The below are some recommended food spots from my holidays in Italy. Scroll through the list or skip to the relevant region by clicking on the name below:
- Lisciano Niccone
- San Gimignano
- Castel Gandolfo
Ristorante alle Scuderie at Reschio
If you’re anywhere close to the area, I cannot quite recommend enough trying to get a booking at Ristorante alle Scuderie, if for no other reason in order to walk around the stunning Reschio estate. The luxury hotel housed in a 1000-year old castle and surrounding grounds and buildings is a thing of dreams, but staying there will set you back big bucks. Ristorante alle Scuderie (which, as the name suggests, is housed in old stables) is open to reservations from non-guests, and that will allow you access to the estate, where you can walk around and explore some of the grounds before or after enjoying your lunch in the stylish interior or idyllic exterior of the restaurant. The food is sourced from the estate’s grounds; simple but well-made; not cheap, but could be worse considering the surroundings.
I tried: the regionally-popular pappa al pomodoro (gratinated bread and tomato soup with parmesan); tagliolini with butter and black truffle; and affogato – all simple, but fresh and delicious.
This traditional space in the historic centre offers both indoor and outdoor dining, but the roaring wood burning fire – ready to cook your meat – is what makes the indoors especially welcoming when you step in on a cold evening.
I tried: Luscious pappardelle al sagrantino and the perfect tagliata with salt and rosemary, buttery potatoes, spinach and mushrooms.
Ristorante La Cantina di Spello
An inviting rustic space serving regional dishes where simplicity reigns. An enjoyable spot on a cold winter’s night.
I tried: beautiful burrata and anchovies; luscious truffled egg; an artichoke that was essentially a work of art; tagliata with green peppercorns which was just ok; subtle but well-executed sformatino con fonduta, gnocchi with tartufo and pappardelle chingiale; and your typical chocolate fondant to round off the meal.
Antinori nel’ Chianti Classico
If there is one winery you want to visit in Tuscany for a special day out, including a very good meal in stunning surrounds, it is the beautiful Antinori nel Chianti Classico. The new headquarters of the giant wine family Antinori is an architectural marvel, and while you can certainly simply visit for a wine tour and tasting, I wouldn’t pass up making a reservation at Rinuccio 1180 when the weather is fine. You will sit surrounded by greenery as you pick whichever bottle/s you want to sample (the waiters are well-versed on the wine and will be happy to help you) and food to feast on – and you can’t really go wrong. You can certainly splurge on the wine, but there are plenty of more conservatively-priced options, and the food is not as expensive as one would expect considering the surroundings – all in all, I think it was a great-value meal considering it is probably one of my favourite outings yet.
I tried: a variety of starters including fried zucchini flowers, bruschetta and toasted bread with various condiments (lardo butter, I love you); excellent Bistecca alla Fiorentina with perfect sides of beans and potatoes, as the region requires; and a refreshing homemade vanilla ice cream with almond crumble.
Porgi l’altra Pancia
This delicatessen / wine bar / restaurant serves up some delicious local fare in its rustic interior or exterior right in the heart of the city, at reasonable prices.
I tried: tasty beef tartare with burrata; luscious pici cacio e pepe with truffle shavings; and lovely cantucci e vin santo.
Panineria al Vicolino
For a quick lunch or large snack in Volterra, you have to get yourself a freshly-made sandwich from this hole in the wall. High-quality and generously-used ingredients make their sandwiches very reasonably priced.
I tried: the day’s special – I believe it was prosciutto crudo, provolone and salsa di tartufo (YUM!).
Considered one of the best ice cream makers in the world (“world’s best gelato” claims fine print aside), you’ll notice the place by the line of people queuing for a scoop. A worthy addition to your trip culinary line-up on a hot day.
I tried: the speciality – Crema di Santa Fina; a bourbon vanilla pod base with saffron and pine nuts. Simple. Stunning.
A good option for well-priced Tuscan food and wine in a quieter road of the city or in the rustic interior, specialising in wild boar and Florentine steak.
I tried: beef carpaccio and a lovely cracker bread with prosciutto crudo and burrata; the satisfying wild boar pappardelle; and excellent pici carbonara with truffle.
Serving up typical Tuscan cuisine that’s full of flavour in romantic, rustic rooms or just a few tables in the narrow road. Food, space and service is full of character.
I tried: sinful pici with pecorino (for serious cheese lovers only); great tagliata di bisteccha with truffle shavings; finished off with delicious cantucci e vinsanto.
