Best Italian Dining in Santa Barbara: Wine, Spaghetti, Gelato and Amore!

Santa Barbara’s Mediterranean influences extend far beyond the red tile roofs and balmy gardens, right onto our dinner (and lunch and breakfast) plates. There seem to be an endless supply of Italian restaurants dotting our streets. From small Mom-and-Pop counter hideaways to fancy white linen affairs, Santa Barbara’s Italian eateries run the gamut.

If you want to cut straight to the chase and enjoy a meal as close as possible to one you'd have in Italy, head to Via Maestra 42. Tables are small, pasta is handmade, and Julia Child used to eat there when she lived here. But if you have more than one meal, the possibilities really open up. Olio Crudo Bar has incredible cocktails and stunningly fresh seafood drizzled in fragrant olive oil. Arnoldi's, a staple since 1937, has bocce courts, taxidermy and giant antipasto platters. And Ca'Dario has one of the best steaks in town.

With so many choices, how do you choose the best restaurant for you? When you’re in the mood for a taste of Italy, look no further than this list of the best Italian restaurants in Santa Barbara. We’ll tell you exactly where to eat for the most flavorful experience - whether you’re searching for an authentic Italian pizza or a crisp cannoli like Grandma used to make - so you don’t waste a mouthful on food that doesn’t fit the bill. Now start reading so you can hurry up and make a reservation already!


Arnoldi's Cafe
Photo courtesy of Wine Cask - Santa Barbara


On a balmy Santa Barbara night, head to Arnoldi's with a few friends for drinks, dinner and a little evening sporting. That's right, in addition to serving hearty Italian food, Arnoldi's also offers you the rare chance to play bocce ball - a...  Read More



A welcome addition to the local restaurant scene, Convivo serves large, shareable plates of food that change daily with what's in season. The Italian-leaning menu includes wood-fired pizza, grilled seafood that's often locally caught, house-made...  Read More

Pane e Vino
Photo courtesy of Pan e Vino


Head to Montecito to visit Pane e Vino. A local favorite for almost 30 years, this superb trattoria maintains a strong reputation for ambience, service and food quality. Fashioned from impeccable ingredients, Pane's Northern Italian dishes are...  Read More



Tucked away in a quiet outdoor shopping area off busy State Street, Olio Pizzeria is a haven for hungry people - the place to go for a light snack, drinks with friends or even a decadent, authentic Italian pizza experience. Appetizers include...  Read More



Enjoy Italian and Mediterranean dishes with a view of the ocean! This romantic waterfront restaurant is located near some of the best hotels in the West Beach area of Santa Barbara. Enjoy fresh salads and delicious pastas, like gnocchi with rock...  Read More

Olio Crudo Bar
Photo courtesy of Gary Moss for Olio Crudo


Olio Crudo Bar is the third restaurant from the team behind Santa Barbara's established Italian favorite Olio e Limone Ristorante. But it's our first favorite for happy hour, which happens from 5-7 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and offers killer...  Read More

Santa Barbara
Photo courtesy of Ca'Dario Ristorante


Ca'Dario is a charming neighborhood Italian restaurant with a cozy setting, tucked just one block to the side of busy downtown Santa Barbara. Born and raised in Italy, chef Dario Furlati dishes up a menu featuring savory Northern Italian fare...  Read More

Trattoria Vittoria
Photo courtesy of Geneva Ives


For a memorable Italian lunch or dinner in an intimate but animated setting, make a reservation at Trattoria Vittoria. All of your favorites dishes are waiting for you: penne arrabiata, spaghetti al pomodoro, lasagna al ragu... the list goes on...  Read More

Santa Barbara
Olio e Limone
Photo courtesy of Kevin Steele Photography


This accomplished Italian restaurant receives constant kudos for its authentic yet inventive cuisine. Husband and wife team Alberto and Elaine Morello opened Olio e Limone Ristorante in 1999 with the goal of providing Santa Barbara with creative...  Read More



Tucked away on landlocked upper State Street is a gem of an Italian eatery, Via Maestra 42. The restaurant is very small and, at first glance, barely resembles a restaurant at all. There are freezers full of Italian delicacies, a gelato counter,...  Read More


Meet Geneva Ives

Geneva Ives moved to Santa Barbara in 2000 on a whim (ok, and to go to college) and never looked back. She loves Santa Barbara because it’s really one of America’s greatest small towns - it...  More About Geneva