The round-up: where to find Brisbane’s best Italian restaurants
We’ve already delivered our verdict on Brisbane’s finest pizza parlours and pasta spots, but we couldn’t take ourselves seriously if we didn’t acknowledge Italian cuisine at large. Brisbane is flush with authentic Italian eateries, from the ultra-modern fine-dining sort to the rustic family-oriented restaurants. If you’ve been hankering for some hearty fare, it’s near impossible to look past Italian. In no particular order, here are some of our picks for Brisbane’s best Italian restaurants. Spettacolare!
OTTO Ristorante, Brisbane City: Renowned as one of the best restaurants in Brisbane, OTTO Ristorante at 480 Queen Street has earned its rep with its fresh, seasonal and produce-driven cuisine inspired by the southern regions of Italy. Head Chef Will Cowper lets the ingredients speak for themselves, with stunning dishes such as Blue Swimmer crab ravioli, wood-fired local bay squid with squid ink and herb salsa, and butterflied spatchcock, pancetta and potato showcasing the goods on offer.
1889 Enoteca, Woolloongabba: This intimate award-winning restaurant specialises in Roman fare and handmade pasta, not to mention an incredible wine selection to boot. The Roman-style eats include fried artichoke with gremolata and lemon mascarpone, rigatoni ‘all’amatriciana’ with tomato sugo, guanciale and Pecorino Romano, and the saltimbocca alla Romana – that is veal with prosciutto, sage, broccolini and lemon.
Beccofino, Teneriffe: Teneriffe mainstay Beccofino rarely fails to deliver, especially when it comes to unctuous pasta sauces, rich meat dishes, wood-fired pizzas and delicious dolci. Regulars rave about dishes such as the flat-ribbon pasta with a duck and tomato ragu, crispy skin boneless chicken Maryland with roasted kipfler potatoes, cime di rapa and an anchovy lemon dressing, and vanilla-bean pannacotta with poached rhubarb, pears and spiced crumbled biscotti.
Popolo Italian Bar & Kitchen, South Bank: This riverside restaurant is known for taking rustic Italian favourites and elevating them, creating a must-try menu of eats for any self-respecting fan of everything Italian. We suggest starting with handmade burrata with truffled honey, dried blueberries and candied walnuts, and then follow it up with the likes of braised wagyu ragu with strozzapreti and Grana Padano, slow-roasted Gippsland porchetta, with hazelnut, onion and bread stuffing, and orange and almond cake with vanilla mascarpone.
Bucci, Fortitude Valley: This James Street institution takes a modern approach to Italian dining, dishing up interpretations of classic favourites with a distinct Australian twist. Enjoy small plates such as handmade saffron risotto balls filled with rabbit ragu and gooey mozzarella and crumbed giant green olives filled with fennel salami, as well as mains like the open lasagne with braised Rangers Valley beef shin and truffle mascarpone, and crispy skinned Cone Bay barramundi served with a Tuscan bread salad.
Tartufo, Fortitude Valley: A quintessential Italian dining experience is more than just food – attentive service and a lively atmosphere is just as important. At Tartufo, you get an authentic dose of all three aspects. Head chef Tony Peruoco specialises in authentic traditional Naples-inspired food (and flavours from surrounding areas of Tuscany, Umbria and Abruzzo), working with local suppliers to find the best ingredients for Tartofu’s seasonal menu.
Ristorante La Famiglia, Woolloongabba: Chef and Owner of La Famiglia Cosimo de Nichilo has brought the flavours of his upbringing to the fore at Trafalgar Lane’s family-oriented Italian restaurant. Here, freshness and simplicity is key – with dishes such as risotto balls cooked in Napoli sugo, traditional lasagne, and a range of traditional Pugliese focaccia breads showcasing the warmth and care implemented across the menu.
Il Posto, Paddington: This Latrobe Terrace eatery is self-styled as ‘the place’ to go for authentic Italian fare. We’re inclined to believe them – especially after looking over the lengthy menu of antipasti, pasta, pizzas and mains! We suggest sampling the slow-braised veal shank with root vegetables, red wine and soft polenta, the fresh-egg pappardelle with twice-cooked duck and porcini mushroom ragu, and the Argentinian red prawn pizza, with mozzarella, marinated zucchini and toasted bread crumbs.
