For most Americans, memories of Italian restaurants conjure images of red-checkered tablecloths, melted candles stuck in old Chianti bottles and lots of pasta smothered in red sauce. Very little of it has much in common with the Old Country. The trend in recent years has been toward regional and modern Italian specialties. Regardless, whether it’s old school or cutting edge you crave, Madison has just the spot to satisfy you. Here are some of the best restaurants serving Italian food in Madison, WI.
Decidedly untrendy and proud of it, Angelo’s is all about the three P’s: pasta, pizza and price. Angelo’s caters to Wisconsin palates–not only familiar Italian favorites but a Friday night fish fry to boot. There’s even a homey casserole: spaghetti pie–spaghetti mixed with what you’d expect to find on top of a pizza, including gobs of gooey mozzarella. Regulars come just for the house special–white pizza, topped with Alfredo sauce, artichokes, mushrooms, black olives and Parmesan.
Cafe La Bellitalia
This family-owned north-side rendezvous spot serves up home-style Italian-American cooking. Expect Pietro and Josephine Pipitone to treat you like family and feed you until you’re stuffed. Lots of pasta and noodles to be sure, but a standout is the lasagna. Pizza comes either thin crust, pan style or stuffed, with a pick of three sauces and 20 toppings.
One of the city’s newest and most contemporary Italian restaurants, Cento presents decor that’s as stylish as a Lamborghini and food as gorgeous as Sophia Loren. It strives to make dining Italian in Madison memorable. Coincidentally or not, it’s the perfect prelude to a night of grand opera, a Broadway production or a gallery show at its neighbor, Overture Center. The kitchen serves exquisitely executed classic dishes prepared with locally sourced produce and meats.
Fraboni’s Italian Specialties & Delicatessen
There was a time, if you needed San Marzano tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil or porketta, you headed to Fraboni’s. Today, it still stands out for both its quality and selection of all things Italiano. Opened in 1971 by Angelo Fraboni, the business is now owned by two of his sons, Garry and Steve Fraboni, in the heart of the Greenbush neighborhood. Among the many sandwiches, none are better than the Italian sub, filled to overflowing with a quarter-pound of Genoa salami, capicola ham and mild provolone and topped with shredded lettuce, sliced tomatoes and special house vinaigrette.
Discovering this bar tucked away in the basement of the Italian Workmen’s Club at Spaghetti Corners is akin to finding buried treasure. Excluding the much-appreciated smoking ban in 2005, very little has changed here, least of all the quality of the pizza, antipasti, salads and other choices. Family recipes made with quality, local ingredients have clearly contributed to owner Anna Alberici’s success. Her crispy thin-crust pizza baked in her grandmother’s oven is as good as any in town.
These are some of the best Italian restaurants to sample in Madison, WI.