The best Italian restaurants in Canberra

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pizza and wine

Where are the best Italian restaurants in Canberra? Photo: File.

Pasta, pizza, risotto, lasagne, focaccia, ossobuco… who doesn’t love Italian food? Rich, comforting, incredibly diverse, and easy to cook at home. But why dine in when you could enjoy a night out at one of Canberra’s many great Italian restaurants?

Canberra is an incredibly multicultural city, and we’re lucky enough to be home to countless Italian restaurants. From the upmarket gourmet establishments to the laid-back bistros and pizzerias, we are quite frankly spoiled for choice.

That’s why we’ve taken the time to put together this list to help you decide where to go for your next Italian night out! We’ll start with a few ideas of what to look for in a great Italian restaurant, and then a helpful list of some of Canberra’s best Italian joints.

What makes a great Italian restaurant?

What separates a good Italian restaurant from a great one? Let’s take a look:

  • Interesting menu. Even though everybody loves pizza and pasta, there’s a lot more to Italian cuisine than that! A great Italian restaurant will celebrate Italian cuisine by providing delicious options, including the ones less heard of.
  • Inviting atmosphere. Crucial to enjoyment at any restaurant is the atmosphere. Feeling comfortable and welcome can really impact a meal. This could come down to décor, furnishings, hygiene and lighting. The food might be excellent, but does the setting reflect that?
  • Friendly staff. Great service can really make or break your experience at any restaurant. Look out for places that are employing friendly and knowledgeable wait staff who are dedicated to hosting a wonderful evening.
  • Quality ingredients. Italian cooking depends on ingredients being of the highest quality, especially since so many recipes only use a handful of things. The best Italian restaurants will use high-quality, locally sourced ingredients in their cooking to ensure they are producing the best food they can.

The best Italian restaurants in Canberra

RiotACT’s editorial team has combed through 20 years of on-site comments to compile a list of the most recommended businesses according to you.

To be listed in our Best of Canberra series, each business needs to have consistently received positive feedback on RiotACT and Facebook as well as maintaining a minimum average of 4/5 stars on Google.

Italian & Sons

Voted Canberra’s best restaurant in the Canberra Times Good Food Guide in 2019 and 2018, and winner of the 2020 A.C.T. Wine List of the Year award by Gourmet Traveller, Italian & Sons has firmly cemented its place as one of the best Italian restaurants in town.  With its stylish interior and consistently delicious menu of modern Italian dishes, Italian & Sons is an excellent choice for your next night out.

As Courtney Raad writes in their Google review, “Absolutely delicious food. We are very grateful to the lovely staff, who designed a special menu to accommodate our dietary requests. We loved it and will definitely be back!”

Molto Italian

Headed up by Carlo Tosolini and his team, Molto Italian boasts attractive interiors, delicious food and amazing service, and celebrates fresh produce and Italian food and culture. Designed to look like a modern seaside trattoria with Lake Burley Griffin as its backdrop, featuring a woodfire pizza oven and open kitchen, traditionally prepared dishes and plenty of options to share in a large group, Molto Italian is an authentic experience best enjoyed with family and friends.

Molto Italian

As Murray Willmott writes in their Facebook review, “Great date night. Friendly staff, great food and a very nice wine list. What’s not to like?”

Agostinis Italian Restaurant

Agostinis is an Italian family restaurant, perfect for large groups and families to get together and enjoy some delicious, authentic regional Italian cuisine made with love. With fresh pasta made daily, pizzas served fresh out of their state-of-the-art pizza oven and house-made gelato, and a kid-friendly menu, Agostinis is an excellent choice for Italian lunch or dinner.

As Facebook user Melissa Berluti writes, “Everything was beyond beautiful today! The pizza, the wine, the pasta, the gelato and the service. I could not fault anything! Thanks for the wonderful experience.”

Mama's Trattoria

Located in the Melbourne Building, Mama’s Trattoria is all about simplicity, homey vibes and delicious food. Whether you want to sit alfresco or in the rustic interior, you can rest assured you’re in for a night of hearty Italian meals that warm the belly and the soul, from lasagne to Pollo al Bosco and everything in between – just like Mama made it.

See what Isabelle Bauer had to say in their Google review of Mama’s, “Authentic and flavoursome food (I grew up in Italy). (…) It has a chilled-out and grounded atmosphere. I felt welcome and cozy. What a home feeling, thank you mama Franca and her amazing staff.”

