Over the last few years, Tucson’s food scene has exploded. With new restaurants popping up on an almost daily basis, the city’s food lovers have never had it so good. If you have a taste for Italian food, the news is even better, as the likes of Open Table, Vacation Idea, and 10 Best all make very clear. If you’re in the mood for the kind of food that tastes straight out of Nonna’s kitchen but don’t want to filter through the hundreds of reviews to find it, then relax…. we’ve done the hard work for you. And you can bet your last dollar you won’t be disappointed with any of our pick of the best Italian restaurants in Tucson today.
10. Renee's Organic Oven
For something a little different, Renee's Organic Oven makes a fine choice. The staff is about as friendly and welcoming as they come, while the inviting, intimate ambiance is a joy. The food, meanwhile, is something else entirely, with a focus on fresh, organic ingredients, classic flavor pairings, and innovative little twists. Prices are on the high end of affordable, but more than justified by the quality.
9. Caffe' Torino Foothills
The very modern, very upscale Caffe' Torino Foothills might be the kind of place you’ll have to scrub up for, but one glance at the menu will be enough to convince you it was worth the effort. With a focus on Northern Italian cuisine, expect an outstanding selection of antipasti’s (the Burrata e prosciutto is particularly noteworthy), mains (you can’t beat the signature Spaghetti con polpette) and deserts, accompanied by an equally excellent selection of new and old-world wines. It’s slightly pricey, but sometimes, you really do get what you pay for.
8. Tavolino Ristorante
With a simple, refined menu of rotisserie chicken, juicy roasts, fresh-as-a-daisy salads, and delectable pasta, Tavolino Ristorante was made for mid-week blowouts. Close your eyes, point at the menu, and whatever you land on, you won’t be disappointed- the Cavoletti di Brussel (Wood-Fired Brussel sprouts, spicy salami, calabrese chili & balsamic reduction) proves once and for all that sprouts aren’t just for Christmas, while the Filetto ai Funghi (Beef fillet enveloped in prosciutto and served with soft polenta, asparagus & mushroom Madeira sauce) taste’s heaven-sent.
7. Mama Louisa's Italian Restaurant
If you want a truly authentic experience, head to Mama Louisa's Italian Restaurant, a place so classically Italian, you’ll almost feel you’re there. The menu is a feast of old favorites, including a home-baked lasagna so soft and yielding, it's like a great big hug in a bowl. Pasta is made from scratch on the premises before each service, while the sandwiches are a thing of beauty – try the ‘Italian Stuffer’ (Italian sausage, house-made meatball, melted cheese, house sauce in a hoagie roll) to end the question of whether you’re eyes are bigger than your belly once and for all.
6. Vero Amore
Vero Amore might have the usual range of crispy calamari, Margherita pizza, and meatballs, but it’s the cheese wheel (Tucson’s first and so far, only) that brings in the crowds… and keep them coming. Place your order, then sit back and watch the spectacle as the chef personally wheels the 85-pound beast to your table, throws liquor into its heart, and sets it alight. As the cheese melts, Fettucine is twirled through its depths, releasing a fragrance that’ll have you drooling in no time. A few slices of Proscuitto di Parma, and there you have it – a dish that will make anyone who’s ever described pasta as ”boring” quite literally eat their words.
5. Dominick's Real Italian
Low key, understated, and never anything but completely charming, Dominick's Real Italian is the kind of local diner we all dream of having in our own neighborhood. With an emphasis on using the finest, regional ingredients to bring a fresh local spin to age-old recipes, there’s not a single dud note on the menu. If you really want to go for gold, the Chicken Scarpariello (a delectable combination of pan-seared fresh chicken breast, sweet Italian sausage, fresh garlic, pepperoncini in a white wine butter sauce served with pasta and marinara) guarantees a memorable food experience. There’s even a children’s menu for when you bring the bambino’s in tow.
4. Proof Artisanal Pizza & Pasta
There’s only one word to describe the pizza’s at Proof Artisanal Pizza & Pasta – “Perfecto”! With the bases made from only the finest grade Italian double-zero flour for the perfect balance of crunch and chew, and the sauces and toppings featuring only the freshest and tastiest ingredients, these are pizzas you’d happily eat every day for the rest of your life… and considering the very affordable prices, that might be more viable than you think.
3. Vivace Restaurant
Walk into Vivace Restaurant for the first time, and you’ll swear you’re in Tuscany. The décor is a gorgeous mix of vintage and contemporary, with huge fireplaces, iron chandeliers, and wooden beams adding just the right amount of Italian warmth. The menu is just as impressive as the décor, with lots of fresh seafood, succulent meats, and homemade pasta. Service is next level, always professional, always courteous, but never falling into the trap of being intrusive.
2. Bottega Michelangelo
If you want great wine, great service, and even better food, Bottega Michelangelo has your name written all over it. Perfect for brunch, lunch, dinner, and everything in between, the menu is a smorgasbord of classic dishes served with a contemporary spin. For a big blowout, Assunta's Sunday Sugo is ideal, featuring a generous portion of pork short rib, meatball, Italian sausage, slow-braised in Assunta's homemade marinara sauce. Those looking for lighter fare can’t go wrong with one of the flavor-packed salads- the Peach Panzanella is to-die-for.
1. Reilly Craft Pizza & Drink
Authentic is all very well, but if modern techniques stand to improve age-old classics, why wouldn’t we embrace them? So goes the philosophy of Reilly Craft Pizza & Drink, and so, after a few slices of their hand-crafted, artisan pizza, we’re willing to bet, goes yours. Casual, upbeat, and with a superb selection of craft beers, wines, and cocktails, it’s the perfect place for catching up with friends and enjoying some of the finest food you’ll experience in Tucson. The Brussel Sprouts in house hot sauce, sherry vin., and pecan brittle crumbs are revolutionary.
Written by Dana Hanson
Read more posts by Dana Hanson