Do you love Italian food? We do too, and that's why we dedicate ourselves to finding the best places to enjoy Italian cuisine in Houston. We've diligently scouted out the top eateries, and we've listened to our readers and their reviews of Houston restaurants. We share the places that get great buzz, like Quattro, and we showcase the ones that have proven themselves over time, like Damian's Cucina Italiana. We also point out good neighborhoods for Italian restaurants in Houston - Montrose, for instance. When the craving hits, we'll make sure you get your fix!

Younger sibling of nearby Nino's, Vincent's sets an upscale scene for lunch and dinner. An ideal option for pre- or post-theater meals, the trattoria boasts an appeal that relies, in part, on a brick fireplace, light wood paneling, shelves dressed with Italian pottery and cooking utensils, and sponge-painted, terra cotta-colored walls. House specialties include rotisserie chicken with roasted garlic mashed potatoes, a marinated and grilled veal chop, Gibraltar-sized seafood pasta dishes, and wood-fired pizzas. Grappino di Nino, in the rear, is a cozy bar where business types wet their whistles and cool their heels. (713-528-4313)

Tony Mandolas's Gulf Coast Kitchen
Locals heap high praise on Tony Mandola's awesome fare, including Gulf Coast seafood dishes that reflect the owner's Italian and Cajun roots. The long, narrow dining area has a Mediterranean feel and offers a sleek, casual backdrop ideal for partaking of a unique menu. Kick off your meal with a famous appetizer — perhaps Oysters Buccaneer with spinach or Calamari a la Mama, lightly battered and served with lemon butter sauce. More serious affairs include Louisiana-style fried catfish with seasonal veggies, blackened snapper topped with diced tomatoes and cilantro, and fabulous seafood pasta dishes. (713-528-3474)

Damian's Cucina Italiana
Its pale exterior enlivened by ivy, this romantic restaurant offers elegantly-appointed tables, subdued lighting, dark wood accents, a hand-painted mural, and terra cotta-hued walls. House specialties include lobster tail and lump crabmeat in tomato cream sauce over spaghetti, grilled snapper with basil butter and fresh mint, and a veal rib chop with pine nuts and mozzarella. Nightly specials expand the possibilities further, and the chef's table is a 6-course culinary extravaganza that permits glimpses of the kitchen at work. (713-522-0439)

Da Marco
For authentic northern Italian cuisine, savvy diners head to chef Marco Wiles's cottage-like Montrose restaurant. Decked out in orange, yellow, and red hues, Da Marco dazzles diners with distinctly Tuscan ambience and gastronomy. Featured entrees run the gamut: chianti-braised pork ribs, roasted Texas quail, braised rabbit cacciatore, sea bass with grapefruit, and raviolo with ricotta, egg, and truffles. Regional Italian wines fit the theme admirably, and desserts range from panna cotta to chocolate Genovese. A wonderful cheese selection also pleases. (713-807-8857)

Frenchie's Italian
This cheery Mediterranean-style café is family-owned and family-operated, and the two Caprisian brothers in charge make special efforts to see that patrons have a wonderful time. Although the intimate tables may be arranged a bit closely, delicious homestyle pasta dishes more than make up for any perceived loss of privacy. Fresh-from-the-Gulf seafood is the specialty and has been for almost 20 years. Friendly, professional service adds to the experience, and reasonable prices make Frenchie's a favorite. Space is limited, so expect long lines on weekends. (281-486-7144)

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For more than 20 years, folks in the know have headed to this European-flavored hideaway for homestyle Italian cuisine. Adorning the dining room are Italian-themed prints, imported pottery, and hanging herbs; an Old World-style antipasto table tempts patrons with grilled, baked, and sautéed vegetables. Diners with casual appetites may opt for wood-fired pizzas — the zucchini variation with crispy pancetta, tomato, oregano, and mozzarella is a particularly good choice. Pastas and main courses include rigatoni with spicy sausage, sauteed veal, seafood risotto, grilled shrimp, and salmon with caramelized fennel and asparagus tips. A courtyard is available for al fresco dining. (713-522-5120)

Simposio Ristorante
Comfortable, elegant Simposio features the contrast of dark woods and white linens, all punctuated by warm-hued artwork. It's a simple formula but an effective one, and it resonates beautifully with the menu's well-prepared northern Italian fare. Begin with grilled calamari or a salad artfully composed of baby spinach, pancetta, and gorgonzola. From there, move on to grilled trout with polenta, lamb or veal chops, or perhaps a sensuous pasta or risotto, accented with seafood, sausages, or pungent herbs and cheeses. The wine list concentrates on Italian and Californian vintages. (713-532-0550)

La Griglia
Vibrant mosaics, lively murals, bold colors, and a bustling social scene make La Griglia a top destination for dining out. Happily, the food is just as bright and confident as the interior. The shrimp-and-crab cheesecake gets lots of attention, and seared diver scallops are delicious as well. Main-course offerings run the gamut from rotisserie duck with raspberry sauce to honey-glazed pork loin and veal scaloppine. Consider, too, seared baby snapper, the roasted wild boar chop, and romano-crusted trout. The bar offers an animated scene too. (713-526-4700)

Amerigo's Grille
Romantic, elegant evenings are a given at this north Houston establishment, and diners regularly make their way to The Woodlands for incredible northern Italian cuisine. Whet your appetite with calamari or beef carpaccio before sampling capellini with crawfish, lobster risotto, or a main course centered on seafood, steak, chicken, or veal. Among the options are seared sea bass with sweet parsnips, veal piccata, a NY strip, and seared rainbow trout with sea scallops and grappa lime citrus jus. The second-floor piano lounge is a weekend mainstay for drinks and dancing. (281-362-0808)

Stylish and elegant with a contemporary edge, Quattro couples spectacular Italian cuisine with unpretentious surroundings and service. Famous for its antipasti bar, fantastic wines, and sumptuous seafood tower, Quattro lays out quite a feast. Savory pastas and risottos get a punch from truffles and parmesan cheese while grilled meats and vegetables boast a smoky, earthy flavor. Other menu considerations: free-range duckling, veal chop, red snapper with preserved lemons and capers, and a wonderful cioppino Genovese. Quattro also features a busy bar. (713-276-4700, 713-650-1300)

Maps and Directions

Vincent's 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: American, Continental, European, Italian
Neighborhood: Montrose
Cost: $$
Tony Mandolas's Gulf Coast Kitchen 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: American, Cajun, European, Italian, Seafood
Neighborhood: River Oaks
Cost: $$
Damian's Cucina Italiana 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: European, Italian
Neighborhood: Downtown
Cost: $$
Da Marco 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: European, Italian
Neighborhood: Montrose
Cost: $$
Frenchie's Italian 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: European, Italian, Seafood
Neighborhood: Clear Lake
Cost: $$
Nino's 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: European, Italian
Neighborhood: Montrose
Cost: $$
Simposio Ristorante 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: European, Italian
Neighborhood: Galleria
Cost: $$
La Griglia 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: European, Italian
Neighborhood: River Oaks
Amerigo's Grille 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: Continental, European, Italian
Neighborhood: The Woodlands
Cost: $$
Quattro 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: European, Italian
Neighborhood: Downtown
Cost: $$$
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