Italian restaurants are having a moment in Charlotte.
Italian boom: In the past year, at least five new Italian restaurants have opened — and that’s not including pizza-first joints like Sal’s Pizza Factory. More is on the way: Chef Paul Verica’s much-anticipated Orto in NoDa is planning a late 2020 opening.
Despite being open primarily in a pandemic, newcomers like Little Mama’s, Osteria Luca, and Indaco are standouts in the scene. So much so we had to expand our 5 best list to this list of 12.
[Related Agenda story: Why there’s been an explosion of Italian restaurants in Charlotte]
Italian closures: Even with takeout-friendly dishes like pasta and pizza, Italian restaurants have not been immune to the effects of the pandemic. In University, Ciro’s Italian Restaurant closed after 25 years in business.
Here are Charlotte’s must-try Italian restaurants, listed in no particular order.
Honorable Mentions: Luce, Volo, Fiamma, Angeline’s, Oggi, North Italia, and Dolce. Also, this does not include amazing pizza-first spots like Inizio and Pizzeria Omaggio.
Modern take on classic Italian dishes in an intimate Myers Park setting with an open kitchen
Must-order dishes: Start with the meatballs – local pork, parmesan, marinara and ciabatta ($10) and then go with the pepperoni and sausage pizza ($16).
Money: $$$. Apps and small plates run about $10, pizzas about $15, and both pastas and entrees are around $30.
Fun fact: Pizzas are served with giant pair of scissors so you can cut it as you like. It’s fun.
Best for: Date night.
Location and hours: Myers Park. 715 Providence Road. Monday-Thursday: 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday-Saturday: 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. Closed on Sundays.
(2) Mama Ricotta’s
Popular classic Italian restaurant in Midtown
Must-order dish: Penne alla vodka – penne pasta tossed with sautéed pancetta in a pepper vodka, spicy tomato cream sauce ($15). Also, you can’t go wrong with their lasagna, a southern Italian-style lasagna made with layers of ground beef, veal, homemade sausage and a blend of three cheeses ($13).
Noteworthy: Pizza is a New Haven-style with a thin crust that’s crisp and bubbly, cooked in a true wood-burning oven that you can view from the bar.
Money: $$. Medium pizzas are $12.50 and pastas are about $15.
Best for: Family dinner or takeout.
Location and hours: Midtown. 601 South Kings Drive. Monday – Thursday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday – Saturday: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
SouthPark Italian restaurant in a Tuscan-themed space with a cute outdoor patio.
Popular dishes: Buttera pasta (Ted’s favorite) – tubular pasta, Italian sausage and sweet peas in a tomato cream sauce ($22). Garganelli pasta (Emma’s favorite) – prosciutto, fresh asparagus, truffle butter, and parmigiano ($17).
Money: $$$. Pastas are $23+ ($15+ for lunch). Meat and seafood dishes are around $35.
Location and hours: SouthPark. 6401 Morrison Blvd. Lunch Monday – Friday 11:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Dinner Monday – Thursday 5:30p.m. to 10:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday 5:30 to 11:00 p.m. Sunday closed.
(4) Flour Shop
Intimate restaurant with a central show kitchen in the middle of the dining room owned and operated by Trey Wilson, the well-respected chef behind Customshop in Elizabeth
What, is this Italian? Flour Shop doesn’t describe itself as an Italian restaurant, but they’re arguably doing the best pasta and bread in Charlotte, so we decided to include them.
Menu: Expect a focused menu, consisting of fresh pasta and breads along with roasted and grilled meats, seafood and vegetables. Menu changes constantly. If on the menu, most popular dishes include their Coal-Roasted Acorn Squash ($14), Grilled UGF mushrooms ($14), and Ricotta and Garganelli pastas.
Money: $$$. Most small plates are $14, pastas are about $25 and roasted meat/seafood is about $30.
