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Our top restaurants in Italy (Positano, Florence, Venice and Rome)

Sep 11, 2007  Our many trips to Italy during our nearly three year stint abroad in Europe
4.0 of 5 bubbles based on 8 votes

This is a list of our favorite restaurants in Italy, most have a common theme of fresh seafood

  • Category: Best of
  • Appeals to: Business travelers, Couples/romantics, Honeymooners, Singles, Seniors
  • 1. Fuor d'Acqua - Florence, Italy

    This is one of my favorite restaurants in Florence, which specializes in seafood. When in Florence, pork and steaks seem like the main fare. But I love seafood so this was a great find. I accidentally came across this restaurant as a recommendation of the Platinum AMEX website "Departures" when there was a hole in their access (when I googled Florence restaurants). This is an upscale locals' place - from a foreigner, the clientele look like politicians and/or very rich Florentines. I mention this because the staff clearly know their regulars and treat them as such. The seafood is amazingly fresh! Each evening at 8pm, their catch for the day come from the coast.

    You can leave yourself in their hands to recommend the multiple course dinner. But make sure that they serve you the raw scampi carpaccio (hmmm), raw fish carpaccio (Italian version of sushi!) and the lobster in papperdelle (I still dream about this dish), the grilled scampi and/or grilled seabass in their traditional sauce (forgot the exact name). This place was a treat but it wasn't as expensive as you might imagine. We had dinner at Enoteca Pinchiorri several years ago which was ridicuously expensive. Our meal at Fuor d'Acqua was around 130-euros for two, totally pigging out.

    One thing to mention is that the waiters can be a bit heavy-handed in their recommendations - it's okay to say 'no.' During our first visit, I caved into their recommendations because the menu was only in Italian so it was easy to just have them order for you - the only things I put my foot down about were the lobster papperdelle and the raw seafood carpaccio. Boy were they amazing! On my second visit, I was pretty firm in our order so we got exactly all the dishes we love.

  • 2. Osteria dei Centopoveri - Florence, Italy

    (Via Palazzuolo, 31r; 055 218846). Another very good seafood restaurant in Florence, but this is a tiny trattoria near the Piazza Santa Maria Novella. The two dishes that stand out are the the lobster pasta (I can't remember whether it was spaghetti or gnocchi) and the grilled seabass. The place is owned by a husband and wife. Just one of those great finds.

  • 3. Osteria del Porcellino - Florence, Italy

    For the meat lover, this place serves the traditional Florentine steak which is a huge hunk of grilled sirloin (or tasted like it!). We took my family there on a visit and went back several times. We all had the meat dishes: osso bucco (very good), steak in the vinegar sauce and the Florentine steak. The pastas were less memorable, although delicious by US standards.

    One thing that I didn't care for was a cover charge (typical in most if not all Italian restaurants) for the very dry bread and in Italy, they don't bring you vinegar/oil or butter for your bread unless you ask for it. In other restaurants, the bread is pretty good so I didn't mind the cover charge.

    From my recollections, this restaurant was pretty reasonable.

  • 4. Alle Testiere - Venice, Italy

    (Calle del Mondo Novo 5801, Venice; 041-522-7220) I hate to give up this place because it is probably my most favorite Italian restaurant ever! It is a tiny place so reservations are a must - there are no more than 6-7 tables. On one visit, we ate their twice! Our favorites are: fried tiny softshell crabs drizzled with olive oil and lemon, the scampi and seabass carpaccio, the lobster pasta (it was a weird tiny, clam-shaped pasta) with a dynamite sauce, and the grilled seafood platter of different fishes, scampi, etc.

    Why do I keep raving about the scampi? In Italy, the shrimp scampi are these shrimps that have claws (yes, claws). The meat is super-sweet...really brings new meaning to sweet shrimp. Even in its raw forms, it is not fishy in any way but tastes so amazing. It is equally amazing grilled. You have to try the scampi once in Italy because you can't really get it here in the US or in the UK.

