There’s nothing that hits the spot quite like fresh, authentic Italian cuisine, but here in Iowa, we are fortunate enough to have countless restaurants that serve up the real deal. Great Italian food is so much more than just pizza and pasta, though, so if you’re looking for a mouthwatering meal that is as close to Italy as the Midwest can get, check out one of these spots for an unforgettable dining experience.
1. Baroncini, Iowa City
Baroncini is somewhat of a standout restaurant in Iowa City. Here, namesake chef and owner Gianluca Baroncini brings true, Northern Italy fare to the Midwest in a way that not only rivals the intimate, high-end ambiance of larger states, but exemplifies his culinary expertise as a two-star Michelin chef back home in Italy. A small menu of tasty main dishes and desserts is delivered with personalized service and stunning presentation, just as though you were dining in the homey comfort of an Italian villa.
2. McCaffrey's Dolce Vita, Decorah
Voted "The Best Pizza in Iowa" by USA Today, this secluded pizzeria and attached bakery makes some of the sweetest Italian this side of Des Moines. Built on land that has been in the McCaffrey family since 1961, Dolce Vita bakes, stirs, and sprinkles true Italian love into every homemade dish. Organic wood-fired crusts, fresh ingredients, and a scenic view while you dine? Yes, please!
3. Centro, Des Moines
When you're ratnked as the #1 restaurant in Iowa's capital city, you know you have a good thing going! Urban, yet cozily housed in a restored Masonic temple, Centro is the epitome of fine, authentic Italian dining in the bustling heart of Des Moines. Executive Chef Derek Eidson and his culinary team take freshness and colorful presentation to new levels of perfection with unique entrees and desserts that range from coal-fired pizza with butternut squash, caramelized onions, and bacon in a smooth white sauce, to melt-in-your-mouth Pancetta-wrapped and wood-grilled shrimp. YUM.
4. Napoli's, Marion
This quaint Italian eatery on the border between Marion and Cedar Rapids has earned itself quite a reputation for its pasta, but this family restaurant, owned by chefs Johnny and Gony Qerimi, offers so much more than noodles and gnocchi. Diners particularly rave about the Limoncello cake, and the fresh-baked rolls, in addition to traditional Italian fare.
5. Vino's Ristorante and R.G. Books Lounge, Cedar Rapids
Don't let the strip mall exterior fool you into thinking that the homestyle Italian magic taking place inside Vino's is anything less than fabulous. Featuring a massive wine list and what many have labeled as the best seafood in Iowa, you can't go wrong with this hidden gem and its unique, cozy lounge ambiance.
6. Trattoria Fresco, Sioux City
For the best bruschetta and classic Italian desserts in the western half of the state, and an incredible meal that includes the most delectable entrees Italy has to offer, Trattoria Fresco is the place to be. A sparkling new location finally gives Chef Israel's unique and artistic creations the atmosphere they need to shine, while homemade cannolis, buffet options, and a family-style atmosphere make this Italian eatery a must-visit for casual weekday dining.
7. Pasta Bella, Mason City
Homemade rolls baked to heavenly perfection, an extensive menu, and divine namesake pastas just a few things that make Pasta Bella such a delicious hidden gem. But the real magic is simply in the generous servings and flavorful, slow-simmered sauces that create an authentic Italian experience in every bite.
8. Crust Italian Kitchen & Bar, Dubuque
Casual and sassy, Crust takes Italian dining to the modern twenty-first century with mind-blowing appetizers that threaten to steal the show from the fresh, gourmet pizzas and traditional cuisine. The bonus? Their dough bites and fried mozzrella sticks are to die for.
Yum! What’s your favorite go-to restaurant when the craving for Italian strikes? Let us know in the comments!