10 Best Italian Restaurants in Austin, Texas: Tiramisu, Cannoli, Lasagna, Cacciatore, Ah, Mi Amore!
By Krissy Mayse
Austin Local Expert
Does your heart speed up when you hear the words cannelloni and rigatoni? Does the thought of Tiramisu make you say 'ah, mi amor....?' If so, Austin will not disappoint your taste buds. Austin is well known for its eclectic culture and its live music but rest assured that when it comes to Italian food, the capital city is no slouch! So, whether you are looking for a fast and budget friendly Italian eatery or a romantic evening in an upscale establishment, Austin has it. 10 Best highlights top recommendations by those who live and work in Austin. This is where the locals take their friends and where they choose to eat. You'll hear about Vespaio, the simple yet elegant restaurant in downtown Austin with a great selection of wine. We'll tell you about Carmelo's: a restaurant housed in Texas' oldest train depot and several other establishments that pride themselves on their amazing cuisine. You'll want to try them all and wish you had the time to do so! Our goal is to give you plenty of delicious facts so that you can narrow down the list to that one perfect place for your occasion. Buon Appetito!
Treehouse Italian Grill
Treehouse Italian Grill is sheltered underneath a 700 year old live oak tree, hence, the 'treehouse' moniker. The restaurant offers an outdoor patio seating arrangement as well as indoor seating during inclement weather. Located a little over a mile from the downtown area, the restaurant provides a cozy atmosphere with covered parking. Its menu offers your basic Italian fare with selections like chicken parmesan, chicken picatta and more unique entrees like the Poached Salmon Filet in caper and dill sauce. Traditional pastas are offered and a vegetarian cannelloni is provided with the option to add fillings like crawfish, shrimp or salmon. ((512) 443-4200)
Considered an upscale and trendy restaurant, Asti Trattoria has hip decor and ambiance best described as fun. This perky establishment attracts a wide range of dining personalities. But all have one thing in common: A love of Italian food! Diners enjoy a wonderful selection of pizzas (build your own with toppings such as white anchovies, farm eggs and salami toscana. If seafood is your thing, check out the rainbow trout coated with raisins, pine nuts and breadcrumbs. Save some room for dessert because after dinner, you'll want to sample warm beignets with vanilla gelato. Wash it down with a leisurely cup of expresso. (512-451-1218)
Andiamo is decorated simply with an eye towards quaint. It is located in a strip mall but do not let that deter you. Many diners refer to it as romantic but foodies in the know will tell you that the food here is the closest you'll get to 'real' Italian food. Bread is served before your meal and is delicious on its own. If you are a vegetarian or have gluten free dietary needs, Andiamo has a selection of menu items just for you. Andiamo changes up their menu according to the seasons so when you are there be sure to look for featured dishes. For example, in the fall they serve their homemade pumpkin ravioli in a homemade brown butter sage sauce. Seafood, beef, and chicken selections do not disappoint. (512-719-3377)
For over a decade, La Traviata has been serving the Austin area with genuine Italian comfort food. For those with lighter appetites they serve a wonderful selection of salads. Fancy a great pasta? Ask what the homemade ravioli of the day is. Many satisfied diners recommend the Spaghetti alla Carbonara as 'to die for.' Among many mouthwatering pasta entrees, you'll also find seafood, chicken and beef dishes. La Traviata is set up like a busy, bustling cafe with the tables placed closely to each other. Reservations are a must on the weekends as it gets crowded. Service is excellent and gets top marks. (512-479-8131)
Constructed to closely resemble an Italian Tuscan villa, Siena begins with amazing ambiance and a serving staff that truly KNOWS what they are doing. Customers consistently comment on the quality of service received during their dining experience. Siena offers a wine selection worth talking about and for those that prefer wine by the glass, they have at least 20 different options to choose from. Prefer unique entrees? Try Coniglio alla Cacciatora, a mouth watering concoction of young rabbit braised in Chiant with pancetta, potatoes, fresh sage,thyme, porcini and stewed tomatoes. Some of us prefer a meatless dish and Siena doesn' disappoint. One excellent suggestion is the Ravioli Ripieni con Spinaci e Carciofi. This is a tantalizing recipe that features fresh pasta stuffed with artichokes, spinach and goat cheese in a fresh basil, roasted tomato butter sauce. Delizioso! They say that cooking in Italy is a passion. Siena embodies this passion! (512-349-7667)
