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Big bowls of pasta, rich sauces, fresh ingredients, ever-flowing wine—there are many reasons diners can’t get enough Italian food. The classic cuisine is expansive, thanks to the regional diversity of Italy—and also the country’s outsized influence on other dining cultures, especially in the U.S. From the North End to Southie, Somerville to Dorchester, and Chelsea to Allston, here are the 20 best Italian restaurants around Boston.
[Note: Aqua Pazza is temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.]
A 2017 addition to veteran North End restaurateur Frank DePasquale’s empire, Aqua Pazza is a sleek and intimate spot for modern seafood and more Italian-leaning Mediterranean fare, like seafood arancini with a house-made saffron aioli, and crab carbonara with black pepper fettuccini made in-house, and seasonal entrees, such as seared swordfish with tomatoes and squid ink pommes purée. It has a super-fresh raw bar options, tons of gluten-free items, and great tiramisu, too.
135 Richmond St., North End, Boston, 857-350-3105, aquapazza-boston.com.
[Note: Bar Mezzana is temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.]
Chef Colin Lynch’s oft-changing crudo preparations—like hiramasa with a drizzle of grapefruit oil and a little bite from Fresno chili, or late-spring scallops complemented by rhubarb and mint—are where to start at this coastal Italian-inspired stunner. (Don’t be intimidated by the number of choices—just go with a flight of six for $30.) But the house-made pastas, vibrant salads, and even well-composed fancy toasts are works of simple perfection at this Ink Block-area placemaker.
360 Harrison Ave., South End, Boston, 617-530-1770, barmezzana.com.
Carlo’s Cucina Italiana
Two longtime employees recently took over ownership of this Allston neighborhood anchor, but luckily nothing has changed: It’s been a friendly, fresh, family favorite for more than 40 years thanks to homestyle fare like calamari Veneziana (sautéed with roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, cherry peppers, and olives and smothered in a sweet tomato sauce), and house-made fusili with garlicky broccoli rabe.
131 Brighton Ave., Allston, 617-254-9759, carloscucinaitaliana.com.
Ciao! Pizza and Pasta
If you can resist chef Marvin Posada’s Neapolitan-style pizzas, you’ll find deliciously interesting riffs on pasta dishes, like chorizo bolognese, and serrano-spiked shrimp scampi with homemade spaghetti. But the pies are notable, and not just because they’re fired up in an eight-seat spot underneath the Tobin Bridge. The chef’s chewy, blistered crusts and fresh toppings rival any pie shop in the city. Formerly of Mistral and L’Andana, Posada and his business partner, Edson Coimbra, also have hospitality on lock.
59 Williams St., Chelsea, 617-286-9346, ciaopizzaandpasta.com.
[Note: Coppa is closed until Tuesday, January 12, 2021.]
A decade in, the menu at this South End enoteca is still consistently creative and well-executed, from the pizzas (like a savory favorite with ‘nduja sausage, anchovies, and marjoram) to the pastas (such as a squid ink-tinted dish with bright shishitos, leeks, uni, and trout roe). As the name suggests, co-chef-owner Jamie Bissonnette is a snout-to-tail master—go ahead, please order the Italian grinder—but vegetable dishes, like mustard roasted-beets with spicy almonds, also surprise and satisfy.
253 Shawmut Ave., South End, Boston, 617-391-0902, coppaboston.com.
It’s not because of the limited restaurant options in Roslindale that this cozy trattoria is busy every night. It has everything to do with warm, welcoming service, and the generous portions of central Italian-style dishes, like thick ribbons of pappardelle with shrimp and arugula, and a hearty take on bruschetta, which tops grilled sourdough with eggplant tapenade, goat cheese, and cherry tomatoes.
754 South St., Roslindale Village, 617-327-8324, delfinorestaurant.com.
La Familia Giorgio’s
The Giorgio family ensures everyone in your family leaves happy and full with a huge menu featuring huge portions. Try the meaty bolognese, the spicy fra diavolo, or the creamy pesto sauces—and know that the $3 upcharge for one of the house-made pasta selections is always worth it. There are also gluten-free pastas and pizzas.
112 Salem St., North End, Boston, 617-367-6711, lafamigliagiorgios.com.
A blink-and-you-miss-it storefront on Somerville’s Broadway East, this is a refreshing destination for modern, Italian-inspired fare, served up in a cool and romantic room. Choose among dishes like creamy burrata with zucchini bread, culatello (a sweet prosciutto-like ham), and pistachio pesto; black cod with a Sardinian-style couscous salad and a rich saffron broth; and rabbit gnocchi. Or, go for the chef’s whim prix-fixe to sit back and relax over four or six on- and off-menu treasures.
126 Broadway, East Somerville, 617-764-1612, fathenboston.com.
Fox & the Knife
This Southie stunner from James Beard Award-winning chef Karen Akunowicz just opened this past February, but the soulful fare coming out of the open kitchen has already earned it three-and-a-half stars from Boston magazine critic Julia Clancy, and a Food & Wine Best New Restaurant nod. Everything about the place is an ode to the traditions Akunowicz took to heart during a formative year cooking in Modena, from the must-order taleggio-stuffed focaccia, to the comforting, saffron-flecked spaghetti con vongole, to the daily aperitivo-hour snacks and sips.
