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.
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!”
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.
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 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.”
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.”
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!”
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!