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Photograph: Brian SamuelsBar Mezzana

The best Italian restaurants in Boston

For fresh pasta, perfect pizza and saucy classics, check out our guide to the best Italian eateries in The Hub.

Olivia Vanni
Written by
Olivia Vanni
&
Eric Grossman
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Conventional wisdom has long held that anyone seeking the most stunning plates of pasta and pizza in Boston can simply head over to the city's iconic North End and hope for the best. But the best Italian restaurants in town can also be found off the beaten (and objectively touristy) path, serving red sauce specialties and comforting carb-filled classics throughout all parts of the city. Whether it's a cozy, casual trattoria, modern pizzeria or regionally-focused eatery, this handy guide covers them all. And, in true Italian spirit, don’t forget to enjoy a nice glass of vino at one of the best wine bars in Boston before (or after) you dig into your lasagne, gnocchi or spaghetti.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best restaurants in Boston

A chef we love so much that we welcomed him into Time Out Market

  • Restaurants
  • Fenway/Kenmore

Looking for some top-notch pasta in a quick and casual, yet buzzy, environment? At Time Out Market Boston, the James Beard Award winner's Italian Kitchen presents a menu full of simple, honest dishes such as “Mimi’s famous meatballs” with whipped ricotta and spicy tomato basil sauce, and baby artichoke salad with market greens, mint and chiles. Fans of Schlow’s dearly-departed Via Matta can enjoy old-school chicken parm or rigatoni with spicy fennel sausage ragu.

  • Restaurants
  • Fenway/Kenmore

Michael Schlow’s first-ever pizza stand specializes in Roman-style pies. The pizzas come out of a special wood-burning oven chewy and airy, with a charred, crispy crust. Go for a classic option (imported San Marzano tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil) or splurge and treat yourself to the sinful combo of wild mushroom, truffle and grated Parm.

 

Best Italian restaurants in Boston

  • Restaurants

Lydia Reichert and the team behind suburban hotspot Sycamore have opened another Newton eatery: a sophisticated pizza place that pays homage to her “larger than life” grandmother named, you guessed it, Jinny. This Centre Street joint forms its pies from slow-fermented dough before cooking them in a 700-degree, wood fired oven to achieve a crispy crust that still has a good chew. While the pizza is obviously the main event here, its menu also includes a bunch of Sicilian-influenced bites, including caponata, fava bean dip and marinated squid salad. 

  • Restaurants

If all you’ve ever wanted in life is to have an Italian family welcome you into their home and shower you with food, you need to get yourself to Nappi’s and fast. This Medford restaurant is known for its total lack of menu and for cooking incredible meals based on what you love to eat and what they have in the kitchen. Amongst the traditional, home-cooked items that could come across your plate: meatballs, veal cutlets, calamari braised broccoli rabe, carbonara and pesto. Consistent with its ultra informal and homey feel, this spot is also BYOB and cash only.

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  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Porter Sq
  • price 3 of 4

Chef-owner Michael Pagliarini and his staff pamper their guests with friendly, professional service and killer pastas, which are prepared daily. Brick walls and candlelight keep this Cambridge restaurant's vibe romantic and rustic. The all-Italian wine list pairs well with the menu, much of which has been inspired by the chef’s travels to Italy. Take a seat at Giulia's communal table for a truly European dining experience.

  • Restaurants
  • Roxbury
  • price 3 of 4

MIDA takes its cues from Italian cuisine, with chef-owner Douglass Williams prioritizing three things: ingredients, wine and hospitality. Dishes are ideal for sharingfrom the North Shore fritto misto and Waygu beef bresaola, to the handmade ricotta gnocchi cacio e pepe and smoked short rib lasagna. The wine list tends to favor Northern Italian and French bottles, with an emphasis on lesser known producers. And, of course, this South End joint (and its sister space in Newton) expertly executes classic Italian cocktails, like the Negroni. 

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  • Restaurants

With locations in Needham and Waltham, this laidback neighborhood joint is an absolute staple amongst suburbanites. Head to the outskirts of Boston to enjoy Sweet Basil’s eclectic decor and menu crammed with comforting yet refined Italian-American favorites, like sauteed eggplant parm and beef and sausage bolognese. The best part of this place? It’s BYOB—simply stop by a liquor store and grab your favorite bottle of wine to pair with pasta prior to your reservation and avoid paying those wildly inflated alcohol prices that you typically find at most restaurants.

