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 evening I visited (in early 2020) the restaurant was offering four fixed menus, each with a different theme – traditional, creative, vegetarian and truffle – and seasonally changing dishes. 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 still not that well-known, you’re 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.
Experimental pizza in Amsterdam: PizzaLab
Not all pizza has to have 100% traditional toppings (although it does help if they’re Italian). Opening in May 2021 in the Zuidas, PizzaLab is on a mission to take an incredibly accessible product and do it well, but leave room for experimentation (hence the “lab” in the name). PizzaLab’s menu is split between classics with a twist and more daring seasonal creations: “We have a grounding in the classics but we also want to innovate and play within our sphere of knowledge,” says co-owner Lauren Jade Lee. High on the innovation scale is PizzaLab’s “Adventure of a Cetara Anchovy” pizza, which has neither a white nor a red sauce base but a green one: made with friarielli (sometimes known as Neapolitan broccoli) to create an entirely new visual and flavour experience. Equally popular (and delicious) is the XXXNduja, made with spicy ‘nduja from Spilinga, salami from Ventricina, burrata from an award-winning cheesemaker in Putignano, organic San Marzano tomatoes, and sweeter yellow tomatoes from Piennolo – taking hyper-local Italian ingredients but using them to create something a little leftfield.
Where to eat pasta in Amsterdam: Spaghetteria
Top of the pasta list is the aptly named Spaghetteria, now with eight locations in Amsterdam, three in Utrecht and two in Rotterdam. 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.
Cocktails, cicchetti and chic: Cecconi’s Amsterdam
Way back in the day, I used to study at the Universiteit van Amsterdam, and in 2002 the Bungehuis on Spuistraat was where I attended many of my English tutorials before browsing the all-important literature library. But it’s subsequently been restored to its glamorous 1930s former glory, and is now home to elegantly atmospheric Italian restaurant Cecconi’s. The restaurant, while open to the public, is part of Soho House – so you can expect chic young creatives to people-watch while you dine. Cecconi’s does a lovely line in cocktails (try the Negroni or the Dolce Vita, if you like strong drinks) and specialises in cicchetti – small shareable dishes like fried zucchini or panzerotto. But it also offers tasty pasta dishes, pizzas from the wood oven, and grilled meat and fish. The food is all pretty safe, but you’re really here for the impressive location and glamorous atmosphere.
Aperitivo in Amsterdam: Primi
Flying the flag for aperitivo o’clock is Primi, where the friendly Italian guys offer delicious morsels with your drinks every day at 6 pm. 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 Friday and Saturday nights – bonus! Agliojazz’s menu offers antipasti, soups and side dishes, followed by primi (primarily pasta and gnocchi), secondi (meat and fish main dishes) and desserts. We started with 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, we continued 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. 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.