28 W. Broadway, South Boston, 617-766-8630, foxandtheknife.com.
One of Cambridge’s hardest reservations to secure is a seat at chef Michael Pagliarini’s first solo spot (he also owns the flashier Benedetto in Harvard Square). That’s because of his pasta mastery, seen in dishes like buckwheat pizzoccheri (a short ribbon noodle) with fontina, asparagus, artichokes and Italian summer truffles—rustic, textured noodles that hold onto buttery sauces and earthy accoutrements. If you’re lucky, may the seat you finally get be one at the chef’s counter, which is also where Pagliarini’s team rolls out their fresh pasta every day.
1682 Massachusetts Ave., Porter Square, Cambridge, 617-441-2800, giuliarestaurant.com.
Head off the beaten path to this Brookline Village trattoria, an under-the-radar favorite for 15 years. Chef-owner Josh Ziskin’s seasonal, northern Italian cuisine exudes rustic, refined comfort. See: crispy fried sage leaves with salty anchovies, the signature tagliatelle Bolognese, and wood-grilled hen under a brick.
48 Boylston St., Brookline Village, 617-739-0007, lamorra.com.
We often find ourselves popping into this neighborhood spot to see what inspired, seasonal flavors chef-owner Douglass Williams is cooking up—especially on Monday nights, when handmade pastas are all-you-can-eat. The pastas are indeed the stars, but the rich focaccia; assured entrees, like seared diver scallops with plump golden raisins, cauliflower, and buttery bone marrow sauce; and oft-changing flavors of gelato are among the many reasons to return.
782 Tremont St., South End, Boston, 617-936-3490, midaboston.com.
[Note: Prezza is temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.]
Chef Anthony Caturano’s rustic, peasant-style dishes, like grilled littleneck clams with sausage, roasted halibut with creamy chive risotto, braised short rib, and the singular raviolo di uovo have stood the test of time in the crowded North End: Prezza is a local favorite for more than 20 years, even as Caturano has expanded with two North Shore restaurants, called Tonno.
24 Fleet St., North End, Boston, 617-227-1577, prezza.com.
This 10-table spot is worth the inevitable wait. Second-generation chef-owner Anthony DiCenso’s lobster-stuffed ravioli is a menu standout, but the house-made potato gnocchi, linguine with calamari and marinara, eggplant Parmigiana over house-made rigatoni, or really anything on the menu will hit the spot. The portions are huge, and the prices are reasonable, and you’ll surely have an appetite by the time you sit down.
258 Saratoga St., East Boston, 617-567-7412, rinosplace.com.
Swanky, elegant, and distinctive, chef-owner Jamie Mammano’s regional Italian restaurant is a Copley Square gem, thanks to high-touch service like expert wine recs and gratis chocolate truffles at the end of the meal. Celebrate special moments with show-stopping plates like the bone-in veal Milanese over soft polenta; lamb neck ragu-soaked radiatore with minted stracchino cheese; and Spanish-leaning grilled octopus over squid-ink couscous, but don’t miss the luscious Wagyu meatballs.
One Huntington Ave., Back Bay, Boston, 617-412-4600, sorellinaboston.com.
This minimalist, mid-price, Italian diner is a fun and fantastic place to experience the cooking of lauded chef Barbara Lynch. Tagliatelle Bolognese is rich pasta perfection, the sauce blurring the lines between meat and cheese and sweet tomato; and the gnocchi with lobster and mushroom ragu and peas is a must-order. Ten years into Lynch’s Fort Point tenure, she’s continued to evolve with the still-growing neighborhood, recently adding a small aperitivo bar inside. Cin cin!
348 Congress St., Fort Point, Boston, 617-737-1234, sportelloboston.com.
[Note: SRV is temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.]
There are so many ways to love this instant South End classic. There’s the street-facing cicchetti bar, the standing-room space to order small bites (for a small price) such as orange-and-herb-marinated olives, pork and beef polpette, and our favorite, baccala mantecato (salt cod spread on jet-black bread with herbs and garlic). Then there are co-chefs Kevin O’Donnell and Michael Lombardi’s bold pasta dishes, made with grains milled in-house; and Meghan Thompson’s outstanding dolci—best enjoyed in the twilight on the secluded back patio.
569 Columbus Ave., South End, Boston, 617-536-9500, srvboston.com.
Take a cue from the glitzy, glamorous decor of this Fan Pier anchor and indulge in dishes like the plump deep sea scallop appetizer with sweet Grand Marnier reduction; a 20-ounce prime ribeye with a heap of truffle fries; and creamy lobster risotto. This luxe location is set up for ample private dining, and it’s also a great place to look for the stars.
One Marina Park Dr., Seaport District, Boston, 617-345-3992, stregawaterfront.com.
For more than 10 years, this “Dorchester Italian” spot from hometown chef Chris Douglass has been a neighborhood go-to for casual comfort food, cheffy side dishes, and pizza. Share one of the Calabrian chili-flecked house-made sausage pies with gooey taleggio, and the eggy chitarra carbonara, or any of the house-made pasta dishes—in fact, the meatballs might be the reason this place has so many regulars.
1918 Dorchester Ave., Ashmont, Dorchester, 617-822-1918, tavolodotave.com.
The tourist-packed main market floor of Eataly Boston is a ceaseless landscape of Italian delights, including standout sit-down spots like the new seafood-and-spritz bar, La Pescheria. But head to the third level to find this flora-covered oasis, where the wood-fired grill, helmed by chef Dan Bazzinotti, kisses everything from beef heart spiedini, to herb-marinated lamb leg with cherry agrodolce, to the little gem salad. Terra also mixes up an exemplary drinks program, from Italian wines to barrel-aged beers to herbaceous cocktails.
Prudential Center, 800 Boylston St., Back Bay, Boston, 617-807-7307, eataly.com/boston.