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Spaghetti
Photograph: Pixabay Spaghetti

The best Italian restaurants in Boston

For fresh pasta and comfort classics, check out our guide to the best Italian eateries in the Hub

By Eric Grossman and Time Out Boston Staff
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Conventional wisdom has long held that anyone seeking out the best pasta and pizza in Boston can simply head over to the city's iconic Italian-influenced neighborhood, the North End. But some of the best Italian restaurants in the Hub can be found serving red sauce specialties and cheesy comfort fare in other parts of the city. Whether it's a cozy, red-checkered-tablecloth trattoria or a modern, regionally-focused restaurant, this handy guide covers them all. And, in true Italian spirit, don’t forget to have yourself a nice glass of vino at one of the best wine bars in Boston before (or after) enjoying 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

Michael Schlow's
Photograph: Clark Douglas

Michael Schlow’s

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.

Best Italian restaurants in Boston

Terramia
Photograph: Courtesy Terramia

1. Terramia

Restaurants Italian North End

Since opening in 1993, Terramia has been treating North End diners to elevated, well-done Italian fare. The varied menu includes creative interpretations of seasonally-based classics, though many local customers swear by classics like spaghetti con pomodoro and the signature open-faced ravioli, served with sea scallops, shrimp, fresh zucchini, and lobster Mascarpone reduction. The cozy, small space—filled with candlelight and paintings of the Italian countryside—often gets packed, making reservations is essential on busy weekend nights.

Coppa
Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/Cherrylet

2. Coppa

Restaurants Italian South End

Owners Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette lure casual, stylish crowds to their Italian nook in the South End. Expect to sit elbow-to-elbow with your neighbor in the shoebox-sized dining room; a little more space can be had on the packed sidewalk patio. The popular wood-fired pizzas, robust pastas, and small-plate bar snacks make it worth the tight squeeze. Italian-only wines and craft beers keep the atmosphere festive.

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Bar Mezzana
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Bar Mezzana

3. Bar Mezzana

Restaurants Italian South End

Fans of modern, coastal Italian fare have been making the trek to this hot spot in the South Ends Ink Block complex. Theres a menu of delicate crudo that changes daily, and an assortment of crostini and antipasti provides fun, shareable options for groups. House-made pasta options may include duck egg raviolo or lobster paccheri. Whenever the weather allows, tables on the sunny sidewalk patio prove popular.

Giulia
Photograph: Courtesy Giulia

4. Giulia

Restaurants Italian Porter Sq

Chef-owner Michael Pagliarini and his staff pamper their guests with friendly, professional service and killer pastas, which are prepped daily on a custom-made table that accommodates large groups at night. Brick walls and candlelight keep the vibe romantic and rustic. The all-Italian wine list pairs well with the menu, some of which is inspired by the chef’s travels to Italy.

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MIDA
Photograph: Courtesy Jose Luis Martinez

5. Mida

Restaurants Italian Roxbury

Tucked inside a corner space that has already seen several restaurants come and go, Mida doesn’t so much cook Italian fare as take its cue from it. Chef/owner Douglass Williams has prioritized three things: ingredients, wine and hospitality. Dishes are made to share, from the lardo and crudo, to appetizers like spicy lamb ribs, to the handmade ricotta gnocchi and grilled sirloin cap. The wine list skews towards Northern Italian and French bottles and features lesser known producers.

Fox & the Knife
Photograph: Courtesy Fox & the Knife/Brian Samuels

6. Fox & the Knife

Restaurants Italian South Boston

Inspired by her time living and working in Modena, chef Karen Akunowicz opened Fox & the Knife, where she creates innovative and memorable Italian dishes. Harissa braised lamb with carrot polenta, campanelle with pistachio pesto and house made ricotta are just a few of the thoughtfully crafted dishes at Fox & the Knife. And what would a night of Italian food be without an apertivi? Luckily, the cocktail list includes the essentials, while their extensive wine list has options from around the globe.

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SRV
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Yuan J.

7. SRV

Restaurants Italian South End

Boston’s first Venetian-style osteria and wine bar, SRV (“Serene Republic of Venice”) balances its focus between modern interpretations of Venetian cicchetti (small plates) and spectacular pastas. The kitchen mills their own pasta flour in-house, using organic durum wheat berries. Adventurous groups can opt for the Arsenale menu, which puts the entire table in the hands of the kitchen. An exclusively Italian wine list complements the menu, and those looking for something stronger can opt for Italian-influenced cocktails.

8. Prezza

Restaurants Italian North End

Prezza combines the urbane musculature of a downtown steakhouse with the intimacy of the trattorias that surround it—which is why you’ll likely glimpse 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 sophisticated wine list ensures there’s something for every dish.

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Sportello, Restaurants and cafes, Boston
Photograph: Sara Skolnick

9. Sportello

Restaurants Italian Seaport District

Hidden away above the street in Fort Point, Barbara Lynch’s sleek iteration of a classic diner offers up supremely tasty, trattoria-inspired Italian cuisine. (Don't miss out on Lynch’s signature tagliatelle bolognese.) Sit at the large communal counter that showcases the action in the kitchen, or grab a bite to-go and find a bench along the channel for a waterside picnic.