  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • South End
  • price 3 of 4

Brought to us by local culinary powerhouses Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette, this little nook in the South End constantly attracts crowds with its casually elegant Italian fare. Expect to sit elbow-to-elbow with your neighbor inside its tiny dining room, or snag a seat on its slightly bigger but still packed sidewalk patio for prime people watching. Fortunately, Coppa's wood-fired pizzas, robust pastas and small-plate bar snacks make it well worth the tight squeeze. Italian-only wines and craft beers keep the atmosphere festive.

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  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • South End
  • price 3 of 4

Fans of modern, coastal Italian cuisine have been making the trek to this hot spot tucked within South Ends Ink Block complex. Theres a menu of delicate crudo that changes daily, and an assortment of crostini and antipasti makes for fun, shareable dining amongst groups. Fresh, house-made pastas may include decadent dishes like duck egg raviolo or lobster paccheri. Whenever the weather allows, tables on the sunny sidewalk patio prove popular.

  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Harvard Sq
  • price 3 of 4

Situated between Central and Harvard Squares, this hip trattoria has a slightly retro feel thanks to the amber glow of its globe lights and double-sided fireplace. The globally minded menu heavily relies on Asian ingredients, often applying them to Italian preparations and creating fantastically flavored fusion food. Nosh on handmade pastas, like its renowned lumache with bolognese and gojuchang, and strike up a conversation with your dining neighbors at the vintage communal table. Sexy cocktails, including its draft aperitivi, are not to be missed.

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  • Restaurants
  • Pizza
  • price 2 of 4

If you're down to travel just outside the city for the sake of impeccable pizza and pasta (and you should be), be sure to make this Chelsea spot your top stop. This restaurant's blazing, wood-fire oven proudly serves up robust, hand-crafted pies, like its famed funghi pizza made with homemade ricotta and arugula. If you'd rather take your Italian carbs in noodle form, definitely check out its list of inviting and inventive pasta dishes, like its campanelle with chorizo bolognese or spaghetti with shrimp and serrano chili scampi. Dessert options include a killer Nutella pizza—need we say more?

  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • South Boston
  • price 3 of 4

Chef Karen Akunowicz, inspired by her time living and working in Modena, is the powerhouse behind Fox & the Knife. This modern enoteca is as much on a mission to foster a sense of community in South Boston as it is to create innovative, Italian-influenced food. All of the eatery's pasta is rolled fresh onsite, just like Akunowicz learned in Emilia-Romanga. We strongly suggest you get the celebrated pepe e cacio, a reinterpretation of the Roman classic cacio e pepe that the Foxes sprinkle with pink peppercorns and goat butter.

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  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • South End
  • price 3 of 4

Boston’s first Venetian-style osteria and wine bar, SRV (“Serene Republic of Venice”) balances its focus between modern interpretations of cicchetti and spectacular pastas. Creative small plates feature fresh ingredients, with flavors that pop thanks to microgreens and garnishes grown nearby. Meanwhile, its rich pasta dishes—not to mention its risi e bisi—keep regulars coming back for more. An exclusively Italian wine list complements the menu, and guests looking for something stronger can opt for a number of classic Italian aperitivi. 

  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • North End
  • price 4 of 4

Prezza combines the urbane sophistication of a downtown steakhouse with the intimacy of the trattorias that surround it—which is exactly why you’ll likely find as many back-slapping businessmen at the bar as you will couples canoodling in the booths. Expertly wood-grilled proteins compete for attention with delicate, hand-made pastas, and a refined wine list ensures that there’s a fitting vintage to pair with every dish.

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  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Seaport District
  • price 3 of 4

Perched above Congress Street in Fort Point, Barbara Lynch’s sleek and modern rendition of a classic diner offers up supremely tasty, trattoria-inspired Italian cuisine. Post up at the large communal counter for a front row seat to all of the kitchen action, or grab a bite to-go and find a bench along the channel for a waterside picnic. In any case, don't miss out on Lynch’s signature tagliatelle bolognese and be sure to close your meal with the creamy, hot-and-cold musings of a traditional affogato. 

