La Criollita is an excellent place for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and has something on the menu for everyone. The fare is traditional Costa Rican; generous portions of meat, chicken and fish with rice, beans and salad on the side, and big selection of delicious appetizers like Tico-style ceviche and a tasty chicken soup to whet the appetite. There are three dining spaces, a main room that overlooks the big and busy kitchen, a bright and airy side room with art-filled walls, and a charming covered outdoor terrace with a bird garden and wrought iron furniture. There is rarely a wait for a table, but lunch time fills up early with nearby business people, so breakfast and dinner are ideal for settling into a relaxing meal. The coffee is excellent, too,save room for dessert; checkout the options like flan and cheesecake on display under the glass on your way in. Bonus: Full Bar.
Recommended for Italian because: Even though there may not be Italian food on the menu, the strong coffee and full bar make Italians feel right at home.
Sophia's expert tip: "Express Breakfast" specials can't be beat: try the gallo pinto with tropical fruit, eggs, toast, coffee and juice for a song.
Those with a hankering for high-quality meat should look no further than Doris Metropolitan, a stand-out- and stand alone- restaurant in Costa Rica. Embracing the locally-grown movement wholeheartedly, Doris Metropolitan partners with a cattle farm in southern Costa Rica to specially raise cow that are fed not only grass but pineapple, which gives it a uniquely marbled texture and distinct flavor; both of which tend to be lacking in much of Costa Rica's beef. Specialties include meat cured all-naturally in a process known as French Dry Aged and Chateaubriand Tenderloin. Now stateside, Doris Metropolitan can be found in New Orleans, too.
Recommended for Italian because: The extensive wine selection make this restaurant a favorite among Italians, who appreciate the special meat curing process.
Sophia's expert tip: Don't skimp on the bread here; it's all homebaked and the sour dough comes from a secret recipe that takes thirteen months to cure.
Perched on the edge of the coral reef overlooking the beautiful coast of Cahuita, Sobre las Olas is a perfect little restaurant that has excellent food to match its ambience. The best seats are outside nestled between the palm trees, where mussels on the half shell and ceviche are fine appetizers to get you in the mood for an excellent meal. Italian owners have created a menu with the home country's influence but focused on fresh local ingredients and expertly prepared seafood. If you haven't happened upon it while visiting Cahuita, it's worth asking to be pointed in the right direction and is a pleasant stroll just north of town. Bonus: There is a full bar here, too.
Recommended for Italian because: Italy meets Costa Rica in this cozy restaurant in Cahuita.
Sophia's expert tip: Slow down and enjoy slurping mussels while sitting over the waves.
The menu at La Luz is quite diverse, afterall it was one of the country's first fusion restaurants, and still impresses with an eclectic menu of diverse tastes; the expert chef pays close attention to detail and every plate is served like a work of art. Costa Rican regional cuisine, meets California-inspired fresh ingredients and a bevy of international influences that all make for a merry culinary adventure. The glass-walled dining room exudes a classic, elegant feel and offers exceptional views, especially at night. Sunday Brunch is a celebratory affair that draws crowds of locals and tourists to this spot in the Alta Hotel, and reservations are suggested.
Recommended for Italian because: Italian influences are evident in the fusion dishes from this elegant restaurant's kitchen.
Sophia's expert tip: For a special occasion, book the private wine room, or opt for patio or poolside dining.
Although it's a fine Italian restaurant first and foremost, with experienced chefs in the kitchen that turn out exceptional dishes based on authentic Italian recipes that come to life with Costa Rica's bounty of fresh ingredients, Cafe Viejo is also a great place to enjoy a cocktail at the bar, and on special nights, dance to the beats of talented DJs who frequently hold later night events at the restaurant. Slightly more sophisticated than its beachfront counterparts, the bar at Cafe Viejo wraps around and spills almost on to the street, and it couldn't be more centrally located on the main road near the middle of town.
Recommended for Italian because: It's a cool Italian run restaurant along the main street of Puerto Viejo that offers romantic sit-down dinners and casual cocktails.
Sophia's expert tip: Leave your gluten-free at the eternally open door and enjoy some authentic Italian cuisine.
