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Need to carbo-load? Cincy's best Italian food

Posted: 11:00 AM, Apr 27, 2015
Updated: 2016-04-30 13:12:39Z

Who doesn't love Italian? Whether you're craving red sauce or dreaming of pillowy pockets of homemade ravioli, Cincinnati has some great options. Here are WCPO's Top 9 Italian spots to get a pile of pasta.

DOWNTOWN

Via Vite (Downtown): With its beautiful view of Fountain Square, outdoor space and open kitchen, the food is almost secondary. Almost. If you're looking for pasta or risotto, this is the place to find it. Try the penne bolognese, one of its signature dishes, or rigatoni alla vodka, with a cream-and-tomato sauce.

Nicola's (Over-the-Rhine): Via Vite's big brother, Nicola's is the more formal (but still delicious) Italian restaurant downtown. The location is off the beaten path, and its bar service is just a wonderful as eating in the dining room. The bread basket is the star, filled with tiny rounds with crispy baked onions, focaccia and skinny bread sticks. It's a meal in itself, but goes great with any of the pasta dishes, including tagliatelle alla bolognese and a springtime English pea and rabbit mezzaluna (half-moon shaped pasta).

Sotto (Downtown): Step into the basement of Boca , which offers Italian and French fare on Sixth Street, and you'll hit Sotto. The restaurant focuses on more casual, traditional Italian fare in dark, romantic surrounding. Start off with some bruschetta (ricotta with honey is exceptional) and load up on a dish of tonnarelli cacio e pepe, a simple dish of butter, pepper and pecorino cheese that is sublime. Want to really splurge? Tagliolini con tartuffo is pasta with a whole lot of shaved truffles.

Scotti's (Downtown): Do you want to feel like you've stepped into Little Italy or South Philly? Scotti's is the place to go. Celebrating 100 years in the business, the restaurant feels unchanged. It's still family-run, the walls still feature multicolored tiles and framed photos of Italian opera stars, and every entree comes with a side of pasta. The pasta itself seems straight out of an episode of The Sopranos. Spaghetti carbonara is a standout (and available in green fettuccine, too, if you're feeling festive). Be sure to get a side of the fresh, garlicky toast.

WEST

Giovanni's (Cheviot): This mom-and-pop (actually, it's run by three brothers along with their mother and father) Italian spot, tucked away in Cheviot, is a hidden gem reminiscent of the Italian restaurants that dotted Cincinnati from the '50s to the 1980s. Go here for the baked pasta entrees, which are hard to find on Italian menus in Cincinnati, including baked ziti, or try a stromboli. They make their own Italian dressing and garlic knots, too.

EAST

Bella Luna (East End): Bella Luna, tucked at the end of Eastern Avenue, can easily be overshadowed by its neon-lit next-door-neighbor, Terry's Turf Club. Trust me, you don't want to miss this excellent Italian food. Get the lasagna -- meat, veggie or eggplant -- and finish off with the famous bread pudding. Not into lasagna? The short rib cannelloni is award-winning (and delicious). Want something simpler? Create your own pasta by choosing the style of pasta, "gravy" -- that's pasta sauce -- and meat.

Alfio's Buon Cibo (Hyde Park): Another high-end choice, Alfio's serves up Italian fare with a touch of Argentinian. If you're trying to avoid carbs, there are several grilled options, including steak with chimichurri, but if you have an eye on more traditional Italian pasta (with a twist), Alfio's has you covered with their award-winning short rib ravioli. If you're not a meat eater, they also have a mushroom ravioli and a crab ravioli, and various risottos.  

Betta's Italian Oven (Norwood): This is more on the bready side than the pasta side, but Betta's, with its delicious baked sandwiches, is a good bet. The restaurant also has wood-fired pizza and pasta. Try the Betta's Super Sub, or go traditional with a plate of spaghetti and the chunky marinara.

NORTH

Pitrelli's : Here's another old-school Italian choice in the heart of downtown Mason. It's famous for the pasta sauce (which you can buy at local grocery stores). Try any of the pastas with homemade sauces (ranging from puttanesca to marinara). And if you have a gluten allergy, good news! There's gluten-free pasta here.