Going out for Italian in Burlington is always a treat. There’s so much to choose from once you get there: bread, salad, calamari, pizza, pasta, meat, dessert, and of course, coffee. I always enjoy trying to properly pronounce menu items (and the servers who humour me) … and we certainly had fun sampling all of the city’s delicious eats. Plus, you can never have too much Italian-laced caffeine #amirite. Here are the top 5 Italian restaurants in Burlington.
There’s no lasagna on the menu and we don’t even care. You won’t miss it. This hip Italian bar-slash-gastropub is one of the newest along Brant St., taking over the former Eatalia spot. I found this place while strolling downtown … the stunning aesthetic caught my eye so I went in to find out more, quickly realizing it’s Burlington’s best-kept (burger, pasta, bread … carb-loading) secret. To start, get the Sourdough Bread plate — with housemade bread, ricotta cheese, and an incredible butter compound. Then, just order the gnocchi and wait … it’s made in-house and you’ll quickly realize you’re in a legit Italian resto. There’s oodles of dairy and flavour and it’s so stellar you may nearly explode with happiness. The friendly owner, Jerod, and staff work hard to provide a stellar experience. Oh, and by the way, they’ve got craft beer on beer on beer on beer! Dozens … close to 100 varieties. Culaccino opened around summer 2016 and weekends are fully booked. Who says Italian restos have to be dark, stuffy, and old-fashioned?
Price range for dinner mains: $16 – $45
Because you can never have too much burrata. Fine dining just got a boost in Burlington. This Italian place along Harvester Rd. opened in spring 2018 and boy, it’s something special: the food is fabulous, service is great, and the atmosphere is downright summery. They’re serving up sizzlin’ steak, seafood, pizza and pasta (which isn’t made in-house). The restaurant features fresh ingredients and traditions. Among the appetizers you’ll find Imported Burrata di Puglia, with basil and arugula pesto, blistered cherry tomatoes, and crumbled prosciutto. The beet salad and salmon are also worth ordering. The location will ring a bell — it’s the former Walkers Fish Market (with the same herringbone flooring). Popular dishes include mussels pomodoro, porchetta panino, and linguini carbonara. The Nantucket-style decor is the perfect place for a mini-escape while remaining in the city (and gelato comes from the Flavour Fox in Oakville’s Bronte Harbour).
Price range for dinner mains: $21.95 – $26.95
A great wall of wine greets you at this Aldershot gem, where sublime service is the norm. Start with the amazingly tasty bread and garlic-infused oil … then try the charcuterie board featuring delicious house-made salami (there’s also two types of cheese, plus mortadella and prosciutto). The veal is nicely seasoned, breaded, and topped with cheese, while the dessert offerings include a carrot cheesecake that’s flawless, plus housemade donuts with Nutella on the side. The restaurant is cozy and you’ll want to stay for many, many courses!
Price range for dinner mains: $18 – $39
This little gem on Locust St. has been pleasing diners for years (and is a fave among parents, who can school you on how to actually get a table: book a reservation). Di’ Mario’s Trattoria bills itself as using the freshest ingredients, creating classic favourites and unique daily features in a rustic environment. Comfort food meets fine dining is one way to describe it. Among starters, the Beet e Mozzarella di Bufala Caprese ($14) is the way to go with roasted beets and generous chunks of buffalo mozzarella cheese. It arrives topped with fresh basil and extra virgin olive oil. The veal-heavy main menu doesn’t disappoint, specifically Vitello al Tartufo ($26) with pan-seared veal scallopini, tossed chestnuts, mushrooms, white truffle oil demi cream reduction. The potatoes soaked up every drop of flavour to perfection and this dish is a sensational standout. I almost licked my plate clean. And we can’t talk Italian without addressing pasta (it’s not made in-house and neither are desserts, except the Creme Brûlée, we’re told) … either way, the Tortellini con Salsiccia e Rapini ($24) is a hit, featuring house-made pork sausage, tossed rapini. light olive oil and garlic sauce.
Price range for mains: $23 to $37
Downtown Burlington’s food scene just got stronger thanks to another dose of the Hammer. The Express Italian Eatery opened in May 2018 along Lakeshore Rd. at Brant St. and it’s serving up pizza, pasta, steak and seafood. The new restaurant is in the former Salvatore’s spot. (It’s from Hamilton — there’s a location by McMaster University and another on Grays Rd. closer to Stoney Creek. Burlington is the third location). The Express is named after the train in Italy which weaved through Bolzano, Milano, Florence, Bologna, Rome, Calabria and Sicily. The menu represents a fusion of northern, central and southern Italian cuisine. What’s in store? Made to order wood fire pizzas, fresh in- house pasta and hand tossed gourmet salads. You’ll really want to start with the grilled calamari (it doesn’t get better than this, people) and ask for the Ravioli al Brasato di Manzo. Why? Pillows are stuffed with braised beef then topped with sauteed red onions and mushrooms. It’s absolutely incredible comfort food that’s flavoured impeccably (and reminds me of my university roommate Tania’s pot roast … gone Italian). Gnocchi, made in-house, arrives in a dreamy, creamy rose sauce. It’s topped with fried sweet potato chips for an unconventional layer of texture. If you’re into sharing, you’ll want to order the Venetian pizza ($16). It’s got a thin crust plus asiago, soppressata, fresh rapini and pepperoncino, made in-house. It’s fantastic and perfectly crispy. Service is great, and here’s something special for the ladies: They give out blankets on the patio if you’re cold (or when the A/C is blasting inside). Head south ASAP and check out the best Italian restaurant in Burlington!
Price range for mains: $23 to $30