10. Sorellina

Restaurants Italian Back Bay

Even more striking in its black-and-white stripes than older sibling Mistral, stylish Sorellina could double as a modern design showroom. One of the citys priciest Italian menus is equally glamorous, with luxurious ingredients featured throughout. Equally splurge-worthy, the varied wine list is perfect for expense account-powered dinners.

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11. Davio’s

Restaurants Italian Back Bay

As a Northern Italian-inspired steakhouse, Davio’s includes a selection of the fine steaks alongside popular specialties such as tagliatelle bolognese and penne with applewood-smoked chicken. The flagship Boston location resides on a busy corner in the Back Bay, and the high-ceilinged space is perfect for large groups and celebratory dinners. There is also an on-site bakery where desserts, pastries, ice cream and breads are all prepared fresh daily.

Giacomo’s
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Danah W.

12. Giacomo’s - North End

Restaurants Italian North End

Giacomo’s is one of the most popular restaurants in all of the North End. Expect a line on the sidewalk at any given time, such is the draw of the classic Italian fare. Large portions of pasta cost little, and the restaurant keeps prices down by cutting back on frills, and staying cash-only.

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Benedetto
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Ojus P.

13. Benedetto

Restaurants Italian Harvard Sq

Little Italy isn't the only place to find a cucina Italiana. A few streets away from Harvard Square is Giulia's sister restaurant, Benedetto, who gives rustic Italian cuisine an innovative twist. The menu includes traditionally unassuming dishes that have been elevated, such as linguine with foraged mushrooms and, surpisingly, stracciatella. You'll also find an extensive signature cocktail list organised by mood.

Bricco
© Michael Ascanio Peguero

14. Bricco

Restaurants Italian North End

This dark, suave neighborhood pioneer of alta cucina remains one of the North Ends primo see-and-be-seen spots. (Seats by the sidewalk windows are always in demand.) The varied, crowd-pleasing menu features scores of familiar comfort faves as well as creative, seasonal plates. Also notable: one of Hanover Streets best late-night menus, served until 2am on weekends.

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Acqua Pazza
Photograph: Courtesy Acqua Pazza

15. Aqua Pazza

Restaurants Mediterranean North End

Yet another solid Italian offering from North End scion Frank DePasquale (Mare, Bricco, Trattoria il Panino), Aqua Pazza presents a Mediterranean-spanning assortment of flavorful small plates. Among the 30-plus options include arancini, seared lamb with tzatziki, and vine-wrapped sujuk (Turkish sausage). The romantic dining room is filled with wine bottles and crates, and gold curtains frame floor-to-ceiling windows that provide primo people-watching opportunities.

Fat Hen
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Mei C.

16. Fat Hen

Restaurants Italian Somerville

This cozy, book-lined restaurant in East Somerville shares a cocktail window with sister restaurant La Brasa. The menu - lovingly committed to seasonal and regional ingredients - invites sharing, with few dishes priced above $20. Diners select between classic Italian cocktails and selections from an Italian-focused wine list.

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Grotto, Restaurants and cafes, Boston
© Elan Fleisher

17. Grotto

Restaurants Italian Beacon Hill

Sink below street level in Beacon Hill for a cozy Italian meal surrounded by exposed brick, shelves of wine and locally sourced artwork. The menu is classic Italian with a creative twist. Ask the friendly, knowledgeable staff for suggested wine pairings.  

Ciao! Pizza & Pasta
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Donald S.

18. Ciao! Pizza & Pasta

Restaurants Pizza

Chelsea’s top spot for wood-fired oven pizzeria proudly serves up robust, hand-crafted pies (funghi pizza made with homemade ricotta), as well as inviting pasta dishes (gnocchetti with red wine braised short ribs). Dessert options include a killer homemade cannoli and a nutella pizza.

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Bar ’Cino
Photograph: Courtesy Bar ’Cino

19. Bar ’Cino

Restaurants Italian

In the St. Mary’s neighborhood of Brookline, Bar ’Cino serves thin-crust, grilled pizzas, cut table-side with scissors (as made famous by the Providence restaurant Al Forno). Hailing from Newport, RI, the restaurant — part of the employee-owned Newport Restaurant Group — features a large, social bar, perfect for enjoying Italian-accented plates and aperitivo-inspired cocktails. Other menu highlights: farro risotto, spaghetti cacio y pepe with RI clams, and a whole roasted lemon-scented chicken.

La Morra
Photograph: Courtesy La Morra

20. La Morra

Restaurants Italian

Housed on Route 9 near Brookline Village, this cozy restaurant serves Northern Italian specialties with aplomb. Most tables start with orders of cicchetti (little plates of pickled vegetables, Tuscan meatballs, and arancini), before moving on to homemade pastas and hearty entrees such as wood-grilled Cornish hen under a brick or pan-roasted striped bass.

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