Amimodo is an old-school yet new-school family style and family friendly Italian restaurant on the main road in Puerto Viejo. A nondescript, single story cafe style that's invitingly and casual from the street side and the beach side, Amimodo doesn't need to toot it's own horn; those in the know have been coming here for excellent authentic Italian dishes and special occasions since the doors opened nearly twenty years ago. The seating spills out from inside to out, and there is a little bar inside for pizza and cocktails. Some nights a live band plays spirited Caribbean music, but mostly it is a mellow vibe.
Recommended for Italian because: Wonderful pizzas made to order make for great take away, and the Italian family in the kitchen makes everything taste great.
Sophia's expert tip: Happy Hour is on most days, with inexpensive tapas and "drinks of the day" specials, like a Pipa Loca, fresh green coconut spiked with rum and garnished with an exotic flower.
Candlelit tables twinkle from the sand, beckoning pedestrians from the side of the road De Paso is nestled between the trees and the water's edge. Named for the path that connects the road to the jungle path and the beach, this little restaurant serves up some excellent, and inexpensive, plates from afternoon til night. Fish tacos are one of many specialties, including pizzas, pastas, and a seafood dish of the day, and there are always two-for-one drinks on happy hour special. This is a beach casual place, flip flops and shirts are optional, a pura vida vibe is the only requisite for dining here.
Recommended for Italian because: Spaghetti dishes and pizzas give this casual place its Italian flavor.
Sophia's expert tip: Try the two for one mojitos at happy hour and chocolate cake for dessert.
A meal at Bacchus, is, as one may imagine, stimulating, satisfying, and sensuous. Since 2004, the historical Casa Quitirris-- has been home to Bacchus, combining the 1870s home's traditional Costa Rican architecture and adobe construction with modern details and art. The mostly Italian menu is both Mediterranean and Costa Rican, and the elegantly casual vibe makes it an excellent place for a date or a special occasion dinner. Colorful salads, homemade pastas, an extensive seafood menu, and a wine list to enhance it all are complemented by the rich setting. Seafoodies will be pleased with the salmon with orange-honey sauce and the Snapper Cartoccio: foil wrapped red snapper with potatoes, olives, tomatoes, onions and spices, and there are plenty of vegetarian options as well.
Recommended for Italian because: Authentic Italian meets creative Costa Rican at this elegant restaurant.
Sophia's expert tip: Bacchus celebrates Italian cuisine in elegant casual ambiance at this historical home turned Italian restaurant in San Jose, Costa Rica.
In the southernmost corner of Costa Rica in the postcard perfect region known as the Osa Peninsula, lies Il Giardino, the first, and many agree, the best, Italian restaurant in Puerto Jimenez, owned and operated by an Italian family that takes nothing more seriously than providing a delightful, thoughtful dining experience. At Il Giradino, the food is deeply rooted in family tradition; each recipe is a family secret, right down to the made to order and from scratch pastas and even lasagna. Daily specials include catch-of-the-day seafood, and there is a wine selection for everything. Nowhere else in the Osa can you enjoy such fine Italian food, exceptional service and take in a relaxing ocean view while feasting on scrumptious Italian fare.
Recommended for Italian because: Pasta from scratch and secret Italian family recipes are highlights here.
Sophia's expert tip: Il Giardino has an impressive collection of Boruca masks on display, showcasing the art and craftsmanship of the local indigenous people, who were the original Costa Ricans of the Osa Peninsula.
If delicious authentic Italian cuisine served in a delightful open-air restaurant well off-the beaten track on Costa Rica's Caribbean coast sounds like your cup of tea, look no further than La Pecora Nera. The Italian chef Ilario is as charismatic as he is talented in the kitchen, and his recommendations of daily specials are always spot on, but you can't go wrong with anything on the simple yet well-rounded menu. It's romantic yet family-friendly, unpretentious yet undeniably special, and easily one of the top 10 best restaurants in Costa Rica, but since it's not all that easy to reach, it's rarely crowded.
Recommended for Italian because: A hidden gem well worth tracking down, La Pecora Nera serves the best Italian cuisine outside of Italy, some dare say.
Sophia's expert tip: The bruschetta mixta is a perfect appetizer for two, delicate toasts topped with a variety of Italian ingredients like roasted eggplant and proscuitto crudo.