Looking for the best Italian restaurants in Antwerp? Aching for a tasty plate of pasta, an exceptional pizza or a traditional dish by la mamma? Trot Op! explored the scene for you and came back with twelve authentic Italian restaurants.
I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t like Italian food. It’s a somewhat arbitrary rule, but I stick to it. The Italian kitchen is one of the most loved on the planet, and one of my personal favourites as well. Italians take their cuisine very seriously. When you’re an outsider messing with one of their culinary classics – by throwing pineapple on a perfectly good pizza like some yokel for example – you better sleep with one eye open. “Tasty bite” you’ll say, without thinking much of it. Until suddenly four surprisingly well-dressed individuals come drag you from your house into an Alfa Romeo with tinted windows – you and your stupid Italian herbs shaker from Aldi – and you simply disappear. Your body will never be found and your dear old mum will have to mourn next to an empty casket. That’ll teach you.
The 12 best Italian restaurants in Antwerp
This is exactly why I decided to play it safe this time. Only restaurants with certified Italians in the kitchen, who were suggested by their colleagues, made it to the list. So no Italian-Belgian fusion stuff, no spaghetti bolognese cooked by Fat Rita from the Roadside Inn and to the regret of every student in Antwerp no Da Giovanni either – which I personally find quite decent by the way. What you will find here, are twelve authentic Italian restaurants in Antwerp often somewhat less known by the general public: from simple and traditional to hip with a modern twist. Mamma Mia, enjoy the read!
*Last update: summer 2022. Main adjustments: removed closed down restaurants and added almost all authentic places for pizza in Antwerp. Did your favourite still didn’t make it in? Convince me in the comments below. I’m not infallible (it’s close though).
1. A Tavola: traditional Italian quality in a cheerful setting
*The sweet people working at A Tavola are on holiday right now. Please enjoy this wonderful picture of the Trevi fountain until I can book a table again.
A Tavola in Lange Lozanastraat started as a caterer a long time ago, before opening a restaurant in 2005. This turned out to be such a good idea the catering part of the business soon disappeared. If you only look at the façade, you might walk straight past this hidden gem. Inside however, one of the best and most authentic Italian restaurants in Antwerp is waiting for you in a playful décor. They work with an extensive menu. The chef likes variation and wants his clients to experience new flavours, which is why everything is listed on a chalkboard as well. Pasta is always cooked al dente here, and that’s how it should be. Whatever the package of your Delhaize-spaghetti tries to tell you. www.atavola-antwerpen.be
2. Mario Restaurant & Traiteur: the oldest Italian restaurant in Antwerp
Mario in Kammenstraat is most likely the oldest Italian restaurant in Antwerp, and was opened right after WWII. Throughout the years it evolved into pure Antwerp heritage. When the menu was last adapted, JFK still had the back of his head and Marilyn Monroe in his bed. You’ll eat all the classics here as if they were personally made by your imaginary Italian grandmother. The son of the original Mario now runs the place, and his granddaughter is helping out as well. You can only have lunch here, but downstairs there is lots of take-away stuff for sale. www.mariorestaurant.be
3. Spritz: the only vegan Italian in Antwerp
Shame on me! It appears I forgot to include the only vegan Italian restaurant in Antwerp in my previous article. It’s brand new though, which is as good an excuse as any. Spritz is a lovely decorated little place on Oude Koornmarkt, run by the young Luna, together with her mum and her boyfriend. When Luna decided to go vegan, she started looking for plant-based alternatives for all of her mother’s classic dishes. The results are delicious and surprisingly close to the originals. You can have everything from vegan spaghetti alla carbonara to vegan calamari. They also serve some funky cocktails, which is always nice.
4. Kestè: Neapolitan atmosphere in the city centre
Want to soak up the sizzling atmosphere of southern Italy without having to get on a plane for it? Then book a table at Kestè, a new restaurant in Lange Koepoortstraat. It is run by a real Neapolitan family. This means you’ll be greeted in passionate Italian, and also that the food will be authentic, simply made but fantastic in taste. Here they cook traditional Neapolitan cuisine with a modern twist. Even the restaurant itself is modelled after the typical Naples streets. A bit of travelling a few hundred meters from the cathedral: who could say no to that? www.keste-pizzeria-bistro.be
5. Pizzeria Nicoletta: real Italian pizzas in a unique setting
Those fancying a pizza in Antwerp can probably pick a place out of over a hundred addresses. Those who want to enjoy a pizza baked according to the rules of the art, have to pick a venue from a much, much shorter list. Pizzas as thick as a roof tile with a greasy cheesy crust might be okay in The United States of Mediocre Food, but will get you thrown right into the Colosseum together with a couple of zoo lions in Rome. Pizzeria Nicoletta, near Sint-Andriesplaats, does know how it’s done. For a long time this was the sister restaurant of the well-known (but unfortunately closed-down) Il Famosi, but now they work completely independently. Here the pizzas are made according to Neapolitan tradition, and there are plenty of other dishes on the menu to choose from – all in a classic décor full of photos of Italian movie stars. www.pizzerianicoletta.be
6. Kalura: Sicilian pizzas in the student quarter
Kalura is one of the better pizzerias in Antwerp, and is located right behind my apartment in the heart of the student district. This tiny restaurant is run by a young Sicilian, and opened about a week before the start of the first lockdown. I felt so bad about this at the time, I ordered a take-away pizza every week for two months – and i must say I really liked them. This said: we’re two years further down the road now. Kalura managed to survive all covid-misery and the place is packed every afternoon these days. Quality always prevails.
