The Best Italian Restaurants In Seattle guide image

photo credit: Nate Watters

SEAGuide

The Best Italian Restaurants In Seattle

From bars perfect for aperitivo hour to special occasion pasta destinations, these are our 14 favorite places for Italian food in Seattle.

Seattle is not as much a destination for Italian food as it is for cuisines like seafood, Vietnamese, and Filipino. Even to this day, we can't quite find a classic chicken parm that hits right. But there are certainly plenty of excellent options to go out of your way for—from a Capitol Hill spot serving exceptional Piedmontese tajarin to a Beacon Hill standby cranking out crunchy fried suppli al telefono. Whether you're on a quest for a bowl of cacio e pepe chased by a spritz at the bar or want to book a special occasion meal weeks in advance, there's a restaurant full of semolina and tomato-based products for you. These are our favorite Italian restaurants in town.

Looking for pizza specifically? We have a guide for that, too.

THE SPOTS


Spinasse imageoverride image
9.4

Spinasse

$$$$

1531 14th Avenue, Seattle
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This Piedmontese pasta specialist is not just the best Italian restaurant in Seattle. It’s the best restaurant, full stop. Bold? Sure, but so is the mountain of silky sage butter tajarin or braised rabbit agnolotti you eat by candlelight after an early December sunset, or fried zucchini blossoms snacked between gulps of tangerine-tinted paper plane cocktails come summertime. Yes, your wallet will be three figures emptier at the end of it all, but in exchange, you’ll have a life-affirming meal in a dining room filled with lace curtains, fine art, and noodle sheets draped over the open kitchen.


For a special occasion dinner, Cafe Juanita in Kirkland is the ultimate venue. With a dark, sleek space that can only belong on the Eastside where the Microsoft executives play, it's a restaurant where you can dress up and propose to the love of your life over A5 Miyazaki wagyu and delicate homemade tagliatelle with chanterelles. Their $185 tasting menus have both vegetarian and vegan options, which also makes Cafe Juanita incredibly versatile for a cuisine that tends to prioritize pork and butter.


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Much like I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter! and Weird Al Yankovic, The Pink Door has been around since the early eighties. And yet, every time we sneak through Post Alley, step inside, and take in the nightly energy of this place, it feels like a grand opening celebration all over again. There’s the packed dining room, a candlelit glow, aerial performers dangling from the ceiling, and Italian food that’s been consistently stellar for over 30 years. Whether you’re with a big group toasting with glasses of prosecco and snacking on fontina-stuffed arancini, or having a solo meal at the bar headlined by a haystack of cream-spiked pappardelle bolognese, you’re in for a meal that’s just as thrilling on the first visit as it is the twentieth. Whatever you do, an order of fettunta and the spinach lasagna layered with pesto, velvety besciamella, and marinara must make their way to your table and mouth.


A huge kudos to whoever invented fire during the stone age. Because without it, we wouldn’t have the blazing flame inside Bar Del Corso’s domed pizza oven creating phenomenal leopard spots on their crispy crust, melting globs of buffalo mozzarella, and sizzling craggy bits of homemade fennel sausage. The pies alone would solidify this Beacon Hill staple as one of the most iconic Seattle happy places—up there with UW during cherry blossom season and Reuben’s when there’s no line for the bathroom. But the small plates here seal the deal. From suppli al telefono stuffed with cheese that pulls like taffy to the best grilled octopus in town, it’s all worthy of sidling up to the bar or grabbing a backyard picnic table alongside something containing Aperol and/or a scoop of gelato.


If you’ve ever wondered what would happen if sourdough pies were fired up in a Neapolitan pizza oven, first off, let’s be friends. Second, that’s exactly what Lupo in Fremont is doing. The inferno inside the dome creates those leopard spots we know and love, but with a chewier texture and tang produced by the power of fermentation. If you’re a purist, it’s easy to enjoy their margherita topped with globs of Samish Bay mozzarella, or the cacio e pepe pie with plenty of cracked black pepper and the option to add pancetta. (Please exercise this option.) And even though Lupo only serves one type of pasta—a cream-splashed, tomato-sauced rigatoni with sausage—it's one of the greatest bowls of pasta in Seattle. Their homemade ice cream in flavors like salty chocolate chip or custardy vanilla is the best in town, and the perfect end to a meal here.

