Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Austin >
Jul 30, 2012 06:29 PM

Any good Italian Places around here?

Just looking for real Italian food. I would prefer it to be in North Austin or Round Rock, but if it's worth it, I'll travel

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. The short and truthful answer: NO.

    There is not really an Italian community in Austin and Italian restaurants range from ersatz to clueless. There are a few expensive and terrible pseudo Northern Italian restaurants - Vespaio, Siena, Gusto and the unspeakably atrocious Carmelo's. There is a semi-decent sotuhernesque Italian restaurant in Olive & June. Even the Italian-American restaurants (watered down Sicilian food) are bad. Mandola's is a parody of a northeastern U.S. Italian deli.

    In North Austin, there is one of the better Italian restaurants in Andiamo, but it is still hit and miss. The pizza at Reale's is occasionally like Italian pizza.

    Get out the pasta machine, tomatoes and basil are in season. Sometimes Antonellis or Central Market has decent Italian cheeses. It is way easier and cheaper to make great Italian food at home than to find it in Austin Italian restaurants.

    There is a lot of great restaurant food in Austin, just NONE of it is Italian.

    (My mother's family lives in small town outside Genoa, where I spent nearly every summer as a child. I go back to Italy every chance I get, at least twice a year. There is NO real Italian food in Austin)

    6 Replies
    1. re: hungryinaustin

      enoteca is vespaio's sister restaurant. food is more reasonably priced and a pretty decent value.

      1. re: chrisdds98

        I agree about Enoteca... it's a hell of a lot better than Vespaio, and I'd venture to say that it's the best Italian in Austin. Granted it's not as good as the stuff you get in other cities - I agree with everyone that Austin's sorely lacking - but it's still pretty tasty.

        I'd recommend the Linguine Misto Mare or the Melanzana for pasta entrees- they usually have a good special too. I got Bucatini All'Amatriciana there once that was great. The pizzas are also good, the Lardo being my favorite. Note- they cure their own lardo, which is pretty cool. They also make plenty of other salumi. Plus some of their pasta is made in house, as well as fresh mozzarella, which goes great with tomatoes that they grow out back.

        So yeah, worth a visit for sure!

        1. re: popvulture

          I like Enoteca, too. I have had things I liked a lot at Vespaio, like the poached halibut with sage brown butter, but the pricing was nothing short of ridiculous. I have also had tasty things at Sagra, especially the pork chop and the pancia pizza.

      2. re: hungryinaustin

        Having grown up in New York, I crave the Italian American dishes that I grew up with. These dishes are quite different, if inspired by, real Italian dishes.

        I agree that good Italian and Italian American food is simply not available in Austin.

        The last time I was in San Francisco, we got "Italian" sandwiches from Molinari. Man, you can't even get a sandwich of that quality here in Austin.

        1. re: hungryinaustin

          I wholeheartedly agree. I cannot comment as a person that's lived in Italy (although in my one trip there thus far my gnocchi pomodoro at a little restaurant in Lugano was the best "Italian" food I've ever had). However, I've always enjoyed Lidia Bastianich's recipes at home and have found them accessible and delicious. For such a foodie town, Austin has some serious culinary gaps. Another: A solid jewish-style deli. Katz was horrible. Does anyone make their own corned beef here?

          1. re: slowcoooked

            Easy Tiger has tasty house-made corned beef.

        2. I agree with the basic answer of "no". Here's the list of places that I usually go(or plan to try) when I want Italian:

          1) Reales - a mom and pop kind of place. Usually get pizza but have sampled a few of the other dishes. I wouldn't drive a long way for it, but if you live close it's worth checking out.
          2) Enoteca - think others have covered this one
          3) Olive and June- haven't been yet but looks interesting
          4) North - I know its a chain and in the domain, but I really love the braised short rib dish. The people watching can be quite entertaining as well.

          1. andiamo's old chef john braga opened up an itialian eatery called trattoria milano at the wolf ranch shopping ctr in georgetown featuring very good and not overly priced italian food and his oso buco is excellent.

            1. Check San Antonio's board to see what's up at Il Sogno, in the Pearl Brewery. I've been a few times (though not in the past year) and have been very pleased with their fabulous, fresh Roman-style food. Good service, great menu, nice but not precious. Worth the drive if you have the Italian craving and you're not headed outside the region any time soon.

              1. What about Mezzaluna on Bratton? Has anyone heard anything about it? I live right down the street, but never tried it.