foodie hotspot, Italian restaurants around town are gaining a higher profile. They are branching out beyond pizza and pasta (though those classics are, of course, still on offer) to stellar seafood, house-made pancetta and amazing desserts. Here are some of the best Italian restaurants in Austin.
This restaurant may be small, with maybe 10 tables inside and a few more on the back patio, but the flavors are big and designed to keep patrons coming back week after week. Be sure to order the Botticelli bread: a house-baked bread stuffed with prosciutto, rosemary ham, salmai, roasted bell peppers, and two cheeses (there's also a vegetarian version available). A fenced-in patio in the back has a small stage that features local musicians nightly. Ask your server to recommend a pairing wine from the celebrated wine list.
While the restaurant is a little hard to find, your efforts will most likely by rewarded with an enthusiastic greeting from Gino himself. The family-run restaurant in the Mueller neighborhood expertly executes all the standard dishes, but why not be adventurous? Try the Salmone Ripieno: salmon stuffed with a crab cake and served with mashed potatoes and lemon butter. Or maybe order the New Zealand lamb served over parmesan polenta with mushroom sauce. Even if you just stick with lasagna, you really can’t go wrong at Gino’s. There’s also an extensive wine list, and gluten-free pasta is available.
Vespaio is tucked into a historic brick building the bustling South Congress Avenue. Boasting a warm, cozy environment, Vespaio serves up Italian comfort food at its finest. The Spaghetti alla Carbonara—topped with pancetta, scallions, and a poached egg—is a crowd favorite. In fact, all the pasta dishes are excellent. But don’t overlook the wood-fired pizza, especially the Margherita pizza. The Toscano pizza is another favorite, topped with house-made pork sausage, caramelized onions and Cambozola cheese. The creme brulee is a can’t-miss choice for dessert.
The pizzas are hard to resist at Italic; particularly the savory/sweet Soppressata, with salami, fontina, basil, honey and chile flakes. If you’re looking for an out-of-the-ordinary pasta dish, try the Bucatini All’Amatriciana, with pork belly, tomatoes, pecorino and red chile flakes. The sheer size of the wine list is underscored by the glass case on the second floor displaying virtually wall-to-wall wine. For dessert, go with the tiramisu or the gelato, which comes in flavors such as mango, hazelnut brownie and pine nut cookie.
Patrizi’s is a food truck next to the Vortex performance space that feels like a restaurant due to the covered seating, framed art and quaint curtains on the truck. The house-made pasta is the star of the show. In fact, the restaurant doesn’t take call-in orders because they want to make sure the pasta doesn’t lose its perfect texture while you sit in traffic. Don’t miss Karah’s Diavolo pasta, served with a hint of lemon, rosemary, olive oil, chiles and garlic. The Carbonara Alexandra is another standout dish with house-cured pancetta, coddled egg yolks and grana padano cheese. Due to the restaurant’s exacting taste and texture standards for its pasta, Patrizi’s is not yet serving gluten-free pasta.
If you want authentic Neapolitan pizza head to Bufalina where the sauce and crust are the stars of the show. Go for a classic margherita or get adventurous with your toppings like the okra pizza with tomato, shishito peppers, garlic, parmesan, and chili butter. Pick from their curated wine list for a glass of red, white, or rosé to go with your pizza.
An intimate restaurant overlooking Congress Avenue in downtown, La Traviata is a great place to take a date for an impressive meal. The Spaghetti a la Carbonara has flavors you might not expect, such as lemon, cream and pancetta, but it’s amazing. Another must-have is the funghi fettuccine with fried artichoke and truffle oil. For dessert, try the tiramisu, which is extra creamy and smothered in hazelnuts.
If you’re looking for excellent Italian food in a friendly, open, relaxing spot, look no further than Numero 28. In nice weather, you can sit outside and enjoy the street scene along 2nd Street. Try the popular Arancina vegetariana, which is a rice ball stuffed with eggplant, mozzarella and basil and smothered in tomato sauce. For dessert, go for the Torta al Cioccolato: a flourless chocolate cake topped with vanilla ice cream. The pistachio ice cream is also a refreshing treat.
Intimate to the point of being a little cramped, The Backspace is the best place in Austin to go if you’re obsessed with rustic, slightly charred pizza crust. They know how to do it right. Try the margherita pizza or the fennel sausage pie. Beyond pizza, the restaurant also makes amazing side dishes, including roasted okra and pears with fresh mozzarella. Reservations are a must on weekends to avoid a long wait, but you can usually find a seat at the bar without a reservation.
This beautifully designed multi-level restaurant will put you at ease as soon as you sit down. Need even more comfort? Start with the gooey, house-made mozzarella appetizer. The Farm Egg is a hearty starter that can make up for the tiny plates to come. Pasta lovers can't go wrong here and all the pasta are made in-house daily. When the weather’s nice, ask to sit on the patio, which is built around a large tree.