Italian cuisine can be refined, rustic, red saucy—and Boston restaurants have it all. Rich cultural diversity influences the local Italian dining scene, from the decades of immigrants who landed in the North End to talented chefs taking up fresh pasta in neighborhoods across the city. There are plenty of places to go for spaghetti, meatballs, and a bottle of wine, so here’s a guide to the best Italian restaurants in Boston and its surrounding areas.
Where to Go for the Best Italian Food in Boston
Located in the South End’s Ink Block neighborhood, Bar Mezzana highlights seasonal, lighter Italian fare with a focus on the coast. Chef Colin Lynch is a master of crudo, the deceptively simple-looking preparation of raw seafood; the options change frequently, but we love the mainstay Scottish Salmon with Thai basil pesto. A spritz on the patio is also an ideal move here.
Ciao! Pizza and Pasta
Wood-fired pizzas topped with premium ingredients are the calling card at Ciao! Pizza & Pasta, such as the Salsiccia with house-made fennel sausage, cherry peppers, pecorino, and oregano. But the pint-sized pizzeria also turns out destination-worthy pasta, which chef Marvin Posada has expanded into The Pasta Box nearby. Both places are worthy reasons to trek to Chelsea.
From pizza, to a classic Italian grinder to house-made pasta, Coppa does Italian food exceptionally well. It’s what we’d expect from local legends Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette, the chefs also behind Toro and Little Donkey. Their South End enoteca offers more than just carbs, though: Coppa has the right relaxed, Italianesque energy, plus a friendly patio and Aperol Spritz by the pitcher.
Everything feels just a little bit luxe and sassy at Fox & the Knife, from the house-baked breads dripping in olive oil to the Dirty Chai Affogato. The debut restaurant from James Beard Award winner and Top Chef star Karen Akunowicz showcases her flavor mastery with a Northern Italian lens—and it started an empire. Fox Pastas now ship nationwide, and Bar Volpe has opened just down the block in Southie.
Rustic and abundant plates of satiny smooth Chicken Liver Crostini, Bucatini all’Amatriciana with house-cured pancetta, and fresh-made Lamb Sausage have made Giulia a Cambridge mainstay for nearly a decade. We know it’s hard, but try to save room for excellent desserts by pastry chef Renae Connolly; she’s also packing pints of gelato to-go.
The way chef Douglass Williams translates the name of his restaurant is “he gives me,” and indeed a spirit of generosity is evident at Mida. That’s especially true on “Mangia Monday,” the weekly all-you-can-eat pasta special. Any night, however, we’re grateful for gifts like garlicky, buttery Focaccia, Luxardo cherry agrodolce-Glazed Duck Wings, and smoky Short Rib Lasagna. Mida started in the South End and has a new location in Newton that also serves thin-crust pizza.
Everybody who visits Boston thinks they want to have dinner anywhere in the North End—but they really want to have dinner at Neptune Oyster. The Salem Street favorite does coastal Italian fare with a sense of place, like North End Cioppino, a spicy stew of grilled local fish, shellfish, and saffron rice. It also hits the right notes on local specialties like oysters and crudo, hot and cold Lobster Rolls, and Fried Ipswich Clams.
At Cambridge gem Pammy’s, chef Chris Willis turns out homey Italian-influenced dishes with a mix of honed skill and splashes of inspiration. Start with a draft Negroni or other balanced cocktail and a snack like 45-day Aged Steak Tartare with Pane Carasau (a traditional Sardinian flatbread). We love fresh pastas like the Lumache Bolognese, spiked with spicy gochujang.
One of the North End’s most alluring restaurants, Prezza serves sophisticated takes on the real Italian “peasant food” that chef-owner Anthony Caturano grew up eating with his nonna. That includes hearty entrees like a Crispy Pork Chop with vinegar peppers, roasted onions and potatoes; and a version of Lobster Fra Diavolo, which brightens up the neighborhood staple with saffron rigatoni and fennel.
Nestled into a sleepy residential street in East Boston is Rino’s Place, a no-frills restaurant where red sauce dreams come true. Chicken parm, homemade Lobster Ravioli, mozzarella-stuffed eggplant: The greatest hits are here, executed without complication and portioned excessively. A no-reservations policy and a Guy Fieri shout-out makes tables historically hard to snag, but hey—we love takeout, too.
The Salty Pig
Located across from Back Bay Station, The Salty Pig is a convenient go-to for charcuterie, pizza, pasta—really, all manner of Italian food. When we can’t decide which route to take, nothing satisfies like the rule-breaking Salty Pig Pizza, which features mustard cream, arugula, beer caramel sauce, and “salty pig parts.”
With a name that translates roughly from Italian as “counter service,” Sportello is a modernist diner with an Italian soul. The comfort-food haven in Fort Point comes to us from Boston native and fine-dining doyenne Barbara Lynch. Besides house-made pastas (and the wine list), it’s actually the Spicy Tomato Soup we think about most often—luscious and served with a slice of focaccia. Don’t skip the cannoli, either.
SRV gives us a taste of Venice in the South End. Start with an aperitif and a few Cicchetti, or small bites, such as toothpick-skewered pork-and-beef Polpette (meatballs) and Baccala Mantecato (salt cod on black bread). Risotto is a specialty, but pastas are also made in-house with fresh-milled flours.
Tony & Elaine’s
Tony & Elaine’s is a relative newcomer to the North End, though you wouldn’t know it from the vinyl booths, checkerboard floors, or straw-wrapped bottle of Chianti on every table. Substantial servings of Chicken Parm with house-made mezzi rigatoni and Orecchiette Sausage & Rabe are also reminiscent of the red sauce joints we all romanticize, but are better than we remember.