7. Il Pastaiolo: get everything you need for your own Italian dishes
Il Pastaiolo in Wilde Zee – which secretly isn’t wild at all – is one of the main places to be in Antwerp for anyone in love with Italian cuisine, and has been for almost 30 years now. Il Pastaiolo is not a restaurant but a delicatessen, offering dishes from all over Italy. Everything is made fresh and on the spot in their open kitchen. If you want to truly explore Italian gastronomy, this is the place to start. You can buy all the necessary ingredients to have a go at it at home as well. Pineapple not for sale. www.ilpastaiolo.be
8. Malaciorta: authentic pizzas around the Antwerp Central Station
The Central Station neighborhood isn’t exactly the place where you expect to find decent restaurants. Still, there’s at least one of them hidden away here. Malaciorta means “bad luck”, and this turned out to be a very appropriate name. Two days after the restaurant opened, the first lockdown started (apparently a lot of pizza places opened up in March 2020). Fortunately, they too survived the crisis with flying colors, and Malaciorta grew into one of the most authentic pizzerias in Antwerp: fresh ingredients, wafer-thin bases and chewy crusts. As they’d throw them on your plate in Naples. www.malaciorta-antwerpen.be
9. Pastificio Da Lory: Antwerp’s Limburg-Italian pasta connection
Pastificio Da Lory on Oude Leeuwenrui is a cosy pasta shop run by a Limburg-Italian mother-daughter combo. There are different pasta dishes with lots of fillings to choose from in the counter every week, ready to take home and devour. They also sell freshly made pasta to put in your own dishes – please don’t drown it in Aldi bolognese sauce. You can have lunch here as well. It’s super tasty and not expensive at all. www.dalory.be
10. Arrikiiati: Sicilian street food near the red light district
*This picture was made by Martina Sessarego
Arrikiiati is a nice restaurant in Huikstraat near the red light district. It’s owned by a Sicilian chef and his French girlfriend. They worked in haute cuisine restaurants for years before opening their own little spot in Antwerp. Sicilian street food is served here, which is great because I ate better on that island than anywhere else in Italy. Truly an “offer I couldn’t refuse”. Food sharing is the norm here: there will be lots of little dishes on the table to share with your friends. Very cosy indeed. www.arrikiiati.com
PS: for people from Berchem. Giorgio from Arrikiiati is also responsible for the dishes at Pastificio Marie.
11. Bar Riga: fine dining behind a famous façade
Once upon a time the iconic Riga suitcase shop was hidden behind the façade of Hotel Riga. Now it became a lovely boutique hotel. More interesting for this article is Bar Riga: the hotel’s restaurant. It is run by an Italian chef, which makes for a pure Italian kitchen. As a result, you can go for some fine dining in a beautiful setting here, while you can look at the people walking by in busy Korte Koepoortstraat. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. www.hotelriga.be
12. Cuore di Puglia: original Italian mozzarella in Nationalestraat
Cuore di Puglia in Nationalestraat looks like your standard pizza place from the outside, but looks can deceive. This Italian caterer & cheese maker cooks everything the traditional way. They even produce the mozzarella that goes in many of the dishes themselves. The menu is extensive, especially as far as pizzas go, and the rates are quite democratic. They also serve pizza Hawaï by the way, but you didn’t get that from me. www.cuoredipugliantwerpen.com
The best Italian restaurants in Antwerp: any questions?
There you go boys and girls: twelve lovely Italian restaurants in Antwerp where you’ll eat like royalty. Buon appetito! Did I forget a couple of places? Is pizza Hawaï your all-time favourite? Then quietly move into witness protection and check out the Facebook page “Italians mad at food” to get a good idea of the fire you’re playing with.
Fancy something besides Italian? Read my articles on the best Asian, Middle-Eastern, Vegan or Burger places in Antwerp. Thirsty? Check out the best cocktail and coffee bars in Antwerp. Want to explore the city a bit? Take a look at my posts on the five places in Antwerp you won’t get corona, or click here and here to discover four hidden gems. Would you prefer going to another Belgian destination? Read my pieces on Gaume, The Zwin, Leuven, Spa and Liège.