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 eight 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 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 eight 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!
1. Mario Restaurant & Traiteur
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
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.
CiPiaCe is a slightly larger restaurant in Zirkstraat, with strange capital letters in its name and a hip retro-interior perfect for smoking fat cigars in a suit in – which sadly is not allowed anymore. The kitchen is pure Italian, with authentic dishes plated with style and finesse. They also offer a mean Gin & Tonic, and on Sundays, you can treat your significant other to a copious Italian brunch. You’ll have to imagine both the street musicians and Piazza Navona, but everything else is there. www.cipiace.be
4. Il Pastaiolo
*Il Pastaiolo is currently closed for holidays. Enjoy this lovely picture of the always peaceful Trevi Fountain instead.
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
5. Pastificio Da Lory
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
*Arrikiiati is closed for holidays as well. 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.
Barbarella is a pizza place on Grote Markt, but it doesn’t cater to tourists looking for an easy meal. This is a real Italian restaurant, and its pizzas are baked according to the rules of the art: fresh ingredients only, wafer-thin bases and crunchy crusts – like you would get them on your plate in Naples. The whole menu fits onto a couple of post-its and doesn’t have a single superfluous entry: a couple of titbits, three pastas, eleven pizzas and two desserts. Perfect. www.barbarellapizza.be
8. Cuore di Puglia
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: eight 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. 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.