Sometimes, the urge to have Italian food strikes, and nothing satisfies until you get it. When that happens, count on 10Best to point you in the direction of Lexington's best Italian restaurants. We understand the desire to have a great meal, and we work hard to bring you the top places to eat in Lexington. We vet restaurants carefully for quality, and when we recommend popular eateries like Bella Notte or tell you that Giuseppe's Ristorante Italiano gets good reader feedback, you can believe it. We'll make sure you get - and eat - what's best.

10 Carino's Italian
This Lexington addition to the Italian chain Carino's is a fun place that's perfect for the whole family. With a roster of classic Italian dishes to choose from, you're sure to find something to hit the spot. Start the evening with an Italian specialty drink such as a Bellini or Italian Sangria. Then for an appetizer, try the Sicilian fire sticks, a medley of sausage, bacon, jalapeños and chicken tidily wrapped up in a tasty tortilla. Finally feast on one of their notable entrées such as the signature 16-layer lasagna or five-meat Tuscan pasta. (859-245-0091)

9 Joe Bologna's
Occupying a former Jewish temple, this Lexington mainstay still sports stained glass windows, chandeliers, and other features from the building's late 19th century origin. These days, however, college students and locals munch pizza in the sanctuary and order beer from the pulpit's old location. Homemade pastas, sub sandwiches, and crisp salads round out the menu, but the pizza harks back to Joe B's origins and remains a long-lived favorite. Make sure to try their awesome breadsticks, too, homemade and delicious! (859-259-0495, 859-252-4933)

8 Portofino
Upscale and elegant, this spacious restaurant shares quarters with professional offices in a renovated warehouse. Its candlelit dining rooms still retain the building's rustic charms while adding white linens and intriguing local art. Bustling and popular, Portofino also has a way with food, marrying Italian tradition with California innovation. Tempting pastas, fresh fish, tender steaks, and incredible seared scallops and steamed mussels offer proof of the gourmet menu, and a well-stocked bar offers great wines, cognacs, and bourbons. Opt for the wonderful outdoor patio when the weather accommodates. (859-253-9300)

7 Paisano's Italian Ristorante
Although it's somewhat unassuming, this family-owned restaurant serves some of the area's best Italian fare. A varied menu guarantees that diverse tastes are satisfied, and a cozy dining room makes special dinners or everyday meals a pleasure. Chicken cacciatora, veal saltimbocca, baked manicotti, Tuscan chicken, shrimp primavera, and lasagna prove tempting by mention alone, and the real things are even better. Fresh fish and a children's menu are available as well. (859-277-5321)

6 Pazzo's Pizza Pub
Dim, atmospheric, and trendy, Pazzo's definitely adds to the cool quotient along South Limestone. The multi-leveled pizzeria is a favorite of college students and makes for a great hang-out any time of day. Constantly busy, the casual place serves up tempting pies in three sizes. Build your own, or choose from one of the standards. Hoagies, salads, and calzones lend some depth to the menu, and lunch specials find favor with area professionals. Three dozen brews are on tap, and a full bar offers other options, should your inclinations alter. (859-255-5125)

5 Giuseppe's Ristorante Italiano
A favorite with locals, Giuseppe's sits just off busy Nicholasville Road, not far from Fayette Mall. Its comfortable setting is as pleasant as its accomplished cuisine, which finds favor again and again. The menu promises something for everyone, from osso buco to oven-roasted salmon, fettucine carbonara, and grilled beef tenderloin. Pork, shellfish, chicken, and veal can also be found, and the celebrated tiramisu is a must-have. Italian, domestic, and international wines are available by the glass and the bottle. (859-272-4053)

4 Bellini's
Stylish, much-loved Bellini's cultivates a faithful following, who appreciate its well-prepared fare and romantic ambience. Beneath a pressed-metal ceiling, they dine on veal saltimbocca, a grilled house rib-eye, and a boneless, center-cut pork chop served with risotto. A long list of pastas offers ingredients like gorgonzola, prosciutto, eggplant, clams, and asparagus. Regulars agree that the chocolate torte is a perfect dessert option, and the bar makes for ideal mingling when evening comes. Pricey but popular. (859-388-9583)

