Diner Most-Loved

The 20 Best Italian Restaurants in D.C. on Caviar

When you want pizza, pasta, tiramisu, and beyond, here are your favorite spots.

8 min read
5/10/2022
cav - blog - alta strada rigatoni alla vodka

Italians do a lot of things well: fashion, painting, soccer, but really, we’re most into their food. Is there anything better than a perfectly blistered Neapolitan pie or a peppery cacio e pepe? I guess a hundred-layer lasagna? Here are the top-20 picks in D.C. for when you’re craving Italian, ranked by popularity. You should add that extra cannoli for dessert.

cav - blog - Alta Strada (City Vista) spaghetti AOP

1. Alta Strada - City Vista

Atla Strada is a neighborhood pasta joint. They are using nonna’s recipes to bring comforting Italian classics, like penne alla vodka, baked ziti, and tagliatelle Bolognese to their menu. The restaurant might be known for its carbs, but you can also find dishes like grilled salmon and chicken Milanese. Never forget a side of the toasty garlic bread with spicy tomato sauce.

2. Pete's New Haven Style APizza

Pete’s is taking you to New England with their Connecticut-style pies. It’s a thin-crust, coal-fired Neapolitan, meaning bubbly and charred in the best way possible. For a crowd, we love their 18-inch original cheese that comes topped with just about anything your heart desires. The hearts of romaine Caesar is a classic addition.

Cav - Blog - cucina al volo chicken alfredo

3. Cucina Al Volo

This osteria’s specialty is simple Italian — but done well. It all started with three chefs and a Union Market pasta stall that’s now grown to two full restaurants. Noodles are the house specialty with dishes like spaghetti carbonara, green kale fusilli, and a ​four-cheese gnocchi. Order a slice of creamy ricotta cheesecake for dessert.

4. Matchbox

Matchbox might not be as Italian as the rest, but they sure know how to make a pizza. With three locations throughout the D.C. area, you’re never too far from one of their classic pepperonis or Holy Grail Margheritas. For any indecisive eaters out there, they’ve got you covered with a 14-inch Half + Half Pizza, with two sets of toppings split right down the middle.

cav - blog - little cocos cocos cheese pie

5. Little Coco's

When you don’t know if you’re in the mood for pizza or pasta, Little Coco’s is the place to order from. It does both — really well. Get a taste of each with an order of the cacio e pepe and their Coco's Cheese Pie, topped with mozzarella, pecorino, and fior di latte. They have a kids’ menu, too, if you have little mouths to feed.

6. Pizzeria Paradiso

This restaurant has been slinging pizza to the D.C. area for over 30 years. They are keeping it classic with pies like the Margherita; a zucchini-sweet red pepper and eggplant-topped Siciliana; and a spicy salami-topped Atomica. All pizzas come in nine- and 12-inch sizes, with options for a gluten-free or whole-wheat crust.

cav - blog - centrolina ravioli

7. Centrolina

Chef Amy Brandwein is all about the authentic and seasonal at her CityCenterDC osteria. This four-time James Beard Award nominee is delivering with her takes on Italian classics like a ravioli filled with burrata, guanciale, and pea shoots, and her costata — a dry-aged rib eye with roasted cauliflower and sweet potato. The whipped cream-topped lemon cake is a must for dessert.

8. Piccolina

It’s about wood-fired cooking at this all-day restaurant. Another concept from chef Amy Brandwein, this time it’s a more casual menu, filled with salads, pizza, and sandwiches. Start the day with the omelette ratatouille with Gruyère, or an egg and cheese on brioche. Later on, go for the FQF pie, with roasted mushrooms, quattro formaggi, pesto, and garlic, or the charred chicken-topped escarole salad.

