The Best Italian Restaurants in Halifax, Nova Scotia

The Bicycle Thief, on Halifax waterfront, is one of many great Italian eateries in the city
The Bicycle Thief, on Halifax waterfront, is one of many great Italian eateries in the city | © David L. Moore - CAN / Alamy Stock Photo
Doug ONeill

All types of pasta from Emilia-Romagna, grilled pecorino from Tuscany, and polenta and risotto so familiar to the kitchens of Lombardy – you’ll find them all in the best Italian restaurants in Canada. Here’s Culture Trip’s recommendations of where to eat great Italian in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Italy has 20 different regions, each of which has its own culinary traditions. Italian immigrants who arrived at Pier 21 in Halifax Harbour after the Second World War brought with them delectable regional dishes that are still served (in various incarnations) today. While meaty pasta dishes dominate the menus in some, polenta, risotto and seafood are more prominent in others. Without exception, however, a friendly ambience fostered by a seemingly omnipresent restaurateur is the gold standard in the best Italian restaurants in Halifax. Buon appetito!

1. La Frasca Cibi and Vini

Restaurant, Italian

Owner Maurizio Bertossi draws inspiration from his native Friuli, in northeast Italy, a region bordered by Austria, Slovenia and the Adriatic Sea where rice and seafood are staples. Risotto con aragosta marries carnaroli rice, buttery Nova Scotia lobster, tomato, flavor-packed broth, Prosecco, parmigiano and lime zest. Seafood lovers will be smitten with the tuna tagliata: seared rare tuna crusted with sesame seed in a balsamic reduction accompanied by saffron risotto and grilled asparagus. Wood floors and wood-topped tables add a relaxed vibe to one of the best Italian restaurants in Halifax.

2. Ristorante a Mano

Restaurant, Italian

It’s all about hospitality and guest comfort from owner Hakan Uluer at this award-winning Italian trattoria, where guests get to witness the cook twirling pizza dough in the air from their table in the intimate dining room. (There are nine flavors of pizza, by the way, each at CAD17/£10.) A favorite dish among regulars: spaghettini con polpette (home-made meatballs). The priciest main on the menu at CAD29 (£17) is costa di manzo brasata – beef short ribs slow cooked with onions, root vegetables, red wine and fresh herbs.

3. Rinaldo's Italian American Specialties

Restaurant, Italian

Brothers Tony and Sam Rinaldo have pizza-making in their blood. Their father, Salvatore, was the original owner of Salvatore’s New York Pizza. The brothers have worked in Las Vegas, Toronto, Montreal, New York and France, fine-tuning their sense of what customers want to eat – and in what kind of ambience. Rinaldo’s is a laid-back space with check tablecloths, and dad’s first communion photos on the wall. You get what the sign says: Italian-American favorites such as Buffalo wings, meatball sandwiches and New York pizza. Local craft beers on tap. Two locations.

4. The Bicycle Thief

Restaurant, Italian

The Bicycle Thief Bar in Halifax
© Darryl Brooks / Alamy Stock Photo

Oysters, flash-fried calamari, buttery garlic-infused scallops, jumbo shrimp, Nova Scotia lobster, South Shore baby clams and pistachio-and-honey-crusted Atlantic salmon – eating seafood is especially fitting when dining al fresco on the waterfront at this restaurant in Bishop’s Landing. There are plenty of meat and vegetarian options on the menu. The outdoor patio is popular in July and August so book ahead, and be aware that the restaurant can also be lively –meaning loud but in a friendly way. A highlight each summer: the outdoor champagne bar.

5. Da Maurizio Fine Dining

Cafe, Restaurant, Italian

Husband and wife Andy and Tanya King worked at da Maurizio Fine Dining restaurant before purchasing it themselves in 2007. Andy (as chef) and Tanya (long-time manager) have implemented changes to the elegant dining room on Lower Water Street but remain faithful to the traditional Italian menu, which capitalizes on local fish and seafood. That’s evident in such dishes as spaghettini aragosta – fresh, locally caught lobster in a sauce of white wine, San Marzano tomatoes and cream. Arrive early to enjoy a pre-dinner tour of the Historic Brewery Market.

6. Salvatore's Pizzaiolo Trattoria

Restaurant, Italian

Tomato sauce has been spilled far and wide over the question: “Who invented pizza? Italy or America?” Regardless of where you stand on the debate, diners expect a good pizza in the city’s best Italian restaurants. Salvatore’s won the award for Best Pizza Pie in Nova Scotia for 10 years in a row. The Lombardia is a poppy seed-edged crust with sun-dried tomatoes and gorgonzola cheese. Clam pie marinato pizza arrives at your table covered in clams. And the pizza con quattro formaggi? As if four cheeses could be anything other than heavenly.

7. Il Mercato Trattoria

Restaurant, Italian

Locals who are in the know aren’t put off by the 20-minute drive from Halifax center to Sunnyside Mall on Bedford Highway to savor the creative pasta dishes that have won numerous awards for Il Mercato Trattoria. In addition to the eight-layer lasagna (yes, eight), there’s penne roasted chicken – a substantial meal with prosciutto, caramelized onions and wild mushrooms in cream under a dusting of parmigiano. The kitchen elevates tried-and-tested spaghettini alla carbonara with goodly amounts of smoky bacon, egg, cracked black pepper and the requisite parmigiano.

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