3 Puccini's Smiling Teeth Pizza
Begun in Indianapolis, this regional chain built its reliably strong business on pizza, pastas, and salads. The assortment of pies ranges from the Southwest-inspired Cactus Delectus (no cactus) to the Bar 20 (barbecued chicken, red onions, smoked gouda) to the Shrimp Santori (enlivened with sesame chili oil and fresh basil). Meat-free options can also be ordered, and pasta dishes are broad as well. You'll find everything from diavolo to cacciatore to vodka cream varieties to tempt your taste buds. Calzones, salads, and sandwiches also make welcome appearances. (859-269-0404)

2 Bella Notte
Evoking a Tuscan farmhouse, this inviting restaurant boasts plaster walls, rustic beams, touches of greenery and wrought iron, and even a life-sized "tree" growing from the floor. In keeping with the name ("beautiful night"), cut-out stars hang above, and small, white lights add nocturnal ambience. The menu was designed for both group or individual dining (portions come "solo" or "family") and includes such rustic fare as Tuscan roasted chicken, grilled marinated smoked pork chops, beef tenderloin spiedini, steaks, and fresh fish. Wood-fired pizzas and plenty of pastas are also available, and a full bar accommodates with wines and other appropriate beverages. (859-245-1789)

1 Sal's Chophouse
While Sal's bills itself as a chophouse, it also offers an Italian-inflected menu that does culinary double duty. A classic margherita pizza serves as a savory appetizer, while a good selection of pastas and risottos is enlivened with rock shrimp, wild mushrooms, pine nuts, and roasted garlic. You can also indulge in chicken parmesan and a Tuscan bone-in veal chop, which has a kicky, slightly spicy sauce. And of course, the steaks and chops are excellent. (859-269-9922)

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Maps and Directions

Carino's Italian 10Best List Arrow
Dining Options: Bar / Lounge, Take Out
Cuisine: European, Italian
Neighborhood: Airport - Lex
Joe Bologna's 10Best List Arrow
Dining Options: Bar / Lounge, Catering, Family Friendly, Non-Smoking, Take Out
Cuisine: European, Italian, Pizza
Neighborhood: Downtown
Portofino 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: American, California, European, Italian
Dining Options: Bar / Lounge, Bar Dining, Non-Smoking, Parties / Private Rooms, Wine Cellar
COST: $$
Paisano's Italian Ristorante 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: European, Italian
Dining Options: Family Friendly, Non-Smoking, Parties / Private Rooms
Neighborhood: Airport - Lex
COST: $$
Pazzo's Pizza Pub 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: American, European, Italian, Pizza
Dining Options: Bar / Lounge, Non-Smoking, Smoking (outdoor area), Take Out
Neighborhood: Downtown
Giuseppe's Ristorante Italiano 10Best List Arrow
Dining Options: Bar / Lounge, Bar Dining, Family Friendly, Group Friendly, Live Music, Non-Smoking, Parties / Private Rooms
Cuisine: European, Italian
Neighborhood: Airport - Lex
COST: $$
Bellini's 10Best List Arrow
Dining Options: Bar / Lounge, Non-Smoking, Smoking (outdoor area)
Cuisine: European, Italian
Neighborhood: Downtown
COST: $$
Puccini's Smiling Teeth Pizza 10Best List Arrow
Dining Options: Delivery, Family Friendly
Cuisine: European, Italian, Pizza
Neighborhood: Chevy Chase
Bella Notte 10Best List Arrow
Dining Options: Bar / Lounge, Bar Dining, Catering, Family Friendly, Group Friendly, Non-Smoking, Parties / Private Rooms
Cuisine: European, Italian
Neighborhood: Airport - Lex
COST: $$
Sal's Chophouse 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: American, European, Italian, Steakhouse
Dining Options: Catering
Neighborhood: Airport - Lex
COST: $$
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