Few food styles can put smiles on faces like Italian. In many ways, traditional Italian food is true comfort food. And often the very best Italian food offerings don’t require elaborate ingredients or recipes using dozens of ingredients. Instead, exceptional Italian food relies on a few, quality items. It’s truly amazing what an expert can do with fresh tomatoes and homemade pasta.
Of course, everyone has their personal Italian favorites. Maybe it’s classic spaghetti with tomato sauce, or perhaps you go straight to the lasagna on any menu. Whatever you turn to, whenever you have it the meal has a way of making your entire body happy (and probably in need of a solid nap). Here in Tucson, there’s a handful of Italian joints spread around town. Kev’s Best is a city review website that puts out top-5 lists for the largest cities in the United States. It recently added Tucson to its list, and its local reviewers have compiled a list of the very best Italian restaurants here in Tucson.
So, the next time you’re in the mood for classic Italian, here are the top five spots to go to, according to Kev’s Best.
434 N. 4th Avenue
Probably the most easily recognizable Italian restaurant on the list, this family-owned joint has been a 4th Avenue anchor for nearly 90 years. So what has helped this restaurant stand the test of time? The fact that basically everything is made from scratch and in-house. Whether it’s ravioli, cannelloni, or lasagna (just to name a few), everything is made right here. And you can taste the difference.
The restaurant is named for Nicasio “Caruso” Zagona when he opened the restaurant back in the 1930s. The name has remained on the side of the restaurant just as long as it has remained in the Zazona family.
Dolce Vita Italian Bistro
1800 East Ford Lowell Rd (Suite 168)
This restaurant works with several local food growers, so much of what you eat here is especially fresh. However, currently, the restaurant is not offering in-person dining options (it’s still looking to bring in new employees), but you can order take-out from Dolce Vita.
Nate’s Italian Kitchen
7074 E. Golf Links Road
A quality Italian restaurant isn’t all about pasta. While these are major staples and you can separate the good from the great by simply tasting the pasta and sauces, quality Italian restaurants have other staples like eggplant parmesan. At Nate’s Italian Kitchen that’s one of the house specials, in addition to chicken scampi. If there’s a classic Italian menu item you’re hoping for, chances are you’ll find it at Nate’s.
7065 E. Tanque Verde Rd
This is one of the smaller restaurants to make the list, so there’s often a wait to be seated. It’s also a recent addition to the Tucson food scene, opening up last year in March (right at the beginning of the pandemic, so if you haven’t heard of the restaurant, or have had the chance to try it out yet, here’s why). However, the fact that the restaurant was able to make it through the pandemic without an established client base spotlights just how good the food is. Restaurants were already clawing for whatever business they could, at Renee’s Tucson made it work.
So, if you haven’t given it a try yet, now’s the time.
There are a few locations here in Tucson, and if you’re new in town and ask about Italian or pizza joints, you’ll probably hear the name “Oregano’s” more often than not. It’s known more as an Italian pizza spot, but it still has a full menu with other options, including the angel hair pasta with meat sauce. However, it’s the laid-back environment and cocktail menu that really keep people coming back.
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