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Photograph: Andick Adtoon, Courtesy Tavola

The 14 best Italian restaurants in Vancouver

Whether you're after a homely ostaria or a blowout, magic awaits at the best Italian restaurants in Vancouver

Written by
Gerrish Lopez
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There really aren’t enough Italian restaurants in the world. Sure, there are like a bazillion in every major North American city, but when Italian food is done well, it hits a spot that no other cuisine can match. Comfort and taste collide in a most magical way, and the best Italian restaurants in Vancouver are right up there. No matter what time of day you visit, if the doors are open, the kitchen is serving up some serious stuff. And don’t even bother worrying about carbs; remember what you’re eating. You’re going to need all the fuel you can get for tackling the best things to do here, not to mention the finest Vancouver attractions.

RECOMMENDED: The best restaurants in Vancouver 

Best Italian restaurants in Vancouver

This classic neighbourhood osteria features a simple and excellent menu of rustic Italian cuisine. House-made pasta, wood-grilled meats and veggies, fresh fish, and artisanal baked goods fill the menu, all made with seasonal ingredients from the area. Dishes can be served family-style for larger groups. Pair with a glass from the extensive, all-Italian wine list, and save room for gelato.

The aromas from CinCin’s wood-fired oven have lured diners up its winding stone staircase for more than 30 years. The seasonal, sophisticated Italian menu includes classic (ricotta gnocchi) and contemporary (duck with ash-roasted carrots) options. It’s a great date spot with a gorgeous setting and a year-round terrace. An award-winning wine cellar and renowned grappa collection add to the experience.

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Tuscany is the inspiration for Giardino, star chef Umberto Menghi's downtown restaurant. Pass through the Florentine-style courtyard and seasonal garden patio, and you will find yourself transported to Italy. The warm interior and excellent service enhance the decadent fare. Enjoy classic antipasti before diving into pasta dishes like squid ink spaghetti with Atlantic lobster and a cherry tomato sauce. Mains include fresh fish, Tuscan-style chicken, and a luxurious veal osso buco.

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A lavish dining room and impeccable service set the stage for an elegant Italian meal at La Terrazza, and the menu features classic Italian dishes that are elevated by local ingredients. The extensive wine list and knowledgeable staff mean perfect pairings are assured. In warmer months, enjoy a seat on the outdoor terrace.

You’ll feel like you’re dining in a cozy Italian home at Ask for Luigi., and the abundance of sharing dishes add to the homey feel. House-made pasta is the star, shining through in Spaghetti Nero with clams, pappardelle with wild boar, and Fusilli Verde with lamb ragu. Start with the antipasti though, as treats like Luigi’s meatballs and bocconcini fritti are not to be missed.

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Set in a heritage house in Yaletown, Lupo is a charming, romantic spot for a modern Italian meal. Everything on the menu is seasonal and house-made. You’ll find traditional dishes with a contemporary twist, like octopus mosaic with limoncello vinaigrette or cannelloni with smoked chicken and mushroom butter. Primi and secondi are enhanced by fresh produce. An extensive wine list completes the fine Italian dining experience.

Seasonal ingredients drive the menu of house-made pasta, risottos, antipasti, main courses, and sides at La Quercia. With so many tempting dishes—cacio e pepe, saffron and squid risotto, favas with pecorino and mint, grilled lamb shoulder, anchovy braised runner beans—you’ll want to come with friends and opt for a customized sharing menu. The extensive wine list is sure to have a perfect complement.

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This “dignified spaghetti joint” offers large portions of homestyle Italian cooking in a friendly atmosphere on Robson Street. All the classics are present, from bruschetta and spaghetti al ragu to chicken parm. A great place for large groups, Zefferelli’s has tailored menus that make ordering easy. For a straightforward, well-made, classic Italian meal, this is your place.

When beloved red-sauce joint Nick’s Spaghetti House closed after 62 years, the Savio Volpe team came through with a worthy, nostalgic replacement in Pepino’s. The spruced-up space on Commercial Drive maintains Nick’s wood panelling and sconce-lit dining area, and the menu remains timeless, with spaghetti and meatballs, fettuccini Alfredo, veal scallopini and the like. Pepino’s convivial vibe and friendly staff keep the tradition of Nick’s alive.

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Sleek and bright with an open kitchen, Sopra Sotto presents an inviting space to enjoy authentic Italian favourites made with fresh, seasonal ingredients. Dishes are unpretentious but flavorful. House-made plates of pasta come in a variety of shapes, with sauces like truffle and smoked pancetta, creamy cabbage and mushroom, and traditional bolognese. Be sure to order a pizza and watch as it comes out of the enormous wood-fired brick oven.

Fresh burrata, bowls of house-made pasta, large family-style plates, and a cozy atmosphere make Tavola an ideal neighbourhood Italian spot. The menu is on the shorter side, focusing on quality ingredients and preparation, from tasty crostini and classic pasta to big plates—prime rib, brick chicken, or fish of the day—that are meant to be shared.

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This family-run spot in Yaletown specializes in house-made pasta and risottos, prepared with family recipes passed down through the generations. You’ll find regional specialties like the Venetian spaghetti allo scoglio (“from the coastline”), which features a mix of shellfish, or the Umbrian porcini risotto. You’ll feel like family as you explore Italy through Robba da Matti’s delectable dishes.

For an authentic Napolitano meal, head to Via Tevere. The pizza—simple, rustic, and delicious—is the focus, but the plates of pasta are equally satisfying. This neighbourhood spot often has a queue, but it’s worth waiting for flavorful pizzas like the Vesuvio (tomato, fior di latte, salami, and capicola) or rustic homestyle meatballs in tomato sauce.

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