COPPA Spuntino, Brisbane City: For the unfamiliar, spuntino is Italian for ‘snack’, and you’ll be snacking plenty at Brisbane City’s COPPA Spuntino. Here diners will be able to sup on small plates, wood-fired pizzettas, pastas and mains, paired with sips of Italian wines and Australian-Italian varietals. If sand-crab linguini with prawns, lemon butter and chilli, pork meatballs with pecorino and fennel, and pancetta, potato, rosemary and fior di latte pizzetta gets your mouth watering, then seek out COPPA Spuntino on Creek Street.
Osteria Epoca, Yeronga: Nestled in the heart of Yeronga is a cafe, bar and alimentari that draws upon a storied lineage of home-style Italian cuisine. Inspired by the food of his youth – homemade pasta, the rich flavours of marinated vegetables and school lunches of salumi – Lorenzo Nobilio of Osteria Epoca is bringing these memories to life. Braised beef ribs with polenta and grilled radicchio, ricotta tortiglioni with pancetta, peas, mint and caramelised balsamic, and Piedmontese-style raw beef with truffle and crostini are just some of the dishes carrying authentic tastes of the past.
Julius Pizzeria, South Brisbane: Beccofino’s younger sibling continues the family lineage of incredible Italian fare, paying homage to the time-honoured classics, but not shying away from a sprinkle of modern techniques and tastes. A salivation-inducing range of red and white-base pizzas are joined by mains such as grilled free-range pork chop wrapped in sage and pancetta, seared beef carpaccio with marinated artichokes, and grilled Western Australian octopus with salmoriglio and a salad of chickpeas, olives, cucumber and cherry tomatoes.
Vine, New Farm: A cult-favourite location for fans of warm ambience and Italian fare with a modern lean, Vine has long been regarded as a top spot to dine. We’ve heard amazing things about the Jerusalem artichoke gnocchi with gorgonzola dolce, roast pear and walnuts, veal escallops with lemon, olives, capers, white polenta and grilled asparagus, and the decadent ricotta souffle with basil ice cream, plum, candied walnut and cinnamon crumb. Already love what the crew at Vine dish up? The team recently opened a new intimate restaurant off James Street called Mosconi, which also serves some sumptuous Italian fare.
Persone, Brisbane City: Persone – the Italian-centric eatery from acclaimed hospitality family the Gambaro Group – looks to break the mould of tradition with its menu. Regional favourites are brought to life with modern techniques and high-quality produce, with imaginative dishes including the tuna crudo with negroni syrup, the rabbit ragu with percorino and herb crumb, crumbed veal cutlet with lemon and rocket, and the Bistecca alla Fiorentina, which continues the Gambaro’s famed steak lineage in the form of a one-kilogram T-bone that has been aged for three weeks.
Gusto Da Gianni, Hamilton: Gianni Greghini’s beloved riverside eatery is a top spot to enjoy Italian cuisine with a view. While the Brisbane River gently flows nearby, enjoy bites from the antipasti bar or tuck into something larger – we suggest the maccheroni all’ abbruzzese with veal mince and porcini mushroom ragu, the pan-seared barramundi with lemon zest crushed potatoes, wild broccolini and salsa verde, or tempura-battered zucchini flowers stuffed with goats cheese and topped with an olive tapenade. Gianni hasn’t stopped with his long-running Hamilton restaurant – be sure to also scope out Gianni’s Kitchen and Florentine Italian Grill and Wine Room, both in Newstead.
Colle Rosso Ristorante Italiano, Red Hill: Colle Rosso’s traditional and rustic approach to Italian cuisine is what draws in locals every week for dine in and takeaway. With a menu that mixes local produce with products that can only be obtained from Italian suppliers, Colle Rosso’s menu boasts the best of both worlds. We’re day-dreaming over dishes including Colle Rosso’s homemade potato gnocchi in pumpkin cream with prosciutto and goat cheese, roasted pork sausage served with black beans and cherry tomato sauce, and the classic four-cheese pizza.