Location and hours: Montford. 530 Brandywine Unit A, Backlot of Park Road Shopping Center. Monday-Saturday: 5 p.m. – 10 p.m. Closed Sundays.
Family-friendly casual Italian spot in Myers Park lined with cozy booths and an old-school atmosphere.
Money: $$. Pizzas are all in the $10-12 range for a sizable one size fits all. Pastas are about $15.
Pizza: Zio sells two types of pizza: grilled pizza, which is cooked extra crisp over an open flame and cut into squares, and the legendary hot pie, New York style with 8 big slices created by Uncle Adolph “Duff” Consol who opened the family’s first restaurant in NYC back in 1946.
Location and hours: Myers Park. 116 Middleton Drive. Monday – Thursday: 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Friday – Saturday: 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Sunday: closed.
[Agenda related story: The single most underrated restaurant in Charlotte]
(6) Little Mama’s
Mama Ricotta’s sister concept with a first-of-its-kind-in-Charlotte mozz bar
Must-order dishs: Mozzarella ($7+) served with a drizzle of unfiltered olive oil, lasagna ($14), broiled whole cauliflower ($9), and Mama’s olive oil cake ($11).
Brunch menu: Little Mama’s recently added its “big brunch” menu with dishes like crab cake benedict ($19), spinach and prosciutto quiche ($14), and a massive portion of steak and eggs ($32). There’s a full cocktail list for brunch, too.
Best for: Post-work dinner and drinks.
Location and hours: 4521 Sharon Road. Open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday, and 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday.
[Full Agenda guide: Little Mama’s, Mama Ricotta’s sister concept, now open in SouthPark]
(7) Osteria LuCa
Casual full-service Italian restaurant in Park Road Shopping Center from the TRUE Crafted Pizza team
Must-order dishes: The meatballs ($14) and a wood-fired pizza ($12-$16).
Money: $$. Pizzas range in price from $12-$16, pastas cost $16-$19, and wood-fired entrees cost $19-$38.
Best for: Night out with girlfriends.
Location and hours: 4127 Park Road. Opens 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Tues-Thurs, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m on Fri-Sat, and 5-9 p.m. on Sun.
[Full Agenda guide: Italian restaurant Osteria LuCa is now open in Park Road Shopping Center]
Upscale Italian in South End by the restaurant group behind O-Ku
Money: $$$. Pasta dishes start at $22. Pizza starts at $16.
Best for: Date night or impressing out-of-town relatives.
Location and hours: 2046 South Blvd. 5-9 p.m. on Tues-Thurs and 5-10 p.m. on Fri-Sat.
[Full Agenda guide: View 12 photos and full menu at Indaco, an Italian restaurant opening in South End]
Reliable family-run spot with four locations in Charlotte
Must-order dishes: Always start with garlic knots. For your main, go with the popular chicken parmigiana ($16.45) or chicken portofino ($17.95).
Best for: A relaxed family dinner.
Locations: Portofino’s has locations at Park Road, Eastway, Indian Land, and Arboretum.
Venetian-style wine bar with Italian small plates from the Aria team
Money: $$. Small plates range in price from $7-$15. Mains start at $16.
Best for: Dinner with friends or family you don’t mind sharing with.
Location and hours: 100 N. Tryon St.
(11) Aqua e Vino
Intimate Northern Italian restaurant by chef Gabriele Grigolon
Money: $$$. Pastas are around $23, and other mains range from $24-$40.
Best for: Special occasions.
Location and hours: 4219 Providence Road, Ste. 3. Open for lunch 12-3 p.m. on Wed-Sat. Open for dinner 5-10 p.m. on Tues-Sat. Closed Sun-Mon.
(12) Volo Ristorante
New Italian restaurant in the former Lumiere location serving seasonal cuisine
Money: $$$. Antipasti starts at $8. Pasta dishes (primi) ranges from $20-$34. Secondi dishes (meat) ranges from $28-$40.
Location and hours: 1039 Providence Road. Open 5-9 p.m. on Wed-Sun.