Italian is the most popular and widely-eaten type of food in the world. It’s no surprise that it makes a great restaurant menu choice everywhere, from Italy to the US. If you love Italian food as much as we do, prepare to be inspired with these top 10 best dishes you shouldn’t miss at an Italian restaurant in the US. There are so many Italian restaurants—from trattorias and pizzerias to osterias and bistros — that it’s hard to know which one to visit first! Fortunately, wherever you go, there will always be delicious pasta, pizza, risotto, gnocchi, pesto, prosciutto…and much more!
1. A Fresh Start with Frittura
Frittura (fried things) is an essential part of the Italian menu. This might seem odd, but it’s typical for people to start with an antipasto of fried fish, vegetables, and other foods. Frittura is not limited to fish; it can also include meat, vegetables, and cheese. Try fritters at an Italian restaurant, and you’ll taste Italy’s traditions in one bite!
2. Pizza by the slice
If you’re feeling a little peckish, try a slice of pizza at an Italian restaurant. It won’t be a full portion, but it’s enough to satisfy your craving and get you by until the main course. The best pizza toppings are whatever you like; however, there are a few classics that you shouldn’t miss. A Margherita pizza is the most popular one. It’s made with tomato sauce, mozzarella, and basil.
3. Pasta with Tomato
What’s the perfect accompaniment to a pizza? Well, if you’re going for a classic Italian meal, then a bowl of pasta with tomato sauce is the way to go. This pasta is always on the menu, and the tomato sauce is a versatile addition to any pasta, from spaghetti to linguine. Of course, you can also get pasta with other sauce or cream. You can try Pomodoro alla Genovese (vegetarian pasta with tomato sauce and basil), Pomodoro alla Napoletana (tomato sauce with garlic, olive oil, and basil), Pomodoro alla Romana (tomato paste with basil, garlic, and oil), or Pomodoro alla gricia (vegetarian pasta with tomato sauce and basil).
4. Penne all arrabbiata
Penne all arrabbiata is a spicy tomato and pepper pasta. It isn’t as common as tomato spaghetti, but it’s worth trying! If you love spicy food, go for penne all arrabbiata, much spicier than normal tomato pasta. It’s a really interesting dish, and the spices give it a unique flavor you won’t find in any other dish. Add a few scallions for a fresh touch, and you’ve got yourself a unique pasta. This pasta is great to order with people who like spicy food.
5. Risotto with Nero d’Avano and Mussels
Risotto is a classic Italian dish, but you can make it differently every time. You can choose Italian and make it with any vegetable or meat you like. One risotto you shouldn’t miss when eating at an Italian restaurant is made with a black van, a type of Italian grape. You can also make it with white wine, but we recommend a grape-based risotto. Add some seafood, like mussels, and you have a delicious dish on your plate. Add some herbs, and you’ll have a perfect bowl of Italian food.
6. Rotini with Basil Pesto
The ultimate comfort food, pasta with pesto, is a must-try for any Italian food lover. You can get it with spaghetti, fettuccine, or rotini, but make sure you don’t miss this classic Italian dish while at an Italian restaurant.
7. Cannelloni al Forno with Ricotta and Spinach
Cannelloni al Forno is baked stuffed pasta shells with ricotta and spinach filling. They are an Italian version of Mexican empanadas, but you can’t miss out on them at an Italian restaurant. They’re perfect for any occasion, with a crispy crust and a warm, cheesy interior. You can get them with meat, vegetables, or even both. There are no wrong choices when it comes to cannelloni al Forno!
8. Spaghetti with Squid and Clams
Order spaghetti with squid and clams if you want to try something a little different. The squid is tender, and the clams are soft and flavourful, so this combination is surprisingly delicious. If you’re not a fan of spicy food, make sure you order it without the chili peppers in the sauce.
Carbonara is a creamy pasta dish with bacon, eggs, and plenty of cheese. If you visit an Italian restaurant in the US with ‘pizza and pasta’ on the menu, they will likely serve carbonara. If you get it at a pizzeria, it will be served as pasta prima, and if you get it at a trattoria, it will be served as a pasta secondo.
10. Baked Lasagna
Lasagna is one of the most popular Italian dishes and is often served as a main course. Traditionally, it’s made with homemade pasta sheets and a meat sauce. If you’re visiting an Italian restaurant, you will likely find lasagna on the menu.