There’s something about Italian food that makes it perfect for the winter months. Maybe it’s because pasta is the perfect comfort meal during cool weather, or that a beefy bolognese just isn't as appetizing when it's 100 degrees outside. Whatever the reason, we’ve been craving it for every meal lately. Luckily, with both traditional Italian-American joints and contemporary chef-driven osterias scattered across town, San Antonians never have to travel far to get a taste of the old country.
Aldo’s Ristorante Italiano
The cottage setting and the slightly ramshackle decor make walking into Aldo’s feel as comfortable as going to dinner at Grandma’s, so it’s only natural that the menu would follow suit. The lasagna is wonderfully hearty, the capellini alla firenze is delicate and light, and the spaghetti boasts one of the most vibrant meat sauces in all of Alamo City. Want something a little different than the usual red sauce fare? Try the fettuccine tossed in a nutty pistachio pesto topped with grilled shrimp.
This restaurant in a converted fire station has plenty of nods to its former occupants — from the red color scheme to chandeliers that mimic flames. But things really get hot in the kitchen where chef Stefan Bowers puts a contemporary spin on the classics of Italian cooking. Housemade pastas like celery root ravioli with a wild mushroom ragu or buckwheat tagliolini with cabbage, gold potatoes, and fontina are a must, as are the crunchy square “meatballs.” All are guaranteed to fill you up, making sure you earn a selection from Battalion’s aperitif cart.
Il Sogno Osteria
There’s a reason chef Andrew Weissman’s trattoria constantly winds up on the city’s “best of” lists. The pizza crusts have a perfect char and just the right amount of chew. The fish is delicate and sweet, needing only a few capers or a light saffron broth. Even something as simple as a white bean and garlic mousse will have you doing the Italian chef kiss. All that would be enough, but the Pearl eatery also knows something about atmosphere. Served on starched white tablecloths and under recycled wine bottle pendants, even the most humble dish feels like a celebration.
Louie Italian Restaurant
The building that houses this Medical Center gem is, frankly, bizarre, but don’t let that stop you from walking inside. Louie serves the type of Italian-American favorites that everyone loves: veal marsala, fettuccine carbonara, chicken picatta, and linguine with clam sauce — all at affordable prices. Start with the fried mozzarella cheese sticks. Trust us, they bear no resemblance to the rubbery logs all of us have sadly grown accustomed to.
Need to convince an out-of-towner that San Antonio’s food scene is more than just Tex-Mex? Take them to Paesano’s to try its beastly osso buco. Since 1969, this mainstay has offered up everything from soul-warming tortellini in brodo to red snapper in a spicy fra diavolo sauce to bright pollo al limone. The wine selection is world class, too, in case your friends give you some sass about margaritas.
South Alamode Panini & Gelato Company
Italy may be best known for pasta, but the country should be just as lauded for its contributions to the sandwich and ice cream arts. South Alamode has both including gelato in rotating flavors such as stracciatella, lemon custard, and mascarpone, and panini grilled with cured meats, roasted vegetables, and gooey cheeses. The meats and cheeses come from the old world, and everything else is locally sourced.
Let’s start with dessert. Tre Enoteca’s Nutella x3 — a dense hazelnut chocolate cake draped with Nutella ganache and served with a light quenelle of Nutella mousse — should be on every San Antonian’s dessert bucket list. But even so, you aren’t going to want to race to the end of dinner. Chef Jason Dady’s menu ranges from simple dishes like hand-pulled mozzarella and a killer Caesar salad to knock-your-socks-off pastas like gnocchi tossed with butternut squash, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and lamb ragu.