Best Italian Restaurants in Barcelona
There is an assumption that Italian food is cheap and the waiters affable. I think the best Italian restaurants in Barcelona are mid to high priced. Its waiters are doggedly wary of the uninitiated asking for a side of spaghetti with their three tennis sized polpette. This was me, by the way. On my last visit to Le Cucine Mandarosso. I misread the menu; I assumed it came with Spaghetti – American style. The server let me know I had affronted him, and perhaps, Italian food in general, with a low mumble as he went to ask the kitchen. Even as I asked, I understood the issue; I was diluting the authenticity of the kitchen. They did bring me a side of spaghetti, and my 13-year-old daughter was appeased.
Italy has fifty-seven grape varieties to France’s twenty. It has three hundred cheeses with a protected designation of origin. And it is the birthplace of Carlo Petrini’s Slow Food movement before the idea was even a twinkle in our eye.
Bacaro – Carrer de Jerusalem 6, 08001 El Raval. instagram.com/bacarobcn/
Behind the Boqueria market and off to the side is Bacaro. It is the more central and affordable cousin of Xemei. The restaurant feels like a stage set, with a balcony from which I can imagine Julia hanging overlooking Romeo.
I’ve had some original dishes here, including a memorable one of the house-made gnocchi with katsuobushi flakes.
Benzina – Passatge de Pere Calders, 6, 08015 Sant Antoni. www.benzina.es
This is another restaurant that benefits from being housed in a former parking garage, hence the name. High-end New York-style Italian restaurants inspire head Chef Nicola Valle. They serve sophisticated cocktails and dishes. Things like an artichoke tart tatin. It’s the kind of place that specifies that the Parmigiano Reggiano has been aged 36 months. I need to go back to try the Cocaine cocktail.
Cecconi’s at Soho House – Paseo de Colón, 20. 08002. www.cecconisbarcelona.com/es / Foodie in Barcelona Review 2020
Italian food from the upmarket global brand. Cecconi’s in Barcelona is one of 9 restaurants worldwide. As you would expect, the prices reflect the premium location and abundant well-trained servers. Their weekend brunch has an enthusiastic following.
Dual Cafe – Carrer Comte Borrell, 65. facebook.com/Düal-Café / Foodie in Barcelona Review 2018
A cafe run by two young Italian women. They serve what I imagine they like to eat. So while there may be a pasta dish on for lunch, it will be listed next to a beetroot hummus. A bonus is Dual Cafe is across the way from the recently refurbished Mercat de Sant Antoni.
Lecca Baffi – Carrer de Valencia 341, 08009 Eixample. leccabaffi.com / Foodie in Barcelona Review 2016
The name of this restaurant means lick your moustache with a tongue in cheek expression about how good the food is. Lecca Baffi is the most generic Italian restaurant on the list. Still, the space is well designed, and there is a small deli adjacent to the restaurant where they sell focaccia by the slice and wedges of lasagna.
Le Cucine Mandarosso – Carrer de Verdaguer i Callís 4, 08003 Sant Pere Mes Alt. www.lecucinemandarosso.com
Despite being hard to find, hidden in the dark pedestrian streets of St Pere Mes Alt, Le Cucine Mandarosso is typically busy. The bar is placed beneath a high wall of wine bottles, and the walls and space are cluttered comfortably with objects, from a glass-fronted (wardrobe) filled with jams to 50’s Italian designed floor lamps. Shiny moss green tiles on some parts of the walls and a shared hallway gives way to a second room with old Campari-style posters. In the second room, the kitchen exists—tinny music seeping out to contrast with the mellow jazz that plays in the dining room. The decoration is convincing enough that you feel in situ – somewhere in Italy, rather than the streets of Barcelona.
The menu is small, and though you may find a familiar dish like carbonara, it is more likely to be something like al dente ditalini served with smoked cheese and cubes of potatoes. Usually, at least two cakes are made daily, one with nuts and something with chocolate.
Nap Pizza – Avinguda Francesc Cambó, 30. 08003. www.napofficial.com
Pizza restaurants deserve their category, but I include Nap as an exception. Their first location is in a shady plaça adjacent to the Santa Caterina market. It’s a no-reservation, always a full restaurant. The Pizzas have a chewy crust and dissolve into dripping tomato sauce and sagging dough as you get to the slice’s centre. So that you have to fold the piece almost in half, flick your wrist up and then quickly dip your mouth beneath it to catch it all before the topping slides off. I like mine with a cheap glass of house red.
Sartoria Panatieri Pizza – Carrer de Provença 330, Eixample / Carrer de Encarnació 51, Gracia.
www.sartoriapanatieri.com / Foodie in Barcelona Review 2021
A duo of artisanal pizza restaurants. Nose to tail, or centre to crust, that they make and cure their meats. The selection plate of charcuterie should not be missed. The restaurant in Eixample is large, bright and elegant.
Santo Porcello Bodega & Panini – Carrer Sepúlveda 151, 08011 Sant Antoni. www.santoporcello.com / Foodie in Barcelona Review 2018
A bright space painted a cheerful turquoise. Santo Porcello has an extensive selection of imported Italian charcuterie, including mortadella as big as my face. They specialise in panini and Tigelle. Maybe it’s the paint colour or the Italian rock, but I always leave Santo Porcello with a smile. Have an Aperol, if only to be delighted by the contrast of the orange to the turquoise.
Xemei – Cocina Venexiana – Passeig de l’Exposició 85, 08004 Poble Sec. xemei.es
Xemei is on the edge of Poble Sec. Don’t let Xemei’s off the beaten track location fool you into thinking this is a cheap restaurant. It runs parallel along the pavement in pleasant contrast to what is typical for the city. A dark red awning under which square tables are laid out with thick tablecloths reaching down to the ground. The pasta dishes are accomplished. The fish dishes are spectacular. The desserts are good renditions of the classics. Don’t let Xemei’s off the beaten track location fool you into thinking this is a cheap restaurant.
Bronzo Bar e Cucina – (bronzo.es) Carrer Còrsega, 307, Eixample. Carrer del Rec, 60, El Born. By Ysfbntt and SmallGreatThingsBlog.
Formaggeria Minelli for Italian Artisan Cheese – (www.formaggeriaminelli.com) Carrer de Girona 114. By TheFortyFive.
Il Birrino – (instagram.com/ilbirrino) Calle Ali Bei,123. 08013. By Frangoncalvesbcn.
Pappa e Citti. – (instagram.com/pappa_e_citti) . By MustTryBcn
Raffaeli – (raffaelliristorante.com) 11th Luis Antunez Street, 08006. By Comeresblog.