The New York Times may swear by its “36 Questions That Lead to Love,” but who has time for an impromptu pop quiz. We have a much more simple way to determine compatibility. If your potential mate doesn’t agree that Italian cuisine is among the best food on Earth, drop that loser and head to one of San Antonio’s finest ristorantes. Dive into a steaming bowl of pasta and find true love again.
Fratello’s Market & Deli
Fratello's Broadway address may be in San Antonio, but one bite of these sandwiches and you'll think you're in a New York deli. Available both hot and cold, the stacked subs are all solid. But nothing quite entices like the padua — a tumble of locally made Italian sausage, capocolla, and grilled sweet peppers and onions smothered with Provolone cheese.
Little Italy Restaurant & Pizzeria
The red checkered tablecloth draped over your tables is the first clue that this is an everyday Italian joint, the kind that offers gooey baked ziti and baskets of crusty bread to sop up every last bit of sauce. The unpretentious menu mostly sticks to crowdpleasers like fettuccine Alfredo, spaghetti with meatballs, and chicken cacciatore, but there are a few sneaky surprises. Dip into the cioppino’s basil-flecked tomato broth or celebrate a special occasion with steak a la pizzaiolo topped with broiled shrimp.
Luce Ristorante e Enoteca
While some Italian eateries trot out canned olives and call it a day, this Huebner Oaks mainstay gives antipasti its proper due. There’s more than a dozen ways to start a meal, from a overflowing salumi plate served with grilled squash to practically buoyant arancini in Bolognese. As Luce’s tiny brinies? The olivos plate is a standard-bearer with buttery castelvetranos, salty-sweet cerignolas, and oil-cured Sicialian black olives.
We’ve yet to find a more extravagant dish in San Antonio than the granchio e tartufo prepared tableside at The Fairmount Hotel’s flagship restaurant. Fresh tagliatelle is tossed in a hulking wheel of Grana Padano cheese and finished off with brown butter jumbo lump crab and a few flakes of truffle while guests soak in envious glances from fellow diners. Unlike those places that dust gold leaf on food for the ‘gram, Nonna’s grand creation is as much of a treat for the palate as the eyes.
Technically, this Alamo Quarry favorite is a chain, but every restaurant under the Piatti umbrella is allowed to do things its own way. At this location, that means there are plenty of lighter choices like Parmesan-crusted flounder with sautéed broccolini, shaved zucchini “tagliatelli” with grilled chicken, and penne in a walnut arugula pesto served alongside wicked mains like a Fred Flintstone pork chop with garlic white cheddar scalloped potatoes.
San Antonio’s foodies, of course, already known this name. Jason Dady’s Italian restaurant has been impressing diners for a decade. Still, the new-ish location at the San Antonio Museum of Art manages to breath new life into the brand. Sit under the staghorn fern and driftwood installation with an Italian Spritz and a light fusilli with heirloom tomatoes, fresh jalapeño, and summer corn.
Umberto’s Italian Grill
Blame it on Sbarro, but red sauce Italian cooking has developed a bad reputation, with many spots best suited to picky toddlers. Thankfully, this strip-mall spot redeems the cuisine with an exuberant marinara that wakes up everything from hearty beef lasagne to classic chicken Parmesan. Take a break from gummy, broken penne. Umberto’s pasta has bite.