Restaurant Reviews

The best Italian restaurants in Brisbane

Say ciao to these top-notch kitchens.

Otto Brisbane
1. Bar Alto
There's no shortage of good Italian in Brisbane but Bar Alto's artful approach sets it apart. A grilled quail saltimbocca is carefully laid out over fanned stone fruit, radicchio and citrus, the exoticism on the plate translating once it hits the mouth. Roast lamb is finished with ricotta salata and balsamic poured at the table with a flourish. It all adds an appropriate dash of theatre to this perennial Powerhouse favourite. Still, the restaurant knows its basics – gnocchi served with spanner crab is a luxurious way to spend a main course. Floor staff perhaps lack the panache of the more strapping joints around town, but they'll get the efficient, Italian-leaning wine list to you readily enough. To finish, linger in the warm and industrial environs over a generous slab of tiramisù, or order a pile of granita fit for a brain-freeze and you're ready for a show next door.
Brisbane Powerhouse, 119 Lamington St, New Farm, (07) 3358 1063,
2. Beccofino
There could be a cyclone spinning down the Brisbane River and Beccofino still wouldn't miss a beat. For 15 years, this Teneriffe favourite has run like golden clockwork; even on the busiest nights service is sharp, friendly and with no shortage of Italian brio. Raw yellowfin tuna with Ligurian olives and celery leaves has an inspired kind of restraint, lifted by a dash of chilli and South Burnett olive oil. A gussied up parmigiana with kipflers shows your local boozer how it's done, juicy Napoli sauce and buffalo mozzarella helping assuage the carb-on-carb guilt. Squid-ink spaghetti tossed with baby calamari and tomatoes proves endlessly eatable. A pizza with dark chocolate sauce and vanilla-bean ice-cream is less impressive, but gives you a reason to order another glass from an easy-going Italian wine list and enjoy the Beccofino hum just that little longer.
10 Vernon Tce, Teneriffe, (07) 3666 0207,

3. 1889 Enoteca
1889 Enoteca has dropped some airs and graces over the years and become more Roman along the way. Bambini are just as welcome as young lovers, Italian pop soundtracking the convivial atmosphere. Decisions start early: dine in the wine room, the marble-lined bar or alfresco on the beguiling Logan Road strip. Then they get hard: for entrée, juicy figs with Gorgonzola and prosciutto, or fried zucchini flowers bursting with mozzarella and anchovies? Whichever way you go, it's highly evolved simplicity. For main course, a saltimbocca alla Romana remains a favourite but Enoteca's edge is in its pasta – think pappardelle cut so thick you might mistake it for lasagne, its braised pork and beef sauce fragrant and hearty. A cherry and ricotta tart is compulsory, as is one final glass from the extraordinary list of Italian wines, as natural, low-intervention and approachable as the floor staff.
10-12 Logan Rd, Woolloongabba, (07) 3392 4315,
4. Julius Pizzeria
So effortless is Julius, it's easy to under-appreciate this cornerstone of South Brisbane's dining scene. You may wait for a table, but it's never long. And waitstaff are that efficiently rilassato, you'd be forgiven for wondering if they caught your order. Rest assured they didn't miss a thing. Order a glass from the list of quaffable Italians and entrées will arrive soon after – pork belly with nectarine and radicchio, a giddy bittersweet collision; or wood-roasted eggplant slathered with luscious buffalo mozzarella. After such glories, main courses can underwhelm. Al dente spaghetti with seafood is fine without being fabulous, while a succulent chicken leg doesn't quite match with its accompanying broccoli and pancetta. Ricotta dumplings with Nutella and honeycomb ice-cream are what they are. You'll hardly care. Julius is about the experience, one that will have you returning soon.
77 Grey St, South Brisbane, (07) 3844 2655,

5. Lupa
This unpretentious street side diner would sit as easily in Rome's Monti quarter as it does in Brisbane's West End. Savvy expat owners make the difference. One partner is a gun manager with serious wine nous (cue quirky roundup of natural and orange offerings and smart aperitivi). The other brings her keen palate and kitchen skills. The specialty is Roman-style pizze with long-ferment bases but Lupa's focus roves beyond crisp-based pies, and the engaging floor staff ensure service is a cut above. A house treat is lupacchiotti, moreish triangles of hot dough crowned with marinated eggplant, burrata and capocollo. Vitello tonnato, all rosy curls of veal backstrap in a tunalaced sauce, comes with tart caperberries for a classic start. A vanilla panna cotta with amaretti crumb and tart raspberries displays the same simple care that underlines the whole experience. Brava!
321 Montague Rd, West End, (07) 3532 3875,
6. Otto
It lacks the waterside setting of its Sydney counterpart but Otto Brisbane's city-chic digs on the fourth floor of a high-rise block are angled to amplify sweeping skyscapes taking in the river, Story Bridge and Customs House. Food-friendly Italian wines dominate, with Spritzes aplenty and Will Cowper's modern, precisely rendered southern Italian-influenced fare ferried to table by Brisbane's best. Fritto misto illustrates careful sourcing, arriving as a classic tumble of lightly fried, crisp school prawns, tiny whitebait and calamari strips; goldband snapper fillet is served simply with crisp salt-crystallised skin and a vivid pea purée, dotted with corn and fat savoury pieces of shiitake. Dessert is smokin': a rubble of liquid nitrogen-frozen coconut and vanilla-mousse chunks, with pineapple and a yolk-coloured mango sorbet paying sweet tribute to the Sunshine State.
Level 4, 480 Queen St, Brisbane, (07) 3835 2888,

7. Tartufo
Little changes at Tartufo, but this is a compliment. La Pizzeria offers some of the best wood-fired pizze in the state; classic Italian dishes are served in a handsome dining room alongside, featuring leather banquettes and linen-napped tables. An extensive, Italian-leaning wine list, with persuasive selection by-the-glass, is reason enough to visit. Big flavoured main courses might include lamb wrapped in prosciutto with cauliflower and red wine jus, and rosemary, sage and garlic pork belly with roasted chat potatoes. However, house-made pasta and risotto entrées are even better – wild and cultivated mushrooms folded through linguine, with a truffle and mascarpone sauce, or rigatoni featuring Italian pork sausage, tomato, basil and parmesan. Sharing entrées is encouraged, but you may be unwilling. Semifreddo studded with raisins and hazelnuts is a cool finish.
Shop 59, Emporium, 1000 Ann St, Fortitude Valley, (07) 3852 1500,