Briscola Italian

This family-owned restaurant opened in 2010, and since then has dedicated itself to transporting all of its guests to Italy through a truly authentic dining experience, with their delicious wine and drink menu and wholesome, traditional meals. Open for dinner every night and even take away, you should waste no time in checking out this charming little bistro.

Paul Kidd wrote the following review for Briscola on Facebook, “Love this place. Fantastic food, so tasty. The owner is awesome and his staff are super friendly. I cannot recommend this restaurant enough – it is fantastic!”

The Italian Place

If you’re looking for a classic, pared-back, comforting atmosphere, delicious Italian food, and passionate and friendly service, look no further than The Italian Place. Run by hospitality veteran Tony Lo Terzo and head chef Francesco Petrillo, this cosy and inviting bistro specialises in rustic classic Italian dishes from regions all over Italy, made with handmade pasta and locally sourced ingredients.

As Google reviewer and ‘Local Guide’ Mazine Ambler writes, “Absolutely love The Italian Place. Fabulous location. Spectacular food and wonderful service. I can’t recommend this place enough.”

If you’re looking for more recommendations of great restaurants in Canberra, check out our articles on the best the best French restaurants, Chinese restaurants and Indian restaurants for some helpful guides. For a little more sparkle take a look at our article on the best fine dining options in the region.

For more relaxed dining options in Canberra, you might like our article on the best pubs, the best gastropubs, and the best steakhouses Canberra has to offer. And, should you fancy a tipple perhaps the best cocktail bars or the best wine bars may also be of interest.

Your experience with Italian restaurants in Canberra

Thanks to our commenters who have provided insightful feedback, if you believe we have got it wrong, please let us know.

Have you visited any of the Italian restaurants listed above, or have we missed your favourite? If so, please share your thoughts in the comments below!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is traditional Italian food?

Traditionally, Italian food uses meats, tomatoes, beans and a wide variety of pasta shapes. Specific dishes vary between regions.

Are there different types of Italian cuisine?

Absolutely - each region of Italy has its own cuisine, for example Tuscan and Sicilian. The biggest difference is what vegetables are used and how, due to climate differences in each region, but most Italian restaurants today feature dishes from all over Italy.

Is Italian food expensive?

Not always, it really just depends on the restaurant. That being said, a lot of Italian food relies on pretty basic ingredients that are always available, so overall it shouldn't be very expensive.

What are some traditional Italian drinks?

There are many Italian cocktails that you'll be able to find in any good Italian restaurant. If you're wanting to really elevate your Italian night out, try ordering an aperitivo at the beginning of your meal, or finishing it off with a Negroni or an Americano.

Is Italian food easy to cook at home?

Absolutely. Italian food is, by design, easy and simple, both to prepare and to source. Many Italian dishes use the same basic ingredients: pasta, tomato, olive oil, and mea. There's no need to be daunted!

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Spykler said :

gino said :

dear watson. the service at la capanna is not crap as you say. you well know that the place is tiny and when booking with us, we always let the customer know that we have two sittings. 630 or 800. it is necessary to do this in order to increase sales and avoid dissappointing regulars. unfortunately sometimes the customer does stay longer than agreed and we try to relocate the next reservation. on occasion we do need to remind the client that the table is rebooked (as agreed earlier) and we send out the bill. this is common practice in the industry when you are small and busy. thank you to all the other people that complimented my pizza shop.. i really adore my regulars and the tourists to canberra who come in. thanks.

Gino- your pizzas rock- The crew I work with have been scoring their pizza hit at La Capanna since dinosaurs ruled the earth and you have never dropped the ball- well done and keep on setting the standard.

Where is this place? I’m quite partial to some damn good pizza 😀 If they do takeaway and operate in or around any of my usual haunts then I’d be very happy to come try some.

rosscoact said :

Da nunzios on Yerrabi Pond is a great Italian family run restaurant

+1

thanks spykler. its people like you that make my job worthwhile.

only the first comment mentioned the two excellent italian fare providers – italian & sons in braddon and their mother restaurant mezzalira. mmmmm… also, sfoglia in dickson do some excellent food, including the sweet namesake, sfogliatelle with their quite drinkable coffee…

Da nunzios on Yerrabi Pond is a great Italian family run restaurant

gino said :

dear watson. the service at la capanna is not crap as you say. you well know that the place is tiny and when booking with us, we always let the customer know that we have two sittings. 630 or 800. it is necessary to do this in order to increase sales and avoid dissappointing regulars. unfortunately sometimes the customer does stay longer than agreed and we try to relocate the next reservation. on occasion we do need to remind the client that the table is rebooked (as agreed earlier) and we send out the bill. this is common practice in the industry when you are small and busy. thank you to all the other people that complimented my pizza shop.. i really adore my regulars and the tourists to canberra who come in. thanks.

