Home » Tasty Tuesdays

Best Italian in Austin

24 February 2012 7,169 views 44 Comments

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.

afb_city_guide_2012_logo

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.

Antipasti Plate at Asti

Antipasti Plate at Asti

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.

Spaghetti Carbonara at La Traviata. Credit: Michelle Cheng

Spaghetti Carbonara at La Traviata. Credit: Michelle Cheng

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.

Pizza at Enoteca Vespaio. Credit: Michelle Cheng

Pizza at Enoteca Vespaio. Credit: Michelle Cheng

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.

Bombolini with house-made nutella at Olive & June

Bombolini with house-made nutella 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 AndiamoCippolina, 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:

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

  • Southaustinfoodie

    How can you NOT love Italian food? It just screams comfort food to me!
    Just found a great Italian foods trailer, Bella Cucina, on South Lamar, next to Red's porch.

  • Rachael Sperling

    I love Asti, but do miss Chef Brad! And I agree with you about Mandola's- I think it's a little overrated.

  • Laura

    Agreed, Jodi; La Traviata's Spaghetti Carbonara is outstanding! Oh, and have you tried Lucky's Puccia trailer on 5th Street? Their wood-fired Italian sandwiches are amazing.

  • FoodieIsTheNewForty

    Wonderful post, Jodi!  Thanks so much for the shout-outs.  I just had carbonara last night (trying to perfect my own recipe, an adaptaion of Ruth Reichl's) and thanks to your post, I'm already craving it again…

  • Veganlazysmurf

    Asti is my favorite too, we had the best service there

  • jodibart

    And I see that you blogged about it! Looking forward to trying Bella Cucina! Thanks for the recommendation, @southaustinfoodie: 
    http://southaustinfoodie.blogs

  • jodibart

    I never did see Chef Brad when he worked there. Yup, I can't in good conscience recommend Mandola's.

  • jodibart

    I have tried Lucky's Puccia and their Panini probably rival Enoteca Vespaio's!

  • jodibart

    Mmmm Spaghetti Carbonara is one of the ultimate comfort foods for me. I tried to make it once at home though and it didn't work out so well for me. It tasted wonderful, but the consistency of it was kind of weird. It's an art.

  • jodibart

    At the same time this post went up, my friend Sara posted on FB that she tried Siena for the first time and she reported she had the “best Bolognese outside of Al Di La in Park Slope.” I guess that means she really liked it!

  • Marsha

    Great post about Austin's Italian offerings, Jodi! I don't have any recommendations for Italian restaurants that are still open. Primizie, when they had a restaurant was a great place. They still do catering but alas, no restaurant.

  • Marsha

    Great post about Austin's Italian offerings, Jodi! I don't have any recommendations for Italian restaurants that are still open. Primizie, when they had a restaurant was a great place. They still do catering but alas, no restaurant.

  • Sahmmelier

    Love La Traviata!  I did a post on them in September.  Amazing food and friendly service. http://sahmmelier.wordpress.co

  • Sahmmelier

    Love La Traviata!  I did a post on them in September.  Amazing food and friendly service. http://sahmmelier.wordpress.co

  • jodibart

    We tasted at Primizie for our wedding planning. The food is still delicious! So freakin' good. 

  • jodibart

    We tasted at Primizie for our wedding planning. The food is still delicious! So freakin' good. 

  • http://leavemetheoink.com/ LeaveMeTheOink

    Siena is hard to beat. It's a drive out to 2222/360 but the building is amazing and the food is religiously authentic to Northern Italy. Great post.

  • http://leavemetheoink.com/ LeaveMeTheOink

    Siena is hard to beat. It's a drive out to 2222/360 but the building is amazing and the food is religiously authentic to Northern Italy. Great post.

  • NYAustinGal

    My very favorite was Ciola's out in Lakeway, but they are gone. Worth the trek is Ristorante Lisina in Driftwood. Gorgeous winery setting, this “Tuscan Farmhouse” was opened by Damien Mandola on his estate winery (now Duchman Family winery). Superb Northern Italian cuisine in a movie-set setting. I'm a NY'er who takes my Italian food Very seriously.

  • NYAustinGal

    Lived in the Park Slope area for 6 yrs. (actually closer to the “Moonstruck” neighborhood and the Italian Mom & Pop's were amazing! You knew you were “accepted” into the neighborhood when they brought the bottle of Sambucca over with your espresso!

  • NYAustinGal

    My very favorite was Ciola's out in Lakeway, but they are gone. Worth the trek is Ristorante Lisina in Driftwood. Gorgeous winery setting, this “Tuscan Farmhouse” was opened by Damien Mandola on his estate winery (now Duchman Family winery). Superb Northern Italian cuisine in a movie-set setting. I'm a NY'er who takes my Italian food Very seriously.

