Best Italian in Austin
I’m very excited to be participating in the Austin Food Blogger Alliance’s 2012 City Guide, a compilation of posts with recommendations on food and drink in our fair city. My first contribution is this guide to the best Italian food in Austin. Now, when I moved to Austin in late 2003, the Italian offerings were pretty slim. Vespaio, which is still one of the best Italian restaurants in town, was open, but to my memory, there wasn’t much else in terms of really good Italian food.
Since then, the Italian food offerings in Austin have expanded. In a recent survey of Austin Food Blogger Alliance members, Asti was the top choice for Best Italian in Austin. This cozy restaurant is a favorite of Adam and mine for date night. Adam turned me on to splitting the large antipasti plate along with two glasses of wine for a lighter, more cost-effective meal option. I also really enjoy their pizzas, pastas, fish dishes, and sides.
My dark horse pick for the best tried and true Italian restaurants in town is La Traviata. It’s a great option for out of town guests since it’s located right downtown at 3rd and Congress. I highly recommend you try their Hanger Steak Salad, which is only offered at lunch. It’s made with spinach, roasted fingerling potatoes, roasted bell peppers, shaved Parmesan, and finished with truffle oil over the sliced hangar steak.
For comfort, I love the Spaghetti Carbonara, tossed with pancetta, onion, cream, lemon, and topped with egg yolk. Thanks to Michelle Cheng of Foodie is the New Forty for sharing this photo from her post about La Traviata.
Another rightly popular casual Italian spot is Enoteca Vespaio, located next door to its big brother, Vespaio. Adam and I actually went to brunch at Enoteca on our first date, but it’s not sentimentality that puts Enoteca on this list. Enoteca and La Traviata actually tied for third place in the Austin Food Bloggers survey. With cozy indoor or relaxed outdoor seating, and a nicely stocked display case, Enoteca is great for brunch, lunch, dinner, or even to gather provisions for a romantic picnic.
The Panini are ideal lunch optiosn to help cure a hangover, as are the freshly baked pizzas. And an order of mussels and Belgian fries served in the cone with a glass of beer or wine is a great way to unwind after work. There is a small private room that you can reserve for brunch with a small group of friends, and the ingredients are fresh and often from local farms.
To close out my recommendations, I recently had the pleasure of trying many of the dishes at Olive & June, during their recent soft opening. We were impressed by the well-curated list of Italian wines and liquors, as well as the interesting cocktail menu. My most surprising favorite dish was the Minestrone Soup, which is made with basil pesto. Other highlights included the fried artichoke, crudo, skewered swordfish, pappardelle with short ribs, kale and eggplant sides, and the awesome Bombolini (donuts) rolled in sugar and covered in house-made nutella for dessert (we ordered a second after finishing the first).
My friend Michelle of Foodie is the New Forty also has a great post about her first experience at Olive & June.
Other Austin Food Blogger favorites from the survey include Mandola’s (tied for second with Vespaio). While I wouldn’t put Mandola’s on my list of top five Italian restaurants in Austin, I have enjoyed some of my meals there, and I do think they make some very good gelati. Other votes went to Andiamo, Cippolina, North Side Trattoria (inside Whole Foods), Reale’s, Rocco’s Grill, and Sagra.
What are some of your favorite restaurants for Italian in Austin?
Related:AFBA, Andiamo, Asti, Austin City Guide, Cippolina, Enoteca Vespaio, Italian, la traviata, Mandola's, North Side Trattoria, Olive & June, Reale's, Rocco's Grill, Sagra, Vespaio, Whole Foods