Italian cuisine is one of the world’s most celebrated with food such as ravioli, risotto, pizza margarita and penne pesto, being cooked all over the world.
There are several ristoranti (restaurants in Italian), pizzerias and wine bars in Kenya that stay true to their roots by bringing a little bit of Italy to Kenya.
Gambero Rosso - the leading authority in Italian food and wine all over the world - mapped Italian-flavoured establishments in Kenya, giving a glimpse of where to get the best Italian cuisine, pizza and wine in Kenya.
Making the announcement at the first-ever Gambero Rosso Top Italian Wine Road Show in East Africa, leading Italian wine expert Marco Sabellico, senior editor of Gambero Rosso’s Vini d’Italia guidebook expressed satisfaction in the passion for Italian wine and traditions in Kenya, noting that there was room for introducing even more culinary varieties.
“We look for quality. So even if you do 10 different recipes from 10 different regions, it is important that each one encompasses the spirit of that recipe. Where it is not possible to achieve the expected culinary strictness of the region, we insist on using mostly Italian ingredients to achieve that desired and exquisite taste and face of Italy,” said Sabellico.
Here are the top Italian restaurants in Kenya (in no particular order)
La Terrazza - 'The Terrace’
Stefano Rusticali and Murielle Minchella have more than 20 years of experience in the hospitality business. La Terrazza is located at the Greenhouse Mall in Nairobi. Their executive chef Claudio Panico brings on board years of experience and a unique culinary experience. Chef Claudio’s aim is to bring out the different cultures and dishes found across Italy. He trains the kitchen staff on the correct preparation techniques and also imparts a traditional Italian cooking culture from home-made pastas found in the North of Italy to classic dishes such as stuffed squid found in the South of the country.
La Villa - 'The Villa’
The idea behind La Villa came after two close friends enjoyed a bottle of Italian wine. Their deep passion for Italian cuisine pushed them to open an Italian restaurant on Kitisuru Road in Nairobi, with the intention of making it an elegant place where anyone can taste traditional Italian cuisine and a range of Italian wines.
La Dolce Vita - 'The Sweet Life’
La Dolce Vita was founded in 2001 with the experience and skills of Chef Riccardo Fiora, an authentic Tuscan who moved to Kenya in the 90s. Riccardo brought along passion and culinary art, and expressing these features at optimal in this restaurant. He managed to combine elegance, finesse and excellent cuisine, with unmistakably Italian style. After his passing away, the heirs continue this established family tradition, further growing value to a place that is among the most respected in Nairobi.
Located in Muthaiga Shopping Centre in Nairobi, they believe wine is a passion and a culture and art. It is the result of skilful care at the vineyards and followed by diligent attention in the wine cellar.
Casa Mia - 'My home’
Located in Diani, Casa Mia Italian dishes are equally impressive, with classic recipes and modern twists that showcase the very best of Italian cuisine. From handmade pasta to wood-fired pizzas, the chefs are masters of their craft. With over 15 years of experience in the culinary world, Chef Maurizio brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the restaurant.
Born and raised in Italy, Chef Maurizio learned to cook at a young age from his grandmother, who instilled in him a love of traditional Italian cuisine. Over the years, he has honed his skills through extensive training and experience working in some of the world’s top restaurants.
Over 25 years ago, Roberto Miano arrived in Kenya and he fell in love with it. Closing down all his enterprises in Italy, Roberto settled in Malindi and through him, ‘Made in Italy’ disembarked in Kenya as he immediately started the importation of Italian food products. In 2008, he started a restaurant in Mombasa where he cooks using imported ingredients from Italy to provide the authentic taste of traditional Italian cuisine and a wide selection of Italian wine in a friendly atmosphere.
The Visiwa Restaurant is part of a beach resort in Watamu that has a lovely ocean view. The experience of Italian Chef Maurizio Marino gives the restaurant a tasteful blend of Italian and Swahili traditional products. The restaurant relies on local fishermen for fresh fish for their seafood. The vegetables and fruits are directly harvested from their garden for cooking. Just like most authentic Italian restaurants, pasta is homemade and pizza is cooked in the firewood oven.
La Cascina - 'The Farmhouse’
In 2002, La Cascina was built similarly to the typical Italian Country House made of bricks or stone with a warm charming atmosphere. Located in the Hub Karen in Nairobi, you will find pizza with authentic mozzarella cheese and gelato ice cream. Mozzarella and Gelato are both popular in Kenya but originate from Italy. La Casa Di Nico - 'Nico’s House’
This restaurant has several fans across its Instagram page who praise its different kinds of penne pasta and fresh complimentary bruschetta. The prices are under Sh2,000 but quality is not spared. The restaurant is located in Village Market.
La Salumeria - 'The Butchery’
La Salumeria is almost like a secret restaurant that most do not know about due to its little to almost zero presence online. The restaurant in Valley Arcade still attracts those looking for a slice of Italy in the heart of Nairobi.
The top Italian pizzerias according to Gambero Rosso are Pomodoro (Nairobi), Matteo’s (Nairobi), Solo Grano (Nairobi), Mambo Italia (Nairobi) and Papa Remo (Watamu).
The top Italian wine bars listed are Enoteca (Nairobi), Winebox (Nairobi), New Italyco (Nairobi), Liv Vin (Nairobi) and Wine & More (Diani). As much as Kenyans already enjoy Italian cuisine, Marco says that there is still much more to explore, especially the 2,000 wine varieties that Italy offers.