From the first days of Italian ice cream parlours in Edinburgh to today's modern takes on Italian cuisine, it's always been easy to discover authentic flavours in the Italian restaurants of Edinburgh. Waves of Italian resettlement North of the border in the 19th and early 20th-centuries made a huge impact on the culinary landscape of Edinburgh and indeed, Scotland. Many food historians say that it was actually the Italians who brought fish and chips to our shores, a food institution that is now so quintessentially British. You'll find plenty of Italian restaurants in Edinburgh serving, if not dedicated to, "pesce e patate" or fish and chips. Some have even won awards as the best fish and chip shops in the United Kingdom.
While fish and chips might not spring to mind as typically Italian, pizza does for sure and many Italian restaurants in Edinburgh feature it as the star of their menus. This beloved dish started out as flatbreads as far back Ancient Roman times, but it wasn't until 18th-century Naples that the pizza as we know it today was born. The poor of Naples began adding tomato paste to their flatbread and topped it with seasonal herbs and cheese. For pizza purists there are plenty of rules, the dough must be hand-rolled and the pizza should be baked in a wood-fuelled oven. In Naples, only two toppings are recognised - the Marinara and the Margherita, different just by the use of garlic and basil. It was Allied soldiers during the Second World War that took the pizza out of Italy. Of all the Italian restaurants in Edinburgh serving pizza La Favorita in Leith really captures the spirit of Naples. Priding itself on attention to detail, its speciality is rolling its homemade pizza dough four days in advance which is sure to tickle anyone's taste buds.
There's no shortage of traditional Italian restaurants in Edinburgh still serving authentic home-country cuisine just like dear old Nonna (Grandma). Some newer additions to the food scene, however, are working either a fusion of the best of Italy and Scotland or bringing Italian dishes right up to date. For those wanting to get in on this trend, Contini Ristorante in the heart of the Old Town has a historic location in a former banking hall and a menu that mixes authentic Italian tastes with Scotland's amazing produce. A 2,000-year-old recipe combines Scottish oysters with a heritage Roman sauce of red wine vinegar and shallots while at VinCaffe Scottish meat is used to create authentic Italian tastes such as lamb-based Sicilian stew or medallions of pork with prosciutto.
Scotland has always had a fascination with sweet things from shortbread to fudge and cake to cranachan so when ice cream also arrived from Italy it soon found a welcome spot in the local diet. Several Italian restaurants in Edinburgh have their roots serving ice cream as street vendors or as ice cream parlours and while their menus have expanded they still serve this delicious sweet treat. From Musselburgh to Morningside and the West End to the Town Centre you'll find Italian restaurants in Edinburgh where you can indulge. Many have been producing their own original family ice cream recipes for well over a century.
No one makes more of a theatrical fuss of children than the Italians and if you want to dine with your family on a city break than the Italian restaurants in Edinburgh will welcome you with open arms. Many feature laidback dining the Italian way and have kids' menus as an added bonus. Some places like Cosmo at the Omni Centre has a menu even the fussiest kids will adore and make a feature of their bottomless ice-cream counter, a real incentive for tucking into the main course. Many Italian restaurants in Edinburgh provide goodie bags to entertain young diners while their parents enjoy their meal and a well-deserved glass of wine or are happy to serve up tiny toddler-sized plates of tempting antipasti.
From the cobbled streets of the Old Town to the majestic castle, Edinburgh is a perfect destination for lovers and if there's one thing the Italians are good at, it's romance. From restaurants with rose shaped cushions and intimate candlelit interiors to fine dining venues with sumptuous banquettes, you'll find plenty of Italian restaurants in Edinburgh that serve up a dash of romance with their dishes. Just let them know it's a special occasion and most will serve a little treat to make your evening that little bit more special. And, of course, there might even be some Roman-cooked oysters on the menu...