If you aren't eating Italian in Austin, you are missing an abundance of fresh new restaurants that add a lot of attitude to the already flourishing Austin food scene.
I visited North Italia on second street yesterday (my fourth time) for lunch and I have to say that their attention to the little things is obvious. Having opened merely a couple of months ago, they have quickly stamped their brand into the Austin culture by simply opening their doors. I know, having owned a chain of restaurants myself, that it takes a lot more than that, but North Italia has what it takes to stand strong in Austin through the years.
They serve fresh food with style and their crispy potatoes (small potatoes smashed then fried) are a sensation. The outdoor seating looks like a scene from a movie with umbrellas, a cool breeze and an open inside/outside bar. I will be visiting North Italia a lot over the next few years, but not too frequently as other Italian restaurants in Austin offer alternative nostalgia. The appeal of these unique experiences makes me question my dining destination even when that destination is the great North Italia (Map it). North Italia, from my observation is only missing one thing that these two other Italian restaurants offer...that Italian underground intimacy. Sophie's and Red Ash, both offer a darker, more intimate dining experience that helps them stand alone in a market filled with delicious Italian.
Sophia's, otherwise known as the Supper Club, is in a class all alone, offering a dining experience that can't be compared to anything else in Austin. Located on West 6th Street right beside Little Woodrow's, Sophia's bleeds class right when you walk through the front door (Map it).
The dark, hardwood floors, classic old style chairs, flavorful drinks, dim ambiance and classy food presentation give the feeling of an old underground Italian kitchen. The food is prepared by Sophia’s Executive Chef Mark Sparacino’s and he doesn't disappoint at any turn. The classy, modern feel of the restaurant gives off a rarely felt, aura of elegance. If you are planning a date night or just going out for some Italian with friends, consider Sophia's. You will be happy you did.
The final Italian restaurant and my third on a short list of chic Italian restaurants in Austin is Red Ash. Red Ash Italia is located at third and Colorado in downtown Austin and offers the truest Italian you can find in the city (Map it). The food at Red Ash is on a level of its own. Don't be fooled by the appearance walking by as it looks like any normal restaurant under a high rise. Red Ash has a unique loft floating above the dining area, which divides the dining room with a staircase rather than those traditional boring barriers.
The tables are sat close together and, like June's on South Congress, the environment is quite intimate. Upon arriving, the hostess stand is right inside the door and guests are steps away from the bar. The bar offers a righteous view of the entire restaurant and has a bartending staff that is attentive and cheerful. The ambiance at Red Ash is a fantastic selling point but what really changes the game is the Happy Hour. With $7 salads, $8 pastas...how can you go wrong? Especially since the pastas are made fresh, in-house!
The Italian restaurant scene in Austin is getting fancy and I can't be more thankful! So when you are looking for a place to eat, the answer is easy...well at least narrowing it down to 3 is!