Luigi’s Italian, West End: This intimate eatery on Hardgrave Road plates up some of the best authentic Italian dishes outside of Nonna’s kitchen, and is doing so with a distinct flair and panache. The menu draws influence from neo-Italian cooking as well as Chinese and Japanese cuisine, and features the likes of marinara loaded with prawns, clams, anchovies, mussels and capers, beef and pork meatballs with sultanas, pine nuts and pecorino, and mushroom, pancetta, mozzarella and parmesan calzones.
Il Centro, Brisbane City: Eagle Street’s dining strip is flush with top-notch eateries, and thankfully Italian cuisine boasts a strong representation. Since opening in 1992, the restaurant has been balancing elegant al fresco and indoor dining with an ever-evolving menu of modern Italian flavours. Il Centro’s signature sand-crab lasagna with creamed crustacean sauce is a legendary meal – one that is hard to ignore! If you do manage to cast your eye over the rest of the menu, you’ll find some other sure-fire winners in the form of slow-cooked duck leg with porcini risotto, free-range Brisbane Valley quail with soft polenta, and char-grilled grass-fed Dawson Valley eye fillet with sweet-potato puree.
La Lupa, West End: At La Lupa, diners are encouraged to eat and drink like the Romans do! Offering a selection of Italian bites, Roman-style pizzas and an incredible range of natural wines and craft beer, loyal fans come from far and wide to sample the fare. If you salivate over the sound of slow-cooked Italian pork sausage with lentils, speck, black truffle and potato fondue, veal back strap with tuna mayonnaise and caper berries, or mortadella with pistachio cream, burrata cheese and pistachios crumble, then you know where to book dinner this weekend.
Sugo mi, Bulimba: Sugo mi’s owner Tanya Colonna draws upon her own Italian roots and experiences feasting across the country for her restaurant’s menu of perfect pizzas, gelato and other eats. Sure-fire highlights include the oyster and porcini mushroom risotto with truffle butter and pecorino, ravioli filled with confit duck and caramelised onion and lathered in portobello mushroom and truffle cream, and the Vedura pizza, which comes topped with smoked sugo, grilled capsicum, black olive, smoked eggplant and basil.
Massimo Restaurant & Bar, Brisbane City: Relative newcomer to the scene, Massimo Restaurant & Bar is an eatery that specialises in modern flavours with a versatile menu offering a stripped-back approach to what one might expect from an Italian feast. If we had to single out a few stand-out dishes, we’d pick the tramezzino sandwich, baby squid stuffed with Italian sausage and served with squid-ink tagliolini, cured octopus carpaccio, slow-cooked veal-shin osso bucco with charred gnocchi, Roman-style lamb shoulder, the T-bone alla Florentine and the porchetta pork.
New Farm Deli and Cafe, New Farm: New Farm Deli and Cafe is a local institution, full of continental delights from cold meats to handmade gelato and gourmet provisions. Not only can you get your hands on smallgoods and take-home meals, the cafe also dishes up all-day breakfast bites, fresh salads, traditional pasta dishes and more. Pop in and sample the likes of the Sicilian brekkie with Sicilian-style pork-and-fennel sausage sautéed with a ‘caponata’ of roasted capsicum, onion, spinach and potato, beef meatballs simmered in Napoli sauce and tossed through spaghetti, or ricotta ravioli that has been cooked in creamy truffle and mushroom sauce and finished with shaved parmesan and truffled pecorino.
Honourable mentions: Italian is undoubtedly one of Brisbane’s most popular cuisines, and it would be next to impossible to feature all the amazing restaurants here. That being said, we’d like to give special shot-outs to some eateries delivering some terrific Italian or Italian-inspired fare in their own right. Check out Martha Street Kitchen in Camp Hill, Ripiena in Fortitude Valley, New Farm’s Casa Italia Community Centre, Tocco Italiano in Teneriffe and Chelmer, Mr Chester Wine Bar in Fortitude Valley, Polpetta at the Howard Smith Wharves, Salt Meats Cheese, Manny’s Italian in Wellington Point, Casa Cibo in Chermside, Bulimba’s Il Molo, Il Verde on King Street, Pizzeria Violetta in Kenmore, and The Spaghetti House Trattoria in South Bank.
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