Italian cuisine needs no introduction, having influenced Australian food culture all the way back to the 1770s when Italian immigrants introduced us to pizza, olive oil and pasta. Ever since then, Sydney has been home to a wide variety of Italian restaurants, serving traditional dishes such as lasagna and arancini to contemporary dishes such as squid ink pasta and saffron linguine.
When it comes to a good Italian restaurant, you have to consider the ambience as well as the quality of the food and their cooking techniques. For an authentic Italian dining experience, you also have to feel at home and comfortable inside the restaurant.
So, if you’ve fallen in love with Italian cuisine (and who hasn’t), then you don’t have to get on a plane to Rome in order to taste authentic Italian pasta because here is where you’ll find Sydney’s best Italian restaurants (or ‘ristoranti’ in Italian).
Starting our list is Ragazzi Wine & Pasta, co-founded by Scott Williams, Nathaniel Hatwell and Mathew Swieboda. This Italian-style wine bar is the perfect setting for an intimate dinner for two, or after works drinks.
Their pasta menu, crafted by talented Chef Scott McComas-Williams is a short, ever-changing menu that focuses on fresh produce, that changes with the seasons. Chef Scott pays respect to traditional pasta shapes and sauces, whilst also providing a twist to beloved, classic pasta dishes. Our favourites include mafaldine pasta, with Fraser Island spanner crab, charred corn, prawn oil and tarragon, and Conchiglie with fermented chilli, Spring Bay mussels, and salty chunks of speck and crisp-fried capers.
To make matters even better, Ragazzi has an impressive 250 bottle-heavy wine list that highlights both classic and contemporary Italian winemaking.
While the place is only small, (40 seats max) Ragazzi has a long bar that seats 10 and is the perfect venue to cater for a small group of people.
Starting our list is Totti’s, run by executive chef Mike Eggert and chef Khan Danis (Khan is known as one of the best woodfire chefs in the country!) Located inside The Royal Bondi, this casual Italian eatery is the ultimate destination when you’re hungry and craving some good old-fashioned traditional Italian food.
With a focus on cooking simple yet irresistible food for people to share over conversation, their menu is filled with delicious dishes such as fish, chicken and meat cooked to perfection in their Josper charcoal oven, roasted butternut and sunflower seed fregola, and wood-grilled butterflied spatchcock drizzled in chilli dressing for a bit of heat.
If you have a sweet tooth, then their Neapolitan ice cream or blood orange sorbet sandwiches will definitely hit the spot! Dining in Totti’s courtyard area surrounded by their olive trees and the company of good friends is the perfect way to spend a relaxed meal.
Headed by chefs Orazio & Nicola, Matteo Downtown along Bond Street specialises in providing simple and delicious Italian cuisine with the polish of fine dining. Their bright and vibrant interior features gorgeous artworks from Sydney artist Daimon Downey combined with beautiful light-coloured timber dining tables and chairs.
Inspired by the great restaurants of Milan and Rome, their diverse menu features traditional and contemporary pasta dishes such as ziti pasta with slow-cooked Neapolitan lamb Genovese ragu, and calamarata pasta with squid, chilli and cherry tomatoes.
However, their traditional woodfired pizzas are an absolute must-try as their dough is allowed to rest and rise twice before baking, resulting in a light and elastic pizza dough with no yeast. You simply have to try their Bianca pizza which is topped with taleggio, fior di latte, lightly smoked ham and pumpkin!
Inspired by the motto “la dolce vita” (the sweet life), OTTO Ristorante on Cowper Wharf Road specialises in bringing some of the best Italian fine dining to Sydney. Surrounded by the beautiful Finger Wharf in the CBD, chef Richard Ptacnik has a modern approach to classic Italian cuisine with a focus on simple, delicious food.
Their pasta menu, which is freshly made in-house each day, features dishes such as strozzapreti pasta with black olives, king prawns, tomato and chilli in a rich calamari sauce, saffron linguine with Moreton Bay bugs and pistachio pesto, and hand-rolled pici pasta with Manjimup black truffle and smoked ham hock.
OTTO Ristorante has private dining areas available as well as intimate seating along the wharf, offering stunning views of the surrounding water (check out where to find the best Sydney waterfront restaurants if you’re interested in more iconic waterfront views). Also be sure to pick up a bottle of their signature olive oil if you’re tempted to recreate the OTTO experience at home.
Since opening in 2019 on Bondi Road, Joe Pagliaro and Grace Watson have turned Peppe’s into the first name on everyone’s lips when wanting fresh, homemade Italian gnocchi. Although being all vegan might sound blasphemous for an Italian restaurant, even the most die-hard meat-eater will fall in love with their menu.