  • NYAustinGal

    Lived in the Park Slope area for 6 yrs. (actually closer to the “Moonstruck” neighborhood and the Italian Mom & Pop's were amazing! You knew you were “accepted” into the neighborhood when they brought the bottle of Sambucca over with your espresso!

  • Pingback: Tasty Touring » Blog Archive » Austin Food Blogger Favorites and City Guide

  • jodibart

    I'll have to check Siena out for sure one of these days. It's actually not too far a drive from our house.

  • jodibart

    I'll have to check Siena out for sure one of these days. It's actually not too far a drive from our house.

  • Jeremy

    Thanks for this post – It inspired me to finally try Vespaio for the first time tonight. The pansoti di zucca (butternut squash dumplings) were great, and the spaghetti carbonara was delicious.

  • jodibart

    I'm so glad you went for your birthday and that it was good. It's been YEARS since I've been to Vespaio.

  • jodibart

    I'm so glad you went for your birthday and that it was good. It's been YEARS since I've been to Vespaio.

  • http://stephcooks.com/ Stephanie @ Steph Cooks

    Mandola's food is good, but I think its Italian bakery and meat/cheese/imported foods market makes it special. Great post!

  • http://stephcooks.com/ Stephanie @ Steph Cooks

    Mandola's food is good, but I think its Italian bakery and meat/cheese/imported foods market makes it special. Great post!

  • http://hilahcooking.com/ Hilahcooking

    Yummy Yummy! That carbonara looks to die for. I've been craving some pasta something fierce lately so this post is just in time. Thanks!

  • jodibart

    The market is nice, for sure. And the gelato – heaven!

  • http://frommaggiesfarm.blogspot.com/ from maggie's farm

    I am going to go try that carbonara straight away.  You had me at lemon. Lemon!  A favorite lunch of mine is a glass of prosecco and the house caesar, followed by the proscuitto and truffled egg panini at Enoteca.  I like to finish it off with espresso and a macaron.  It's for days upon which I make an A, or something like it, right up the road at St. Ed's.

  • http://frommaggiesfarm.blogspot.com/ from maggie's farm

    I am going to go try that carbonara straight away.  You had me at lemon. Lemon!  A favorite lunch of mine is a glass of prosecco and the house caesar, followed by the proscuitto and truffled egg panini at Enoteca.  I like to finish it off with espresso and a macaron.  It's for days upon which I make an A, or something like it, right up the road at St. Ed's.

  • http://twitter.com/Vegicurean Chaya Rao

    Need to make reservations at Asti soon, Love Vespaio (particularly for their veggie option). Have you tried Maggiano at the Domain? I like it a lot. Have had good meals at North as well. The changing menus at North Side Trattoria (@Whole Foods has  been great  over the past 2 years, their current running one is okay. Canoli Joe's is definitely worth a honorary mention, if you know what you should eat, you will find 10 great things every time you visit. It is a winner when it comes to family friendly dining! What do you think of Andiamos?

  • http://twitter.com/Vegicurean Chaya Rao

    Need to make reservations at Asti soon, Love Vespaio (particularly for their veggie option). Have you tried Maggiano at the Domain? I like it a lot. Have had good meals at North as well. The changing menus at North Side Trattoria (@Whole Foods has  been great  over the past 2 years, their current running one is okay. Canoli Joe's is definitely worth a honorary mention, if you know what you should eat, you will find 10 great things every time you visit. It is a winner when it comes to family friendly dining! What do you think of Andiamos?

  • http://shefskitchen.wordpress.com/ shefaly

    Asti is our number one fave!! We love taking the kids there too—they have a great kids menu plus the kids share our appetizers and sometimes call it a meal. I tried Olive and June once so far too and now wished I ordered the bombolino! the pic looks awesome!

  • http://shefskitchen.wordpress.com/ shefaly

    Asti is our number one fave!! We love taking the kids there too—they have a great kids menu plus the kids share our appetizers and sometimes call it a meal. I tried Olive and June once so far too and now wished I ordered the bombolino! the pic looks awesome!

  • http://twitter.com/midnitechef Heather

    Thanks for sharing, now I want everything shown here!

  • http://twitter.com/midnitechef Heather

    Thanks for sharing, now I want everything shown here!

  • Bite of Austin

    It really is surprising how limited the Italian options are here! I'm really ready to check out Olive & June.

  • Bite of Austin

    It really is surprising how limited the Italian options are here! I'm really ready to check out Olive & June.

  • Bite of Austin

    It really is surprising how limited the Italian options are here! I'm really ready to check out Olive & June.

  • Pingback: Austin’s Restaurant Week: #CauseyEating at Asti « Narissa Johnson