For the best Italian food on Bainbridge Island, drive 10 minutes north of Winslow to a little neighborhood called Rolling Bay. Via Rosa 11 is where to go to feel taken care of, and by that we mean it’s a comforting place to be fed pasta and pizza by people who pronounce “marinara” with D’s instead of R’s. Order at the counter, and then eat this excellent food inside or outside at a picnic table. While you can mix and match any pasta shape with any sauce, the best combination is fusilli with vodka sauce, and if they have the special burrata pizza with speck, you’ll want that too.


Artusi is the smaller sister spot to Spinasse just next door, and they’ve mastered the art of the aperitivo hour. Whereas Spinasse is perfect for a special occasion dinner, Artusi works well for endless snacking alongside something spiked with cocchi americano. Among the hits here is fried bread with burrata, meatballs, fennel pollen-dusted hazelnuts, and of course, the pastas. You can expect things like cavatelli with carrot and bacon or pappardelle with tomato butter to be on par with what you'll find at Spinasse, only you'll get it here in a more casual setting. The best part? If you come in on a Sunday or Monday, you get two pastas and an entire bottle of wine for $45.


Bizzarro Italian Cafe is an Italian joint with carnival props hanging from the ceiling and more chandeliers than a Home Depot showroom. Their homemade pastas, like lasagna, baked ziti, and snap pea carbonara, work perfectly within this setting. It’s perfect for weeknight dinners with a big group of friends who won’t mind the bicycle dangling above them or the creepy radio static that plays in the bathroom. Get a glass of red and some pappardelle with mushrooms and sherry cream (a.k.a. The Forest Floor Frenzy) and you have yourself a very pleasant evening.

Ambience is (almost) everything with this Italian restaurant on Ballard Ave. It’s located inside the rickety shell of a historic home, preserved since the 1800s. Complete with a vine-covered, tree-shaded wraparound porch and a dimly-lit, shiplap-enveloped swagger, it’s perfect for a romantic outing over smoky brown liquor cocktails and big bowls of pasta. Speaking of, the homemade pastas are all worthy of your time and stomach real estate, from the spaghetti bolognese to a guanciale-studded carbonara that’s one of the best we’ve ever had. The farinata is another highlight—it’s a grilled chickpea flatbread served with cold tomato confit, olive oil, and spreadable cheese that tastes like burrata and sunshine.


Machiavelli is a wonderfully small, cozy space with friendly servers roaming around carrying metal tins of grated parmesan and wooden pepper grinders, ready to sprinkle and grind. You might have a slight wait for a table, but it's usually manageable and works really well for an impromptu pasta night. We’d be happy any day with big plates of their garlicky linguine carbonara or spinach ravioli in tomato cream sauce. Add a glass of wine and we’re even happier.


Pasta Casalinga is a casual Wednesday-Sunday spot in Pike Place Market serving bowls of handmade pasta for under $20. Their menu rotates based on which fresh ingredients they have from the “ocean,” “garden,” and “farm,” and features things like rigatoni with lamb and juniper berry ragu, or spaghettoni with kale pesto. Everything comes out piping hot with a sprinkling of parmesan (as it should), and the ricotta chocolate crostata is incredible for dessert.


There are times when it’s necessary to hide behind a steaming bowl of pasta and a glass of wine, like when discovering that your ex is doing just fine. Vendemmia is our preferred place for situations like that. It’s a quiet neighborhood getaway where you won’t run into your boss or your ex (who, by the way, is doing just fine). They serve a very powerful plate of spicy tomato-basil spaghetti, and their rotating lineup will feature things like pistachio pesto, tonnarelli with clams, and at least one item involving pork. If it turns out that your ex is not doing just fine and wants to get back together, Vendemmia also makes for a great date night.


G.H. Pasta Co. is a spot where you can get serious fresh pasta for around $15. At this casual South Lake Union lunch restaurant, your delicious plate of carbs will contain things like truffled cacio e pepe, pomodoro rigatoni with burrata, or gemelli chicken bianco ragu with cream and fennel. And if for some reason you're in here and don't want pasta, the $10 Nashville-style hot chicken sandwich is your order.

Maybe you're not in the mood for linen-draped tables, comically large pepper grinders, and a lot of pressure riding on your spaghetti twirling technique. In that case, Esters Enoteca is a casual tapas spot that’s incredibly useful if you just want some wine, pasta, and Italian snacks without any drama. It's also incredibly useful if you don't consume wheat, as most of their entire menu can be accommodated for gluten-free folks. Grab a bowl of amatriciana or carbonara with house-smoked lardons alongside crunchy arancini and battered cauliflower dusted with fennel pollen.

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