Pizza, pasta, tiramisu, gelato…What’s not to love about a dining table laden with Italy’s quintessential dishes? Canterbury boasts some of the best establishments offering a slice of the good life, inspired by the fields of Florence, streets of Rome and canals of Venice.
136 Old Tai Tapu Rd
Set in rural surroundings on Old Tai Tapu Rd, The Bicycle Thief is a charming retreat. Though only 20 minutes from the city, its rustic countryside and authentic offering of Italian cuisine make it feel more like 20,000 kilometres away. The menu offers classic starters such as crispy polenta fries, arancini and crudo.
But the hand-stretched, stone baked pizzas served with Fior di Latte Mozzarella are a specialty. The Bicycle Thief is also open for breakfast, and offers familiar morning fare made a little more Italian with prosciutto, homemade focaccia and boozy favourites like bellini, mimosa and prosecco.
192 Papanui Rd
Tutto Bene has been providing locals with a lively Italian experience for almost two decades. Located on Papanui Rd in the heart of Merivale, the neighbourhood restaurant is well-loved for its extensive Italian-themed menu of around 30 pizza and pasta dishes. Yet, Tutto Bene is much more than those traditional favourites. It has a section dedicated to vegan eats, as well as innovative New Zealand classics with Italian twists. Dining can be enjoyed seven days a week in the cosy and colourful interior, native garden setting or to take away.
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322 Tuam St
Though an excellent destination for sourcing an abundance of ingredients imported from Italy, some days it’s best to leave the cooking to the chefs. Bypass the aisles of the specialty store and take a seat inside Mediterranean Foods’ restaurant next-door for a delicious lunch (or dinner on Friday nights). The menu has been inspired by the team’s favourite eateries in Rome, Venice, Florence and Bologna. In true Italian style, diners can begin with an antipasto platter of cheese and meats from the deli and housemade bread and spreads, before continuing to pizza, pasta, fresh salads and – of course – a scoop of gelato.
FRANCESCA’S ITALIAN KITCHEN
149 Gloucester Stt
With three South Island locations, Francesca’s Italian Kitchen has become a number one go-to for those craving a true Italian feast. The food alone transports you to Europe and the staff’s passion for upbeat and friendly hospitality makes it all the more legitimate. The chefs use the freshest produce and finest quality of local and imported ingredients to serve spectacular dishes. Everything sings of Italy, especially the fresh, handmade pasta which produces favourites like potato gnocchi with braised beef cheek, pasta norma, and more. It’s no Italian escape without dolci to finish, so make a beeline for the restaurant’s famous tiramisu with housemade mascarpone and its crisp cannoli.
168 St Asaph St
Italy is synonymous with pizza and pasta, and while Cafe Valentino has been offering an extensive range of just that since 1991, its menu is also full of traditional Italian dishes. Taking inspiration from Italy’s southern coast, a rich helping of seafood is available, including zuppa di pesce (traditional Neopolitan fish stew), calamari, mussels in white wine and tomato juices, and garlicky prawns. Not a fan of fish? Other Italian classics include bruschetta, eggplant parmigiana and lamb flatbreads. Cafe Valentino is open every day for lunch and dinner.
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