Rest of the Best 2014: Houston's Top 10 Italian Restaurants

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Photo by Troy Fields
A decadent dish from the number four spot on our list.
Our 2013 Best of Houston® winners were announced a while back, but in many cases, picking the best item in any category was no easy task. In order to show off all the culinary greatness Houston has to offer, we're continuing to round up the "rest of the best" in some of our favorite categories. Bon appétit!

"The trouble with Italian food is that five or six days later, you're hungry again."

-Comedian George Miller

Ah, Italian food: One of the most recognizable cuisines in America, encompassing pasta and pizza, arguably two of best culinary inventions ever. Italian food is easy to get horribly wrong, though. Fortunately, for a city so proud of our Tex-Mex and seafood and so wild about barbecue and burgers, Houston has some truly great Italian restaurants.

This is thanks in large part to the port of Galveston, which saw wave after wave of Italian immigrants arrive on its shores and settle in the cities surrounding the east Texas coast. Not knowing what else to do and longing for the food of their homeland, they began to open restaurants. We wrote about some of these pioneering restaurateurs in our First Families of Houston Food feature back in February, detailing their histories and how far they've come.

Their awesome culinary legacy is alive and well in Houston at these top ten Italian eateries.

Honorable mention: Coltivare, which has some truly stellar pasta dishes and pizzas, and Vinoteca Poscol, a wine bar with a great menu of small, carefully crafted plates.

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Photo by Troy Fields
Arturo Boada makes sure that all the food that comes out of his kitchen is how he wants it.
10. Arturo Boada Cuisine
When Arturo Boada parted ways with his partner at Arturo's Uptown Italiano back in 2011, the ensuing disagreement over recipe and name rights threatened to overshadow Boada's new restaurant as well. But he proved he was back and better than ever when he opened Arturo Boada Cuisine shortly after leaving his original namesake restaurant. The menu contains a medley of Spanish-inspired tapas items and classic Italian dishes, the best of which are the wood-fired, thin-crust pizzas like the "Why Not" Margherita, a near-perfect example of a traditional Italian pie. The Spanish tapas are also pretty great, if you're in the mood for a continental dining experience.

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Photo courtesy Antica Osteria
For Italian food with maximum atmosphere, check out Antica Osteria.
9. Antica Osteria
Antica Osteria gets extra points for atmosphere. The cozy, romantic spot is a little old-fashioned (as is the clientele), but there are some excellent pasta dishes on the menu, which has been the same for a long time now. But why change when the ravioli al sugo de porcini (ravioli in mushroom sauce) or the spaghetti alla puttanesca (spaghetti in a tomato sauce with olives and capers) are consummate hits? The food won't blow anyone's mind, but it will be solid, dependable and just like mama used to make.

This story continues on the next page.


Location Info

Arturo Boada Cuisine

6510 Del Monte Dr., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Antica Osteria

2311 Bissonnet, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Da Marco

1520 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Osteria Mazzantini

2200 Post Oak Blvd., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Paulie's

1834 Westheimer, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Tony's Restaurant

3755 Richmond Ave., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Coppa Ristorante Italiano - CLOSED

5555 Washington, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Dolce Vita Pizzeria & Enoteca

500 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Giacomo's Cibo e Vino

3215 Westheimer, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Ciao Bello

5161 San Felipe St., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant


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41 comments
mikerastiello
mikerastiello

As an east coaster living in Houston I was continually disappointed by the Italian food in Houston. The city has such a huge variety of foods but trying to find a decent Italian place proved impossible for years.

That is until I found Josephine's on Caroline St. That was hands down the best Italian food in Houston. Sadly it closed a few years ago.

Billy
Billy

Any list of this category which puts Paulie's over Da Marco is doomed from the beginning.  There are not 7 better Italian restaurants than Da Marco in Houston.  Who is this blogger? How long has she dined in Houston?  I want to know her credentials.  I'm also sick of these lists.  Write something substantive for once. 

steve1326
steve1326

Looking at the comments, clearly too many people raised at the OG for their baseline of Italian food. My neighborhood joint, Patrenella's is better than your list.

steve1326
steve1326

Paulies? Really? I made the mistake of going there a few days after I returned from none days in Rome. Huge mistake because I thought the two pasta dishes we had were tasteless. Have you had good or decent Italian food? Top of the list should be Frenchies in Clear Lake. As good and authentic as it gets in Houston, and it's far enough out of the loop to keep the Yelpers and hipsters away.

steve1326
steve1326

Paulie's? Really? You lost any credibility when I got to that one. I made the mistake of eating there the weekend after I returned from nine days in Rome. Clearly you've not had good or even decent Itialian food? Top of the list should be Frenchies in Clear Lake, but it's out of the loop and out of the hipster relm...fortunately because it keeps it available when I do venture down there.

jeeterbug
jeeterbug

Italian food SUCKS in Houston, says the native new Yorker!  it's really the only cuisine that Houston cannot get right & charges WAY too much for.

