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.


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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Airport - Lex

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.

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