This bakery / gourmet food store offers excellent products, both freshly baked and others you can take back home with you. If you want a quick lunch on the go, grab one of their crunchy and light pizza al taglio or a simple panino made fresh from the counter.
I tried: two pizza flavours; a simple one with cheese and tomatoes and another with blue cheese and honey, both fantastic; a simple bufala and prosciutto crudo panino; and a delicious schiaccata dolce di noci (which looks and tastes somewhere in between a walnut cake and pie).
La Taverna di San Giuseppe
This very charming brick & stone taverna in the heart of Siena, with an ancient Etruscan cellar, serves traditional Tuscan dishes. Soulful atmosphere, friendly service and hearty food.
I tried: A mixture of starters to share – parmigiana, cold cuts, beef tartare and mixed bruschette; followed by tagliatelle with wild boar ragu and a wild boar lasagne bianca with truffle.
This sandwich shop right on the side of Piazza del Campo serves you a delicious lunch to go at a great price. You can choose between a panino or focaccia, apart from a wide range of fillings.
I tried: Focaccia with salame toscano, pistachio pesto, pecorino and sundried tomatoes.
Chianti & Pizza di Mister Pizza
This small eatery with a lively vibe is a good spot for a few slices of thin pizza. Perhaps wait for a fresh one to come out the oven before you grab a piece.
I tried: salami, potato & rosemary, anchovy, and onion.
SimBIOsi Organic Cafè
This incredibly charming little coffee shop is a great stop for your morning cuppa. Inside, you can sit surrounded by the building’s original medieval walls and vintage furniture as you down or sip (depending on what your poison is) their speciality coffee. They also serve food, which I did not try.
I tried: a great capuccino.
Close to the Basilica di Santa Maria Novella sits this fantastic osteria, with antique furnishings and excellent service. A complimentary welcome glass of prosecco and small bite sets the tone for a pleasurable experience to follow with one (or more) of their traditional offerings.
I tried: perhaps the most satisfying plate of pasta I ever had – their Tagliatelle Flambé Al Tartufo Fresco in Crosta Di Grana Padano. Probably the most I’ve spent on a primo portion of pasta, but oh so worth it. A grana padano wheel is wheeled up to your table, splashed with brandy, lit on fire to melt some of that gorgeous cheese off, before their homemade fresh tagliatelle are tossed in and coated in all that cheesy goodness and a splash of truffle oil. Once plated, a generous shaving of fresh truffles finishes off the plate. Decadent as hell; the stuff of dreams. I smiled with every mouthful.
I can’t speak about the food at this place (it’s a tourist hotspot, so my hopes are not too high), but I thought I would list this as a great spot for a drink with a panoramic view of Firenze on a nice day. Try snag a table at the edge for an unobstructed view.
I tried: A good Aperol spritz.
Trattoria Ponte Vecchio
Right by the Ponte Vecchio, this restaurant serves excellent food at a good price, with super friendly and hospitable service. Both pasta and meat is great here, particularly their stuffed pasta.
I tried: As suggested by the staff, a mixed plate of pasta; what I remember from it are these great little pear and cheese parcels with truffle. Friends had bisteccha and praised it. Old, poor quality photo alert.
You would be able to tell that this place is popular by the number of people you will see queueing up outside, so much so that they have three shops right next to each other so people can be filtered into three. This take-away sandwich shop offers fantastic focaccia stuffed with your choice of their high-quality ingredients. The queues might be long, but they move fairly quickly.
I tried: La Paradiso. Mortadella, cream of pistachio and stracciatella cheese with chopped pistachios.
Ristorante Buca Mario
This institution of Florence is housed in a sixteenth-century buca (a typical cellar beneath imposing historic palazzos often owned by aristocratic families). A popular place to feast on bisteccha alla Fiorentina (not at the cheapest prices), this place has been serving food for well over a hundred years and has heeps of character.
I tried: some bruschetta which I can’t remember and the bisteccha, of course, which I do. A monster of a portion. Meat sweats completely worth it. Old, poor quality photo alert no. 2.
A super-popular pizza al taglio joint with plenty of topping options on their airy but slightly crunchy base, serving also some great suppli. You might need to queue before you grab your takeout, but you can also try to grab one of the few high tables on the outside.
I tried: A whole lotta different pizzas, and a perfect suppla.