  • 5. Donna Rosa - Montepertuso (near Positano), Italy

    (97-99 Via Montepertuso, Positano; 39-089/811-806) I copied the review that I wrote of this restaurant in the Travel Guide section of tripadvisor.com.

    This is a family establishment with the mom as the chef up the hill from Positano in a town called Montepertuso. I can't remember if the restaurant sends a taxi for free or whether we were charged for the ride. Anyway, it's very refined food - very fresh and delicious. Definitely a foodie place but at reasonable prices. Dinner for two with 2 appetizers, 2 entrees and 2 desserts with drinks runs about 110-euros. It's a beautiful restaurant with a couple of small dining rooms and terrace which are very elegantly decorated. But there is no view.

  • 6. Il Ritrovo - Montepertuso (near Positano), Italy

    I copied the review that I wrote of this restaurant in the Travel Guide section of tripadvisor.com.

    This restaurant is an interesting contrast to Donna Rosa, especially as they are a couple of doors down from each other. It is home-styled cooking and equally delicious. The atmosphere is more casual and has an outdoor terrace with a view. This restaurant will send a bus to pick up patrons from their hotels and drop them back, though you do have to wait a bit (not too bad, though). Great value- dinner for two with appetizers, entrees, desserts and drinks is about 70-euros.

  • 7. La Sponda - Positano, Italy

    I copied the review that I wrote of this restaurant in the Travel Guide section of tripadvisor.com.

    We were fortunate enough to stay at Le Sirenuse which is an amazing hotel. This is the main, upscale restaurant in the hotel. Although pricey, the food is very fresh and inventive. Try the shrimp and scampi carpaccio which was individually dressed with lemon slices, sundried tomatoes, etc. Starters are about 30-euros, entrees are about 40-euros and desserts are 20-euros. The ambiance was really amazing since Le Sirenuse has an amazing view of the beach, harbor and town below. It is definitely special occasions place. Don't forget to ask for a table on the balcony when booking because these are first to go. Dress code is casual elegance.

  • 8. Ristorante Max - Positano, Italy

    There is funny story with this restaurant. When compared to other great restaurants in Positano/Montepertuso that we ate at, Max wasn't anything special. It was good but pricier than Donna Rosa and Il Ritrovo because of its location down near the main beach in Positano.

    BUT...when we moved home to Southern California, I came across a new restaurant that opened in Newport Beach, CA with the same name. I thought to myself, "What are the odds???" But after some research, I found out that it's owned by the same family as the one in Positano. The NB one is owned by the son and his American wife who is from NB. Now, it's one of our treats here in California as it is pretty expensive. Dinner for 3 was $240 with only one of us having wine and non-US portions (!). With the exchange rate, I don't know which location was cheaper!

  • 9. La Penna de Orca - Rome, Italy

    (Via della Penna, Rome; 39-06-3202898). My younger brother and I found this place after getting a less-than-stellar recommendation from our hotel concierge. What a find! Another tiny foodie place with the chef being the owner. This is where I got introduced to seafood carpaccio and raw scampi. WoW! I dreamt about this place long after we were back in London so on another family trip, we went there again. Other memorable things were the steak and the great souffles! There were lots of different flavors of souffles that you could order (chocolate, pistacchio, Grand Marnier, vanilla) - totally unexpected for an Italian restaurant.

    The pasta wasn't as good - I felt that they were a bit salty for my taste. But everything else was fabulous.

  • 10. Other Places that were good but less memorable

    The rooftop restaurant at Hotel Danieli in Venice had the most amazing view of the lagoon in Venice. The food is good but extremely pricey - lunch was 100-euros for two without appetizers or dessert.

    Four Seasons restaurant in Milan - only okay. I don't recall anything memorable; dining room was very large and impersonal.

    Nobu in Milan - not as good as the London or NYC location. It's inside the Armani store. We saw the great man himself there.