Gino- your pizzas rock- The crew I work with have been scoring their pizza hit at La Capanna since dinosaurs ruled the earth and you have never dropped the ball- well done and keep on setting the standard.

dear watson. the service at la capanna is not crap as you say. you well know that the place is tiny and when booking with us, we always let the customer know that we have two sittings. 630 or 800. it is necessary to do this in order to increase sales and avoid dissappointing regulars. unfortunately sometimes the customer does stay longer than agreed and we try to relocate the next reservation. on occasion we do need to remind the client that the table is rebooked (as agreed earlier) and we send out the bill. this is common practice in the industry when you are small and busy. thank you to all the other people that complimented my pizza shop.. i really adore my regulars and the tourists to canberra who come in. thanks.

I really like Firestone in Dickson, I don’t know about authentic but they serve up some bien merde, if you’ll pardon my french.

well, maybe it was the neon sign which never enticed me in before. I’ve known about that restaurant for 10 years, but never ventured in. 10 years wasted! I’m STILL thinking about last night’s dinner :))

miss molly said :

I read these comments and felt inspired to try an Italian restaurant for dinner. We went to the closest to our house, which is that one in belconnen on the lake. And it was BRILLIANT! The service- very friendly and fast. The food- flavoursome and plentiful. I highly recommend it, and we’ll definitely go back.

That’d be La Bella Vista. I agree great food and service. Need to update the decor though, or least that neon light.

miss molly said :

I read these comments and felt inspired to try an Italian restaurant for dinner. We went to the closest to our house, which is that one in belconnen on the lake. And it was BRILLIANT! The service- very friendly and fast. The food- flavoursome and plentiful. I highly recommend it, and we’ll definitely go back.

The Restaurant with No Name…Sergio Leone is the chef.

I read these comments and felt inspired to try an Italian restaurant for dinner. We went to the closest to our house, which is that one in belconnen on the lake. And it was BRILLIANT! The service- very friendly and fast. The food- flavoursome and plentiful. I highly recommend it, and we’ll definitely go back.

+eleventy seventeen for La Cantina in Narrabundah. Not the cheapest in town, but fantastic food and excellent friendly service. When I went the first time, I forgot my glasses, and the mama handed me hers to read the menu. The waiter gave a short spiel in Italian, which was basically a welcome and that level of service was maintained, friendly and highly professional. Also love the fitout, which is warm and welcoming. Food is excellent too. It’s my favourite Italian in Canberra.

As an aside, I went there the first time and used my Entertainment Book chit. That’s the purpose of them really, to try new places. We handed over the value of the chit in our tip, and have been going back ever since. Great success!

neanderthalsis9:15 am 07 Jun 12

La Bella Vista on the lake at Belconnen.

A friend of mine is Italian and loves La Capanna (Kingston) and Santa Lucia (Swinger Hill). I’ve been to both, they are both great, although I think Santa Lucia might just win. Haven’t been there for a couple of years though…

When heading South I like La Capanna’s in Kingston. Great pizzas and pastas, or there is the one in Narrabundah, dont know its name but its a bit exy,

poetix said :

I hear that the garlic bread at certain school canteens is totally authentic. BYO wine.

Ha ha – funny. This will be the closest most of the kids at these schools will ever get to have Italian food.

SnapperJack said :

Domino’s Pizza at Southlands or Pizza Hut at the Phillip Marketplace.

Peasant!

Deref said :

dungfungus said :

The Trattoria at the Hellenic Club takes some beating. The food is very Italian cooked by Italians and the service is excellent. Aussie beer on tap as well.

Don’t hold that against it. You can get decent things to drink there too.

La Cantina in Narrabundah’s excellent, though I don’t know if it’s authentic.

La Cantina was purpose built to replicate a traditional Italian restaurant and for that they get 10 out of 10. I took a friend from Italy there and he was very impressed with everything. Then he should have been as I paid the bill which would have covered the cost of his return ticket to Italy. I am known to be a bit of a tight-arse however.

Haven’t been to La Capana in years. I remember the pizzas being authentic Italian, but the service was crap. Never went back after we were asked to leave well before we were ready because they had promised our table to a new arrival. Twice in a row.

La Cantina is very upmarket and when I last checked their menu they didn’t do pizza or many (if any?) pasta dishes. I never ate there because the one time I went in there to ask if they had a table, the manager looked at my then 5yo as if she was vermon. Very un-European!