Dishes such as their gnocchi ai funghi with pangrattato and crispy sage or their gnocchi al pomodoro with fresh basil and roasted capers are delicious examples of Italian cuisine, without needing the addition of meat or dairy. Peppe’s lasagna, made with plant-based béchamel and pomodoro sauce with spinach, is a unique vegan approach to a traditionally meat-based Italian dish without sacrificing any of the flavours.
Peppe’s accepts walk-ins only (sorry, no reservations), but they can be found on UberEats and Deliveroo, making this little vegan Italian restaurant the perfect excuse to order takeaway and stay in for the night. Make sure you also check out Peppe’s Bottle Shop to pair the perfect bottle of wine with your meal.
Located along Pittwater Road is Busta, a cosy Italian eatery in Manly that offers a friendly atmosphere and, of course, some of the best Italian food you can find in Sydney. Their modern interior features beautiful terrazzo-tile flooring and warm, intimate lighting with a curved bar as the centrepiece, letting you glimpse into their open kitchen and watch the chefs prepare your meal.
Fresh and authentic Italian cuisine is what makes Busta stand out, from their pasta being hand-rolled each morning to their crunchy and fluffy bread baked by PiOik Bakery. Enjoying a plate of their classic pork and beef or mushroom ragu lasagna with a side of garlic, rosemary and thyme ciabatta bread is classic Italian cuisine at its best.
And for those who can’t get enough of their Italian desserts, Busta’s crunchy cannolis are loaded to the brim with their house-made lemon ricotta filling, sprinkled with pistachios and then dusted with icing sugar. Their dessert menu wouldn’t be complete without their Italian tiramisú classico!
Created by Karl Firla, former head chef and owner of Oscillate Wildly, and Federico Zanellato, current head chef and owner of LuMi Bar & Dining, Restaurant Leo already has an impressive resume. And as both chefs share the same passion for using fresh, local Australian ingredients, you can only expect some of the best Italian cuisines.
With an ever-changing menu depending on the season and what’s available, you can enjoy incredible dishes such as veal saltimbocca wrapped in prosciutto and sage, beautiful King George whiting topped with fresh salsa verde, and cuttlefish and pea risotto made with koshihikari rice. Classic Italian desserts also make an appearance including tartufo, torta caprese and tiramisú.
What would an Italian restaurant be without an amazing wine menu? Created by Fabio Sercecchi, former sommelier at Balla at The Star, Restaurant Leo’s 19-page wine menu features a selection of wines from France, Italy, Germany, Austria, Spain and Croatia, including some of the best wines produced in Australia. When it comes to the title of “best Sydney Italian restaurant”, very few compare to Restaurant Leo.
It’s hard to know where to begin when explaining just how good Pino’s Vino e Cucina nails Italian dining. Owner Matteo Margiotta brings a sophisticated approach to classic Italian cuisine, while staying true to providing a relaxed, informal dining experience. Upon entering through their large oak door on the corner of Lawrence Street, you will discover a warm and rustic atmosphere with dark brick walls and hardwood tables reflecting their soft, warm lighting.
With a menu that changes every three months according to the season, you will find a variety of amazing dishes such as octopus and hispi cabbage with nduja dressing, pork ribs grilled over hot coals with sweet and sour radicchio, and seafood carbonara spaghetti (made fresh each day) with spanner crab and salmon caviar. For the ultimate meat lovers’ treat, their six-week dry-aged sirloin (on the bone) with cime di rapa and smoked marrow jus has to be tasted to be believed.
Their wine menu offers over 150 wines to choose from, many imported from Italy, but there are also French and Australian wines available. The menu has been curated to ensure that each dish has a wine that perfectly pairs with it and complements the ingredients.
For an Italian dining experience done right, Bastardo proudly stands out as one of the best Italian restaurants in Surry Hills you can visit. Nestled amongst the hustle and bustle of Holt Street, Bastardo instantly captures your attention, and your appetite, from the moment you walk in. Their retro interior décor features a fun colour scheme of mint green walls and bright orange flooring, with colourful artwork scattered throughout.
Bastardo’s menu features their house specialities such as eggplant parmigiana with Napoli sauce, fresh basil and mozzarella, and their delicious Gigli pasta with crab, ripe Roma tomatoes, parsley and chilli oil. If you can’t make it into their restaurant, Bastardo also has a takeaway menu so you can pick up the best pasta in Sydney or have it delivered straight to your door!
Their takeaway menu offers mouthwatering dishes such as grilled pork belly, wagyu meatballs, slow-roasted sovereign lamb and casarecce pasta with braised duck, porcini and Swiss brown mushrooms. If you enjoy cooking Italian cuisine at home, then their Humble General Store is where you can purchase a variety of delicious pasta sauces and desserts from Bastardo, including products from their other venues.
And there you have it, Sydney’s best Italian restaurants you absolutely have to visit! We understand just how hard it can be when it comes to choosing an Italian restaurant for dinner or lunch, so book a table at one of these amazing Italian restaurants and start enjoying ‘la dolce vita’.