Eating Your Way Through Italy – 10 MUST Hit Food Spots
What better way to plan a trip than around food, isn’t that what everyone does? Oh, just me… It is difficult to find a bad meal in Italy, so when a meal stands out you know it must be pretty good. I spent six weeks in Italy and was able to deduce my favorite meals down to a short list to help you when you’re planning your next trip! These are the best restaurants in Italy (IMO). The locations are pretty spread out, so I’d be impressed if you hit them all 🙂
1: Gusta Pizza – Firenze (Best Pizza)
The first one on my list is a pizza place, which may be surprising to you because there is literally a pizza place on every corner. I stayed in Rome for the majority of my trip and pizza was a daily staple. Getting pizza in Naples is of course an experience in and of itself. But, Gusta Pizza in Florence definitely takes the cake for me. Warning: be prepared to wait in a line.
Some people may argue that this shouldn’t have made my list because it has become somewhat of a tourist attraction, but I don’t care. The dough is the perfect combination of soft on the inside and crispy on the outside. The sauce is just sweet enough with the perfect amount of garlic. There are only five or six pizzas to choose from and you really can’t go wrong with any of them. My friend and I split a margarita and the “Gustapizza”.
Nothing in Florence is a far walk, but it’s especially close to the Piazza Santo Spirito if you’re looking for the perfect place to eat your delicious pizza 🙂
2: Sant’Eustachio Il Caffè – Roma (Best Cafe)
This cafe is located near the Pantheon, so if this is your first time in Italy and you find yourself over that way I highly suggest getting your afternoon pick-me-up here. There is usually a pretty good crowd at Sant’Eustachio, if not a line out of the door but it is totally worth the wait. I can attest to their espresso, cappuccino, and if you have a sweet tooth like me their Granita al Caffè. Because of its location it definitely attracts tourists.
Just like any other cafe in Italy, there is a customary way to order, which can be confusing if you’ve never been before. You tell the person at the cash register what you want and you pay them. Then you go over to the bar and show them your order receipt. When you get your coffee you stand and drink it at the bar. Once you’re finished you can leave a couple of coins as a tip and be on your way! If you decide to enjoy your coffee/pastries sitting at one of their outdoor tables, expect to pay ten euros extra (usually between 10-20% depending on the place).
3: Restaurant Medioevo – Assisi (Best Dining Experience)
The stage is set for your dining experience the moment you walk above Roman ruins, which you can see through the class floor, into the restaurant. The entrance is somewhat obscure and easy to miss. The atmosphere is underground and medieval, which creates an unbelievably romantic setting. This is an especially great place to go with groups of six or more – they know how to cater to big groups. There were about fifteen of us and we fit comfortably with outstanding service.
We were each given the same plate for each meal, so not exactly family style but we didn’t order anything unless someone had dietary restrictions. We had four total courses starting with bruschetta, eggplant, zucchini and other fresh grilled veggies. Then we had a freshly made pasta dish, a pork dish, and just when I thought I wouldn’t be able to fit another morsel in my mouth they brought out a delicious flan.
4: Il Coccio – Tivoli (Best View)
“Best view” doesn’t even do this justice (don’t be fooled by the way it looks from the outside). Be prepared to eat your meal overlook the ‘Valley of Hell’ and not speak a word for minutes while you take it all in. There is not a picture in the world that could do it justice, so I guess you’ll just have to go and experience it for yourself 🙂 If you go, please make sure you get a window seat or sit outside!
The food here is of course unbelievable, too! It is reasonably priced, and the perfect location if you spent your day exploring the Villa d’Esta like I did. Depending on the time of year you go, I suggest asking your server for dish recommendations.
Ristorante Eolo on the Amalfi Coast was the runner up, but that views comes with a much higher price point!
5: Osteria alle Testiere – Venice (Most Authentic)
A very tiny restaurant that promises authentic and high quality food. Special attention is paid to every single ingredient that goes into the dish, which means you will never get a bad meal. This is for those that are into a true Italian culinary experience with authentic flavors. I highly suggest asking for recommended wine pairings for your dish, their wine list is beautiful.
Making a reservation is definitely recommended here!
6: Roma Sparita – Rome/Trastevere (Best Cacio e Pepe)
If you don’t know what cacio e pepe is, I’m sorry! Just kidding 🙂 Cacio e pepe is a Roman dish that literally means “cheese and pepper”, the cheese is usually Pecorino Romano cheese – need I say more? While the pasta is hot, traditionally fresh cheese is grated on top of it, creating a delicious cheesy pasta dish. However, Roma Sparita puts their own spin on it – they put the hot, homemade pasta into a bowl made entirely out of cheese. Seriously, you don’t want to miss this!
Trastevere will always hold a special place in my heart, because that’s where my apartment was located during my six week stay. This restaurant is tucked away on one of the cute back streets, away from the hustle and bustle in the heart of Rome. I love everything about this place! You may have to make a reservation depending on the time of year you go. We stopped by in the morning to put our name in and then went back for dinner that night!
7: Giolitti – Rome (Best Gelato)
Okay, don’t hate me – I’m sending you to another popular tourist spot. I wouldn’t have it on the list if it didn’t live up to its expectations though! Giolitti is definitely the largest gelato place I found in Italy. They have tons of unique flavors. You aren’t restricted to just one or even two flavors when you go (depending on the size you order) so make sure you try a few! If this is your first time trying gelato I highly recommend starting with the stracciatella. If you’re an experienced gelato-er I definitely recommend trying some of their more unique flavors!
*Fun fact I learned from one of my professors during my time in Rome – the higher the pile of gelato, the less fresh it probably is! Those big, beautiful piles of gelato that look so appealing are usually recycled from the previous day. Whereas the lower piles are often the most fresh!
8: Laboratorio Pasticceria Roberto – Sicily (Best Cannoli)
NEED I SAY MORE
9: Ristorante Le Tre Sorelle – Positano (Best Seafood Pasta)
The spaghetti vongole here is absolutely to die for.. The clams are delicate, delicious, and plentiful! The spaghetti is homemade and perfectly al dente, with the right amount of garlic. You really can’t go wrong ordering seafood on the amalfi coast, but this was my favorite experience.
10: Enoteca Pitti Gola e Cantina – Firenze (Best Overall)
While this is probably the priciest of all of the options I listed, it is worth every penny. My suggestion is to ask your server for wine pairing suggestions based on your order and don’t be surprised when they give you a complete history on how it’s made :). They are so knowledgeable that I literally had my server pick out my entire meal for me – haha. The service is amazing and the wine is even better. The ambiance is perfectly romantic. From seafood to pasta you really can’t go wrong. I highly suggest the tiramisu if you have room!
There you have it, the best of the best! The best restaurants in Italy. I am bias of course because I cannot claim to have tried them all. Let me know if you have any suggestions for my next trip! If you’re interested I also have a small travel diary from my trip.
BONUS – Your Foodie Checklist!
ロ Suppli (fried rice, cheese, and sauce balls)
ロ Cacio e Pepe (pasta, cheese, and pepper)
ロ Fior di zucca (cooked/fried stuffed zucchini flowers usually with ricotta and sardines)
ロ Go in any fresh “formaggi” (cheese) shop and try local cheeses
ロ Order a local wine in each city you go to
ロ Fresh cannoli in Sicily
ロ Pizza in Naples
ロ Seafood on the Amalfi Coast/Cinque Terre