Da Enzo al 29
This Trastevere institution is as quintessential a Roman trattoria as you get, with just a couple of tables jammed into its grungy interior and a few others outside the door. It serves only the Roman classics and you had better get a reservation (this is only available for an early sitting), because it’s often that people will line the road waiting their turn or even eating a plate of carbonara standing up. The food is (naturally) simple but – when I visited a few years back at least – all perfectly executed.
I tried: carciofi (artichokes – both alla giudia and alla romana); burrata; a plate of their legendary carbonara; and fined off with their equally legendary tiramisu’.
The large, higher-end taverna is popular amongst us normal folk and celebrities alike; another Trastevere institution. It is one of my favourite dinner spots in the city.
I tried: exquisite focaccia with burrata, anchovies and zucchini flowers; fantastic suppli’; and their famed, rich carbonara.
Gelateria la Romana
Just a short walk from Piazza Navona (and very close to Emma and Osteria da Fortunata (Rinascimente outlet) – both mentioned below) is a gelateria serving some of the best ice cream I’ve had.
I tried: two flavours – mascarpone coffee with dark chocolate chips and excellent pesto di pistachio.
Bono Bottega Nostrana
This panini joint has two outlets in Rome, serving up a large variety of filling options which will please everyone. Delicious bread and good quality ingredients, at a good price, make this ideal for a simple lunch.
I tried: the ‘Claudio’ in their white bread – great porchetta with smoked scamorza, sundried tomato, and truffle sauce.
Osteria da Fortunata
This is a super popular spot for fresh pasta, particularly their sciavatelli, which you can see being hand-rolled live. This very casual setting is tightly packed with tables (not much personal space at most Roman eatery, but particularly here), and you will likely need to queue if you visit during normal dining hours (they have now stopped taking reservations). I visited the Rinascimento restaurant, but they have other locations in Rome (as well as Milan and Bologna). Despite this being a chain, it serves up some good quality pasta, and a very good portion at that.
I tried: Fantastic, freshly fried suppli’ and satisfying sciavatelli amatriciana.
This is a famous takeout Tiramisu’ spot near Piazza Navona, so named because it offers two sizes of the dessert (the large is not very large, so I would suggest that), in a number of flavours.
I tried: the pistachio tiramisu’, which just had a nice hint of pistachio cream.
Ristorante Salumeria Roscioli
This legendary deli/restaurant in Rome, from the same family which also has a bakery, pasticceria and rimessa in the city, has a modern interior in a rustic building and very friendly service when we visited. A highly enjoyable meal. Make reservations well in advance.
I tried: A varied basket of excellent bread; very good fiori di zuccha and caponata; the best mortadella I’ve ever tasted; stunning burrata with sweet sundried cherry tomatoes; and their lusciously rich ravioli stuffed with oxtail and pecorino in a foie gras and figs sauce (not cheap or large, but lovely).
This popular, large restaurant serves up very good Roman pizzas. The place is a little lacking in character, and the pizzas aren’t the cheapest around, but the quality is good.
I had: a bufala with anchovies.
A pizza I enjoyed even more, and at a lower price, but in a very rustic (most will say ugly) setting was at La Carrete. This is a popular stop for some cheap, well-executed Roman pizzas near the Forum Romano. The tiramisu’ was good too!
I had: a margherita with salsiccia.
Ristorante Al 34
This loud, chaotic, colourful and artsy eatery near the Spanish Steps is as Italian as it gets. I love this place! Reservations are highly suggested.
I tried: a fantastic giant burrata served with anchovies on the side; the popular artichoke cooked four ways (a great way to sample the different cooking styles); and a superb plate of tonnarelli with crab.
If you want a break from a cornetto in the morning, check out this cute and cozy stop serving breakfast & brunch including pancakes, bagels and a variety of international staples. Prices aren’t low.
I tried: their generous pancakes with scrambled eggs, crispy bacon and maple syrup.
Long known for serving some of the best gelato in Rome, Giolitti is often packed with people trying to get a scoop or two of their ice-cream topped with whipped cream (or not, if you prefer).
I tried: pistachio and nocciola.
An old bakery tucked away in a quiet road which makes type upon type of traditional biscuits, the same way they’ve been done for many years. You might smell it before you see it.
I tried: a mix of whatever they suggested, of course! I can’t remember what the lovely little morsels were exactly, but I remember one particularly delicious almond beauty.
