Best Italian Restaurants in Vancouver: Enjoy Pasta, Pizza and More
By Natasha John
Vancouver Local Expert
Vancouver once had its own bustling and vibrant Little Italy on Commercial Drive and although it may have less of a presence these days, there are plenty of delicious Italian restaurants scattered around the city. Think local, fresh, seasonal and quality cuts of meat cooked in a kitchen where the chefs take as much pride in their food as your Italian grandmother would.
Kitsilano's La Quercia serves stellar dishes that are best enjoyed family style. This cozy neighborhood eatery has been a favorite because of the consistently delicious, yet changing dishes. If you like to try a few different things, try the chef's menu for something fun and a little different.
Over in Gastown is where you will find Vancouver's first VPN certified Neopolitan style pizza at Nicli Antica Pizzeria. If you haven't had true Neopolitan pizza before, be warned - your standard pizza delivery just doesn't compare.
A little further east in Vancouver's Downtown East Side is Ask for Luigi. It may appear unassuming from the street, but step inside and dig into bold dishes that pack a ton of flavor. The Italian inspired menu is very affordable and attracts a hip crowd of foodies.
Though you won't find dinner at Bella Gelateria, their award winning gelato and sorbetto will make the perfect dessert to your Italian meal.
Don Francesco Ristorante
Walk into Don Francesco's and feel like you've stepped into an Italian piazza just off Robson Street. Owner Francesco Alongi's family has a long history of being in the restaurant business beginning with his grandfather in Italy, so you know what you eat here will be as true to the flavors of the native country as possible. Try risotto or the seafood linguine or a half chicken, Tuscan style. A house specialty is the wild game menu that features such items as boar in an Italian sweet and sour sauce. Have a glass of wine and toast to your health. Salute! (604-685-7770)
Cafe il Nido
If you're looking for an experience that's beautifully charming, and wonderfully flavored, Cafe Il Nido will fit the bill. Tucked away in the covered courtyard of the Manhattan Apartments, you will feel as though you have found a hidden gem, that's literally right off of Robson Street. The 30-seat outdoor courtyard seating is perfect for dining al fresco on a beautiful day. Owner and chef, Franco Felice's charming service and fantastic food keep guests coming back for more. You can usually find Franco at the front of house greeting guests, but he has been known to cook for longtime regulars.The menu boasts starters, salads, pastas, mains and desserts, and they cater to vegetarians, gluten allergies and offer half portion pastas. You will also find their seafood to be OceanWise, and supremely fresh. The food is beautifully presented and the flavors will linger in your mind, days after you've enjoyed your meal. (6046856436)
A charming heritage house in Yaletown is home to Lupo, a fine dining Italian restaurant. Chef Perini doesn't take short cuts in the kitchen and only uses the freshest seasonal ingredients, while making everything in-house. On the menu, you will find traditional Italian fare, with a slight sense of adventure, giving each plate a certain wow factor. The atmosphere is warm and inviting, and may leave you hoping that there's a cozy bedroom somewhere upstairs to spend the night in this beautiful location that was once a home. The menu boasts a creative touch to classic dishes and you may find yourself wishing meals like the ones at Lupo could regularly come from your kitchen. (604-569-2535)
Cioppino's Mediterranean Grill & Enoteca
Chef Pino was born in Lago, Italy and spent much time in Canada visiting family and decided he wanted to move here and make a name for himself in the restaurant industry. Cioppino's opened in 1999 and has been a Vancouver institution for those looking for a fine dining Italian experience. Located in Yaletown, it's easily accessible and the cobbled streets of Yaletown only add to the atmosphere inside Cioppino's. Chef Pino and the restaurant have won many awards over the years and after you dine hear, you will understand why. The antipasti menu is extensive and a lovely way to start your meal off. No matter what you're craving next, the menu features pastas, fresh seafood, duck, lamb, beef and veal that will hit the spot. Cioppino's is not cheap, but it's worth indulging when you can. ((604) 688-7466)
Ask for Luigi
