La Bella Italia! Sophia Loren once famously said ‘Everything you see I owe to pasta’ and we here at TUL couldn’t agree more. We can think of no cuisine that’s better for sharing with a group of friends or (or a hot date) and Auckland’s Italian restaurants are up there with the best.
Whether it’s pizza, pasta or anything in between, some restaurants hit the spot every single time with their authentic Italian food. Simple combinations of quality ingredients, and it would be remiss if we didn’t share them with you.
Here are our top picks of the best Italian restaurants in Auckland.
Pasta for life! If there was one thing we could eat forever, this would probably be it. And we know we’re not alone there. For hands-down the best pasta in Auckland, this is where you go. Baduzzi makes their own pasta fresh daily, and it’s stunning. Duck ragu, fried paua, snapper crab, and tuatuas… we don’t blame you if you’re drooling right about now. If pasta ain’t your thing, you must try one of their meatball dishes. Guys take note, this is an impressive romantic destination, so get yo' spaghetti on.
Ponsonby Road seems to get a new “must-eat” place every couple of weeks, but Prego is like that ex you can’t get out of your head. You think this hot new thing will be bigger and better, and it might seem so at first, but you’ll always go crawling back to the tried and true…the pasta, the pizza, the service…Prego really is one of the best Italian restaurants in Auckland. The fairy light-filled courtyard is pretty damn dreamy for a summer night’s meal—and it’s romantic to boot. Your date is destined for a happy ending with the amazing desserts. Our pick? The Dolce Di Datteri (sticky date with poached pears and ginger ice cream) is a must.
In terms of staff and vibe, Coco’s Cantina is pretty hard to beat. The team treat you like their best mate and will show you a bloody good time. The food more than matches the vibe, which has an old-school Italian trattoria buzz about it (but without all the mafia uncles everywhere). The spaghetti meatballs are a must-have. Simple but delicious, it’s a testament to Coco’s quality that they get this staple just so damn right. Not to mention the polenta fries...They're reason enough to ditch the diet and devour what we may be dubbing the best Italian in Auckland.
Once a bakery, we're not overly surprised that Amano has a wheat mill located out back. But when the bakery opened its doors to what is now one of Auckland's best Italian restaurants, right in the heart of the CBD, we screamed a lil' inside. That wheat mill now churns out the tasties homemade pasta you could dream of. Our favourite thing about this bustling restaurant is that the menu changes daily. Yep, one day they're serving up ravioli and the next it's linguini. Trust the chefs on this one, they know what they're doing. If you thought it couldn't get better, an entire selection of the menu is dedicated to dairy. Meaning every single Italian cheese you've ever dreamt of is at your fingertips.
Fairly new to the Auckland Italian scene but definitely not falling short, Cotto is well on its way to being one of the top restaurants of the city. This Italian restaurant showcases that Italian food doesn’t always have to come with a hefty price tag, with their menu ranges from $5-$20 but each and every single dish tastes like a million bucks. The spinach and goats cheese dumplings are a must. You can thank us later.
Gina’s Italian Kitchen
Homely, authentic and vibrant are just a few words to describe Gina’s Italian Kitchen. This restaurant gives us not only quality and authentic Italian cuisine but a lively ambience with an energetic staff makes you feel like you’re at an Italian dinner party. If it’s an intimate and quiet dinner you’re after, you’d have to find another restaurant as Gina’s is all about the fun, exciting and eccentric experience.
Pasta & Cuore
Pasta & Curore is the essence of Italian. You'll spot this gem—if you don't smell the aromas first—as you're driivng through Mt Eden Village, brightly lit through the glass exterior. Inside you'll find high bar stools offering the ability to enjoy a pinot noir while people watching the busy bodies outside. The perfect balance, as further inside are quaint tables soon to be lined with plates of homemade pasta. Yep, the talented chefs are rolling, flattening and cooking pasta from scratch right in front of your eyes. Paired with a sauce of choice and perhaps a bruschetta to start, you won't regret it.
Waiheke could (almost) pass as a Mediterranean destination, with its myriad wineries and amazing places to eat bellisimo food. Poderi Crisci is possibly the most gorgeous of the lot, with its picturesque vineyard overlooking the water. Make a gluttonous day of it and go for the Sunday long lunch—a multi-course extravaganza finished with dolci or fromaggio, perfect for that special occasion, or if you just want to treat yo’self. Make sure you pray to the weather gods for sunshine so you can dine al fresco, and, after enough Pinot Grigios, you might just believe you're in Tuscany.
Gusto at the Grand
Led by head chef extraordinaire Sean Connolly, after he was inspired by his time spent in Italy, you’re in for an authentic Italian experience at Gusto at the Grand. It is family-style, with a simple menu of rustic share plates in an opulent (but not OTT) setting. The wine list is predominantly Italian, which makes sense–and the staff are really happy to guide you in the direction of a vino that will match your food perfectly.
Family owned and going strong since the late 1970’s, Capriata Ristorante pride themselves in being authentic, delicious and providing their customers with top-notch Italian service. Pizzas and pastas are just a few of the many star dishes at Capriata. You can’t miss out on their bruschetta as these guys don’t stop at a drizzle of oil. No, they go as far as adding a drizzle of truffle oil which makes this dish so much more special.
The Refreshment Room
Fresh Italian food straight from the garden! For what feels like a treehouse, The Refreshment Room serves up superb and rather sophisticated Italian food. Making the best of what is fresh and in-season, the menu changes every week. Of course that means you can't always bank on what will be there, but rest assured, you’re eating the best of what's available. One thing that never changes is the chickpea and parmesan chips—thank goodness, ‘cause they're amazing. Check out their Facebook page for the week's offerings.
Known as Ponsonby’s hidden Italian gem located in the Ponsonby International Food Court. Yup, you heard that right, the international food court is home to more than just the tastiest Asian eats! People tend to hit up International food courts for big bowls of Thai curry and Chinese chow mein but little do people know that Belle Verona is some of the best Italian eats in town. It’s in the corner of the food court and just by first glance, you wouldn’t guess that this place has the ability to cook up a killer gnocchi. Also, get amongst their cheesecake of the day which changes on the reg.
When you ask an Italian where to get the best Italian food, they’ll most likely respond “mamma.” It is true, nobody can replace our own mum’s home cooked meals but Mamma Rossa come pretty darn close. Located and established in Kohimarama since 1988, Mamma Rossa has become an institution rather than just an Italian restaurant. Their food is fresh, hearty and the ambience of the restaurant is perfect for families. All their pasta is made fresh on site and their pizzas are also not to be missed.
Non Solo Pizza
Without a doubt, Non Solo Pizza offers some of the best Italian food in Auckland. The outdoor courtyard with its olive trees is the perfect spot to enjoy a pizza and a Peroni (or four) in summer. Speaking of pizzas... their woodfire pizzas are insane. No surprises there though, as NSP is owned by the same pizza-genius-crew as Toto. Their extensive menu offers all your pasta faves like cannelloni, gnocchi and spaghetti, or choose from one of Non Solo Pizza’s set menus.
Want more of the best Italian restaurants in Auckland? Why not check out our list of Auckland’s best pizza.
Image credit: Supplied, Amano, SPQR, The Refreshment Room, Gusto At The Grand