8 of the Best Italian Restaurants in Amsterdam for Every Occasion
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, generous aperitivo or fine dining for a special occasion, Amsterdam has something for every Italo-phile.
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.
Cicchetti in Amsterdam: TOZI
Located in the Park Plaza Hotel next to Vondelpark, TOZI is tucked away in one of those huge bay windows that characterises the architecture in Amsterdam’s grand Oud-Zuid neighbourhood. The evening I visited, it was one of those rare 32-degree summer days, so I was grateful to sit in the calm interior and enjoy the aircon and a cold glass of prosecco. TOZI’s concept centres around cicchetti – the Venetian answer to tapas – which means lots of small, shareable dishes. I’d recommend ordering the “Best of TOZI” menu so you get the chance to try as many dishes as possible. We ate everything from soft-shell crab to San Daniele ham (the prosciutto was excellent), and from cod croquettes with aioli to ricotta ravioli with freshly shaved truffle. Not to mention the tiramisu and Italian cheeses (not on the same plate!) for dessert. TOZI offers a wine pairing arrangement as well, which means three glasses of wine – one with each “round” of cicchetti. Again, highly recommended.
Editor’s note: I was invited to eat at both Momenti and TOZI as a journalist, and I didn’t pay for my meal. Obviously I try to be as objective as possible, but I always disclose when I’ve had a freebie.
Pizza in Amsterdam
There’s been much debate about where to find the best pizza in Amsterdam… There are the purists, for whom only a Neapolitan-style pizza will do. There are the experimenters, who aren’t afraid to go untraditional when it comes to toppings. And there are those looking for convenience, who are happiest with their neighbourhood takeaway pizza. In the end, I struggled to pick one favourite of my own, so I wrote a whole article about my top five pizzerias in Amsterdam – which pizza restaurants make it into your top five?
Pasta in Amsterdam: Spaghetteria
Top of the pasta pops is the aptly named Spaghetteria, now with nine locations in Amsterdam and more in Utrecht and 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 Hotel – 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 in the early evening. 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!
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
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.