When you think about eating Italian food, what comes to mind? Is it pasta, served family style with meatballs and crusty bread? Or is it pizza with your favorite toppings and a blistered wooden hearth crust? Or, is it fine dining with fresh ingredients in a new and inventive way? Luckily for us, in the Santa Barbara area, we have all three! Here are some suggestions for the best Italian restaurants near Santa Barbara, CA.
Family Style Italian
Arnoldi’s is one of the oldest restaurants in Santa Barbara, having opened its doors in 1937. In 1940, Giuseppe Arnold quarried local stone and built the current building at 600 Olive Street. Dining is available both inside and outside on the patio, which has two bocce ball courts for recreational play. Don’t miss the large indoor bar watched by Bucky the Tule Elk.
The menu has all of your favorites-more than a dozen different pasta dishes, and a good mix of entrees from scallopines, steaks and chops.
Address: 600 Olive St, Santa Barbara (805-962-5394)
VIA MAESTRA 42
Hidden away on upper State Street is this small restaurant/deli. There are cases of Italian specialties as well as takeout items, along with a few tables situated both inside and out. When Julia Child lived in Santa Barbara, Via Maestra 42 was her Italian restaurant of choice. It is worth the wait for a table, as the pasta is homemade, and the food is authentic.
The most recommended dish is the pumpkin ravioli, but the gnocchi and risotto are amazing as well. Leave room for dessert. The cannolis and tarts are worth the calories! If you want more, come back for breakfast (with grilled bread, fresh fig jam or melon).
Address: 3343 State St, Santa Barbara
Tel: (805) 569-6522
Bettina is a small neighborhood restaurant that specializes in naturally leavened Neapolitan-style pizza topped with seasonal ingredients. What does naturally leavened mean? It means that the organic dough is left to rise for at least 48 hours. The long leavening time ensures maximum flavor in your pizza crust.
Although pizza is the main course here, there are other appetizers should you need to supplement your pizza fix. This includes antipasto, wood-fired bread with butter, and cacio e pepe arancini. The pizza topping choices vary with the season, but are inventive; such as Summer peach mozzarella, fontina, Jimmy Nardello peppers, spring onion, silk chile and oregano. And yes, there is pepperoni, too.
Address: Montecito Country Mart, 1014 Coast Village Rd, Santa Barbara
Tel: (805) 770-2383
Next door to the acclaimed Olio e Limone Restaurant is a casual pizzeria/wine bar inspired by similar neighborhood pizzerias found around the corner from most piazzas in Italy. Olio Pizzeria provides both indoor and patio seating.
Appetizers specialize in boutique salumi and formaggi. The pizzas are made to order and cooked in a wood-fired brick oven. There is a full bar specializing in Italian classics like Campari, amano and prosecco.
Address: 11 W Victoria St, Ste 21, Santa Barbara
Tel: (805) 899-2699
Convivo is not just a pizza place. It also offers great food other than pizza. Who can resist a made-to-order wood-fired pizza while sitting on a patio across from East Beach? Convivo is located in the Santa Barbara Inn, and the chef describes his food as “Nomad Italian.”
Dishes are broken into Cichetti (earth and sea), Forno (wood-fired pizza), Grano (house-made pasta), Agricolo (from the farm) and Convivo (main course and family style offerings).
Address: 901 E Cabrillo Blvd, Santa Barbara
Tel: (805) 845-6789
TOMA RESTAURANT AND BAR
Toma is a sophisticated Italian/Mediterranean restaurant with a killer ocean view in the West Beach area. They have consistently been rated one of Santa Barbara’s top restaurants.
They specialize in classic dishes with a modern twist, made with locally-sourced ingredients. There are a half-dozen pasta choices along with a nice mix of entrees, including seafood, chicken and red meat. There is an extensive cocktail menu and wine list. Reservations are a must.
Address: 324 W Cabrillo Blvd, Santa Barbara
Tel: (805) 962-0777
OLIO E LIMONE
Olio e Limone is consistently praised for its inventive cuisine with an emphasis on Sicilian style dishes. Visible through a glass wall is the wine cellar, which includes a 250+ selection Wine Spectator Award of Excellence wine list.
The menu changes often to take advantage of local ingredients. The veal chop is popular, but you will also see unusual dishes such as ribbon pasta with quail and sausage that are equally good.
Address: 11 W Victoria St, Ste 17, Santa Barbara
Tel: (805) 899-2699
As always, here at The Eagle Inn, located beach side in Santa Barbara, we are happy to help you choose the perfect place for your lunch or dinner! If you’re planning an overnight getaway, reserve one of our comfortable guest rooms or private Casitas.