I hear that the garlic bread at certain school canteens is totally authentic. BYO wine.

dungfungus said :

The Trattoria at the Hellenic Club takes some beating. The food is very Italian cooked by Italians and the service is excellent. Aussie beer on tap as well.

Don’t hold that against it. You can get decent things to drink there too.

La Cantina in Narrabundah’s excellent, though I don’t know if it’s authentic.

Domino’s Pizza at Southlands or Pizza Hut at the Phillip Marketplace.

La Dolce Vita de Lucio in Kingston used to be pretty good too (Not sure if it is still there)
The Haig in Braddon is another good choice.

Solidarity said :

La Capana.

Also +1 – very good pizza

dungfungus said :

The Trattoria at the Hellenic Club takes some beating. The food is very Italian cooked by Italians and the service is excellent. Aussie beer on tap as well. Pity that it is surrounded by pokies.

+1 – My Italian uncle is quite keen on it.

The Trattoria at the Hellenic Club takes some beating. The food is very Italian cooked by Italians and the service is excellent. Aussie beer on tap as well. Pity that it is surrounded by pokies.

La Capana.

Holden Caulfield3:05 pm 06 Jun 12

I’m no expert on what constitutes authentic, but I like the grub at Italian & Sons and have enjoyed a very nice meal at Mezzalira.

However, neither are what you’d traiditonal call a trattoria.

Cafe Pronto seems to be for sale: allhomes

I vote for L’unico.

I have been very sceptical about Italian restaurants in Canberra after having so many disappointing experiences, but I was very pleasantly surprised by this one. I went there twice in the last two months, and everything I (and my friends had) there was very good. They have very yummy home made sausages and pickled vegetables, and their pizza was fabulous. I must say I was a bit worried to see that now they’ve put a sign “you can take away anything on the menu” or something along those lines. I hope they stay in business for a long time: I really like them.

Cafe Pronto’s still there? Gawd, we used to go there for work lunches decades ago. Well, that is impressive.

Might try L’Unico, ever on the hunt for great pizza!

Clown Killer5:57 pm 13 Jun 08

I just noticed that L’Unico seems to have abandonned it’s “fine dining” thing – the pizza kitchen is back and the they’re offering everthing on the menue available to take away, same as when they were Ciprianni. Seems like trying to differentiate yourself in a fairly homogenous market diddn’t work for them.

I do like La Scala – especially for lunch: usually nice and quite and you get the whole place to yourselves.

I really like Cafe Pronto in Braddon for that authentic Italian cafe feel. I’m not a big pasta eater, but I’ll always order pasta there. Great pizzas too but just a really nice family restaurant.

neanderthalsis3:52 pm 11 Jun 08

L’unico in Kingston or Bella Vista in Belconnen

Bella Vista for a cheap and hearty, but very tasty meal. The service is good, the owners friendly and always a few great specdials on the black-board. The view out over the puddle isn’t too bad either.

L’Unico has some great menu items including a fantastic moreton bay bug and crab lasagne.

Belluci’s in Dickson wins for the coolest building.

Apparently it used to be the headquarters for the Daily Planet.

Another vote for Mezzalira!

My wife and I always go there for special occasions and one of the very few restaurants in Canberra that we have returned to over the years!

(Yes, it is expensive, but the food and service are well worth every cent!)

http://www.mezzalira.com.au/

Marinetti’s USED to be awesome in terms of food but the head chef has left there and opened his own restaurant called D’Browes at Narrabundah shops which is about the same prices but much much nicer establishment, so the food even seems better now even though it’s the same dude cooking it. He still makes the same awesome gorgonzola fettucine – I can never order anything else – mmm-mmm!

Loquaciousness10:58 am 11 Jun 08

Add my vote to fnaah’s … Pinnochio’s is awesome. Great food, reasonable prices, friendly staff (family-run), and the most amazing collection of Pinnochio-themed stuff.

LaScala for me. Divine food and top service.

Mezzelira for that 5-star Italian wallet-deracinating experience. the food is always pretty incredible.
I also heard that Grandes in Manuka do very good pasta.

Marionetti’s. O’Connior shops I think. Or that cabret joint at the ANU, a little wog, more neavou(sp?) European Cuisine, minus the thump print on the obligatory plum.

Drawing a long bow, I think the only restaurant I have been to is Zeffers in Belco. Never had a problem with it. Not the greatest place to dine, but good for takeaway pizza.

Pinnochio’s, at the Torrens shops.

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