75 years ago, Belgium and Italy signed a migration agreement. This triggered a massive influx of people to Brussels. Thanks to the arrival of thousands of Italians, our capital was introduced to a new kind of cuisine.
Since then, pizzas, pastas, basil and olive oil have become staples in Brussels’ culinary landscape. In fact, the city offers the very best of what la cucina Italiana has in store.
But which Italian restaurants should not be missed when visiting our capital? We asked a panel of culinary journalists and Brussels gastronomy experts. Buon appetito.
Racines (c) Alexandre Bibaut
The best pizzerias in Brussels
In Brussels, pizza-making was elevated to an art form decades ago. Fierce competition to get the crispiest or fluffiest crust raised standards, and many pizzaiolos have won prizes over the years. Chef Roberto Casula is one of them. His La Bottega della Pizza in Saint-Gilles, recently won a TV competition for the best pizzeria in Belgium.
Our jury awarded him third place, together with Nona, a pizzeria downtown that works with local ingredients. Nevertheless, the pizza is as Neapolitan as can be. Nona is the only Brussels pizzeria recognised by the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana.
If you head south for ten minutes, you’ll end up at Place Rouppe. There, in the capital's oldest hotel (La Grande Cloche), you’ll find a true pizza Mecca. PastaMadre, Italian for sourdough, combines the best of the Bel Paese with the best of our flat little country. And yes, we are talking about pizza and beer. It’s a match made in heaven. Especially if you know that the dough is made using lambic Cantillon.
Eager to know which place received our panel’s gold medal? The answer takes us to Saint-Josse, Brussels’ smallest municipality. The margherita is simply beyond compare. Dough proofed for two days, the oven is a whopping 450 degrees and the pizzas are only baked for one minute. Add the natural ingredients, all organic, and you’ve cracked La Piola Pizza‘s secret. Simple but executed to perfection. Buonissimo!
- La Piola Pizza, Place Saint-Josse 8, 1210 Saint-Josse
- PastaMadre, Place Rouppe 10, 1000 Brussels
- La Bottega della Pizza – Avenue Ducpétiaux 39, 1060 Saint-Gilles / Nona – Rue Sainte-Catherine 17, 1000 Brussels
The capital’s finest osterias
Perhaps the word osteria is somewhat irreverent for the kind of Italian restaurants that are plentiful in Brussels. Authentic eateries, of an informal nature, that use quality products. Osteria Romana, a stone’s throw from the Bois de la Cambre, is one such place. Looking for a proper pasta carbonara? This Italian classic is the restaurant’s signature dish. Don’t even dare to mention cream or bacon. Genuine carbonara is made with cured pork cheek. Osteria Romana serves it in a pan.
Everyone has their own speciality. Certo, in Ixelles’ Matonge district, serves the best cacio e pepe in the city. Lukewarm, as it’s supposed to be, it tastes wonderful with a glass of natural wine. They have a great selection to choose from. It’s the ideal place to eat alone: cosy at the bar or, if the weather is fine, on their pavement terrace.
Near Certo we find Osteria Bolognese, which is the best osteria in Brussels according to our jury. Promoting the genuine Bolognese pasta (tagliatelle al ragu!) is their mission. And that’s no mean feat in a country that has its own “Belgian” version. It’s often impossible to book a table. Try popping in on a Wednesday evening. You might just get lucky.
- Osteria Bolognese, Rue de la Paix 49, 1050 Ixelles
- Certo, Rue Longue Vie 48, 1050 Ixelles
- Osteria Romana, Avenue Legrand 11, 1000 Brussels
Brussels’ best Italian gourmet restaurants
For the most prestigious category, the jury made a selection from the huge range of institutions that have been spoiling foodies from Brussels and beyond with Italian gastronomy for years. The authentic restaurants are often discreet. You pass them without noticing anything special. Especially if they are located on a busy road that leads into the city, such as San Daniele. Since 1983, it has been a discreet institution where kings and queens, top politicians, football bosses and CEOs have dined while maintaining a sense of privacy. After Antonio Spinelli’s passing, son Franco has continued the establishment’s tradition of fine Italian gastronomy with Belgian influences.
On the other side of the Brussels-Capital Region, we find another foodie favourite, Da Mimmo. Just like San Daniele, it was awarded a Michelin Star. Our panel gave both the same score. At Da Mimmo, you are pampered with a tailored service that leaves nothing to chance. The chef likes to work with luxury products such as truffle and caviar, but it never becomes bombastic. Above all, Da Mimmo offers refined cuisine and a stylish but cosy interior. When the weather is nice, make sure to take full advantage of the pleasant city terrace on the street side. It’s the ideal address for a unique, gastronomic experience.
Just off Place Flagey lies one of our capital’s most exciting culinary addresses. Young duo Ugo (from Capri) and Francesco (from Florence) fused the culinary traditions of these two Italian regions. This resulted in Racines, an ode to mamma’s cuisine. Make sure to try the crespelle, one of the duo’s amazing creations. With a bit of luck you’ll find it on the menu. And if you're still hungry for a bomba fritta, pay a visit to Racines' younger sister: Monella.
Brussels’ pinnacle of Italian gastronomy, however, can be found at Senzanome, located at the wonderful Sablon. It was an obvious choice for the jury. Gault&Millau (16/20) and Michelin (one star) also consider this restaurant a worthy representative of Italian cuisine in Belgium. The light, blue interior perfectly matches the food on your plate. Chef Giovanni Bruno’s fish dishes are particularly brilliant. He always manages to find the perfect balance between tradition and reinvention. High-quality, carefully selected products are used in an exceptionally creative manner. Perhaps a bit too extravagant for your liking? If so, head to sister Nadia Bruno’s restaurant Fico in the Chatelain district.
- Senzanome, place du petit Sablon 1, 1000 Brussels
- Racines, Chaussée d’Ixelles 353, 1050 Ixelles
- Da Mimmo, Avenue du Roi Chevalier 24, 1200 Woluwe-Saint-Lambert / San Daniele, Avenue Charles Quint 6, 1083 Ganshoren
Racines (c) Michel Verpoorten
The jury: Myriam Baya, Philippe Bidaine, Laura Centrella, Carlo De Pascale, Olivier Marette, Chloé Roose, Jeroen Roppe and René Sepul.