Italian food in Amsterdam still hasn’t quite reached the same regional level as it has in Italy (as in, here, Italian restaurants exist. In Italy, only Roman restaurants, Florentine restaurants, Sicilian restaurants, and so on, exist). But, that aside, there’s some very well-prepared, fresh, homemade Italian cuisine to be found. And while the regional split still isn’t that strong, there’s certainly differentiation among Amsterdam’s Italian restaurants. Whether you’re looking for a simple but perfectly formed pizza, a hearty bowl of pasta, fine dining for a special occasion, generous aperitivo, or even live music with your meal, Amsterdam has something for every Italo-phile.
Parts of this post are taken from my Amsterdam Restaurant Guide. Want to find out more about Italian restaurants plus all the other cuisine Amsterdam has to offer? Download the guide here:
Italian fine dining in Amsterdam: Momenti
The smarter sister restaurant of La Maschera del Lillotatini (which I’ve not yet been to but heard is lovely, cosy and traditional), Momenti is flexing its culinary muscles a little harder by combining tradition and creativity in a larger space on the Herenstraat. The restaurant has four fixed menus (between €44 and €80), each with a different theme – traditional, creative, vegetarian and truffle – and seasonally changing dishes. The evening I was there, we kicked off with a board laden with regional charcuterie “Cinta Senese” and cheeses, all of which were excellent but I especially enjoyed the truffle-laced pecorino. The trompe l’oeil “Tonno Tonnato” was a take on the traditional vitello tonnato: in this case, pork that resembled tuna, with a sauce of mayonnaise, capers and anchovies. Ravioli with truffle was rich and decadent, while another version of ravioli stuffed with wild boar and topped with chocolate sauce and candied orange peel was not one for the purists but certainly worth tasting. The tricks of the eye continued at dessert, with tiramisu-inspired flavours that had been fashioned to look like a mushroom. Service was warm and professional, and since Momenti is a newcomer you’re still in with a chance of scoring a table at the last minute on a Friday night.
Neapolitan-style pizza in Amsterdam: nNea
Opening in 2019 to huge critical acclaim, nNea’s dough takes over 50 hours to produce, and the result is like a warm pillow… fantastic, if you’re in it for the dough. (If you’re the kind of person who leaves pizza bones on their plate, nNea is going to look like a waste of calories.) I ordered the amatriciana pizza because it included the magic word guanciale – possibly my favourite pork-based ingredient in the world. Think bacon but ten times sexier. The amatriciana also involved pecorino, basil, chilli oil and a decent layer of tomato sauce but without mozzarella. The result was the perfect balance of umami, spiciness and doughiness. I only had one glass of wine (a smooth red from Ischia) but the drinks and service seemed to be up to the same quality as the pizza.
Roman-style pizza in Amsterdam: La Perla
I’ve had many a heated discussion with people about where to find the best pizza in Amsterdam, but when it comes to thin-and-crispy Roman-style, I’m resolute in my decision. It’s La Perla – hands down. They import most of their produce from Italy, and their buffalo mozzarella, ‘nduja and finocchiona are to die for. La Perla has a pizzeria on one side of the road (where they do mostly takeaway) and a restaurant on the other side (where you can order pizza plus various other dishes). Be sure to arrive early or reserve a table.
Where to eat pasta in Amsterdam: Cantinetta and Spaghetteria
Top of the pasta list is the aptly named Spaghetteria, now with six locations in Amsterdam. Not limited to spaghetti, they serve up three classics that are always on the menu and three other traditional dishes, which change on a daily basis. The ingredients themselves are top quality, and the dishes are both authentic and imaginative. I absolutely loved their slow-cooked deer ragù with broad ribbons of freshly made pasta and lashings of parmesan. Also worth checking out is Cantinetta in West, run by two women with a passion for Italian farm-to-fork cooking. I had linguine con vongole: the pasta was fresh, the tomatoes sweet and the clams plentiful. Cantinetta offers a well thought-out wine list too.
Aperitivo in Amsterdam: Primi
Flying the flag for aperitivo o’clock is Primi, where the friendly Italian guys offer free snacks with your drinks between 5.30 and 7.30 pm every day. I tried their Aperol Spritz and Smoky Margarita, and tucked into a board laden with olives, nuts, marinated artichokes, creamy little basil tarts and (my favourites) tiny pizza pockets stuffed with oozing mozzarella and a smidge of tomato sauce. Not stopping there, we ordered various antipasti to share: arancini (fried balls of risotto) were tasty. We also tried the excellent burrata, which was served with a sort of cold pea soup, and a dish of aubergine parmigiana – simply triumphant. Primi also serves pasta dishes, gnocchi, main courses and desserts – but after all the aperitivo snacks you’ll probably be far too full to eat them all!
Italian food meets live music: Agliojazz
With its tea-light candles, natural materials and warm and friendly hosts, Agliojazz is like a cross between your long-lost Italian family and your hipster Amsterdam friends. Both of whom happen to play jazz on a Friday night – bonus! Agliojazz’s menu is relatively long, offering antipasti, soups and side dishes, followed by primi (primarily pasta and gnocchi), secondi (meat and fish main dishes) and desserts. Start with the lardo di colonnata – thinly sliced strips of fatback cured in herbs and spices, served with shavings of truffle, truffle oil, and a sort of pear chutney. Decadent and entirely addictive. From there, continue the truffle theme with fettuccine doused in butter and topped with culatello and more truffle. Sprinkle with fresh parmesan and ascend straight to pasta heaven. If you’ve got room, try the caciucco di mare next: a rich seafood stew with a sunny tomato base and a generous array of octopus, clams, langoustines and much more. Once you’ve had your fill of food, wine and jazz music, take my mum’s advice and make it a long walk home in the fresh air to digest…
Sicilian food in Amsterdam: Le Due Sicilie
While I mentioned that most Italian restaurants in Amsterdam are not regionally specific, there are a few exceptions. A little off the beaten track in Oost is Le Due Sicilie – a Sicilian restaurant with all the warmth and sunshine in their food and in their manner that you’d expect. So far, I’ve tried the pulpo, the swordfish, the parmigiana di melanzane and the ziti pasta – all of which were spectacular, especially when washed down with a well-rounded glass of Nero d’Avola.
Amsterdam’s cosiest Italian café: Koevoet
I’m not really sure why this is a category for me, but it is. Because when in Amsterdam, it’s all about the gezelligheid (cosiness). In the picturesque Jordaan neighbourhood, Koevoet looks like an ancient brown café, but serves some excellent primi and secondi from what feels like your grandmother’s living room. I particularly like their carbonara and ravioli, but they have plenty of non-pasta dishes that are heavier on the protein side.