This cozy and intimate Italian-inspired restaurant welcomes diners to enjoy a comforting meal in the downtown east side of Vancouver. It's a fabulous spot for your next date night. Though it's slightly off the beaten path, Ask for Luigi attracts flocks of hungry bellies. The dinner menu is adorned with delicious dishes, but the main star is the freshly made pastas they serve in the evening. The pappardelle and duck ragu is a must order. Prior to digging in to your main course, don't miss the antipasti menu that is sure to tempt. Make sure to save room for dessert that's made in house. Ask for Luigi encourages family style dining so that you can explore the menu and enjoy a few bites of each dish. Weekend brunch at Ask for Luigi's is a hit - the poached eggs with ricotta stuffed eggplant and tomato sauce is an incredible way to start your weekend. ((604) 428-2544)
Just as the name suggests, Nook is a cozy little spot on Denman Street, a short walk away from Stanley Park. Nook's delectable dishes are all made with care and the menu is broken down into salads, crostini, antipasto, pasta, and pizza. The orecchietti with Italian sausage, rapini, fennel and chilis is outstanding, while the ricotta pizza is a delicious twist on what you would normally expect. The Buffalo mozzarella and roasted fennel salad is a must-order and will start your culinary adventure off at Nook on the right foot. All of their pastas are made in house, so you won't find any boxed pasta here. The spaghetti Puttanesca should definitely find its way to your table. ((604) 568-4554)
Nicli Antica Pizzeria
Neopolitan pizza has found a large following in Vancouver and on any given night there are hungry diners knocking on Nicli's doors to get a piece of the pie, or a whole pie in this case. The pizza's are served piping hot from the wood burning oven that's made out of stone from Mt. Vesuvius. Neopolitan style pizza has a thin crust with a slight chew and blistering on the bottom with just enough toppings so that you can taste each bite, rather than be overwhelmed by too many flavors at once. Nicli uses San Marzano tomatoes for their sauce and you can taste the difference. They have a handful of salads and antipastos to start with, but the main attraction is the pizza. Boasting vegetarian, red sauce, white sauce and meat options, Nicli's menu will suit most palates. They have reasonably priced wine and a creative cocktail list. ((604) 669-6985)
Cibo Trattoria specializes in rustic and authentic Italian cuisine. This may sound pretty typical for an Italian restaurant, but they set the bar high for all other places that make the same claim. Cibo uses only fresh ingredients and sources all of their meat from ethical, organic and sustainable farmers and sources. The fish is fresh, never frozen, and they also have a focus on using up all parts of the animal. Expect to see items like pigs head, trotters, sheep's brain and other offal delights that they create into tasty masterpieces. They have plenty of other dishes that will entice diners that appreciate more familiar items. ((604) 602-9570)
Yaletown L'Antipasto is a quaint and unassuming restaurant in Yaletown that will blow you away. Though bold to say, L'Antipasto has some of the best fresh pasta in Vancouver. This family run joint will make you feel warm and welcome with their personable service and authentic Italian fare. They combine imported products from Italy with locally sourced and fresh ingredients from British Columbia to create delicious antipasti options, salads, pastas and desserts. On warmer days, sit outside and enjoy the patio - it's great for people watching, too! Open for lunch and dinner, Yaletown L'Antipasto is a favorite amongst locals. The price point here is very reasonable, making it an ideal spot for a date. Wash down your meal with a glass (or bottle) of wine from their well stocked wine list. ((604) 558-1174)
The cozy and intimate room is the perfect start to a wonderfully prepared meal. Stepping into La Quercia is like going to your parents home and if a classic dish you love isn't on the chalkboard menu, there's a good chance they have it in the kitchen and are happy to accommodate when they can. The menu changes often, which is because they source the best and most seasonal ingredients in the kitchen. They offer different multiple course options, along with a la carte, with a big focus on family dining. La Quercia will leave you with a lingering memory of one of the best Italian meals you may have outside of Italy. (604-676-1007)
About Natasha John
Natasha is not born and raised in Vancouver, but is pretty certain it's her spirit hometown. After jumping around Canada, Texas, Arkansas and the UK, she has her feet firmly planted in Vancouver's beaches.
When Natasha's not freelance writing and copywriting, she's either cooking up a storm in her kitchen, kicking back with friends over a glass of wine or exploring the North Shore with her fiancé.
Read more about Natasha John here.