Enoteca Vespaio is a smaller version of the fabulous (and previously mentioned)Vespaio. It's a cafe and wine bar that offers more casual and budget friendly dining than its counterpart. Enoteca offers a busy atmosphere and people are in and out all day. You'll find pastries, coffee,pastas, pizzas, and more. Enoteca boasts fresh ingredients in every dish. The prices are agreeable to most and they offer an excellent selection of wines. Another cool perk: The cafe sells grocery items so you could also take some things to and make your own tasty meal. For gluten free diners,the cafe also provides a gluten free pasta option. (512-441-7672)
Andrew and Matt Botticelli are the owners of this establishment that shines with pride. Botticelli's features a restaurant and an outdoor beer garden. Live music and happy hours take place most days of the week. Guests wear satisfied smiles as they sample culinary delights like the Mussels alla Trota, a concoction made with fresh Prince Edward Island mussels. They steam the mussels with brown butter, capers, lemon, and top it all off with bread crumbs. Other delights include their homemade Botticelli Bread, and homemade ravioli. The dish, Ravioli di Zucca Gialla, is made with locally grown organic butternut squash. The service at Botticelli's gets great reviews from just about everyone and the outdoor patio is great during warmer weather. It's a great restaurant either for a quiet romantic evening or fun evening with friends. (512-916-1315)
If you enjoy a restaurant with ambiance and history, be sure to check out Carmelo's. A little history: the Houston and Texas Central Railroad came to Austin in 1871. This stone hotel, known as the Old Depot Hotel and also built around 1871 was Austin's (and Texas') first railroad station. It was known as Railroad House and today Carmelo's Italian Restaurant happily resides in this historic building. Carmelo's is an Austin favorite with romantic ambiance and atmosphere. An elegant choice for 'date night,' guests are pleased with selections like steak Diane prepared tableside, amazing lobster bisque or a flavorful risotto and pork. The restaurant is known for its marvelous fried oysters and flambéed desserts. Diners are often treated to live music in the form of an accordion or violin player. (512-477-7497)
Vespaio is one of those places that automatically gets a thumbs up when you mention their name. You'll hear things like "Always a go-to for a good meal" and "We love this place" and "Try the lasagna." Described as bustling and boisterous, Vespaio can sometimes be crowded and a bit noisy but the food is served in a slower paced style. The staff and chefs work to make the meal a success and try not to rush you. The portions are quite large, the restaurant is spotless and your server will start you off with fresh bread and olive oil. The restaurant has a decent selection of wines to go with your meal and the restaurant is known for having a staff that is attentive but not overly attentive. (512-441-6100)
Taverna by Lombardi
This warm, inviting restaurant has three locations and Austin is lucky to have one of them. The restaurant prides itself on a range of northern Italian dishes and a flagship dish, Risotto. The restaurant is described simultaneously as 'quaint and like an old church' by some and still others refer to it as 'chic and hip.' Taverna creates an ambiance that encourages building relationships and hanging out. The food is prepared in a simple but fantastic way. Enjoy wonderful pasta filled with ingredients like walnuts and Gargonzola. Revel in ultrathin crust pizzas. Happy hour provides $1 mimosas and bellini's. Taverna boasts Italian cuisine to delight your palate but they don't stop there. They also serve up an award winning brunch on Sundays from 10am-3:00 pm. Feast on Shrimp with Asparagus Omelets or their Chorizo sausage and manchego cheese omelet. If you are in the mood for something sweet, try the Vanilla French Toast. It's served with mascarpone and fruit. Taverna is also friendly to diners with gluten free dietary needs and offers a gluten free menu. ((512) 477-1001)
About Krissy Mayse
Krissy is a native Texan who loves the warmth and sunshine that living in Texas brings almost year-round. She enjoys listening to Texas music outdoors, and in the summer, she enjoys floating down the Guadalupe and Frio Rivers. When she’s not writing, she mentors entrepreneurs and helps account executives take their careers and income to the next level. In her ‘down time,’ Krissy loves reading on her Kindle or hanging out with her family. She is also a home school mom and home schools her oldest son.
Read more about Krissy Mayse here.