  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Back Bay
  • price 3 of 4

Striking with its black-and-white striped interior motif, the oh-so stylish Sorellina could double as a modern design showroom. This Back Bay establishment (and sister restaurant to Mistral) is home to one of the citys priciest Italian menus. Its array of offerings matches the decor as far as pure glamor goes, with luxurious ingredients decking out nearly every dish (Maine lobster gnocchi and prime beef meatballs included). The varied wine list is equally splurge-worthy, perfect for those expense account-powered dinners meant to woo potential clients.

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  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Back Bay
  • price 4 of 4

As a Northern Italian-inspired steakhouse, Davio’s offers a selection of the finest steaks alongside popular house specialties, like tagliatelle bolognese and penne with applewood-smoked chicken. Its flagship location resides on a busy corner in the Back Bay, but it's newer sibling in the Seaport is just as bustling with people looking to get a taste of its waterfront views. Added bonus: Davio's also an on-site bakery, where desserts, pastries, ice cream and breads are all prepared fresh daily.

  • Restaurants
  • North End
  • price 3 of 4

This dark, suave neighborhood pioneer of alta cucina remains one of the North Ends see-and-be-seen spots—especially when it comes to those coveted, front window seats overlooking Hanover Street. The varied menu is a crowd-pleaser, featuring scores of familiar Italian American comfort food as well as more creative, seasonal plates. Also worth noting: Bricco is one of the best late-night dining options in the North End, serving delicious dishes until 2am on weekends.

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  • Restaurants
  • Mediterranean
  • North End
  • price 3 of 4

Aqua Pazza is yet another solid Italian offering from Frank DePasquale's North End empire (Mare, Bricco, Trattoria il Panino) and is focused on fresh, simple and straightforward Italian cuisine reminiscent of the fare you might find on the Amalfi Coast. Amongst its menu of 30+ dishes, you'll see tempting and tasty seasonal options like goat cheese-stuffed zucchini flowers drizzled with lemon and honey, as well as a whole roasted fish that's artfully carved tableside. The romantic dining room is filled with wine bottles and crates, and gold curtains frame floor-to-ceiling windows that provide ample opportunity for people-watching.

  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Somerville
  • price 3 of 4

This cozy, book-lined restaurant in East Somerville shares a cocktail window with its sister restaurant, La Brasa. The kitchen is lovingly committed to using only the best seasonal and regional ingredients, which means that its on-point menu is almost constantly changing. If you head here on the weekends, you'll find a whole slew of Italian-inspired dishes, including beautiful plates of fresh pasta. Keep in mind that if you come by Fat Hen on a Tuesday or Wednesday, this place is strictly serving wood-fired pizzas.

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  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • price 2 of 4

Situated right at the start of the Longwood neighborhood, Bar ’Cino serves thin-crust, grilled pizzas that are theatrically cut tableside with scissors (life hack, right?). Hailing from Newport, RI, this eatery—which is part of the employee-owned Newport Restaurant Group—features a large, social bar that's perfect for enjoying highly shareable, Italian-accented plates. Other menu must-eats include farro risotto, spaghetti cacio y pepe with Rhode Island clams, and a whole roasted lemon-scented chicken.

  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Beacon Hill
  • price 3 of 4

The name of this little Italian restaurant—Grotto—suits it perfectly. Tucked away in Beacon Hill, this underground eatery is the epitome of intimate. Its small, moody dining room is surrounded by exposed brick and shelves of wine, with locally sourced artwork and crystal chandeliers bringing brightness to the otherwise dark space. The menu is focused on classic Italian cuisine—but with a creative twist. Ask the friendly, knowledgeable staff for suggested wine pairings.

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  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • price 3 of 4

Housed on Route 9 near Brookline Village, this homey restaurant serves Northern Italian specialties just as they do in the old country: using simple ingredients and a whole lot of love. Most tables start their meals off with a selection of cicchetti—traditional pre-dinner snacks, like pickled vegetables and salt cod spread—before moving on to dishes of homemade pastas and hearty entrees. Stick to ordering a la carte, or go for its three-course, prix fixe menu with optional wine pairings. 

See the best Italian restaurants in America

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