For a special experience at Castel Gandolfo, book a table on the terrace at Pagnanelli. This institution of the town is a sprawling upscale eatery on two levels, with a super impressive cellar / museum of antique wine-related items housing 35,000 wine bottles which they will gladly give you a tour of. The view is fantastic, and the food is great too.
I tried: oysters and a charcuterie platter which were just fine; delicious and imaginative fried asparagus balls with bacon, mozzarella and yummy sauce (exactly what, I can’t remember); a lovely stuffed-anchovy special; fantastic tagliata with lardo and rosemary; and perfect deconstructed strawberry millefoglie and chocolate fondant for dessert.
Delicatessen / winebar / restaurant serving up some delicious food. Lively spot on the Cagliari sidewalks to enjoy some local wine and a platter of excellent cold cuts and cheeses, but it would be a shame to miss out on sampling some of their plates of the day from their blackboard.
I tried: their mixed ham and cheese platter; a variety of imaginative crudi (great stuff – I could not pick my favourite); a solid steak dish; and a simple but satisfying deconstructed plumb crumble.
A great spot to enjoy the humble pizza (although, in this case, jazzed up with premium ingredients) in a fancy setting; a busy, lively and perhaps just a little too pretentious (but that’s what makes it unique) restaurant in a hotel complex. Nothing traditional about this spot, but their neapolitan pizza is all kinds of satisfying.
I tried: the Marinara – a gorgeous sweet tomato sauce, garlic pesto, black olive soil, capers and anchovies. It was a struggle to order a pizza without cheese, but this was worth it.
Ristorante Antica Cagliari
A popular restaurant serving Sardinian fare in the old town, with fair prices.
I tried: just fine mixed carpaccio and calamari fritti; but very good Culurgiones – the traditional Sardinian pasta stuffed with potato, pecorino and mint and served in a simple tomato sauce and Seadas – the also traditional sweet cheese and honey pastries.
A fish restaurant serving typical Sardinian cuisine; ideal for a quick lunch.
I tried: the locally popular linguine with clams and bottarga, which was lovely.
A modern, hip eatery which is a good spot for a non-traditional breakfast.
I tried: Ricotta pancakes with fruit and pistachio cream.
A popular spot to sample the typical local fare, in a very rustic setting with plenty of character (and dust-covered bottles and strange objects). As traditional (and no frills) as it gets.
I tried: gorgeous raw prawns; the region’s typical cuscusu with fish; and their enormous (slightly too savoury) cannoli and delectable cassatelle.
Ristorante Antichi Sapori
Another popular traditional eatery in a very simple, but warm, setting.
I tried: the mixed fish crudo and delicious fresh pasta with prawn and bottarga.
A gorgeously done-up rustic wine bar and bistro, offering a relaxing and cosy glass of wine or cocktail and selection of platters or larger dishes at a very reasonable price.
I tried: An interesting mix of lovely bruschetta and delicious platter of fresh local hams and cheeses.
Taverna dei Pazzi
A more touristy spot in the center of the old town, but which still served up some lovely pasta.
I tried: a well-executed plate of pasta pesto trapanese.
Gli Archi Di San Carlo
Culinary heaven. Must visit. Traditional but luxuriously converted setting, serving gorgeous Sicilian and Italian fare.
I tried: their plentiful antipasti mix including their stunning caponata; luxurious bruschetta with sea urchin and bottarga; heavenly baked caciocavallo cheese with aceto balsamico, and satisfying plates of pasta alla gricia and norma.
Pasticceria Maria Grammatico
A legendary traditional bakery serving traditional Sicilian sweets.
I tried: their popular genovese biscuits – crunchy shortcrust pastry sandwiching a luscious lemon pastry cream.
Rustic – but converted into a very bright and welcoming – space (with a lovely outside dining area too) right off the Duomo, serving very good Sicilian food with plentiful portions.
I tried: lovely fresh tuna carpaccio; some more satisfying caponata and cheesy focaccia; and a different but satisfying pasta with a tomato sauce, anchovy, raisins and breadcrumbs.
A popular ice cream spot serving good quality gelato.
I tried: the brioche heaped with pistachio ice cream.
Enzo Pasticceria –
A humble pastry shop serving high-quality and cheap sweets.
I tried: fantastic sfogliatella and cornetto with excellent pistachio cream.
A modern takeout (with a few stools to sit) serving up delectable arancini, bread and other baked items.
I tried: a freshly fried pistachio and speck arancina and a fluffy pizza al taglio with anchovies – both absolute perfection.