9. Lupo Verde Osteria

At this Palisades restaurant, you’ll find satisfying, rustic Italian food that’s made with love. Think traditional with dishes like cacio e pepe, a lasagna Bolognese, and carciofi, aka crispy artichokes. Always add a tiramisu or order of chocolate-and-hazelnut-filled bomboloni for dessert.

cav-blog-Trattoria-Al-Volo-pasta-funghi

10. Trattoria Al Volo

This Cleveland Park trattoria is another one from the Cucina Al Volo team. It’s known for its pastas like green basil fusilli pesto, gnocchi Bolognese, and the mushroom-studded pappardelle funghi. Add a bottle of red or white wine and an order of homemade ricotta cannoli, and you’re in Rome if you close your eyes.

11. Rosemarino D’Italia (Dupont)

This Dupont Circle restaurant by chef Rosemeri Espinoza is transporting you to Italy with her handmade pastas and seasonally inspired menu. There’s a little of everything, from a meaty carbonara to a homemade mozzarella caprese salad to a classic pepperoni pizza. We always start with the fried calamari with a side of spicy marinara.

cav - blog - Ristorante Piccolo meatballs (1)

12. Ristorante Piccolo

This Georgetown restaurant has been serving the neighborhood and beyond since 1986. You’ll find a menu full of comforting classics like tortellini carbonara, rigatoni gorgonzola, and housemade meatballs scarpariello. An order isn’t complete without their legendary chocolate-hazelnut layer cake, the tentazione di cioccolata.

13. Paisano's

At first glance, Paisano’s might seem like just a pizza joint, but it’s more than that. Sure, their meat lovers pie, topped with pepperoni, meatballs, ham, and sausage is great, but so is their spinach calzone and chicken Parmesan. If anyone isn’t in the mood for Italian, there are always the award-winning chicken wings. Really, something for everyone.

cav - blog - Lavagna ristorante italiano bruschetta

14. Lavagna

With a menu of familiar comforts like spaghetti Bolognese and shrimp risotto, Lavagna is making the classics but with a farm-to-table slant. The restaurant has partnered with a network of local farms to source their ingredients. We love their appetizers, from the cornmeal-crusted calamari fritto to the bruschetta topped with caramelized shallots, lemon ricotta, and cherry tomatoes.

15. La Collina

La Collina describes itself as an Italian-ish osteria. They’re not striving for that authentic, straight-from-Tuscany bowl of pasta; they’re doing their contemporary D.C. interpretation with dishes like their twist on spaghetti and meatballs: bucatini and meatballs. A side order of the fingerling potatoes with cacio e pepe aioli is always a good idea.

16. Mamma Lucia

At Mamma Lucia, pizza is the star. They’re doing that crispy-yet-soft New York style. They make all their pies in 14- and 18-inch sizes, but the best thing is they deliver slices, too! Cheese, pepperoni, or Sicilian for one or a crowd. It’s worth noting they can make most dishes gluten-free.

cav - blog - Alfio-s chicken parm

17. Alfio's

This restaurant is Italian-American at its core. With dishes like chicken Parmigiano, meatball subs, and shrimp scampi, Alfio’s is comfort food. It’s a family restaurant, too, with a whole kids’ menu of simple spaghetti, tortellini, and more. No need to put on the water to make pasta for any little ones.

18. Sicilian Pizza

It’s a modern interpretation of pizzeria classics at Sicilian Pizza. Sure, they have your customizable cheese pizza in four different sizes with dozens of topping options, but they are also doing dishes like a white-sauced Alfredo chicken pizza or a gyro pizza topped with spiced meat and feta. No one will be left hungry.

cav - blog - La Tomate Bistro carpaccio di salmone

19. La Tomate Bistro

La Tomate has been catering to the Dupont Circle neighborhood since 1987. They’re doing regional, ingredient-driven Italian but in the most unpretentious way. Lean into classics like La Tomate's Caesar or a housemade tagliatelle Bolognese. Or try something from their prosciutto bar; they have imported some of the best.

20. Trattoria Alberto

This Capitol Hill gem leans into Northern Italian flavors for inspiration for their menu. It’s richer, creamier, and a little more decadent. We love the tortellini alla panna, a pork-and-beef-filled pasta in a luxurious Parmigiano cream sauce, and the lasagna della casa, which comes in meat and vegetarian versions. The limoncello mascarpone cake is highly recommended, too.