Auckland's Best Italian Restaurants

Auckland's Best Italian Restaurants

Italian cuisine is one of the most historically and regionally diverse cuisines in the world. The types of produce, condiments and herbs used in different regions of Italy reflect not only the differences in the geographical landscapes or seasonal climates of the culturally prosperous Italy, but also the differences in their lifestyles, habits and cultures. Yes, it seems that the hearsay may have been true; once upon an ancient time, there used to be more to food than just thoughtless creation of avant-garde food or calorie-packing.

Unfortunately, the prevalence, assimilation and consequent commercialisation of Italian cuisine all over the world – and in Auckland, too – tend to disillusion people from the originally refined and naturalistic nature of Italian food (canned tomato sauces or tough, bready pizzas, anyone?). Well, we here at View Auckland fully intend to bring the sexy back to Italian cuisine. We refuse to lose faith in the standard of Italian fare in Auckland because for every sub-par pizza chain restaurant in town would there be an authentic Italian restaurant to make up for, as our recommendations below would attempt to prove.

Me Ne Frego

This Auckland-based Italian eatery is one of the most polarising restaurants in Auckland - it's a restaurant that you'd either love or hate, and never quite feel indifferent about. Why do we have a love-hate relationship with this Italian restaurant in Epsom? Owner and chef, Steve who has been cooking mainly in the Tuscany area for the last 20-odd years, with his last native Italian restaurant being on the island of Elba. You’d probably be able to tell from his background and experience that he’s one hell of a cook. What you may not be able to tell from that is that he’s got the mood swings to rival the fieriness of his culinary talent.

Now, while Steve’s hot-cold behaviour can be a little off-putting and a lot confusing at times, his morbid sense of humour that translates into the quirky decor at Me Ne Frego and his unforgettably scrumptious food keep us coming back to this BYO Italian restaurant for more. An aged bottle of Italian wine would do wonders here; Steve himself is a big fan of his alcohol as evident from the prominence of it in his dessert menu (and we’re pretty sure we taste a splash or two of wine in the pastas, too). This Italian restaurant is not for the faint hearted both flavour and experience-wise, but rest assured that the strong ones will prosper from it.


Eating in at O’Sarracino is much like visiting the home of a long-lost Neapolitan family friend. The homely restaurant is adorned with vintage pictures of owner Gaetano Spinosa’s native Italian family, and their menus wax lyrical about the typically Italian dramatics that entwine around the Spinosa family’s culinary history. He may be perfectly happy and settled here in Auckland with his Kiwi wife Leanne and their bumbling kids, but we can appreciate that a man will miss home every so often, especially when home is as colourful and vivacious as Italy is. And multi-fold appreciation we have for overwhelming nostalgia when it prompts a homesick chef who knows his stuff to open an authentic Italian restaurant right here in the heart of Auckland.

The impression that one is dining at a friend’s intimate dinner party doesn’t end with the physical facade of this Italian restaurant, but extends to the hearty Italian fare and even Gaetano’s powers of persuasion – mighty enough to convince you to order the last thing you would have expected to like on the menu. We’d almost be angry at the always amiable and upbeat guy if it wasn’t for the fact that his recommendations always are absolutely spot on. So turn up at O’Sarracino Italian Restaurant and be prepared to be molly-coddled by the team – you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how enjoyable authoritarian hospitality can actually be when done in the right hands.

Prego Restaurant

Prego Restaurant, an Auckland casual dining legend in itself, hasn't been around over two decades for nothing. The service and food is always immaculate, which is no mean feat for this Italian restaurant, considering how they're swamped with a full house night after night and take no bookings. And with so many new, trendy restaurants popping up left, right and centre around Auckland, it’s got to say something when this unassuming Italian restaurant still is so frequently visited by Auckland locals.

How does Prego Restaurant do it, then? Keep the punters coming back time after time, even after all these years? If we had to pinpoint the one element that keeps the magic alive at Prego Restaurant, we’d go with sheer consistency – consistently fresh and animated flavours, consistently faultless service, and consistently unpretentious mannerisms despite all their successes. A puzzlingly simplistic theory, but like the stripped-back Italian food at this Auckland Italian restaurant, it sometimes is the simplest things that make all the difference.

Toto Restaurant

While great Italian restaurants in Auckland are abound, it can get difficult to find a half-decent Italian eat in the central Auckland CBD. Which is why we thank our lucky stars for the existence of Toto Restaurant for the times when we crave seriously good Italian cuisine in the gastronomically dubious Auckland CBD. This multiple award winning restaurant has been an Auckland CBD resident for decades now, almost deserving of an institutional status.

Don’t say we didn’t warn you, though – this Auckland restaurant definitely ranks as one of the priciest Italian establishments on our list, so don’t go treating it like your typical every-day Italian trattoria (Nope, we won’t be held responsible for your lax financial management). However, if you’re a big Italian food junkie, you’ll be happy to know that Italian cuisine in Auckland doesn’t get much classier than this, with rustic Italian gnocchi dishes, plump ravioli and the freshest octopus carpaccio only being a few of the highlights here.

The Refreshment Room

Who knew that a seemingly non-descript Italian restaurant plonked right in the heart of the grassy Waitakere Ranges would – or could – end up being one of Auckland’s most sensationalised Italian eateries? The Refreshment Room story hardly needs retelling, summing up to be of a few great chefs coming together to colonialise a former winery site, no less, in West Auckland.

But unlike many new restaurants that have opened in the past couple of years to extravagant media hype without being able to deliver, The Refreshment Room exceeded even the most positive of expectations and still is running strong, long after the initial hoo-ha had simmered down. Deservedly so, too, as this rustic Italian restaurant takes its food seriously. The menu changes seasonally by the month and they even go so far as to make the most out of the virile former winery real estate by planting their very own vegetable garden. With such dedication to the creation of back-to-basics Italian cuisine, the food at this Italian Restaurant in West Auckland can hardly be anything less than spectacular.

Alternative Italian Restaurants:

Best Italian Local in Auckland
Gusto Italiano
‘Local’ may be a bit of an understatement, with a lot of gourmet touches lavished all over the menus specially crafted together by owners Luigi Mattioli and Armando Koci, both native Italians who grew up living, eating and breathing good food. We’re still stubbornly dubbing it an Italian local, though, because the setting is unassumingly and welcomingly Italian, and Armando’s impeccable and down-to-earth hospitality is nothing short of the sort of personable service you’d expect from your Auckland local.

Best Rustic Italian Restaurant in Auckland
Pane e Vino
Tito dubs his newest Italian restaurant venture as the first rustic Italian trattoria in Auckland. We’re not sure how factually correct that may be, but we’re willing to concede that Pane E Vino is undoubtedly one of the best rustic Italian restaurants in Auckland. The atmosphere is unsurprisingly feisty and lively, considering Tito’s status as a Gina’s Pizza alumnus, and the fresh produce shines just the way it should in proper Italian food.

Best Pizzas in Auckland
You’re In the Wrong Place!
May we point you in the right direction? Here – try having a look at View Auckland’s Pizza Restaurants in Auckland recommendations instead.

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Content updated: 21/06/2019 00:21

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