Ev Fitzgerald
Ev Fitzgerald

I love Arturo's boada The food is to melt for! the egg ravioli!!!! And truffles!!! I even bought his book!

Billy
Billy

Wow, another list...  I wonder what are the best list of things that HP have not yet compiled.  Maybe we can have a list of lists...

Naz Zozo
Naz Zozo

Ok Grotto's not on there... But Ninos? Seriously. They need to rewrite this article.

wjohnson
wjohnson

Cool, Arturo Boada is still in Houston!?! Thought he vanished years ago; he did some good tapas way back when. Gotta try his new joint.

crzycicada
crzycicada

Ah, reading this list makes me miss Aldo's. Guess I'll have to work my way through this list to find another fave.

DoraM
DoraM

Buon Appetito has by far the BEST Italian food!! The owner is the chef and still has the italian accent!! THE BEST!!

Claudio Lerma
Claudio Lerma

Ura Nahar, Michelle Lafuente, Korina Mitchell

hummingford
hummingford

How in the world could Prego not be on this list?? I kept expecting to see it at #1!

fidelio
fidelio

Not sure I like the Italian 'gourmet' vs 'rustic' dichotomy.

Da Marco serves calf's liver and short ribs and lamb's tongue, proving that what is once rustic and of the cucina povera, is often adopted and turned into 'gourmet'.

Italian flies pretty close to the ground (and sea) compared to French stuff that can be elaborate and time consuming.

Aggie_Kelli
Aggie_Kelli

Wow, this list is missing two very very good restaurants, what a shame.  Fratelli's is about as authentic as you get and Luigi's Italian Restaurant in River Oaks, both unbelievable restaurants.

krendelkookie
krendelkookie

where is Tony's? why is Da Marco so low on the list?

Kempner
Kempner

Obviously these are no particular order.....

Bruce_Are
Bruce_Are topcommenter

@steve1326 

Frenchie's is fine but not top 10 in Houston. I don't even think they make their own pasta.

flavio
flavio

@steve1326 (Stevie baby choose a version and stick with it....and did you know the connection between Paulie's and Patrenella's? And that Frechie's is ok, but not as good as you think?)

flavio
flavio

Arab version of Italian; a mix up of ingredients that are less than the sum of their parts.

camiloboada
camiloboada

Thanks Ev! Come by to see us soon... 


Billy
Billy

When do we get to see the best 5 local goat cheese milkshakes in the Heights?


camiloboada
camiloboada

@wjohnson come by to see us.. he still making some killer tapas ! 6510 del monte dr. 77057. See you soon 

flavio
flavio

or Damian's, though both are haunted by the same demonic spirit

JHaggins
JHaggins

@crzycicada

To me, Aldo's represents a dispiriting strain of Italian, whereby middle eastern owners/chefs combine too many luxe ingredients together, thinking that more is better, when that goes counter to great Italian cooking. Italian is about fresh and simple. Not overabundance and overcharging. Sorrento is more current example of this genre.

rasclot123
rasclot123

@hummingford I thought the same thing.  Prego's is the best. Basically to get on this list your restaurant must have "Osteria" in its name.  That picture of the spaghetti with sliced truffles looked weak.   

gaetano
gaetano

@fidelio

I think those categories are completely subjective. Is polenta rustic or gourmet? It's cornmeal mush after all. Is octopus, branzino or crab stuffed ravioli gourmet or rustic? Italy is a peninsula, so there is nothing unusual and high falutin about any of those things to an Italian. Wild boar, sea urchin etc...


What  makes something gourmet or rustic? Who is eating it? The prices? The place and it strangeness to that place?



Anse
Anse

@Aggie_Kelli Is Fratelli's still open? I agree it was a great restaurant but I thought it closed. Are you referring to the place on 290 near 34th Street?

KaitlinS
KaitlinS topcommenter

@Billy There's a place in the Heights that makes goat cheese milkshakes?!?

krogensagen
krogensagen

@rasclot123 @hummingford just goofy, Prego jumped the shark a decade ago; they might make the list in some spot, but Watt's personality is more engaging/alarming than his cooking these days

Aggie_Kelli
Aggie_Kelli

They did close but have since reopened in the Spring Branch area, I actually like the new place better, it's bigger and a bit more updated.  There is a beautiful secluded round room in the middle for larger parties.  The food, as always, was amazing.

Billy
Billy

@KaitlinS @Billy


There are 5.  Local too.  You should rank them, and rank the best one 8.

gossamersixteen
gossamersixteen topcommenter

@Aggie_Kelli Fratelli's is AWFUL.. The family that used to own it are long gone.  The place is run by morons now, stinks of bug spray, and the food is beyond awful. Refer to yelp for further proof of this, I wouldn't recommend that place to someone I thoroughly disliked.

Billy
Billy

@KaitlinS By the way, who wants innovative Italian food?  Just give me prime ingredients, and comforting/stimulating food.  Adding fries to pasta is for hipsters.

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